Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Gimme dat ol' time religion

Fundamentalist Pastor says Kevin Rudd to blame for floods

A Christian pastor has blamed Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd for the floods devastating Queensland.

That's because Mr Rudd "spoke against Israel" in December 2010, Daniel Nalliah from the Catch the Fire Ministries has written on his website. "It is very interesting that Kevin Rudd is from Queensland. Is God trying to get our attention? I believe so," he said.

Mr Rudd, during a visit to Israel in December, called on the Jewish state to allow international inspectors into its nuclear facilities. He also called for a halt to the construction of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Mr Nalliah said every time America went against Israel there was "disaster in the land." He sees the Queensland floods as a parallel.

In 2008, Mr Nalliah caused controversy when he said bushfires that killed scores of people in Victoria were a result of that state's decriminalisation of abortion.


Some skepticism about religious education

We are all so concerned about nabbing the hearts and minds of our littlies.

Childhood is seen as critical in the battle for the brain. Is it because children are seen as malleable meat for the proselytisers and propagandists? Or is it because this is a stage of life where compulsion is often mandated, so you have them trapped. Either way, both godless and godly are battling for educational air space.

There is a national debate surreptitiously raging about what godly or ungodly stuff should cleanse or pollute their tiny developing minds. Nationally, the Labor government has poured hundreds of millions into the Howard-created National School Chaplaincy Program, which may face a challenge as unconstitutional in the High Court. So God promotion is now bipartisan. But it always was.

Wayne Goss’s Labor government in Queensland created the chaplaincy program in that state in the early 1990s, and Labor’s premier Peter Beattie upped the ante in 2006, pledging $3 million for the program after five Liberal MPs started baying for Jesus. In Melbourne, during the state election campaign, then education minister Bronwyn Pike refused to allow the Humanist Society of Victoria to teach in religious education time as it is not a religion. That spat is headed for the courts and the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission. The new Baillieu government has not yet made its view known on this matter. In NSW, the St James Ethical Centre conducted a successful trial on a secular ethics course, and the NSW Labor government has had to introduce legislation to ensure the Coalition can't dump the classes if it gets into government (given how on the nose NSW Labor is, this is a prudent move).

I suppose you expect me to rail against those politicians, scared of the Christian backlash, cravenly court the God vote. And part of me does want to throw that predictable tantrum. But before I do, let me opine on the question of how just how impressionable is the malleable meat of childhood. The orthodoxy is that the teaching of the parents’ incumbent faith moulds the brain forever. This is reflected in the Jesuit motto ‘‘Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man’’, allegedly based on a gender-specific observation of St Francis Xavier. But that phrase was crafted in an age where one could monopolise the data input into your children’s brains and what is more, emphasise it with terrifying corporal punishment. Tragically, we live in a different world where kids have power and access.

Modernity might alter the Jesuit orthodoxy. I just wonder how influential all this godly and godless peddling might be in the future. Certainly the mullahs of Iran, kept in power by a violent military dictatorship, abhor and are powerless before the liberation of the young offered by the internet. The young mind is now free to roam the world in search of inspiration and education. Some tedious teacher sermonising on God in any land seems lame to the power 10.

Let me give a trite but emblematic illustration. One weekend, I am travelling down St Kilda Road in Melbourne with my 21-year-old daughter and I pass a building that has loomed large in my life. The Melbourne Synagogue is extraordinary. It stands out like a beacon with the incandescent green verdigris of its massive faux-Byzantine dome. It was the place of my bar mitzvah and endless days of compulsory worship. I must have spoken of it endlessly. And yet my daughter, who was compelled to study secular Judaism for her humanist bat mitzvah for a couple of years, insouciantly asks, ‘‘What’s that building?’’ I was horrified. How could she not know the building that played such a massive role in my life, our neighbourhood and our conversations?

Well the point is that the values of her upbringing count for not much when competing with all of the other intellectual sources of data in her life. She, like most engineering students, has an encyclopaedic knowledge of alcoholic beverages; a dazzling dexterity on Facebook; an exhaustive knowledge of contemporary musicians and, being slight of stature, an expertise is surfing mosh pits.

And so I have a somewhat jaundiced view of the competing battles to proselytise the young. The propaganda can be self-defeating. Adults have an endless moral panic about the young. We have some justifiable fears that they will kill themselves sticking junk up their arms or drink down their gullets. But we take those justifiable (although sometimes exaggerated) fears and extend them to other areas such as their cultural ignorance and moral turpitude.

I lament the fact that my kids don’t know the King James Bible and are religiously illiterate. But there is nothing I can do about it. And I think there is not much that the educational bovver boys of faith and the supine politicians they have snared can do either. I reckon the Chaplaincy Program is pouring an immoral amount of money down the educational toilet. There is nothing more boring and alienating than RE teachers. They are the unwittingly the assault pioneers of unbelief.


Donation cap limits speech, warns academic

LIMITS on political donations will limit free speech, an academic expert on campaign finance has warned.

The Greens have been accused of "moral bankruptcy" by Liberal Senate leader Eric Abetz for accepting $1.6 million from Graeme Wood, the founder of online travel giant Wotif -- the largest individual donation in Australian political history -- while pressing for a ban on gifts from individuals worth more than $1000.

Centre for Independent Studies fellow Andrew Norton said the donation demonstrated the altruistic nature of most campaign contributions.

"It's a transparent case of a purely ideologically motivated donation," he said yesterday. Mr Norton said there was normally no way to judge what motivated donations, but warned: "If you try to ban donations to buy influence on a particular party, you also ban all other donations."

He said the donation showed the Greens and minor parties could prosper within the existing campaign finance framework, which was "not inherently rigged". He warned that the cap on donations demanded by the Greens would dampen debate.

"What it does is restrict successful campaigning to groups that already have existing large constituencies in the community, either parties that have existing support bases or causes people are in favour of," he said.

Overseas political donations have already been banned under the accord struck between Labor and the Greens last August, yet the Greens received significant support from overseas donors.

Mr Norton pointed to an unintended consequence of NSW laws capping political donations and campaign expenditure. "Candidates can still spend their own money," he said. "It will be similar to the US, where people who are rich, incumbent and celebrities have an advantage as they already have the money or the profile or both."


Australia pressured to speed up skilled migrant applications

More than 140,000 skilled workers hoping to migrate to Australia are caught up in a departmental backlog going back over two years.

Immigration minister Chris Bowen was informed of the backlog in a secret briefing with Australia's Department of Immigration and Citizenship (DIAC) late last year, but the details of the briefing have only just been made public.

The backlog has been widely criticised by businessmen who believe that the number of skilled migrants in Australia needs to be swiftly increased in order to help the country ride out the economic crisis.

Australia's rapid recovery from the worldwide economic problems of the past few years has led to what business leaders say is a shortage of workers in many sectors, including engineering, construction and health care, and a consequent risk of inflated wages.

Graham Kraehe, director of the Reserve Bank of Australia, told The Australian: ”I think skills shortages are a major problem and if we don’t increase the amount of skilled migration then we are going to have some real pressure on wages.

“Two things are critical: one is some measures to improve productivity, which has been very poor in the last three or four years and declining; and the second is to increase the skilled immigration quotas so we can address what is already a shortage and something that is putting pressure on project costs and more broadly will put pressure on wages costs in the community.”

A spokesman for the DIAC justified the backlog by saying that the government prioritised the order in which skilled migration applications were processed. “Priority goes to those applicants determined to bring the most benefit to Australia, not simply to those who applied first. For this reason, waiting times range from a few months, for those sponsored by employers, to a few years, for those who don’t have a sponsor or skills in need in Australia.

The issue is that many more people were applying for skilled migration than there were places in the programme, so the pipeline of applicants awaiting a decision continued to grow.”

Over the past 40 years, Austalia's population has grown at an average of 1.4 per cent per annum, bringing its total population in 2011 to around 22 million.

In the briefing, Mr Bowen was told that in order to keep the country economically powerful and fight the problems of an ageing population, Australia would need to have a population of 36 million by 2050 - the same figure which was enthusiastically embraced by ex-prime minister Kevin Rudd in 2009, when he spoke of his hopes for a “Big Australia.”

Since Julia Gillard came to power in June 2010 however, the government's emphasis on a “Big Australia” has switched to the idea of a "Sustainable Australia", with migration intake decreased from around 300,000 to 180,000 a year, and a stronger emphasis placed on making sure migrants' skills are needed.

In an interview on ABC programme PM, Mr Bowen said that he wanted to see the waiting figure reduced, but insisted that the “vast majority” of those people on the list were people “who the Department of Immigration have determined are people who are unlikely to have the skills necessary that the Australian economy needs at this point in time".

The spokesman for the DIAC said that waiting times had already begun to fall as a consequence of recent reforms. "The result is a programme that is driven by Australia’s labour market demand, rather than by the supply of people seeking skilled migration," he added.



Paul said...

Worth Looking at Catch The Fire just for the comments that followers submit. Unbeliveable in so many ways. I know you're a supporter of Israel but there is support and then there is insane fanaticism. These folk haven't just crossed the line, they've stumbled blindly past it and are still going.

jonjayray said...

He's a blast from the past