Friday, December 30, 2016

Man unable to read takes University of Sydney to anti-discrimination board after they reject him as PhD candidate

Would ANY university want to graduate a man who can't read? And non-readers don't seem to be a protected group

A student who suffers from dyslexia has claimed three universities rejected him as a PhD candidate because of his disability.

James Bond said his Doctor of Philosophy application for a place at the University of Sydney, Macquarie University and University of Newcastle was turned down.

The man with an IQ of 150 has lodged a complaint with the NSW Anti-Discrimination Board alleging there was lack of support services at the University of Sydney for people with dyslexia, Fairfax Media reported.

He claims the university was discriminating against students with dyslexia after he was unable to complete his enrolment because there was no access to a scribe.

Students are required to submit a full research proposal to apply for a PhD.

Mr Bond, who struggles with reading, had used audio recordings and a scribe to complete his Bachelor of Arts and Masters of Research at Macquarie University.

The University of Sydney penned a letter to Mr Bond, encouraging him to resubmit his application with a scribe provided by institution.


Going out with a burn! Sydney to swelter at 42C today as the east coast heatwave rolls on - and it will stay above 40C until New Year's Day

This is a pissant heatwave.  The 42 figure is for Sydney's West only.  Coastal Sydney is 37 degrees.  Coastal Sydney was 42 degrees in 1790

Sydney's extreme heatwave will continue on Thursday as temperatures climb to 42C in the city's west - making it the hottest year in more than 150 years.

The sweltering heat has triggered NSW Police to activate a state heatwave plan for the next five days, advising people to stay hydrated and in air-conditioned rooms.

The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast severe heatwave conditions across all of coastal NSW, with the unbearable heat tipped to linger through to New Year's Day.

After enduring its hottest night this year, Melbourne is set to be battered by thunder storms and heavy rain with a chance of flash flooding on Thursday.

Penrith in Sydney's west is expected to hit a 42C maximum on Thursday.

BOM duty forecaster Neale Fraser said it would be a few degrees cooler in the CBD, where a sea breeze expected around 1pm is expected to cap temperatures at 37C.


Pension cuts spark ACTU, One Nation war on Turnbull

The ACTU is going into bat for rich people??

Malcolm Turnbull faces a war on two fronts with aggressive campaigns from the ACTU and One Nation aimed at unwinding his January 1 pension changes that will cut payments for more than 330,000 [rich] Australians.

ACTU president Ged Kearney said the union movement was prepared to force the issue to an election showdown while One Nation warned the move was a "sleeper issue” that could destroy the Prime Minister’s leadership.

The battle over the Age ­Pension follows a demographic analysis of 8508 voters in Newspoll surveys from October to ­December showing a seven-­percentage-point drop since the July 2 election in the ­Coalition’s primary support among those older than 50.

Labor has also warned the overhaul will mean those moved off the pension will be denied key discounts linked to the pensioners’ concession card, which it is labelling a "double hit” for older Australians.

It is estimated about 171,500 part-rate assets-tested pensioners will receive an average of $30 a fortnight extra under the changes. Of those, about 50,000 will now qualify for a full pension.

But about 91,000 pensioners will lose access to the pension ­altogether and 236,000 will have their pension reduced. The changes to the assets test will ­affect three main social security pension types — the Age Pension, Disability Support Pension and the carer payment.

One Nation senator and pension spokesman Brian Burston yesterday argued that the changes to the assets test punished older Australians who had saved for their retirement in a similar fashion to the effect of the government’s super­annuation crackdown at the election.

"I think the government’s ­attacking older Australians rather than those who are ripping the system off," Senator Burston said.

"I think there is a potential disincentive in the future to save for your retirement — similar to the superannuation changes. We’re getting a lot of calls from pensioners who are scared shitless.”

Special Minister of State Scott Ryan said the pensions shake-up was accepted by Labor going into the last election. He ­accused Bill Shorten and the ­unions of running a smear campaign.

"There’s a dishonest scare campaign being run by Bill Shorten and his union mates despite the fact that these are policies they took to the election,” he said.

Analysis prepared by Labor from information obtained at Senate estimates hearings shows that of the top 15 electorates where part-pensions will be cut entirely, 14 are Liberal-held seats. They include Mackellar, Cook, Menzies, Deakin, Corangamite, Flinders, Gilmore, Chisholm, Bradfield, Lyne, Robertson, Goldstein, ­Berowra and Mitchell.

The government’s January 1 pension changes were part of the Abbott government’s 2015 budget and were expected to claw back a budget saving of $2.4 billion over five years.

They passed the Senate that June with Greens support when One Nation was not represented in the parliament. Labor accepted the savings from the government’s pension changes in the lead-up to the July election.

Opposition Treasury spokesman Chris Bowen yesterday linked the pension changes to the drop in support for the Coalition among older Australians but ­argued that it still remained difficult for Labor to reverse the cuts.

"We made it clear we couldn’t repair all the damage,” he said.

"The Liberals and the Greens voted for it. This is not something that we would have done in ­government.”

Opposition social services spokeswoman Jenny Macklin said330,000 Australians would be worse off. She also railed against the introduction of "dis­incentives for people to save for their own ­retirement”. "We need a review into the pension means test,” she said.

Ms Macklin has also seized on the prospect that those moved off the pension in Victoria will miss out on a 50 per cent reduction on council rates, a $50 fire services levy reduction and a 50 per cent reduction on the transport accident charge.

Social Services Minister Christian Porter responded by saying the treatment of concessions for those moved off the pension was a matter for state governments.

The government has defended its shake-up by saying that 90 per cent of pensioners will not be negatively affected, but it has conceded that about 91,000 part-pensioners will lose access to payments and 236,000 will receive a ­reduction in payments.

Senator Ryan said "170,000 of our most vulnerable pensioners (will) see an increase to the support they receive”. They are due to receive an increase of $30 to pension payments.

The January 1 changes to the pension assets test will lift the ­income thresholds for access to the full pension but also impose a lower ceiling on access to the part pension by accelerating the taper rate.

While pension payments are currently reduced by $1.50 for every $1000 assets owned over the ­assets threshold (excluding the family home), the thresholds will change on January 1 and payments will be reduced by $3 for every $1000 owned over the threshold.

For couples who own a home, the new rules mean the income cut-off for the part pension will be reduced from $1,178,500 to $816,000.

At the same time, ­access to the full pension will be improved by lifting the assets threshold from $296,500 to $375,000.

For single homeowners, ­access to the part pension will be cut off at $542,500 instead of the current threshold of $793,750.

Ms Kearney accused Mr Turnbull of "using middle-­income Australians to balance the budget” and said the changes would hurt nurses, teachers and tradespeople.

"This is conservative econ­omics at its worst," she said.

"And yes, we will be campaigning on this until we get a response and, if not, it will be an issue at the next election."

The Association of Super Funds of Australia conducted an analysis last year of the government’s changes showing that a couple with assets (outside the family home) of $400,000 would receive an income of nearly $45,000 a year, assuming a 3 per cent rate of return.

This would ­include a sizeable pension payment, with the increase in the asset threshold to $375,000, making them about $2000 a year ­better off.

But a couple with $800,000 in savings would cop about a $13,590 reduction in their annual income and finish the year with an ­income stream of only $27,700 instead of $39,000 — about a 34 per cent reduction — because of the lowering of pension payments.

The government says those who lose part or all of their pensions will only have to draw down 1.8 per cent on their existing high asset base per annum to offset the changes.

Some Coalition MPs are also acknowledging the pension changes represent a tough political sales job, but have defended the need to make budget savings.

Liberal MP Craig Kelly conceded that the key difficulty with the changes was "that a couple with a million dollars in savings can ­appear to be worse off than someone with no savings who are getting a full pension.”

He argued that those with larger incomes could still draw down on their savings, noting that Australia remained better off than other countries in a negative ­interest rate environment.

One Nation’s Mr Burston said the pension cuts were like throwing "a large rock” into water. "It’s just like throwing a pebble in the water. It’s only a small ­ripple, but you throw a large rock in and you get a large ripple," he said.

"Turnbull cannot afford to lose any more ground. Not only will his leadership collapse, but his government may well collapse.

He said One Nation could "exert pressure” to drive changes once the new pension arrangements were in place.


Renewable energy push to hit Labor’s heartland

Labor’s traditional working-class supporters will bear the brunt of spiking electricity prices and power failures in the fallout from the South Australian, Victorian and Queensland governments’ push towards ambitious renewable energy targets.

Energy experts have warned the shutting down of more coal-fired power plants and the rise of renewables risks leading to a future where wealthier households can pay for better reliability of supply while others are left in the dark.

Most of the impact of the ­nation’s rapidly changing electricity market would be on vulnerable consumers who do not have the resources to invest in technologies to reduce their demand on the grid or generate their own electricity.

Australia’s Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel, has warned that a class of consumers could be prevented from adopting new technologies — such as rooftop solar PV or battery storage — by a limited ability to pay large up-front costs or to ­obtain finance.

Dr Finkel, who is conducting a review of the electricity market for the federal government following the statewide blackout in South Australia in September, said people who rented properties or lived in apartments were limited in their ability to install new technologies.

Migrants with limited English, people with poor financial literacy and those struggling to make ends meet were at risk of paying ­increased costs to subsidise households or businesses able to invest in new technologies. Passive or loyal consumers who were not ­engaged in managing their electricity demand and costs were vulnerable too, Dr Finkel added.

The danger was that, as more consumers took greater steps with the aid of technological ­advance­ments to rely less on the grid, the cost of building and maintaining the network would be spread over a smaller number of “vulnerable” users.

The Australian Energy Market Commission has warned that electricity prices are set to surge during the next two years, largely driven by the ­close of coal-fired power stations in South Australia and Victoria and ongoing investment in wind generation.

Australian Stock Exchange data showed yesterday that base future contract prices for March were highest in South Australia, which yesterday had its third major blackout in four months. For companies to buy a megawatt of electricity in March, it would cost South ­Australian buyers almost $152.91, compared with $100 in Queensland, $63.75 in NSW and $54.50 in Victoria.

South Australia, under Labor Premier Jay Weatherill, has a renewable energy generation mix of more than 40 per cent, the highest of any state. The state’s last coal-fired power station closed in May.

Several peak industry groups canvassed by The Australian agreed that, without the correct policy settings in place, there was a danger of large numbers of consumers relying less on the grid.

Minerals Council of Australia chief executive Brendan Pearson said renewable energy targets hit low-income households harder, while the wealthy were able to ­access solar and other incentive schemes, the cost of which was then loaded on to other users.

“This is a double whammy for the poor,” Mr Pearson said.

Victoria’s Labor government has set a 40 per cent renewables energy target for 2025 and Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk has a 50 per cent target by 2030. The federal Labor opposition has a renewables target of at least 50 per cent by 2030 compared with the Coalition’s target of 23.5 per cent by 2020.

Grattan Institute energy director Tony Wood said that, while consumers would not realistically be able to pay directly for more ­reliable supply from the grid, those with the means could install some form of back-up behind the meter, most commonly a generator. “Of course, some consumers can pay more to have their own supply via solar PV and batteries or via gas as did the Coopers Brewery that saved them during the (South Australian) blackout,” he said.

“The critical issue is how the grid is priced as consumers change the way they use it. Volume-based charging just isn’t fair and yet moving to demand-based charging is highly controversial.

“The extreme version is that homes and businesses are charged for the grid being there even if they never use it at all. These are questions that governments and regulators are grappling with and the answers are messy.”

Climate Institute head of policy Olivia Kember said there was a real risk of large numbers of households leaving the grid, which likely would be the result of ongoing policy failure by federal and state governments. “It’s not just a problem for lower-income households, but also apartment dwellers and large industry that needs grid-based power,” she said. “Currently we are seeing coal stations close with only six months’ notice, and no signals to tell the market what is needed to replace them.”

Australian Energy Council chief executive Matthew Warren said all consumers ultimately would want to be connected to the grid, even as a form of back-up, ­although there was a risk more would be less reliant on it. “The ­reality is if we are going to have a decarbonised system that is going to be reliable, it will cost more and we’ve seen that in South Australia — it is living proof,” he said. “There are a lot of inequities in the system and they are difficult to answer. The inequities can get worse.”

Mr Warren agreed there was a risk that those with the means to invest in new technologies would become less reliant on the grid and leave behind other more vulnerable groups.

“There is evidence that the largest household energy consumers are by far the poorest,” he said.

Warnings by Dr Finkel and the Australian Energy Market Commission that power prices are ­expected to begin rising is being blamed for generator closures, gas supply constraints and international parity gas prices.

The AEMC warned that, by 2018, the national electricity market would be divided into two price regions: cheaper in the north, Queensland and NSW; more ­expensive in the south, Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania.

Federal Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg said energy security remained “our number one” ­energy policy priority. “Australians expect access to reliable and affordable electricity and that is what the federal government is determined to provide through the COAG Energy Council,” he said.

“Yes, we have to meet our emissions reduction targets, but it can’t be at the expense of the lights going out or Australians not being able to afford their power bill.”

South Australian opposition cost of living spokesman Corey Wingard said: “The surging price of electricity in South Australia is creating two classes of consumers for this essential service: the haves and have-nots. Sadly many will struggle to keep their airconditioners on this summer … The more consumers that withdraw from the grid the greater the cost that will be borne by those still ­reliant upon it and the greater number of households will be cut off.”

Australian Power Project chief executive Nathan Vass, said ­national energy policy must focus on a low-emissions future that ­included clean coal technologies as well as renewable generation to keep energy prices in check and supply stable. “The closure of the Northern Power Station in SA and Hazelwood in Victoria are driving up power prices and destroying regional economies,” Mr Vass said.


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

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Unbelievable:  Yet another blackout in South Australia

This will cap it for some people.  Some will now move interstate.  And who would start a new business there now?  How come the S.A. powerlines are so fragile?  It doesn't happen elsewhere.  Maybe the government has been scrimping on maintenance to finance their big splurge on windmills

Thousands of South Australian homes remain without power after a destructive storm that has badly damaged the state's electricity grid.  Though the worst is over, a final burst of thunderstorms could hamper already daunting efforts to get lights back on for many before Thursday.

SA Power Networks says at least 125,000 properties lost power after winds gusting to 120 km/h and rainfall of up to 110mm hit the state from late Tuesday, as a weather system that caused flooding in the Northern Territory moved south.

Spokesman Paul Roberts says about 13,000 properties had their power returned by Wednesday afternoon but many will remain without services until at least Thursday.

He says the electricity grid took a beating that will be expensive to fix, with at least 350 reports of downed power lines.

The State Emergency Service has grappled with more than 1250 calls, most for fallen trees that damaged homes or blocked roads and for minor flooding.

Several people were rescued from floodwaters, including two young teenage boys who were playing in a storm drain at the Sturt River on Tuesday.

Emergency Services Minister Peter Malinauskas praised SA emergency workers and said power lines had not gone down because the SA power network was fragile.

"When you see incidents like this as a result of a significant wind event resulting in trees falling on power lines there is little that can be done," he told reporters on Wednesday.

The Bureau of Meteorology said the 24 hours to 9am on Wednesday was Adelaide's third wettest December day on record, after 61.2mm of rain was dumped on the city.

After whacking the city, the deep low pressure system at the heart of the event moved towards SA's southeast corner near Mount Gambier.

But the bureau retained a thunderstorm warning for Wednesday afternoon for a large part of SA stretching from north of Port Pirie to the NT border.

The SES continued to distribute sandbags at several depots on Wednesday afternoon and urged people to be careful.

"Please, please, just stay out of the floodwaters. Be aware of our surrounds and keep your kids out of the floodwaters as well," SES deputy chief officer Dermott Barry said.

Thursday is expected to be a far calmer day in Adelaide with a slight chance of a shower in the early morning followed by a sunny top of 29 degrees.


Vic govt loses youth prison appeal

Realism sadly lacking. Perhaps the government should have confined the young wreckers to the premises of the Court of Appeal.  That would have produced a very different judgment, I think

THE Victorian government has lost its challenge to a ruling it illegally detained youths in the state’s most notorious maximum security prison.

The Court of Appeal on Wednesday found Justice Greg Garde was not in error when he declared the decision to transfer youth offenders to Barwon Prison after juvenile detention centres were trashed during riots was illegal. The court dismissed the government’s application to appeal the ruling.

Government lawyers had told the court that youths who spent Christmas in the maximum security adult prison were put there because their security couldn’t be guaranteed at the juvenile justice centres.

Up to 40 youths were transferred to the Grevillea Unit of Barwon Prison in November following riots that damaged the Parkville and Malmsbury youth detention facilities.

Richard Niall QC, for the Victorian government, on Wednesday told the Court of Appeal the youths had been in a facility that met statutory requirements, but had to be moved when it became unsafe.

"Security could not be guaranteed.” The government is arguing that Justice Garde erred in his finding that there had been a failure to take into account certain considerations regarding the rights of the youths.

Mr Niall said the youths’ developmental needs could be catered for in the Grevillea Unit through the provision of services.

"It must have been that the minister was alive to the need to maintain continuing care of the detainees,” Mr Niall said.

"She was advised it was unsafe to continue with the status quo.” "Other places had been considered and rejected,” Mr Niall said.

The Thomas Embling Maximum Security Forensic Hospital and Maribyrnong — where there is an immigration detention centre — were also considered, Mr Niall said. The court heard nobody from Corrections Victoria inspected the Grevillea Unit before the youths were moved.

About a dozen youths are still in the state’s most notorious prison.


Housing affordability: ‘Red tape’ to blame for Sydney property crisis

Malcolm gets it. The NSW government constricts supply and then hits buyers with a huge tax.  No wonder houses have become unaffordable for many

SKY-high housing prices have been blamed on everything from foreign investment to greedy Baby Boomers hogging the market.

But according to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull there’s a more obvious reason behind unaffordable housing — red tape.

In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Turnbull said NSW councils were taking too long to approve development applications which he believed was fuelling Sydney’s high housing prices.

Mr Turnbull said Sydney councils were taking three times as long to approve DAs than their counterparts in Brisbane.

He also said while stamp duty concessions would help get more people into the market, it wasn’t the only answer.

"We’re not asking people to compromise on planning standards, but it shouldn’t take you 18 months to get a DA if in other cities it can take you six months,” he said.

The Property Council of NSW said Sydney’s DA system was "the worst in the world.”
Auctioneer Adrian Bo from McGrath Coogee sold a unit in Randwick, Sydney, for $1.425 million last August Picture: Adam Taylor

Auctioneer Adrian Bo from McGrath Coogee sold a unit in Randwick, Sydney, for $1.425 million last August Picture: Adam TaylorSource:News Corp Australia

However a spokeswoman for the Local Government of NSW dismissed the idea that councils were behind the property crisis.

"If property developers were genuinely concerned about housing affordability they could always reduce their enormous profits by including more affordable housing in their developments,” she said.

Mr Turnbull’s comments come just days after a new report found it takes around eight years to save up a big enough deposit to buy a median-priced home in Sydney.

The Bankwest report also showed that the average Australian couple spent 4.4 years saving up for a 20 per cent deposit to buy a median-priced house in 2016.

It follows a similar report from CoreLogic and the Australian National University which revealed that it took 139 per cent of a household’s annual income in September 2016 to get that 20 per cent deposit together.

Housing affordability remains a core concern of the Property Council of Australia which is urging the government to tackle the crisis in the coming months.

According to the council, stamp duty is just one of the areas in need of urgent reform with the typical buyer in NSW forking out an average of $40,000.


Here’s why non-government schools work better


In 2004, in Why Our Schools are Failing, I argued Australia’s competitive academic curriculum was being "attacked and undermined by a series of ideologically driven changes that have conspired to ­reduce standards and ­impose a politically correct, mediocre view of education on our schools”.

Three years later, in Dumbing Down, I repeated the claim, arguing that Australia’s cultural-left education establishment, instead of supporting high-risk examinations, teacher-directed lessons and meritocracy, was redefining the curriculum "as an instrument to bring about equity and ­social justice”.

At the time the Australian Curriculum Studies Association organised two national conferences involving leading education bureau­crats, professional organisations, teacher unions and like-minded academics to argue all was well and that critics such as the News Corp’s newspapers were guilty of orchestrating a "black media debate” and a "conservative backlash”.

The Australian’s campaign for rigour and standards in education, especially its defence of classic literature and teaching grammar, was condemned by one critic as a "particularly ferocious campaign” that was guilty of wanting "to ­restore a traditional approach to the teaching of English”.

Fast-forward to 2016 and it’s clear where the truth lies. Despite investing additional billions and implementing a raft of education reforms, Australia’s ranking in international tests is going backwards and too many students are leaving school illiterate, innumerate and culturally impoverished.

In the 2011 Progress in International Reading Literacy Study, Australian students were ranked 22nd; in the 2015 Program for International Student Assessment, Australian students were ranked 20th in mathematics; and in the 2015 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, our Year 4 science students were outperformed by 17 other countries.

Australia’s national curriculum, instead of acknowledging we are a Western liberal democracy and the significance of our ­Judeo-Christian heritage, em­braces cultural relativism and prioritises politically correct indi­genous, Asian and sustainability perspectives.

Instead of focusing on the ­basics, teachers are pressured to teach Marxist-inspired programs such as the LGBTI Safe Schools program where gender is fluid and limitless and Roz Ward, one of the founders, argues: "It will only be through a revitalised class struggle and revolutionary change that we can hope for the liberation of LGBTI people.”

What’s to be done? It’s rare that those responsible for failure are capable of choosing the right way forward. Organisations such as ACSA, the Australian Education Union and the Australian Council for Educational Research are part of the problem, not the solution.

Instead of education fads and a command-and-control model mandated by such bodies, where schools are made to implement a one-size-fits-all curriculum, assess­ment, accountability and staffing system, schools must be freed from provider capture and given the autonomy to manage themselves.

As argued by Melbourne-based Brian Caldwell: "There is a powerful educational logic to locating a higher level of authority, responsibility and accountability for curriculum, teaching and assessment at the school level. Each school has a unique mix of students in respect to their needs, interests, aptitudes and ambitions; indeed, each classroom has a unique mix.”

The reason Catholic and independent schools, on the whole, outperform government schools is not because of students’ socio-economic status, which has a relatively weak impact on outcomes, but because non-government schools have control over staffing, budgets, curriculum focus and classroom practice.

In a paper this year — The ­Importance of School Systems: Evidence from International Differences in Student Achievement — European research Ludger Woessmann identifies "school autonomy and private competition” as important factors when ­explaining why some education systems outperform others.

Instead of adopting ineffective fads such as constructivism — where the emphasis is on inquiry-based discovery learning, teachers being guides by the side and content being secondary to process — it is vital to ensure that teacher training and classroom practice are evidence-based.

Not so in Australia, where the dominant approach is based on constructivism.

In opposition, and when arguing in favour of explicit teaching and direct instruction, NSW academic John Sweller states that "there is no aspect of human cognitive architecture that suggests that inquiry-based learning should be superior to ­direct ­instructional guidance and much to suggest that it is likely to be ­inferior”.

American educationalist ED Hirsch and Sweller argue that children must be able to automatically recall what has been taught. Primary schoolchildren, in particular, need to memorise times ­tables, do mental arithmetic and learn to recite poems and ballads.

After citing several research studies, Hirsch concludes: "Varied and repeated practice leading to rapid recall and automaticity is necessary to higher-order problem-solving skills in both mathematics and the sciences.”

Even though Australia has one of the highest rates of classroom computer use, our results are going backwards.

A recent OECD study concludes "countries which have invested heavily in information and communication technologies for education have seen no noticeable improvement in their performances in PISA results for reading, mathematics or science”.

At a time when Australia’s education ministers are deciding a new school funding model after 2017, it is also vital to realise investing additional billions, as argued by the AEU and NSW’s Education Minister Adrian Piccoli, is not the solution. Australia has been down that road across 20 years and standards have failed to improve.

The debate needs to shift from throwing more money after bad, a la Gonski, to identifying the most cost-effective way to use ­resources to raise standards.

As noted by Eric Hanushek and Woessmann in The Knowledge Capital of Nations, the focus must be on "how money is spent ­(instead) of how much money is spent”.

And here the research is clear. Stronger performing education systems embrace competition, autonomy, diversity and choice in education, and benchmark their curriculum and approaches to teaching and learning against world’s best practice and evidence-based research.

Teachers set high expectations with a disciplined classroom environment, students are taught to be resilient and motivated to succeed, there is less external micro­management, and parents are ­engaged and supportive of their children’s teachers.

As argued in the Review of the Australian National Curriculum I co-chaired, it is also vital to eschew educational fads and new age, politically correct ideology and ­ensure what is taught is based on what American psychologist Jerome Bruner describes as "the structure of the disciplines”.


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

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Pre-school to prevent delinquency?

The rant below is typical of disassociated Leftist thought. Jacqueline Maley points to problems and just asserts that pre-school will fix them.  Asking for evidence that your "cure" will in fact cure anything is chronically "forgotten" among Leftists.  Evidence connecting the cure to the problem is absent.

She points to the problems that children reared in feral environments pose for both themselves and everyone else and then points out that if you get an infant very early, you may be able to train its brain into more positive behaviour channels.  It's a reasonable conjecture.

So how do we implement this draconian intervention?  The infant brain is at it most plastic when it is youngest.  The plasticity is highest just after birth and declines steadily thereafter. To make Maley's idea work, you would have to take masses of infants away from their families from shortly after birth.  Is that going to happen?  The "stolen generations" furore guarantees that it will not.

So she does not even explore that option.  She just states blandly and blindly that pre-school  will achieve the desired result.  But, for a start, pre-school is far to late to do much good and, secondly, any effect of a  few hours in pre-school will be overwhelmed by the very different experience of the feral home for the remaining 18 hours (or more) of the day.

Maley quotes theories of U.S. educators that say there is a small advantage in pre-school but those theories fade into insignificance when we look at the actual experience with the American "Head Start" program -- now in existence for many decades. It aimed to give a quality pre-school experience to children from deprived homes.  It produced some initially promising results, as new programs often do, but those  advantages rapidly faded away, leaving a program that scholarly analysts see as an abject failure.  The program is now kept going mainly as a means of offering a child-minding service in poor areas

Ms Maley hasn't got a clue.  Like most Leftist writing hers has an initial plausibility until you know all the facts

There is one simple thing politicians could do right now that would save the budget millions, or even billions, of dollars over the next generation.

The evidence is clear that this near-magic initiative works to prevent poverty, illiteracy, social delinquency, welfare dependency, ill health, and even cardiovascular disease and obesity.

Politicians like to talk about there being no "silver bullet" solution to any given problem, but according to economists and doctors, and at least one Nobel prize winner who has devoted his life to this cause, this is as close to it as it gets.

All they have to do is better fund preschools.

After 20 years of solid research into child brain development, scientists now know (and I use the verb "know" in the entirely scientific, evidence-based, non-feelpinion sense) that the human brain in the infant-to-child period is exquisitely sensitive to its environment.

Whatever crappy destiny a child's genes have planned for him or her, it will usually only be triggered in a bad environment, where a child's basic physical needs are not met, or where his or her parents fail to provide a nurturing, stimulating and responsive backdrop.

Professor Frank Oberklaid, a feted paediatrician who is probably Australia's foremost expert in early intervention and childhood development, says none of this research is touchy-feely or vague.

It is "robust and non-contested" neuroscience.

We all know that children who are exposed to abuse or neglect often grow up to have psychological and behavioural problems.

But the research shows there are long-term physical and neurological consequences from what you and I might call a crappy childhood.

The effects from a bad environment are as real and long-lasting as a blow to the head, or a kick to the kidneys might be.

"In situations of extreme poverty, child abuse, substance abuse, or any situation where the child is exposed to unpredictability and a lack of responsiveness, stress levels go up in the brain," Oberklaid says.

"This produces cortisol, and cortisol levels affect the brain's functioning. You get the biologic embedding of environmental events, so after a generation or two you start to see changes in genetic material."

Here's the real kicker: increased stress in those early years resets the body's physiological regulatory system at a sub-optimal level, meaning these children, as they grow up, are more likely to develop disease like heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

It also buggers their brain's frontal lobe development, which governs what is known as "executive function" – a trio of cognitive processes that are essential to functioning as a happy and productive adult: working memory, mental flexibility and self control.

Take a survey of your nearest prison population and you will find it full of men and women who have difficulty holding more than a few pieces of information in their minds at once, who are bad at switching between tasks and who have poor or zero impulse control.

Children are not born with these skills, and they are unlikely to develop them in dysfunctional home environments.

That's why compulsory, state-subsided preschool for at least one year, but ideally two, is something economists are switching on to.

The Nobel-winning American economist James Heckman has devoted much of his professional life to researching the economics of early childhood, and has shown that funding early childhood delivers a return on investment.

His analysis of one preschool program estimated a 7 to 10 per cent return on investment. Analysis of another early childhood program, the Chicago Child-Parent Centre, estimated $48,000 in benefits to the public per child from a half-day of public preschool. The estimated return on investment was $7 for every dollar invested.

These savings are based on the greater adult productivity of the kids involved, and reduced costs in remedial education, healthcare and criminal justice participation down the line.

The good news is we know exactly what we have to do in order to prevent a lot of these adverse outcomes.

Oberklaid spends his life advocating early intervention policy, and has advised state and federal ministers on the subject.

If he could make politicians do one single thing, it would be to fund one year of universal preschool education. Even better, fund two years of it.

Preschool helps develop the early building blocks of educational success – learning colours and numbers, understanding patterns, realising that printed words hold meaning. It socialises children. Any language, hearing or developmental problems a child may have are picked up early.


Unsustainable solar scheme being wound down in NSW

Less than a week before the lucrative NSW solar bonus scheme ends, there is still "mass confusion" among the 146,000 affected households, industry figures say.

The scheme, which was launched in 2011 to encourage the uptake of renewable energy, handed homeowners 60¢ or 20¢ "feed-in" tariffs per kilowatt hour, for the solar energy they put back into the grid.

But from December 31 those homeowners are set to face "bill shock", when their tariff rates drop to around 6¢, which is less than the amount they will be charged for accessing electricity from the grid.

The biggest change for all affected consumers has been the need to switch from a gross meter to a net meter, a process that has been beset by lengthy delays.

Michael Furey, the NSW chairman of the non-profit Australian Solar Council, said: "From the customer side there is mass confusion, and also a huge amount of frustration, because customers have been told to get information from their energy retailers and that has been either difficult to access or confusing."

From January 1, households that already have a net meter can use the electricity they generate to power appliances in the home at the time, while any excess energy is exported to the grid, earning the homeowner an unsubsidised feed-in tariff of around 6¢.

According to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal, changing from a gross to a net meter could leave NSW customers between $234 and $461 better off each year.

Mr Furey estimates that an average-sized two-kilowatt system that has not been switched to net metering will cost a homeowner around $1.20 a day, from January 1.

An EnergyAustralia spokesperson said that it understood customers were confused about delays, but it expected to have all net meters installed by the middle of 2017.

"We do not think our performance to date has been good enough ... To make sure not a single EnergyAustralia customer is disadvantaged, we're crediting $40 each month to our NSW solar customers who ... haven't yet had their meter installed."

The feed-in tariffs offered by the major providers from January 1 are 10¢ from Origin, 6.1¢ from AGL and EnergyAustralia and up to 12¢ from smaller market players such as Enova Energy.


The Macassar tyranny

Macassar is a small seaport in Indonesia.  So what has that got to do with Warmism?  Nothing at all.  But its namesake does. 

I refer to Rowland's Macassar Oil, a product first marketed by a London barber in 1783.  It was marketed as a way for men to keep their hair in order and in good health.  It soon had imitators and it became a fashion for men to put oil or grease in their hair.  And that fashion lasted into recent times.  I remember going into Woolworths in the 1950s and buying "Californian Poppy" grease for my hair.

Greasing your hair had become virtually universal.  A man who did not grease his hair was regarded as untidy.

The fashion died fairly decisively in Australia in 1972, when a new Leftist Prime Minister gained power -- the haughty Gough Whitlam.  Shortly after his accession, he went on TV to announce that he was abandoning hair grease. Up until that time, he had always greased his hair -- like most of his unionist supporters. The internet has a short memory so does not record the occasion but what Whitlam said ran roughly as follows: 

"I have always used a pomade to dress my hair.  But fashionable people tell me I am behind the times in doing so.  A modern man does not put anything in his hair. I have therefore decided that it is time to cease being a gluggy and become a fluffy".

There was at the time some debate over whether rice should be served gluggy or fluffy.

Even unionists ceased greasing their hair after that.  If they were lucky, their wives now blow-dried their hair -- perhaps with a little help from the lady's hair spray.

So what is the lesson from all that?  It shows that a totally useless belief and custom persisted among us for nearly 200 years until it was laughed to death.  Will the equally foolish doctrine of global warming stay among us for 200 years?  It could.

Senator Rod Culleton declared bankrupt by Federal Court

Besieged senator Rod Culleton has been declared bankrupt in a Federal Court hearing in Perth, jeopardising his position in the Senate.

The decision is the result of legal action brought against Senator Culleton by a creditor, former Wesfarmers director Peter Lester, seeking $280,000.

The constitution prohibits federal parliamentarians from being bankrupt. The judge has granted a 21-day stay on the order.

Senator Culleton recently quit One Nation after weeks of public tension over policy differences and the party's support for an unrelated legal action against him - concerning his eligibility to run at the July election - in the High Court.

If he is thrown out of the Senate as a result of Friday's bankruptcy decision, his former party will be empowered to select his replacement.

The courtroom reportedly became dramatic following Judge Michael Barker's ruling, with Senator Culleton yelling at the judge: "You've just executed me".

Outside the court, he said the stay on the bankruptcy order meant he "was in a legal rip" that he would swim out of by seeking to overturn it in the Supreme Court.

He also claimed the court proceedings were not fair because two people - against whom his wife Ioanna allegedly has violence restraining orders - were present in the courtroom at one point before they were removed by police.

"I'll fight to the end," he said.

The separate High Court decision Senator Culleton is awaiting concerns the larceny charge hanging over his head at the time of the election.

If he is declared ineligible by that jurisdiction, an automatic recount would most likely award his spot to the person who was second on One Nation's Senate ticket: his brother-in-law, Peter Georgiou.

Senator Culleton's former leader, Senator Pauline Hanson said she feels sorry for him "but this was the right ruling".

"I hope he now acts honourably & steps down with dignity," she tweeted.

Senator Hanson has sought to avoid Mr Georgiou emerging as the replacement, suggesting earlier this week that he might not be able to take the job.

"I'm also hearing that his brother may be a guarantor for him in that bankruptcy. So if that be the case, his brother-in-law may not be eligible to stand. So if that be the case, then the seat comes back to the party," she said.

Senator Culleton's chief of staff, Margaret Menzel, rejected this claim.


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

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The trick which might get you off flaky DSL onto Telstra cable broadband

I had a similar battle to get cable access some years ago.  I had to write to politicians and threaten to cut the cable to get results.  Saddening to hear that nothing has been learned.  Telstra are animals -- JR

After years of saying no, Telstra finally decided I can access the 100 Mbps HFC cable in my street, and you might be able to do the same.

As regular readers might know, I've been stuck on flaky DSL broadband since I moved house eight years ago, reluctantly leaving behind Optus cable in my old home. The process of moving house turned into a farce that will be all too familiar to Australians who've battled with Telstra and Optus when transferring services.

When I moved into this house I was getting 8 Mbps on the copper line but it's dwindled to 4 Mbps over the years. Before I moved in I asked Telstra about cable broadband access in the new house, knowing there was underground cable in the street, but I was told I had to stick with DSL like the previous owner – a common story in my area where many blocks have been subdivided.

The rule of thumb seems to be one cable connection per block, regardless of the number of dwellings, which is why my next-door neighbour enjoys HFC broadband while I languish on DSL, even though our block was subdivided before the houses were even built.

Several times over the years I've checked back with Telstra regarding cable access, with friends in the know telling me it should be possible, but each time I've been shot down.

I'd resigned myself to the fact that decent broadband would have to wait for the NBN to reach my street, which I thought was coming next year. I'd likely be hooked up to the Telstra cable once it was under NBN control, or I might get shunted to fibre to the node (while friends in the next suburb enjoy fibre to the premises).

My broadband situation became more desperate two weeks ago when my DSL speeds dropped to an unstable 2 Mbps. In the process of getting a line fault repaired I also discovered that the NBN was still two years away from my suburb, not one year, so I started making plans for a high speed wireless broadband connection to supplement my DSL.

A ray of hope

It wasn't the first time I'd written about my broadband woes and lamented the fact that I was denied access to the HFC cable lying only a few feet from my front door, but this time I received a call from Telstra's PR team offering to check again on my behalf. A few days later I was told there'd been a change of heart and I could connect to the cable in the street, Telstra simply needed to update its maps so the system recognised that cable was available to my home.

It was finally hooked up this week – a Christmas miracle – but not before a string of set-backs. The Telstra installers went above and beyond the call of duty but the odds were stacked against them, a situation the NBN admittedly may have encountered regularly had it proceeded to run fibre to every home.

Firstly we couldn't find the pit in the street because the Telstra maps marked it in the wrong place, then we couldn't run the cable to the house because the fools who built my home damaged the conduit when pouring the concrete driveway. We ended up running a new conduit under the driveway, after which the installer struggled to run the cable inside to the wall socket due to the way my house is built.

In a final hurdle, we had trouble activating the cable modem which saw the installer on the phone to get it fixed. When we finally sorted it all out I was rewarded with results of 114 megabits per second – 29 times faster than my shoddy DSL connection.

What's the magic word?

My sense of relief and jubilation was accompanied by bewilderment and frustration – why had Telstra denied me cable access so long? What hope was there for other people in my circumstances with the HFC cable tantalisingly just out of reach?

I put the question to Telstra and was told the key is to ring the call centre and ask them to "submit a request for a service qualification test", if the cable is in your street and you believe you should be able to access it. Even if Telstra runs copper to your home, the cable access maps aren't updated after it's laid in your street so they don't acknowledge the existence of new dwellings. This means if 10 Main Road becomes 10 and 10A, only 10 is recognised as having cable access even if they both face onto the street and each have a copper phone line.

This workaround is no guarantee of success and I can't vouch for how long you'll need to argue with the person on the phone before they'll agree, if at all. From my experience no-one in the Telstra call centre will show any initiative and inform you that such a thing is possible, even when you explain your circumstances. It's up to you to know about it and to ask.

Your mileage may vary

As a test I wandered up my street to another neighbour's house, she's also stuck on crappy DSL and has previously been told by Telstra there's nothing to be done – even though the installer who hooked up my cable also looked at her house and said she should have no trouble accessing the cable.

My friend called Telstra and then put me on the phone, determined to play dumb and see how it went. The Telstra rep initially offered a $10 per month speed boost, which didn't sound right for a DSL connection, but then said he'd check for cable availability before I could suggest it.

After a few minutes on hold he said "sorry, cable is not available". When I pointed out the house next door had cable he insisted there is "no way around it" and when I suggested checking he said it would be "a waste of time".

At this point I played the "service qualification test" card and his tone changed slightly. "Okay, I'll double-check that" and I spent the next 10 minutes on hold before he told me it can't be done. "We can't provide cable if they don't already have cable," he insisted. When I pointed out the cable was already in the street, he actually had the audacity to insist "it must be someone else's cable" – a desperate claim considering he knew full well that Telstra cable runs down the street.

The call centre's solution was to offer to upgrade my neighbour to a new DSL modem, which would do nothing to improve the condition of the copper line, followed by an offer to boost her smartphone mobile data allowance so she can run a hot spot at home.

Talking to Telstra's PR people again, I was told the call centre operator had not followed the correct procedure and if you call you need to insist that they lodge a "service qualification test form" or "dispute form" on your behalf, which takes 24 to 72 hours to process. A 10-minute check while you're on hold doesn't cut it.

My experience in dealing with Telstra over the years is that you can call three times and get three different answers, so your mileage may vary. Across the country there are many thousands of homes in the same situation, stuck on DSL while 100 Mbps Telstra cable runs past the front door. I can't make you any promises, but insisting on a service qualification test could be the key to your own Christmas miracle.


Take note: Australia does secular democracy well

“The world is a fine place,” said Ernest Hemingway, “and worth fighting for.” We would tend to agree, even if the past 12 months too often have seemed more about the fighting and less about the fine. This has been a turbulent year for so many in Australia and around the world, but the nation has just safely and peacefully celebrated Christmas despite the threat of an alleged terror plot in Melbourne.

The fear that church celebrations could be targeted on one of the central days of the Christian calendar was chilling to Australians. The realisation that terror knows no borders is one that must increasingly inform our judgments, just as it colours the politics of societies around the world.

More than ever, it is time to take stock and reflect on the gifts that we as a nation can celebrate together. We speak particularly about the strong values and civil society that not only tie us together under the oft-used rubrics of “mateship” and “a fair go” but also mean that our polity is well equipped to meet the coming year’s challenges head-on. Yes, 2016 is closing with scenes of chaos abroad (Berlin, Ankara, Aleppo) and at home (an ever wobblier budget position, the rise of minor parties, the prospect of a burn-it-down populism bubbling just under the surface, not to mention the increasing threat of terror). But allow us still to make the case for optimism.

To start with our politics: the fact is that we as a nation do — as we have always done — secular, moderate, representative democracy very well. This goes back to well before Federation. Some would say it is in our national DNA. NSW gave all adult males — regardless of property holdings — the right to vote in 1858 when the principle of “one man, one vote” wasn’t fully gained in Britain until 1918; in 1902, Australia was the first nation to give most women the right to vote and to sit in the national parliament.

While the threat of a fine from the Electoral Commission is surely a stick that encourages our high voter turnout rates, the much-celebrated “democracy sausage” of election day is also, so to speak, a carrot. In a society of many and no faiths, the ritual of voting makes for something of a secular feast day. And for all its faults, Australia does social cohesion very well indeed. Since the era of John Howard, who presided over historically high immigration rates while being seen to be firmly in control of the nation’s borders, thus anticipating and neutralising the concerns of Pauline Hanson during her first tilt at politics, we have been a nation on the increase, and with barely a fraction of the sort of friction seen in Europe or the US.

While some were quick to leap on the comments of the UN’s fly-in, fly-out special rapporteur Mutuma Ruteere to the effect that Australia was afflicted by “populism” — a catch-all word increasingly used by those who are uncomfortable with robust debate and democracy — and falling into the snares of “hate speech” and “xenophobia”, the facts would indicate otherwise.

Social cohesion studies undertaken by the Scanlon Foundation show that, overall, ours is a stable and cohesive nation, with positive attitudes towards immigration, multiculturalism and anti-discrimination.

Those such as Ruteere (and many in Australia) who criticise debate about matters such as section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act perversely undermine this sort of trust by forcing difficult questions into the shadows rather than the light where they belong.

None of this is to be Pollyannaish or suggest that we will all be fine with a healthy dose of “she’ll be right”.

Far from it. The bedrock of our society is strong but we can do better, as seen by recent surveys suggesting that Australians, like citizens in so many other countries, are concerned about whether the system works for them. This is particularly the case when it comes to economic participation.

The growth of the urban, hi-tech, knowledge-based economy must not come at the expense of those who live in the regions, work with their hands, and without whose efforts in industries ranging from agriculture to resources society would grind to a halt.

These are not challenges to be shied away from or put in the too-hard basket. We are a fortunate nation — in the genuine rather than ironic “lucky country” sense — but we must ensure that all share in the bounty. Which is why, as Australians go through their rituals today — using up the leftovers from Christmas Day lunch, braving the crowds at the sales or settling in for the Boxing Day Test — we think it is more than appropriate that the optimistic spirit of the season be embraced, despite the challenges. As complex and contentious a year as 2016 was, there is no sign that 2017 will grant any respite. Let us take this holiday period as a time to reflect on our shared values and strengths, which will sustain us as we head into the new year.


Big electricity price rises soon

Thanks to Greenie policies

AUSSIES are about to be whacked with a huge increase in their household bills, with some states forced to pay more than $100 extra a year.

With electricity bills are expected to skyrocket in 2017 due to the closure of Victoria’s Hazelwood Power Station.

The latest Australian Energy Market Commission (AEMC) 2016 Residential electricity price trends released on Wednesday has warned of price increases across the nation.

South Australians will be hit the hardest, with $150 a year expected to be added onto household bills and Victorians will have to face paying an extra $99 while Queenslanders will pay an extra $28.

Other states could be whacked with a $78 price hike.

NSW residential electricity prices are expected to increase by 3.9 per cent on average for each of the next two years largely due to a 16 per cent increase in wholesale energy costs, AEMC chairman John Pierce said.

Electricity prices are also affected by the price for gas through gas-fired power stations, which is expected to play a larger role in the market in the future.

“Any future increase in the price of gas will result in higher input costs for generators, flowing through to higher costs in the wholesale electricity market,” said Mr Pierce.

The Council of Australian Governments energy council will meet in Melbourne on Wednesday to look at regulations around new interconnectors, and efforts to ensure cheaper gas supplies.

“Across the national electricity market the generation mix is changing — with the large-scale renewable energy target leading to substantial investment in wind generation. This is contributing to the closure of coal-fired plants and increasing wholesale prices,” said Mr Pierce in a statement.


Green deaths: The forgotten dangers of solar panels

In recent years, thousands of solar panels have been placed on Australian roofs, and millions installed around the world. But how safe are they?

According to Safework Australia, each year about 30 Australians die in falls from a height, although the number of people involved in installing or maintaining solar panels is not broken down.

Some falls involving people installing or maintaining solar panels are not reported as part of work-related statistics, and then there are people electrocuted when they come into contact with power lines.

In California, where solar panels have been embraced enthusiastically, there has been a rash of deaths like this one, this one, and another three in quick succession. However, it is a worldwide phenomenon, so much so that statistics show roofing is more dangerous than coal mining.

Because of our propensity to put panels on roofs, solar is in fact, far more dangerous than many forms of power generation,  three times more dangerous than wind power and more than 10 times more dangerous than nuclear power, by comparison to the amount of power produced.

This study puts it in perspective, using figures from the United States:

The fifty actual deaths from roof installation accidents for 1.5 million roof installations is equal to the actual deaths experienced so far from Chernobyl. If all 80 million residential roofs in the USA had solar power installed then one would expect 9 times the annual roofing deaths of 300 people or 2700 people (roofers to die). This would generate about 240 TWh of power each year. (30% of the power generated from nuclear power in the USA). 90 people per year over an optimistic life of 30 years for the panels not including maintenance or any electrical shock incidents.

There is an argument, however, that solar power may ultimately be safer than coal-fired generation because of the reduction in pollution. Ironically enough, however, solar power is far more dangerous than nuclear, even in a year when an accident like the disaster at Fukushima occurs.


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

Monday, December 26, 2016


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG has a Christmas message

Thwarted terror plot draws Christmas crowds to St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne

The threat of terrorism at St Paul's Cathedral was not enough to keep the community away from Christmas Day morning services. If anything, it had the opposite effect.

"How dare they," said former policeman Tony Tulloh. "How dare they try to attack such a soft target; not just the building, but this community? They wouldn't try to target a battalion of tanks, would they? That'd be too hard."

Mr. Tulloh was visiting from New South Wales with his wife Trudie and their two sons. They had deliberated between attending an Anglican or Catholic church for Christmas during their five-day trip to Melbourne, and settled on St Paul's. Then, when they heard that a terrorist plot against the cathedral had been foiled, it reaffirmed their choice. "We came in defiance," said Mrs. Tulloh.

Andrew Boyd, who was visiting from Perth with his wife and three children, had not been so confident in his decision to attend. "At first, we were concerned about coming," he said, "but if you don't do this, what else don't you do?" In the end, he and his wife decided not to let fear stop them, "Otherwise the terrorists win."

Nonetheless, he wasn't at ease. "Seeing the police presence outside adds to the concern that there really is something going on here."

Not a moment went by on Sunday morning without at least one group of policemen standing by the stairs to the cathedral. Police vehicles also lined Swanston Street, directly opposite the iconic building, which had been named as one of three targets in what police said was a foiled Christmas Day terror attack.

Victoria Police said they had an "increased visible presence" in the city on Sunday, in an effort to reassure the public of their safety and encourage them to go about their Christmas celebrations as planned.

But a Metro staff member was blase. "Today is just another day," he said. "It's not the stuff you hear about that you should be worried about; it's the stuff you don't hear about."

Back at St Paul's Cathedral, Tracey Gay sat in the third row of the pews to hear her son sing in the church choir. "I wouldn't even consider taking him out," she said. "It's such an important part of his life." Her ten-year-old sang on Christmas Eve and during the morning service, too.

Ms Gay said the increased security presence this year made her feel safe. She was also touched by the overwhelming support the community had received in light of the thwarted attacks.

"There were members of other faiths, as well as the deputy police commissioner and consular general of the UK here last night," she said. "It sent a message of peace and solidarity."

"The message of Christmas is one of lasting peace," reiterated the Dean of Melbourne, Reverend Dr. Andreas Loewe. Yet, while he sought to spread a message of reconciliation, the threat of terror was front of mind.

He gave thanks to those who work to keep the community safe, urged those in attendance to consider their individual roles as peace creators, and prayed for the salvation of "any who would turn against their fellow humans, with hatred, to seek their harm."


Christmas in Adelaide hottest in 70 years

In case the Warmists get excited over this, I might mention that our Brisbane Christmas was unusually cool, helped, perhaps,  by some morning rain

Adelaide has sweltered through its hottest Christmas on record since 1945, while temperatures in some parts of Victoria hovered around the 40-degrees-Celsius mark.

The South Australian capital reached its forecast high of 40 degrees at 2:29pm, recording the city's hottest Christmas Day in 70 years.

Fortunately, South Australians will have a boxing day reprieve with "noticeably cooler" conditions and rain forecast for the capital.

In traditional form Australians have taken to the beach to beat the heat and shared the fun on social media.

Emergency crews were on standby across the country as heatwave conditions continued to impact on large parts of southern and eastern Australia in the late afternoon.

In Victoria, a maximum of 39.9 degrees Celsius was recorded at Hopetoun, while Melbourne reached 35.5 degrees at about 3:00pm.

Firefighters are battling a grass fire at Woomelang, north of Birchip in the state's north-west.

The fire at Kellys Road has crossed the Sunraysia Highway and A Watch and Act warning has been issued for Banyan, Curyo, Hopetoun, Marlbed, Watchupga, Willangie, Woomelang.


Queensland govt red-faced in rail fail

A Leftist government that cannot make the trains run on time.  Yet they want us out of our cars!

The Queensland government is offering free taxi rides for stranded public transport users after Christmas Day train services were cancelled because of “operational reasons”.

The number of cancellations has been revised up to 235, from the 150 expected earlier.

Queensland Transport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe, already under pressure to retain his job after a series of scandals involving Queensland Rail, said he was “disappointed” by the latest cancellations.

The last-minute disruption to travel plans has impacted services across the rail network, including the airport line, Gold Coast line, Sunshine Coast line and Redcliffe Peninsula line.

Queensland Rail has confirmed the service cancellations were due to “resourcing issues that Queensland Rail have been experiencing over the last couple of months”.

Mr Hinchliffe, who said he was informed of Queensland Rail’s decision to cancel some Christmas Day services yesterday afternoon, described the cancellations as “entirely unacceptable”.

“Today, I have also instructed Queensland Rail to provide me with an urgent and comprehensive report detailing the circumstances leading to the cancelation of some Christmas Day CityTrain services and an explanation for the late notice given to passengers inconvenienced by Queensland Rail,” he said.

“I am disappointed by Queensland Rail’s decision and the inconvenience it will cause for rail passengers on Christmas Day,” he added.

“That’s why I have directed Queensland Rail to provide free Christmas Day travel for all passengers on all CityRail services.”

Queensland Rail acting CEO Jim Benstead said all patrons travelling on trains today would travel free. “I apologise to customers for the inconvenience,” Mr Benstead said.

“On Christmas Day, patronage is about 60 per cent less than an average Sunday, but of course many people will be relying on the train to get to festive celebrations which they won’t want to miss. “We are asking all passengers to check the TransLink website before travelling.”

Mr Benstead has ordered extra station staff work today to guide customers, and said Queensland Rail accepted “full responsibility for these service cancellations”.

Queensland Rail is offering taxi fares at stations for customers who are facing unacceptable wait times.

Shadow Transport Minister Andrew Powell said Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk should return from leave and “sack” Mr Hinchliffe, one of her key allies. “What should be one of the happiest days of the year has turned into a nightmare because of this Minister’s complete incompetence,” Mr Powell said.

“Stirling ‘I know nothing’ Hinchliffe has once again claimed he was the last to know, only receiving advice about the major cancellations yesterday afternoon — but Queenslanders are sick of hearing the same old excuse. “150 services have been cancelled, leaving families stranded from their loved ones and all the Minister can do is shrug his shoulders.”

Mr Powell said the Christmas changes, posted on social media by Queensland Rail last night, could mean Queenslanders won’t make it to Christmas events.

The TransLink website blamed Queensland Rail for providing them with late advice, meaning they could not update online journey planners.  “Due to the late receipt of advice from Queensland Rail, these changes cannot be updated in the journey planner,” the TransLink update said.


Video games website Steam fined $3 million for refusing refunds

Gaming company Valve Corporation has been hit with a $3 million fine after the Federal Court found its online games site Steam breached Australian Consumer Laws.

The court imposed the maximum fine requested by Australia's competition regulator because of Valve's disregard for Australian law and lack of contrition.

Valve's general counsel, Karl Quackenbush, told the court the company did not obtain legal advice when it set up in Australia, and did not check its obligations until the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission got involved in April 2014. It only provided staff verbal instructions.

This lack of interest in Australian laws and lack of cooperation encouraged Justice James Edelman to impose a pentaly 12 times more than Valve Corporation suggested it pay.

"Valve is a United States company with 2.2 million Australian accounts which received 21,124 tickets in the relevant period containing the word "refund" from consumers with Australian IP addresses," Justice Edelman wrote in his judgement.

"Yet it had a culture by which it formed a view without Australian legal advice that it was not subject to Australian law, and it was content to proceed to trade with Australian consumers without that advice and with the view that even if advice had been obtained that Valve was required to comply with Australian law the advice might have been ignored."

A court found in May that Steam's website breached Australian Consumer Law because it stated consumers were not entitled to a refund and had no access to minimum quality guarantees.

Steam must now introduce a compliance program and place a notice in size 14 type on its Australia website informing consumers about their rights.

Steam is an online games store where consumers buy access or downloads of games like Doom, Grand Theft Auto, or Fallout. Games cost up to $75.

Justice Edelman found the subscriber contracts on Steam's website were designed to ensure Steam did not offer consumers any refunds. Australian customers ticked a box agreeing to Steam's terms and conditions. It was ticked 24.9 million times between 2011 and 2014 and it was "impossible to calculate the precise number of consumers who were affected by the misrepresentations".

During the case the court heard Valve did in fact offer more than 15,000 refunds if a customer was unable to install a game, or unable to play it, or where a subscriber purchased the wrong version of a game by mistake.

Valve had suggested it pay a penalty of just $250,000 but Justice Edelman noted the penalty proposed by Valve was "not even a real cost of doing business. It would barely be noticed". Valve is a private company and its profits are unknown, but the court noted its worldwide income and revenue was "massive".

When the original decision was handed down in March, chairman of the ACCC, Rod Sims, said it reinforced that any foreign business selling goods or services in Australia is subject to local laws.

"In this case, Valve is a US company operating mainly outside Australia, but, in making representations to Australian consumers, the Federal Court has found that Valve engaged in conduct in Australia," Mr Sims said.

"It is also significant that the court held that, in any case, based on the facts, Valve was carrying on business in Australia."


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

Sunday, December 25, 2016

A Lucky country?

The late Donald Horne wrote a book about Australia called "The Lucky Country" in 1964.  He was acclaimed for it despite almost nobody reading his book.  Australians took the title as justified praise of their country and felt no need to read the details.  But it was not praise.  That's how I know that few ever read it.  I have read it.  It is a miserable, carping book which claims that Australia has done well purely out of luck. He calls Australians second rate and unworthy of their good fortune to live in one of the world's most peaceful, advanced and prosperous countries.  It's not so peaceful now with the advent of Muslim and African "refugees" but it was very peaceful, calm, and orderly when Donald wrote.

And Donald committed the common Leftist error of thinking and writing about a country while somehow not realizing that he was not thinking about a country at all but rather about the people of that country.  Leftists tend to talk about the evils of "America", "Australia" etc. as if those evils were an aspect of a geographical location rather than the evil deeds of people.  They deal in abstractions.  It seems to be comforting to them to do that.

So why was Donald so jaundiced about his native land? Why did he loathe his fellow citizens? I knew him slightly and he seemed to me to be a clever but rather mixed-up person.  He was a conservative in his early years but later gravitated to various Leftist positions.  That is of course unusual. The more usual movement with age is to greater conservatism.

So why that movement?  It could have had something to do with his education.  He never completed a degree and I detected some insecurity in him about that.   And that lack would have been a handicap in the  highly educated elite he wished to be part of.

But once he turned Left, everything fell into place.  His Leftism earned him all the acceptance he could have wanted.  He was a smart man so once his unacceptable ideology was out of the way he gained admittance to the gods.  He became one of the great and the good.  And benefactions and honours showered down on him. I noted in 1974 that conservatism was already a heresy in Australia by that time so Donald had to ditch it if he wanted to be heard.

And his book would have been an important part of his "rehabilitation".  It was the sort of haughty thing that any Leftist anywhere would say about their own society.  Australian Leftists would agree with much of it to this day.

But I don't think the book was just for show.  It is so relentlessly negative that it does seem heartfelt.  I suspect that Donald was always an unhappy man.

But unhappy or not, was he right? Is the relaxed, civil and prosperous Australian population, the product of many generations of lazy dolts?

Hardly.  I am a 5th generation Australian who has taken an interest in family history and the early days generally. And I know how hard our forebears worked and what they took on. Most of the land was cleared with axes and crosscut saws. There were no chainsaws. Land in Europe was cleared for human use over centuries.  Our men cleared it in a few generations.  And the only supplement to human muscle up until about a century ago was the bullock team.  My grandfather was a "bullocky" and I have pictures of his team and what he accomplished with it.

And the construction of a prosperous society started from surprisingly early on.  Even while Australia was a  military dictatorship in the early 1800s much was achieved. I have read a lot of old newspapers over the years and one account of the early days is instructive.  The account is in a report of 1828 in "The Australian" newspaper of the day.

We read that the Indiaman (ship) "Margaret" arrived from England with smallpox on board, which was immediately notified to the appropriate authorities. The ship was sent to Neutral Bay in quarantine and the Sydney population warned. Thousands of people had cowpox vaccinations as a result. After official investigations, the ship was allowed to disembark on August 5th. So Sydney was a pretty sophisticated place already by that time.

A "visiting English gentleman" also writing in "The Australian" around that time was surprised to find Sydney comprised of substantial brick and stone buildings instead of the mud huts and log cabins he had expected. He found it "a bustling, elegant and extensive city" with shops as good as London's but with much cleaner air. So the early settlers (many of whom were convicts) had built well in just 40 years. More details here.  I personally am descended from a convict who arrived on the ship just mentioned

An important thing to realize is that England at that time was undoubtedly the most advanced society in the world.  So when they came to Australia, they brought all that was modern with them.  Australia had a flying start into the modern age. And they built well on that. By the year 1900, Australia was, in many accounts, the richest country in the world.

But probably most important of all was the character of the early settlers.  Only 3% of our ancestors were convicts.  The rest were brave and enterprising men who risked the long and dangerous sea voyage from England in search of economic opportunity. Very few were from smart London society.  They were people from the regions: Quiet tough people with an instinctive moderation in their behaviour and a belief that you had to work for what you got. Nothing was handed to you on a plate.

And if you blasphemed against Jesus and their God, they wouldn't want to kill you for it.  They probably did a fair bit of blaspheming themselves at times.

So the plain truth is that Australian society was created by many generations of Australians and what it is today reflects what they were.  Australia is indeed lucky -- with the sort of luck you get when you work hard, think ahead and are resourceful and tough and considerate of others.

Henry Lawson knew what the Australian pioneers were like so I will close with his poem about a class of men from whom I am descended and whom I remember.  My grandfather was very like the men described below. Strong quiet men:

THE TEAMS by Henry Lawson (1867 - 1922)

A cloud of dust on the long white road,
   And the teams go creeping on
Inch by inch with the weary load;
And by the power of the greenhide goad
   The distant goal is won.

With eyes half-shut to the blinding dust,
   And necks to the yokes bent low,
The beasts are pulling as bullocks must;
And the shining tires might almost rust
   While the spokes are turning slow.

With face half-hid 'neath a broad-brimmed hat
   That shades from the heat's white waves,
And shouldered whip with its greenhide plait,
The driver plods with a gait like that
   Of his weary, patient slaves.

He wipes his brow, for the day is hot,
   And spits to the left with spite;
He shouts at "Bally", and flicks at "Scot",
And raises dust from the back of "Spot",
   And spits to the dusty right.

He'll sometimes pause as a thing of form
   In front of a settler's door,
And ask for a drink, and remark, "It's warm,"
Or say, "There's signs of a thunderstorm;"
   But he seldom utters more.

But the rains are heavy on roads like these;
   And, fronting his lonely home,
For weeks together the settler sees
The teams bogged down to the axletrees,
   Or ploughing the sodden loam.

And then when the roads are at their worst,
   The bushman's children hear
The cruel blows of the whips reversed
While bullocks pull as their hearts would burst,
   And bellow with pain and fear.

And thus with little joy or rest
   Are the long, long journeys done;
And thus - 'tis a cruel war at best -
Is distance fought in the mighty West,
  And the lonely battles won.


I first posted the above on Facebook.  An old friend, Alfred Croucher saw it and commented as under:

Before he became too leftist, Horne was hired to lecture on Australian history by the famous conservative political science department of UNSW run by Doug McCallum. His lectures were composed it seemed, by a collage of newspaper clippings and I don't recall any cogent analysis.

In addition to being his student I used to mix with him at faculty social evenings so I thought it appropriate to ask him for a reference. Now I was an advocate of more progressive ideas and frequently criticized the department's conservative agenda. But even so I was shocked to receive the reference worded thus:

"Alfred Croucher was a student of the Political Science Department of UNSW from January 1974 until Dec 1976."

Sadly I threw it away when I should have framed it as a tribute to a mean spirited man. -- JR

Rebel Greens faction to fight police, capitalism

This is not exactly new.  Rhiannon was a Trot long before she was a Green.  And she's not the only Trot who went Green when they saw  a chance of more influence there.  Why they have come out openly now is a bit of a mystery, though.  Frustrated at achieving so little, I guess.

A newly formed hard-left faction within the Greens has publicly stated it does not believe in the rule of law or the legitimacy of the Australian state and says it will work to “bring about the end of capitalism”.

Formed around federal NSW senator Lee Rhiannon and NSW upper house MP David Shoebridge, the “Left Renewal” faction has published a statement of principles that is at odds with its own party and contradicts the Greens’ national policies in several key areas.

In forming the faction, Left Renewal said the Greens were failing those with liberal ­beliefs.

“Positions of power and influence within the party are falling to those with liberal politics, who manipulate party processes and abuse their resources to take and solidify their control,” the new faction’s Facebook page says.

The group opposes market-based mechanisms, such as a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme, as methods to address climate change, and will have a binding caucus in which members will be forced to follow the ­majority view expressed within the faction.

Candidates supported by the hard Left have lost in recent state preselections in NSW, prompting the unified group looking to wrest power from what it sees as a right-wing body.

In a statement of principles, the group describes itself as ­“advocates for peace” and rejects the authority of the police.

“A rejection of class antagonism, and capitalism, also depends on a rejection of the state’s legitimacy and the right of it, and its apparatuses, to impose oppression upon the working class,” it says.

“We further rejected state- mediated oppression in all of its forms, and recognise that violent apparatuses like the police do not share an interest with the working class.”

Former Greens leader Bob Brown previously has called for Senator Rhiannon to bow out of politics to make room for ­“renewal”.


The Premier of Victoria is borderline insane

Lack of contact with reality is the defining symptom of schizophrenia.  Daniel Andrews says that the terrorist attack below planned by a Muslim group "was not religious"

Police have disrupted a terrorist plot to detonate improvised explosive devices at locations in central Melbourne, possibly on Christmas Day, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says.

Seven people were arrested overnight at properties in Flemington, Meadow Heights and Dallas in Melbourne over the alleged plot, which police said was inspired by the Islamic State (IS) group.

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews described the plot as an "act of evil", while Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said police had seized "the makings of an improvised explosive device".

Speaking at a press conference today, Mr Turnbull said: "Overnight our police and security agencies have disrupted a very substantial terrorist plot.

"Overnight, the Victoria Police, working with the Australian Federal Police and ASIO, have arrested seven persons, five of whom are still in custody, searched five premises and are continuing to search them.

"What they have uncovered is a plot to explode improvised explosive devices in central Melbourne in the area of Federation Square, on or about Christmas Day. "This is one of the most substantial terrorist plots that have been disrupted over the last several years."

Commissioner Ashton said it was believed a number of people were intending to carry out an attack involving explosives and other weapons.

"Over the last fortnight … we have had to conduct a criminal investigation relating to the formation of what we believe was a terrorist plot," he said.

"We believe that there was an intention to conduct what we call a multi-mode attack, possibly on Christmas Day. Police believe the locations to be targeted include Federation Square, Flinders Street Station, and St Paul's Cathedral.

Commissioner Ashton said: "We believe [the plot] was going to involve an explosive event, the use of explosives, and we gathered evidence to support that.

"There has also been evidence that we will lead around the possibility of an intention to use other weapons. That could include knives and/or a firearm.

"Certainly these [people] are self-radicalised, we believe, but inspired by ISIS and ISIS propaganda."

A 24-year-old man from Meadow Heights, a 26-year-old man from Dallas, a 22-year-old man from Campbellfield, a 21-year-old man from Flemington and a 21-year-old man from Gladstone Park remain in police custody.

A 20-year-old woman and a 26-year-old man, both from Meadow Heights, were released without charge.

The five people in custody were expected to face court this afternoon, charged with acts in preparation of a terrorist event, Commissioner Ashton said.

Commissioner Ashton said four of the five were Australian-born with a Lebanese background.

"The age groups range between 20 and 24 or 25. There is another suspect in this matter who will be charged that was an Egyptian-born Australian citizen. All the others were Australian-born," he said.

Premier Daniel Andrews said there would be an increased police presence at large gatherings in Victoria over the Christmas period.

"This is not an act of faith. What was being planned, what will be led in evidence, what the police will allege, was not an act of faith, not an act of religious observance, it was, instead, in its planning, an act of evil, a criminal act," he said.
Commissioner Ashton said he spoke to Cricket Australia about providing additional security at the MCG during the Boxing Day Test, which starts on Monday.


Lazy Victoria police again

Black guy tries to blow up service station in probable terrorist attack. Victorian Police again just don't want to know about black crime.  With a delusional premier as their boss, you can't entirely blame them

Hero tradie to the rescue to stop service station disaster. The hero sprung into action when he saw a potential disaster unfolding at a St Albans a service station at 5pm last Wednesday.

CCTV footage shows a man walking up to service station bowser.

He picks up the fuel pump, and holding a cigarette lighter in his right hand, tries to set the bowser alight.

When it fails to ignite, he angrily throws the pump onto the ground and moves to another.

A tradesman spots him on his second attempt, and launches into action. The good Samaritan pulls a fire extinguisher from the front of the bowser, walks up to the man and douses him with fire retardent foam.

He then chases the offender away from the service station in a haze of foam.

The 30-year-old hero, who doesn't want to be named, said he believed the man's intent was to kill or injure bystanders. "It looked like he was trying to burn the place down," he told 7 News. "If he had have lit the petrol, I imagine most of us probably would have died or been pretty severely injured."

While the would-be arsonist was forced out of the service station, he remained nearby. That is, before the tradie launched a second counter attack.

"He was still standing over the fence outside the 7-Eleven, so I ran over and gave him another couple of sprays," the man said.

He said he tried to report the incident to two different police stations, but was told they were too short-staffed at the time to take a statement.

He later reported it to a third, in Melbourne's north west, but the tradie said the response he received was inadequate.  "I think [the potential arsonist] is a risk to the public and I do think it needs to be followed up on. "And I just don't think the response I got from that particular officer - not against the station or the force in general - that particular officer, wasn't adequate."

Police told 7 News they would not be investigating the incident as nobody was injured and no damage was reported.


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