Wednesday, November 22, 2006

More contempt for the people from a Leftist elitist

That kids get turned off school by being bored rigid -- by politically correct preaching masquerading as education -- is not considered

Most Australians are anti-intellectual and hostile towards education, a senior Labor frontbencher said today. In a provocative speech to the Sydney Institute tonight (AEDT), Lindsay Tanner will argue parents are partly to blame for a culture of anti-intellectualism in Australia. "There's a lot of evidence that we're still disdaining of learning, we're still regarding learning activity as something that `real Aussies' don't get into too much," Mr Tanner said on ABC Radio today. "It's not an accident that our levels of education and our level of commitment to education and learning is significantly lower than comparable countries."

Mr Tanner said Prime Minister John Howard had fuelled anti-intellectualism by suggesting it was fine for young people to leave school early, and by allowing Education Minister Julie Bishop to brand schoolteachers "Maoists". "Australians have come a long way in the past 20 or 30 years but there's still a lingering culture of antagonism to learning, and I think the Howard government really has been exploiting that," he said. "We should have a government that's actually upholding learning, that's advocating learning, improving learning. "Instead, we've got a government that's exploiting that anti-learning strand of feeling that's very deep in Australia." It was "staggering" that 46 per cent of school leavers did not go on to either higher education or TAFE, he said.

Mr Tanner defended his strong views. "I don't think it's disdainful, I think it's an acknowledgement of reality," he said. "I've grown up in the Labor movement, for example, where the word `academic' has historically been a term of derision. That's just a reflection of the wider society." A British university's presentation of an honorary degree to Australian cricketer Shane Warne, who once famously boasted that he had never read a book, illustrated that many Australians regarded learning as "a bit of a laugh", he said. "I thought that was embarrassing," Mr Tanner said. "He isn't the first person to receive one of these things ... but I suspect in terms of learning and approach to education, he's probably the least justified."


'Financial ruin' for Queensland if no dam

Realism bites and Greenie fantasies take a back seat

THE Beattie Government has warned of massive economic damage to southeast Queensland if new water sources are not found. As its efforts to win approval for the controversial Traveston Crossing Dam in the Mary River Valley move into top gear, the Government has used a consultant's report on possible economic losses to the region to push its case for the project. The lack of new water sources could end up costing southeast Queensland at least $55 billion and perhaps as much as $110 billion by 2020, according to the consultants ACIL Tasman.

The warning is contained in documents accompanying the Government's official referral of the Traveston project to federal Environment Minister Ian Campbell for approval. "Without additional water supplies in SEQ, economic growth is likely to be significantly affected," the document states. "The cumulative impact of not providing additional water has been estimated to result in losses to the regional economy of between $55 billion and $110 billion for the period 2010 to 2020. "This loss would also result in loss of employment which would affect the many new job seekers and families coming to the region."

The Government last week referred both the Traveston project and the proposed Wyaralong Dam to Senator Campbell for environmental assessment. The Government's plans to build the dam has enraged local landowners, prompting vows from several federal Coalition MPs to block the development.


East coast could support 25 nuke plants

AUSTRALIA could have 25 nuclear power plants dotted up and down the east coast by 2050, under a massive nuclear program envisaged by a Government taskforce. While admitting nuclear power could be up to 50 per cent more expensive than coal-fired power and it will take at least 10 years before any nuclear power flows into the national electricity grid, the draft review by Ziggy Switkowski has found nuclear power can be competitive if the price of carbon-based pollution is factored in.

It finds that modern nuclear designs are far safer than those involved in the accidents at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, and Australia has geologically suitable areas for nuclear waste repositories.

After a five-month review, Dr Switkowski and his team have found that Australia has the capacity to expand its production and export of uranium, amid a massive growth in electricity demand worldwide, typified by the historic expansion of China's economy.

Any such expansion of Australian uranium mining, and even a move into other areas of the nuclear fuel cycle like uranium enrichment or nuclear power, would not lead to any increased risks of nuclear weapons proliferation, Dr Switkowski finds.

And Australia would not be at increased risk of being vulnerable to a terrorist attack, despite having as many as 25 nuclear reactors. "Australia faces a social decision about whether nuclear, which has operated commercially in other parts of the world, should be part of that (energy) mix," the report finds.

The period for planning, building and commissioning the first nuclear power plant is one to two decades, he said. "On an accelerated path, the earliest that nuclear electricity could be delivered to the grid is around 2016," he said. "Under a scenario in which the first reactor comes on line in 2020 and Australia has in place a fleet of 25 reactors by 2050, it is clear that nuclear power could enhance Australia's ability to meet its electricity needs from low-emission sources," the report argued.

Nuclear power could then deliver more than a third of Australia's electricity and reduce this country's greenhouse emissions by 18 per cent compared to the situation where we did not develop nuclear power. The report said Australia could safely store high-level waste, but would not need to do so until about 2050.

Dr Switkowski said there are a number of skill shortages and government policies that stand in the way of the growth of the nuclear industry in Australia, that need to be urgently addressed. But even if the current legal and regulatory impediments are removed, the report found "there may be little real opportunity for Australian companies to extend profitably into these areas" of enrichment and conversion.


Chris Hurford: Silver lining to Hilali

The Australian immigration minister who wanted to deny permanent residence to Sheik Hilali 20 years ago, calls for an overdue rethink about multiculturalism and our immigration procedures. Chris Hurford was a federal Labor MP for the seat of Adelaide from 1969 to 1987 and immigration minister in the Hawke Labor government from 1985 to 1987

THE Australian people have rightly been up in arms over Sheik Taj Din al-Hilali's outrageous remarks about women and jihadists. But for all the fretting and wailing, there could be a positive side to the past week's events. They may encourage political leaders to toughen our settlement policies and redefine multiculturalism. For too long, some uninformed commentators have preached diversity and tolerance at the expense of integration and social cohesion. That must change.

But first to Hilali. The provocative sheik was clearly an unsuitable immigrant to this country. He came here in 1982 on a visitor's visa, which did not require an interview. A Liberal minister allowed him to stay on an extension to a temporary visa. But Hilali should have been sent back to Egypt, where he could have applied for a visa. If proper procedures, including an interview with immigration officials, were enforced, Hilali would probably have been denied entry.

In 1983 Bob Hawke was elected prime minister and my Labor predecessor wrongly allowed Hilali another extension. But when I became the minister in 1985, I decided not to approve Hilali's application for permanent residence or to renew his temporary visa. After all, he had a lengthy history of inflaming divisions in his community. He had made little effort to settle here, including by improving his ability to speak the English language. And he had persisted in offending, for instance, Jewish Australians in his sermons, in which he chose to get involved in the Middle East conflict, one of a number of old-world discords we discouraged from being imported into our society.

In the past week, columnists and politicians have speculated about who was right and who was wrong, and have sought to drive wedges between me and former colleagues. Paul Keating and Leo McLeay, the argument goes, undid all my good work and let their petty political interests override the national interest. To be fair, my former colleagues merely acted as any member of parliament would in the circumstances. Looking after one's constituents by introducing them to the minister is hardly a sin in public life. I do not know whether they went to Hawke behind my back. Nor do I know who made the decision to grant temporary visa extensions to Hilali after I left the portfolio in 1987, before one successor unwisely granted Hilali permanent residence in 1990. By then I had long gone to New York as consul-general.

What I do know is that Hawke removed my excellent head of department, Bill McKinnon, sending him to New Zealand as high commissioner a couple of months before moving me into another portfolio in March 1987. Hawke did not consult me about the McKinnon move. He told me that he wanted me in a more senior portfolio, community services, being vacated by Labor's deputy leader in the Senate, Don Grimes. I believe the reason for these moves, and for the mistakes made because of them, are found in the then prevalent conventional wisdom that so-called ethnic leaders were complaining about the settlement policies I was pursuing and McKinnon was implementing.

The accepted wisdom was generated by a false belief that there were votes in paying homage to self-chosen ethnic leaders and continuing to muddy the real meaning of multiculturalism. My intuition told me they were wrong. And the vote in the republican referendum of 1999, in which significant groups of ethnic minorities supported the constitutional monarchy, (regrettably) confirmed that intuition: that ethnic leaders, with their personal agendas, were not representative of the vast majority of immigrants, who merely yearn to make a contribution to an Australian culture that they respect. But that was then. What to do now?

Well, for starters, we are in dire need of better settlement policies. That word settlement is jargon that describes policies devoted to integrating migrants into our society. It is very important that we, too, are happy about their settling here. After all, we need migrants to help address our economic and defence vulnerabilities.

We've made some awful settlement mistakes over the years. One of the biggest was settling migrants in those enormous camps that spawned many of the ghettos in our mainland capital cities. After I took over the immigration portfolio, we closed many oversized camps. But the damage had been done. Some of that damage can be seen in the western Sydney area of Lakemba. There are too many in that Muslim community with inadequate education and training, and too many of them are underemployed or unemployed.

Another mistake is a more recent one: a development in the 20 years since I stopped minding that difficult portfolio. There has been a retreat from interviewing toughly and with good judgment those from overseas who apply to come here; but we must choose only those who are assessed as likely to integrate well. Furthermore, we have retreated from sending home more readily those who do not make the grade before being given permanent residence. They and we would be better off if that tougher approach were reinstated. One of the reasons for the damaging retreat from applying the old toughness and good judgment has been the disgraceful outsourcing of so much of the administration to private-sector immigration agents. Since my day, this sadly has been adopted by Labor and Liberals alike. This policy is not only very unfair to poorer applicants, who cannot afford the large fees, but abandons so many of the necessary checks that need to be made to ensure that only people who are suitable come here.

Our leaders also need to define multiculturalism more appropriately. Of course, many of us want to feel a warm inner glow when considering our achievement of settling people with the cultures of 140 separate nations. That multicultural settlement has been aided by government programs aimed at helping newcomers to recognise that we respect their cultures and want them to feel at home here while pursuing chosen aspects of their former way of life, provided their contribution to our culture conforms with our core Western values.

By these measures they have settled better and more quickly, and have learned English more readily. Alas, some, particularly in the academic class, have gone over the top and converted the adjective multicultural into a noun, multiculturalism. They have left the impression that separate development of these cultures should be an objective of policy. But does separate development ring a bell with you? South African apartheid, perhaps? This has never been the objective of our policy, nor should it be. We are not, nor should we be, a nation of many cultures. We are a multiracial nation that strongly celebrates core Western cultural values of liberal democracy.

If the Hilali episode helps us to toughen our settlement policies and turns us to developing a cohesion in our one-Australian culture, then there has been a silver lining to this dark cloud. A solution to the Lakemba problem will result only if we recognise our mistakes of the past. We also need to do a better job of encouraging Muslim integration into our and way of life.


No comments: