Monday, August 08, 2016

Another census protest

Open Letter to David Kalisch of the Australian Bureau of Statistics from Tom Sulston of "Thoughtworks" below.  He knows what he is talking about. 

In defence of their Fascist policy, the ABS, like Fascists everywhere, assures us that keeping our data on file will be "for your own good".  A great gaping hole in that story, however is that they have yet to give us one single example of a good thing that the data retention will enable.  I can think of nothing legitimate that just recording the suburb would not achieve

ThoughtWorks is a global software consultancy, with strong capabilities in data management, security, and privacy. We would like to make comment on the running of the Australian Census in 2016.

We are huge fans of the census and are proponents of its use for evidence-driven policy. Because of this, we are unable to remain silent while the 2016 census threatens this excellent policy tool.

By choosing to retain the names and addresses of about 24 million people in 10 million households alongside their sensitive demographic data, the ABS is taking risk with the privacy rights of all Australian residents. It is our belief that claims that the risk of data leaks are low may not be correct, as the ABS has reported 14 data breaches in the last 3 years. In light of the security threats observed in recent years, we are afraid that no matter how strong the security capability of the ABS, the risk is real and should this data leak the impact would be immense. As one example, consider the impact on an individual should their information end up with a fraudster or violent ex-partner.

Holding any data brings with it the responsibility of securing it and bearing the risk that it is compromised. In our commercial work, we practice datensparsamkeit – the principle of holding as little personal data as needed.  Not only is securing data difficult, when it is leaked it is impossible to retrieve. Consider that the NSA, one of the world’s most well-funded and capable security organizations, was unable to prevent the leaking of thousands of documents about its operations. It is only by reducing the amount of data that we hold that we can reduce the impact when it leaks.

The ABS’ collection of personally-identifying and sensitive data needlessly puts the private lives of Australian residents at risk. Many people recognize this and may refuse to engage with the census or provide accurate information as an act of civil disobedience. The collection of excessive personal information may have some unintended repercussions for the quality and integrity of census data not only in 2016 but beyond. The ABS may be able to force compliance with some of those who choose not to complete the census form, but they will have no way to verify the answers provided by those who do complete the form as accurate.

We believe that, given these concerns and strong community opposition to the retention of personally-identifiable information, the 2016 census results will be insufficiently accurate to justify the collection of such personal information.

We urge the ABS to commit to the following:

Accepting census submissions without names or addresses as legitimate;

Not to seek to fine people who choose not to submit their identifying information;

The destruction of all personally-identifiable information, such as names and addresses, within 6 months of taking the 2016 census;

Independent scrutiny and verification that this information has been destroyed.

To address the concerns of the Australian community and to encourage participation and provision of quality information for the 2016 census, we urge the ABS to make this commitment before 8th August.


City of Fremantle considers cancelling Australia Day Skyshow fireworks

No prizes for guessing that Fremantle is under Leftist influence.  It is a peculiar Leftist idea that the wishes and interests of the majority should be subjugated to the the wishes and interests of minorities

FREMANTLE is considering ditching its popular Australia Day fireworks in favour of a more “culturally sensitive celebration”.

Fremantle mayor Brad Pettitt said Australia Day was painful for some people and celebrating it with fireworks “had an uncomfortableness about it”.

“Celebrating with fireworks what is great about Australia on the very day when the dispossession of our nation’s original people began is something that sat uncomfortably with many of us in Fremantle,” he said

“Doing it on a day of English arrival or settlement certainly doesn’t feel like the most appropriate day given the mixed messages and mixed consequences of that.”

City of Fremantle council will decide whether to replace the annual fireworks with “a more cost effective, environmentally friendly and culturally sensitive celebration” on Wednesday.

If approved, Fremantle would instead mark Australia Day with a citizenship ceremony at Fremantle Arts Centre, including a speech on the tradition of multiculturalism.

That would be followed by a family picnic and concert in Esplanade Reserve on the following Saturday and an indigenous music celebration on the Sunday.

Dr Pettitt said the council had received community feedback about different ways of marking January 26.
Fremantle’s Australia Day fireworks have become a popular family tradition. Picture: Faith Moran

“We wanted to find a way where we acknowledge both the great things about Australia, and that we’ve been given a peaceful prosperous country, but we also think at the same time that we do have a dark past,” he said.

“We also want to do something that’s more culturally sensitive and acknowledges that challenge around our history and our relationship with indigenous people in this place.”

About 50,000 people a year attend City of Fremantle and City of Cockburn’s Indian Ocean Skyshow. Fremantle has held Australia Day fireworks for more than a decade at a cost of $145,000 each year.

Dr Pettitt said the fireworks had become a much-loved family event.  “That will be part of the challenge for council,” he said. “It will be weighing up the fact people love fireworks and the family tradition that’s been running over the past decade.

“The challenge is — if you’re not going to celebrate what’s great about Australia on Australia Day, then which other day do you do it?”

Whadjuk elder Len Collard, an indigenous studies professor at the University of WA, said more people were considering colonisation and its associated atrocities on January 26. “I think people are reviewing the traditions in Australia,” he said.  “I think we’re at a stage now where we’re thinking if we’re going to move on in the future, what are the sort of attributes we might visit around how we do celebrate Australia Day.”


Poor teachers produce poor students

Jennifer Buckingham

The NAPLAN results released this week tell an all-too-familiar story: in most states there has been little or no improvement in literacy and numeracy. Too many children are failing to achieve even a basic level in the fundamentals of educational achievement.

Changing this will require a relentless focus on effective instruction — especially in the early years — and adoption of teaching methods backed by the best evidence.

The statistics suggest that around 5-6% of Australian primary school students were below the National Minimum Standard on average in 2016, and this figure has barely shifted since NAPLAN began in 2008. Another 8-10% are just on the minimum standard. But it would be a mistake to assume that this figure represents the situation in individual schools. The My School website shows there are suburban schools where 50% of students have reading skills at the bare minimum or less.

If that is not bad enough, the NAPLAN minimum standard is well below what would be considered an adequate standard in international tests, meaning that it underestimates the true number of children struggling with basic skills. The Grattan Institute’s Peter Goss has suggested that a new benchmark be added to the NAPLAN reports to account for this discrepancy.

The reason so many students cannot read at a proficient level depends who you ask. Some say that insufficient resourcing of those schools with large numbers of disadvantaged students is to blame. Some say that teaching quality is the main contributing factor, including the trend toward low entry scores in initial teacher education (ITE) courses. Certainly, 256 school leavers entered ITE courses in 2005 with ATARs of less than 60. In 2013, it was 979. This may be a small proportion of the overall ITE cohort, but is still a lot of new teachers whose academic aptitude is relatively low according to their Year 12 performance.

Just as questionable is the quality of the ITE courses they complete. A number of studies have found that Australian ITE students and graduates have poor knowledge of the structure and rules of the English language. According to Professor Pamela Snow from LaTrobe University, there is an ‘intergenerational effect’ whereby new teachers are themselves the product of teaching methods that have failed to provide them with the linguistic knowledge necessary for explicit instruction in reading, spelling, grammar and writing — and their ITE courses have neglected to fill this gap.

Typically, there has been no measure of how well prepared ITE graduates are to teach, but school principals seem to have a low opinion. In the Staff in Australia’s Schools survey, only about one third of principals said they thought recent teacher graduates were well prepared to develop strategy for teaching literacy and numeracy. New ITE accreditation standards have been developed by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership to try to rectify this problem.

On the same day Australian newspapers and talkback radio waves were full of NAPLAN stories, it was reported in the New York Post that the city’s schools made large gains in the state literacy and numeracy tests, and that charter schools — which enrol mainly low income and black and Hispanic students — were largely responsible. Across New York, 76% of charter schools outperformed their public school districts in maths and 71% in English.

Charter school quality varies, but some achieve remarkable results. High-performing charter schools tend to have some common characteristics, including selectively recruiting the best teachers and investing their instructional efforts heavily in literacy and numeracy. Many, if not most, use traditional teaching methods, including direct instruction. And their strong results can’t be attributed to higher funding — New York state charter schools, for example, are funded at a per-pupil rate 30% lower than district public schools.

Charter schools in the US and high-performing, low SES public schools around Australia show that social background need not be a barrier to literacy, but more funding will not automatically lead to better outcomes.

Only with effective, evidence-based instruction, including systematic, synthetic phonics, will all children learn to read.



Judge Anti-discrimination law by results, not good intentions

Helen Andrews

In the midst of public debate about exemptions to anti-discrimination law and whether they should be expanded or eliminated, we often forget to take a step back and ask the larger questions.

Like "Does anti-discrimination law work?".

Thousands of complaints are filed every year under the various anti-discrimination provisions in Australian law, from the Racial Discrimination Act to the Fair Work Act.

But do these laws ultimately help the groups they are intended to?

Not always. The wage gap between men and women, for example, narrowed dramatically prior to the passage of the Sex Discrimination Act 1983 and plateaued after it. The law ratified larger cultural changes that were already well in motion. It was not itself an engine of change.

Sometimes these laws can even hurt the groups they are supposed to help. Workforce participation among the disabled went down after the passage of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992.

The same thing happened in the United States after the Americans with Disabilities Act 1990 --workforce participation among the disabled went down.

The laws themselves are partly to blame, since they incentivize employers to act defensively.

If there is a risk that hiring an employee who belongs to a protected class will leave an employer vulnerable to a lawsuit (or, in the case of disability, an expensive accommodation claim) sometime in the future, it makes sense for managers to err on the side of caution.

Too often, discussion of anti-discrimination law gets bogged down in culture war battles and ostentatious moralizing, and no one stops to consider these laws in a pragmatic light, on the basis of evidence.

Any future reform or consolidation of anti-discrimination law should begin with weighing the costs and benefits -- especially since it turns out the benefits may be a lot fewer than most people assume.


Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).    For a daily critique of Leftist activities,  see DISSECTING LEFTISM.  To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup  of pro-environment but anti-Greenie  news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH .  Email me  here

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