Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Australia’s inequality crisis: Oxfam paper

Who said it is a crisis?  The world's most favoured nations where living standards are at their highest all have substantial inequality.  You ALWAYS have inequality.  Even the old Soviet Union had its nomenklatura.  You lift people up by working to increase economic efficiency, not by red-eyed envy of others. 

What we read below is just one big paroxysm of hate for those who have done well.  In the usual Leftist way, it is totally one sided, with no mention of the vast amount of tax that rich people pay or their many philanthropic activities.  Mentioning that would undermine the hate. 

Nor is there any mention of how people got rich -- usually by providing a new service or an improvement to existing services.  The fact that very rich people keep emerging in Australia simply shows that Australia is a land of opportunity with few barriers to improved economic activity for those who have realistic business ideas and the energy to implement them

Oxfam seems to put out "reports" such as the one below annually.  There was a very similar one at the beginning of last year. Oxfam was founded to help the poor but it now seems to be obsessed with the rich

The head of Oxfam in Australia is Helen Szoke, whose surname seems to have been taken from her Czechoslovakian adoptive parents. She had a rather distressed childhood, which probably had some role in making her a lifelong far-Leftist. You will, for instance, not see her telling anybody that Life is getting much, much better for the world's poor, however you want to measure it – whether it's in terms of average incomes, life expectancy, child mortality, disease, poverty, or women's rights.  Leftists don't want to know about all that. They feed on grievance

She is a former head of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission. Her determinations there always seemed perverse, although carefully put.

A record number of Australian billionaires amassed an astonishing $38 billion increase in their wealth last financial year – enough money to pay for more than half of Federal public health spending, an Oxfam Australia briefing paper has revealed.

The briefing paper, Growing Gulf Between Work and Wealth, shows the number of Australian billionaires increased by eight to 33 last year – and has more than doubled over the past 10 years – while workers’ wages have stagnated.

Released as the world’s political and business leaders gather this week in Davos, Switzerland, for the World Economic Forum, the Oxfam analysis shows inequality in Australia is higher than at any time over the past two decades. The share of wealth held by the richest one per cent continues to rise, while wage growth for ordinary workers has slowed to record lows – barely keeping up with the cost of living.

“Oxfam is committed to tackling poverty and inequality – but a broken economic system that is concentrating more wealth in the hands of the rich and powerful, while ordinary people struggle to scrape by, is fuelling an inequality crisis,” Dr Szoke said.

“Over the decade since the Global Financial Crisis, the wealth of Australian billionaires has increased by almost 140 per cent to a total of $115.4 billion last year. Yet over the same time, the average wages of ordinary Australians have increased by just 36 per cent and average household wealth grew by 12 per cent.

“The richest one per cent of Australians continue to own more wealth than the bottom 70 per cent of Australians combined. While everyday Australians are struggling more and more to get by, the wealthiest groups have grown richer and richer.”

The Oxfam paper also highlights that the system is broken for workers in Australian global supply chains – trapping people in poverty, no matter how hard they work.

“This economic injustice is nowhere more apparent than in the clothing industry, where the people – mainly women – making clothes for household Australian brands are often paid poverty wages,” Dr Szoke said.

“A handful of the highest paid chief executives in the Australian clothing retail sector earn, on average, about $6 million a year. At the same time, many women working in Bangladesh to make the clothes sold by these brands take home a minimum wage of AUD $974 a year.

“Garment workers earning this minimum wage in Bangladesh – which falls far short of a living wage to cover the basics – would have to work more than 10,000 years to make the same amount that one of the highest paid Australian fashion retail CEOs made in 2017.”

Dr Szoke said to tackle the top end of this inequality crisis, the Federal Government must end cuts to corporate taxes and introduce tougher tax transparency laws that require companies to publicly report on income, profits and taxes for every country in which they operate.

To address the other extreme of the economic divide, Dr Szoke said Australian companies should commit to ensuring at least a living wage to workers in their supply chains – and to publishing a step-by-step strategy outlining how this would be achieved.

“Hard work is no longer a guarantee for a better life – the system is clearly not working for a majority of people,” Dr Szoke said. “The Federal Government and Australian companies cannot ignore this inequality crisis and must act to curtail the widening gulf between the super-rich and ordinary workers.”

Media release received via email

Australian success story offers no scope for contrition or cringe

We must beware of employing the “slippery slope” argument, particularly when critiquing the slippery policies of the Greens. It is tempting, nonetheless, to imagine that abolishing Australia Day won’t be the end of the matter but merely a step towards the abolition of Australia itself.

Since Greens leader Richard Di Natale confidently predicts we’ll be rid of Australia Day within a decade, we might well be heading for a constitutional referendum on national self-abolishment by 2028.

The push to abolish Australia is not popular, yet its advocates are noisy, resourceful and driven by an irrepressible desire for change for its own sake. Like supporters of a republic, they are largely people who have been to university, where an intellectualised intolerance to patriotism thrives. These are denaturalised intellectuals, the group identified by ­Arthur Angell Phillips in 1958 in The Australian Tradition as the ­unhappy victims of the cultural cringe, isolated and alienated from their own country.

Their thinking is clouded by the unsavoury ­interpretation of the Australian story that pervades history faculties and seeps out through other branches of the ­humanities, as the work of the ­Institute of Public ­Affairs’ Bella d’Abrera revealed last year.

The academic class has become obsessed with what divides Australia, rather than what unites us. D’Abrera’s analysis of the titles and descriptions of 746 subjects found a proliferation of the words “indigenous”, “race”, “gender”, “envir­onment”, “identity” and “sex­uality”, which appeared far more frequently than “Enlightenment” or “the Reformation”.

The dispiriting effect of identity politics is made worse by the stigmatising of dissenting thinkers as bad and immoral. Universities are deprived of the benefits of checking truth against error, one of the great benefits of the principle of free speech articulated by John Stuart Mill in On Liberty .

“All silencing of discussion,” wrote Mill, “is an assumption of ­infallibility.”

Paradoxically, the deracinated, denationalised intellectual class ranks inclusiveness high among its virtues. It presumes to see the world in a clearer light, considering itself above the chubby, chuckleheaded masses who attach the national flag to their Holdens each year and believe, in the ­immortal words of Barry McKenzie, that they live in “the greatest living country in the world, no risk”.

The new cultural cringers have little conception of Australia’s ­exceptional history or understanding of the importance of the timing and nature of British settlement. Since we had the good fortune to be settled after the Enlightenment, there were no witch trials in Australia, where rationalism reigned. There was a conscious rejection of slavery and a commitment to penal reform that defies Robert Hughes’s depiction of the Fatal Shore.

The trite, anti-colonial narrative of theft and oppression fits poorly around the Australian story; the most grievous acts of oppression occurred beyond the boundaries of the law, an important distinction seldom acknowledged. Violence and theft were, for the most part, unendorsed by the state.

There is nothing in Australia’s history to match, for example, the 1879 incident known as the Conquest of the Desert in Argentina when General Julio Roca led 6000 troops in five columns armed with repeating rifles to seize possession of the Rio Negro, rounding up ­Indians to be apportioned as servants or labourers to an elite band of colonialists who took control of large ranches.

Australian farms were middle-class settlements, made fertile in individual ingenuity and perseverance. Argentina and Australia were ranked equal for their economic potential a little more than a century ago. But middle-class energy, personal and economic liberty and inherited ­institutions under the rule of law proved a more successful model of progress than cronyism, protectionism and patronage. Today Australia far outranks Argentina for wealth, agricultural exports, small business, education and ­income equality.

To talk of Australia as a successful nation, an exemplar of progress, is to do nothing more than state facts. The defamatory claim that Australia was founded on genocide and theft, a falsehood in which we marinate our schoolchildren, softening them for the dreary courses they take at university, is far more dangerous than we imagine.

For Europeans, colonialism is just a middle-ranking sin, writes Douglas Murray in The Strange Death of Europe. For Australians, however, it has become their original sin. The narrative of guilt has moved from the margins of public debate to the core, he argues. “Strangely this narrative of guilt seems actually desired and welcomed by Australian society,” he writes. The world’s impression of Australia and the country’s self-­regard has palpably changed “from a generally sunny and optimistic place to one that has ­become darker, not to mention mawkish, about its past”.

Mass displays of plastic hands in Aboriginal colours on the lawns of parliament, the signing of Sorry books and grand symbolic nat­ional apologies are symptoms of a mania, says Murray. The political class mistakenly assumes its statements of regret are cost-free. Yet we may pay dearly for the erosion of national confidence in a competitive world. “If Australia is forever opening up and apologising for its own past while China ­remains silent, the impression may be instilled, in children in Australia as much as elsewhere, that Australia is the country for more to apologise for.”

Such observations from abroad deserve to be taken seriously, particularly in the context of a book that mourns the loss in cultural confidence across Europe, the erosion of shared values and the weakening of the social fabric.

In 1958, when Phillips wrote his seminal essay on the Australian cultural cringe, those who displayed it were to be pitied or mocked. It is harder to laugh at Murray’s update or dismiss the discomfort with nationalism as a harmless quirk. Phillips’ antidote holds good, though: Australians must develop “the art of being ­unselfconsciously ourselves”.

“The Cringe is a worse enemy to our cultural development than our isolation,” he concludes. “The opposite of the Cringe is not Strut, but a relaxed erectness of carriage.”


Unemployment among Australian university graduates

The article below by Cat Moir is generally sensible even though it is from a strongly Leftist source. In the last of her words below she sees a paradox that is not, however. It is a widely held view that all speech should be free except speech that promotes violence. And it is pretty clear that Muslim teaching leads in the direction of violence. Jihad is not a Presbyterian idea and the Middle East is hardly an oasis of peace. So careful oversight of Muslim speech is warranted caution

On 8 January, Quality Indicators for Teaching and Learning (QILT) published the results of the 2017 Employer Satisfaction Survey. The survey stated that 84% of employers were satisfied overall with the skills of the university graduates they employed, with 93% saying that the graduates they employed were prepared ‘very well’, or ‘well’ for their current employment.

Education and Training Minister Simon Birmingham released a statement on the survey, saying that these results were encouraging because they allow students to compare how courses “are viewed by their prospective employers as part of a clearer picture of our higher education system”. According to Senator Birmingham, the survey will allow students to make better decisions “when considering the courses and careers they choose to embark on”.

However, as QILT’s Graduate Outcomes Survey also makes clear, whatever path they embark on, up to 38% of graduates leaving Australian universities today will not find full-time work. According to that data, the last decade has seen a rise of 17% in the number of university leavers in part-time employment.

In response to these figures, Senator Birmingham demands “more accountability of universities for the students they take on”. He insists that universities must “take responsibility” for the outcomes of their graduates.

One might be tempted to argue at this juncture that universities are not just employability factories, but rather spaces for intellectual enquiry, self-discovery, and collective endeavour. Whatever their remit, though, no university would dispute that HE institutions must do everything in their power to provide students with the best possible standard of education, encouragement, and support.

But even if we conceive of the role of universities only in narrow economic terms, the implication that what happens within their walls can or should somehow guarantee the outcomes of students once they leave the campus and enter an increasingly volatile and precarious global labour market is false.

As the GOS makes clear, one of the main causes of the increase in part-time graduate work was the GFC in 2008: a less stable global labour market, combined with an influx of increasingly highly-qualified young people, makes it more difficult to get a job.

The paradox here, if you hadn’t already guessed, is that if the point of universities is supposed to be to produce employable graduates, then there have to be jobs in which these graduates can be employed. But that is not something for which universities can be held responsible.

In the UK, the universities sector has confronted both a type-1 and a type-2 paradox this last week. Since they’re related, let’s group them together as the ‘freedom of speech paradox’.

The UK government has recently established a new Office for Students, a regulatory body that merges HEFCE and the Office for Fair Access. It has extensive powers: it will administer university funding, degree award powers, university title, the Teaching and Research Excellence Frameworks for measuring academic performance, and fair access to higher education.

It will also be responsible for ensuring that universities allow freedom of speech for controversial guest speakers.

The freedom of speech issue is familiar here in Australia: it has to do with universities no-platforming figures who publicly espouse violently racist, sexist, homophobic, or otherwise discriminatory views.

The argument of no-platforming advocates is that ‘free speech’ is so often used as a cover by those whose right to speak has historically been protected (more or less well off white men) to incite hatred and even violence towards those whose right to speak has historically not enjoyed the same protection: women, people of colour, gender non-binary people, the poor.

Whatever stance one takes on the no-platforming issue, it seems to be irreconcilable with the OfS’ other duty: to enforce the government’s Prevent strategy, which is designed to stop people from becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism by — among other things — monitoring the potential presence of extremist views on campus.

The OfS is therefore in the (type-1) paradoxical situation of having to say that universities must protect the freedom of controversial figures to speak on campus… except if they’re a radical Islamist, in which case they will be no-platformed after all.


Genetic modification laws set for shake-up, with health and agriculture research industries to benefit

Australia is set to reform how it regulates new genetic engineering techniques, which experts say will help to dramatically speed up health and agriculture research.

The changes will enable agricultural scientists to breed higher yielding crops faster and cheaper, or ones resistant to drought and disease.

Australia's gene technology regulator Raj Bhula has proposed reducing regulations around gene editing techniques such as CRISPR, following a 12 month technical review into the current regulations.

The most radical change put forward by the regulator is that some of the more efficient and newer genetic technologies, known as gene editing, would not be considered "genetic modification".

"With gene editing you don't always have to use genetic material from another organism, it is just editing the [existing] material within the organism," Dr Bhula said.

"All of our regulatory frameworks and laws have been established based on people putting unrelated genetic material into another organism.

"Whereas this process is just manipulation within the organism and not introducing anything foreign."

Case for deregulation when there is no risk
Under current legislation, a genetically modified organism (GMO) is broadly defined as an organism that has been modified by gene technology, and is subject to heavy regulation.

Genetically modified crops have been available for decades and some are already widely used in Australian agriculture, particularly cotton and canola.

GM cotton varieties, such as BT cotton, use the DNA from a common soil bacterium to repel insects.

Dr Bhula said the newer technologies, rather than inserting a foreign gene, involve editing an existing gene to speed up the development of an organism that would usually happen over time.

"If these technologies lead to outcomes no different to the processes people have been using for thousands of years, then there is no need to regulate them, because of their safe history of use," she said.

"If there is no risk case to be made when using these new technologies, in terms of impact on human health and safety for the environment, then there is a case for deregulation."

If approved, the reforms will have wide ranging benefits for agriculture research, and could speed up the research and commercialisation of disease, salt or drought-resistant crops, or high yielding varieties.

The changes are currently open for consultation, and will ultimately need to be signed off by Commonwealth and state and territory governments, and passed in federal Parliament.


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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