Friday, October 05, 2012

Tony Abbott is a sentimental man

George Bush Jr. is too.  Both have strong human feelings that are not normally seen

THE woman closest to Tony Abbott has revealed intimate details of their private life together, including how he was a "wreck" when she suffered a miscarriage.

His wife of 24 years, Margie Abbott doesn't enjoy public attention or fit the mould of a political spouse.

But in response to claims her husband has a problem with women, she agreed to a wide-ranging interview with News Ltd about their family life with their three daughters.

When asked if Mr Abbott had cried at the births of their children, Louise, 23, Frances, 21, and Bridget, 19, Mrs Abbott disclosed a personal tragedy which shattered the Opposition Leader.

"He was emotional (at their births) and if I may tell you a very personal story there was an occasion where I actually had a miscarriage between daughters one and two," she said.

"I kept it all together, but Tony was a wreck.

"Having a child is a very happy time, but I don't think tears were part of that (when their daughters arrived safely). Certainly he felt it when I miscarried."

As the Abbott girls were growing it was their father who was the soft touch.

"I am the tough one in the family. He is the soft touch and as a result he has a wonderful relationship with the girls which sometimes I am a little envious of," she said.

"That is the price you pay for making sure the rules are followed in the Abbott house."

She added: "Our girls have been happy to do all kinds of things with their father, from canoeing to kayaking to mountain climbing, almost."

Mrs Abbott talks of a husband who calls twice a day, morning and night, no matter where he is travelling, which is often to several capital cities in a week.

When he is at home in Sydney, Mrs Abbott says her husband is happy to unload the dishwasher, barbecue dinner, get Indian takeaway, or clean the kitchen after she makes dinner.

If they watch a sad movie together he will get "teary," she said.

Mr Abbott said he was embarrassed he became "sooky" in The Year My Voice broke, one of the first movies the couple saw together.

"Just to give you an idea of how it happens in the Abbott household, I'll be grabbing the remote control saying `Can I watch the footy, please?' he will be saying `Oh, but I would really like to watch Downton Abbey,"' Mrs Abbott said.

"So that's the sort of contradiction we have in the Abbott household. The short answer is yes, he likes those sensitive movies and I am very happy watching the footy."

Bridget Abbott is preparing for a month of volunteer duties in a village in Cambodia while Louise is about to begin a new job in Europe, leaving just Frances at home for Christmas.

"I was just checking our credit card bill and there was an amount. I said to him `What's this about?"' Mrs Abbott said.

"Louise is just starting a job in Europe. He purchased for her a little compendium which is going to be waiting on her desk for her first day at work. That was a very touching thing for me and that's what he does. He didn't make a song and dance about it."

For their 24th wedding anniversary last month, Mr Abbott was on the road and sent his wife a bunch of flowers.

"What did I buy Tony for our anniversary? Well, I let the side down. I wished him a happy anniversary," she said.

Mr Abbott interjected: "What Margie gave me for my anniversary was putting up with a politician for a husband."


Some intolerant tolerance below from columnist Sweetman

Why is it "bullying" to abuse and speak ill of your political opponents?  It may be regrettable but it is normal.    Mr Sweetman should take note of the calumnies heaped on Romney by Obama supporters

BULLIES thrive when decent people don't act because they hope someone else will. No more. Show them our backs and in the process show them the door.

What more can be said of Alan Jones apart from the fact that he is what he has always been: A misogynist bully given to intemperate language and with an inflated idea of his own importance in a small world of devotees.

What more can be said about his Sydney University Liberal Club audience members apart from the fact that they were shamed and did nothing to liberate themselves from that shame.

Let's keep it in perspective. There were grown-up Liberal Party members and Members of Parliament in attendance and they were found morally lacking, cowardly in their initial denial of Jones' outrageous remarks and fatuous in downplaying the hurt.

But this was largely a gathering of young political activists (described by some as Hooray Henrys), no doubt eager to hear what they wanted to hear from their hero, perhaps taken with strong drink and excitement during what Jones called a "hell of a rollicking night".

Foolishness remains a prerogative of youth and, in a political context, this often descends into stupidity.

I strongly suspect a gathering of young Labor, Nationals or Green devotees would have been similarly leavened with insensitive louts had they been served up a platter of vile insults directed at their most bitter political enemies.

It is not without accident that some events and animosities that are now matters of serious national debate began in the juvenile halls of university politics.

It is similarly not without accident that some of the more bizarre, cruel, stupid and offensive statements and policies to darken our political horizons come from the youth wings of our parties.

If it were not for the predictable stupidity, news editors probably wouldn't bother sending staff to cover their conferences.

For all that, the theory of good manners and fair play suggests someone should have stood up and called out Jones for his insult to Prime Minister Julia Gillard and his trashing of her father's memory.

Better still, in an ideal world, every man and woman there should have walked out.

However, when personal hatred rises during a 58-minute gee-up, it takes a certain presence of mind (particularly when desensitised by booze) to detect it, to process it and to act appropriately.

And it takes a certain courage and individuality to defy the pack mentality and make a very public stand on principle.

It would be nice to think that every member of that audience now feels ashamed of his or her lack of principle, but it is the nature of the tribal beast that many, maybe most, people would have reacted pretty much the same.

If Jones is to be condemned for anything other than his own cruelty, it is his practised exploitation of that group instinct, a task made easier by our collective acceptance of casual vilification.

Casual racism, casual sexism, casual ageism, casual cruelty and carelessness are the thin edge of the wedge for people who appeal to our baser instincts.

It is often far removed from active prejudice, but it is the sort of intellectual laziness that afflicts us all when we indulge in or condone pub talk or gossip that ascribes the actions of people to anything from their gender to their ethnicity.

It is the sort of social sadism that takes pleasure in other people's pain and refuses to concede any common humanity.

If offensive or discriminatory labels, derogatory terms and cruelty are routinely part of the conversations around us, we become anaesthetised to their use.

Those who resort to the language of offence and intolerance feel free to take our silence as tacit approval.

And if we don't have the ticker to speak up and declare our abhorrence for them, we become complicit in their use and prey to demagogues who want to hijack public debate for their purposes.

Liberal MP Malcolm Turnbull recently lamented the standards of public discourse in Australia, but that is surely because we are too apathetic to reclaim it from those who have stolen it and so demeaned it.

We can't stop the Joneses of our country from speaking, but there is no compulsion to listen, and there is certainly no reason to applaud.


Phosphate mine wins environmental approval

QUEENSLAND'S environment department has approved plans for a multi-million dollar open-cut phosphate mine northwest of Mount Isa.

Environment Minister Andrew Powell said the department assessed there would be no unacceptable environmental impacts from the Paradise South Phosphate Project.

He said environmental conditions for the mine would include requirements for surface water and groundwater management, and monitoring, waste management and the rehabilitation of mined areas.

The mine, which will have a 20-year life span, will produce up to seven million tonnes of rock phosphate annually.

"Concentrated phosphate ore will be produced on-site before being shipped from the site for sale to domestic export markets," Mr Powell said.

"The benefit to the regional economy will be approximately $150 million per year."

He said the construction stage would create 250 jobs, with a further 325 jobs created once the mine starts operating.

The project still requires final government approvals before construction can begin.


Finnish education isn't all it's cracked up to be

THE topic for the Festival of Dangerous Ideas forum last Saturday at the Sydney Opera House was Abolish Private Schools and Pasi Sahlberg from Finland was one of the keynote speakers.

Having a speaker from Finland shouldn't surprise. Within cultural-left circles the Finnish education system is the flavour of the month and regularly praised by non-government school critics such as the Australian Education Union and Richard Teese from the University of Melbourne.

Critics argue that Australia should follow the Finnish example as it has top ranking in the OECD's Program for International Student Assessment maths and science tests, and forsake high-risk tests such as Australia's National Assessment Program -- Literacy and Numeracy.

If only it were that simple. While it's true that Finland was at the top of the PISA table in the 2006 tests, ranking first in maths, science and reading, since that time the country's results have gone backwards.

In the 2009 PISA test Finland dropped to sixth in maths, second in science and third in reading. In the 2009 test not only did Shanghai rank No 1 in the three areas but most of the other top performing education systems also were in the East Asian region.

It also needs to be noted that in the other more academically based and credible international test, the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study, the last time the two countries met Australia outperformed Finland.

In Year 8 maths and Year 8 science Australia was ranked 13th and seventh, while Finland was placed 14th and 10th.

While those opposed to high-risk tests point to Finland to argue there is no value or benefit in high-risk tests and failing students, what is conveniently ignored is that the more successful East Asian countries have education systems that are highly competitive, where students are pressured to succeed and often streamed in terms of ability.

Cultural-left academics and professional associations also like to use the example of Finland to argue Australia's non-government system should not be funded. Unlike Australia, where about 36 per cent of students attend Catholic and independent schools, the supposedly world's best Finnish system is government funded and there are no private schools.

Best illustrated by comments made by Sahlberg on Channel 7's Weekend Sunrise, the argument is that countries can achieve outstanding results without the presence of non-government schools. Abolishing non-government schools is also beneficial, according to Sahlberg, as such schools do well only because they enrol privileged students and they are guilty of reinforcing inequality.

Once again, such arguments lack credibility. As proven by research carried out by Melbourne-based academic Gary Marks, non-government schools outperform government schools even after adjusting for students' socioeconomic status.

OECD commissioned research noted the impact of SES on student and school performance is calculated at between 20 per cent and 35 per cent.

Equally, if not more important, are factors such as teacher quality, having a rigorous curriculum, school culture and the ability and motivation of students.

While critics argue that Australia's education system is riven with inequity and injustice it's also the case, based on the most recent OECD publication, Education at a Glance 2012, that Australia has a high degree of social mobility.

In relation to gaining tertiary entry the statement is made: "Young people from low educational backgrounds have the greatest chances of upward educational mobility in the countries clustered in the upper right quadrant of the chart.

"The chances of completing a tertiary education exceeds 25 per cent in Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, The Netherlands and Sweden, and is greater than 30 per cent in Australia and Ireland."

Research commissioned by the National Catholic Education Commission, published in its submission to the Gonski review of school funding, provides evidence that Australia's non-government school sector is worthy when it concludes that Catholic schools are "high quality-high equity" based on the PISA tests.

Given Julia Gillard's boast that Australian students will be in the top five countries of the PISA test by 2025, and ongoing debates about school funding in the context of the Gonski report, it's understandable why many look overseas for ideas.

The danger in the belief that the best way to strengthen schools and raise standards is to copy supposedly stronger performing systems such as Finland's is that it is simplistic and unrealistic. It's also ironic that as many are looking overseas for answers, the success of Australia's non-government schools is ignored.


No comments: