Sunday, January 31, 2016

The most surprising things about Australia, according to an Indian international student

It will be a bitter pill for Leftists, but this guy finds Australia not racist at all.  From reports in the Indian press, which were mainly recycled Australian journalism, he had expected a lot of racism.  And it is no mystery why. A couple of years ago there were a lot of reports of Indians in Australia being attacked.  What the reports covered up was that almost all of the attacks were by Africans.  Australians as a whole were disgraced  in the name of political correctness.  For their own safety, Indians should simply have been told to avoid Africans

Hailing from Chennai in southern India, he has studied in India, Canada for three years and has been studying in Australia for almost a year.

Here’s what has surprised him most about Australia since he moved here.

Australians aren’t racist, they’re friendly.

Reports of racism and assaults on Indian students have made their way back to India, Shiva said when his family and friends found out he was coming to Australia they warned him about the violence.

However, Shiva said his experience has been the exact opposite: "People are very friendly".

"I was given lots of advice from India that you are going to Australia just make sure that you’re not being attacked or be a victim of racism," he said.  "I don’t find any of that type of nonsense here, people are really friendly."

Shiva said he hasn’t been a victim of racism and it really depends on the company you keep.  "It depends on the friends that you make and the places you visit," he said.

Australian girls are really friendly.

"Australian girls are really, really fun, they crack lots of jokes… even when you’re meeting for the first time," he said.

"In India, there’s a barrier when you’re talking from a girl. If you’re hailing from a very orthodox family you are not supposed to talk to a girl."

But Shiva said that is starting to change as India becomes increasingly westernised.

"People are coming out of those barriers," he said.

"For me while I was studying at college in India I faced that barrier. I was unable to talk to a girl so freely as I am talking to you and other people in Canada and Australia."

Working part-time in Australia pays good money.

While Shiva’s current study timetable means he cannot work at the moment, he has had a couple of part time jobs and was surprised how good the pay was.

"I’ve tried a lot of jobs, I’ve been a personal assistant to a top executive," he said.

"They pay me really good money like $28 to $32 per hour.

"I was really surprised because when I compared the market with the US and Canada I think Australia has better compensation and it’s really understandable because living in Australia is surging everyday, it’s really tough to keep up with the cost of living in Australia.

The beaches are extraordinary.

Taking a trip to an Australian beach was one of Shiva’s most memorable experiences.

"I’ve been to the Northern Beaches [of Sydney] and they’re really, really nice," he said.

"They’re really beautiful, I was totally crying when I was standing inside the lake walking literally to the middle of the lake and it’s not deep.

"The beaches are clean, compared to India where the beaches are not clean."

It’s surprisingly different to Canada.

Shiva thought Australia would be similar to Canada, when he arrived he was surprised it was very different.

"It’s more international, Canada is more like white people, there’s more Americans and Canadians but here in Australia the first thing I noticed is it’s very diverse in culture. You have loads of Chinese people, you have loads of Indians, lots of German people, French people, and everyone else, it’s all over the place," he said.

"In India you have different cultures but from the same country. Australia has more international cultures."

Being vegetarian means something else.

Shiva describes himself as a "pure vegetarian", what he means is according to Indian standards he’s a vegetarian but in Australia his eating habits are actually vegan.

He was also surprised by how much bread Australians eat and how breakfast is very different in Australia, "people eat a traditional breakfast whereas Indians we prefer a warm Indian breakfast. It took some time for me to get used to that".

All the differences and Australia’s high cost of living means Shiva now cooks for himself a lot more.

"I’m an excellent cook, he said. "I don’t need to find a girl."

Everyone shortens everything.

Shiva’s full name is Shivaramakrishnan Ramamoorthy, but he says it’s easier to shorten his name to Shiva in Australia.

"People would raise their eyebrows and have no idea what I was talking about but that’s my name!" he said.

"I kept my preferred name as Shiva, even on Facebook, so people don’t get afraid of my name.

"But they still shorten my name…[Australians] they shorten everything, they shorten it further. I usually say to people ‘Hi my name is Shiva but you can call me SRK or Shiv’."

It’s far less crowded than home.

Shiva estimates the population of his home town in India is roughly the same population as Sydney.

He’s not far off either but the big difference is the population of Sydney is spread out over an area which is about 67 times larger than Chennai.

"In India everything is crowded, you can’t even find a space to park your car or your to wheeler, your bike."

Aussies are afraid of spiders and cockroaches.

Back in India Shiva said he "used to play with them". "People are so afraid of spiders [in Australia]. I’ve even heard about people dying from spiders, if I say that to my parents they will laugh at me."

"I’ve seen people going crazy… it’s just a cockroach, it just goes by," he said.

There’s less respect for elders.

Australian Shiva is very different to Indian Shiva, he said when he returns home it takes four or five days to settle back into the customs and expectations of his home country.

"When I’m in Sydney it’s a completely different Shiva that you will see," he said.

"In Chennai you need to be more respectable to your parents, over here people really don’t care who the hell you are.

"If I say ‘mum I like this girl I want to marry her’ she will probably say ‘I don’t like that girl’… the culture is more parent dominating rather than giving freedom to the children.

"Over here I find that completely different it’s up to the choices of people."

It’s easier to get a visa in Australia compared to Canada or the US.

Shiva said he’s found it much easier to get a student visa in Australia. He began trying to come to Australia after his visa application was rejected in Canada in the US.

Studying in Australia is relaxing.

Shiva said he’s "more relaxed studying in Australia" compared to India, where he found the courses more intensive.

"Over here [in Australia] they say intensive courses but for me it’s like a piece of cake," he said.

Professors are approachable.

"The professors here are much more friendly," Shiva said. "In India if I even had to speak to a lecturer or a principal it takes lots of respect and effort to meet them."

Shiva said if he did manage to meet his lecturers in India they would dismiss him saying "what’s going on you’re a student just focus on your studies" whereas in Australia he said "they’re welcoming that approach from students, they’re really encouraging students to perform well, they’re really supportive here".

He said it comes back to the culture of having to "respect your elders".

The changes in political leaders are really confusing

Shiva said he doesn’t like politics in Australia and has trouble understanding how it all works.  "Yesterday it was Julia Gillard and tomorrow morning it was Tony Abbott, I don’t know what the hell was going on," he said.

Shiva’s next adventure is to Norway in December.


Australia's coal-fired power stations at risk of 'death-spiral' - report

This is mostly nonsense.  The idea that "renewables" compete with thermal coal is a laugh.  They are just an unreliable luxury of very little actual use. They CANNOT supply predictable power.

Competition from gas may be a problem but gas prices are in flux so we will have to wait and see on that one.  Gas prices differ widely in different parts of the world so arbitrage must come into play eventually.

The cheapest electricity in Australia has always come from Victoria's brown coal generators in the Latrobe vallety, but they are hated by Warmists -- and a proposed new one was made unviable by environmental requirements in the Gillard years.  Germany is however building a heap of brown coal generators so a return to brown coal in Australia seems likely.  It is undoubtedly the cheapest option

Brown coal deposits are frequently close to the surface so big digging machines just scrape it up and feed it onto a conveyer belt to the power station next door, which is very efficient.  No miners and no trucks needed

Australia's power sector is at risk of a "utility death spiral" due to its reliance on coal, along with utilities in the US, Japan and Germany, according to a report highlighting the environmental-related risk of coal producers.

Additional pressures on the coal industry is coming from the shift by countries such as China and India to rely on domestic sources for coal, rather than imports, to feed their surging demand for electricity generation.

The report, by the University of Oxford's Smith School of Enterprise, pointed to the emergence of renewable sources of energy such as solar and wind, along with competition from gas as additional pressures for the sector.

Other issues include water stress, concerns over air pollution, changes to government policies and the challenge of carbon capture and storage technology, the report noted.

A 'death spiral' occurs as new energy sources take market share from coal-fired power stations, forcing stations to close while also undermining the economics of the centralised electricity grid by forcing higher distribution charges, according to the report.

The use of so-called 'sub-critical' coal-fired power stations which are poor converters of energy from coal into electricity, use high volums of water for cooling and release high levels of carbon emissions puts the utilities and coal companies at particular risk in countries such as Australia, according to work by the group.

That risk declines with the use of new generation technology, so-called "super-critical" power stations, which are more expensive to build.

The report comes after US energy giant ExxonMobil this week predicted that global demand for coal would peak in about 2025 and then fall into terminal decline.

In contrast to coal's decline, demand for natural gas would increase by 50 per cent over the next 26 years, ExxonMobil predicted in its  2016 Outlook for Energy report.


Turnbull and Morrison: daring to be brave

Malcolm Turnbull and Scott Morrison have been handed their 2016 election campaign against Labor — that it is an unreconstructed "tax and spend" party from the Rudd/Gillard years not to be trusted with the economy.

That is the negative message and it will be powerful. The positive message is more difficult and yet to be decided. But the Turnbull/Morrison aspiration is apparent — to run on a major tax reform package that includes a higher GST, reforms to superannuation concessions, significant personal income tax cuts, lower company tax and compensation for welfare and low-income earners.

Whether they take the high road of courage and risk depends, above all, on the government’s standing over the next few months and the authority of the Prime Minister in the country against ALP leader Bill Shorten.

The rolling tax debate has unnerved some government backbenchers.

But if the early 2016 polling reveals Turnbull’s lead sitting at 53-54 per cent of the two-party preferred vote the greater risk will be damage to his authority by retreat to a "safety-first" agenda.

That would leave a re-elected Turnbull government devoid of any meaningful mandate to confront the immense challenges facing Australia, a recipe for post-election weakness and misery.

"Changes to the GST are certainly part of the tax debate and certainly being actively considered by the government as it should be," Turnbull said yesterday. He said the argument for a change to the GST was a tax system that better boosted growth and jobs. It is also the Treasurer’s mantra.

With Morrison having declared last Sunday it was a "fantasy" to think taxing multinationals would solve all our tax problems, that he wanted a "strong mandate" at the election and that on the arithmetic only a GST can finance genuine income tax relief, Turnbull and Morrison are talking up the courage option. The longer this happens, the more difficult the price of retreat.

Turnbull and Morrison both prefer a full-term, say September/October, election. Only Senate irresponsibility on the industrial bills might force them to rethink for a winter poll (the real early election option). The major tax package is more likely to be unveiled closer to the election. They realise the prize — re-election on a substantial tax reform as part of an economic growth strategy — will likely lay the foundation for a long-run Coalition government.

The authority of Morrison as a new Treasurer is pivotal in this high-stakes play. Morrison cannot look weak. He cannot lose the confidence of financial markets and the broader community. He cannot, as Treasurer, play a long, cautious game on fiscal repair (as he has decided) and also duck the policy reform task when the government is riding high in the polls.

With Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey liquidated because their courage was not matched by their political skill, Morrison knows he must find a path that unites policy strength and political success.

The Treasurer juggles two messages — trying to display policy leadership but keep open his options since no final decisions have been taken. Morrison needs to stay close with Turnbull and ensure they act in unison.

But the logic of being Treasurer in 2016 is to command the reform heights — if Morrison is the driver of a major reform that delivers a re-elected Turnbull government then his authority as Treasurer will rise immeasurably along with Turnbull’s as PM.

For Morrison, being a successful reformist Treasurer is the only route available to the Liberal leadership and the prime ministership. Caution all-round is simply not an option for his future success.

Turnbull and Morrison have no intention of committing electoral suicide. You can assume if they take the path of major tax reform the pre-election tax tables will show all income groups are winners except perhaps the top end.

Labor’s pledge to honour the full Gonski school funding agenda — an extra $4.5 billion over the forward estimates and $37bn over the decade — was nicely timed for the return to school and badly timed given Treasury secretary John Fraser’s warning to the political class about Australia’s unsustainable spending levels.

Morrison and Turnbull have defined the election battle. "Labor’s plan is to spend more and to tax more," Morrison told Inquirer. "This is a reckless position given these uncertain global economic times. We have a very clear difference between the sides — the Labor Party has a tax and spend approach. It is funding new education spending through tax measures that will only increase the structural problems in the budget that we now have."

Labor is chained to the Rudd/Gillard era in its policy and political outlook. Deluded by the belief that the Rudd/Gillard agenda was correct Shorten is running on big social spending programs, higher taxes and more class-based redistribution, an approach that may consolidate the ALP base but leaves Labor chronically weak in the centre ground against Turnbull.

By defining his campaign as being against Labor’s "tax and spend" agenda Morrison increases his internal policy leverage.

He wants to achieve a tax package that has "room" for substantial income tax relief and also impose discipline on ministers who merely seek to follow Labor down the social spending path.

"Labor has no aspiration to relieve the personal income tax burden on working Australians," Morrison said. "They have no empathy with the plight of people paying higher and higher taxes."

This slots into Morrison’s argument last Sunday when he attacked the hypocrisy in a public debate obsessed about compensation for any GST increase but that ignores the plight of workers being forced into higher income tax brackets. "What about the compensation for people who are running businesses, going to work every day," he asked.

Morrison has laid down three benchmarks — tax reform is about growth and jobs and not about having higher taxes to fix the deficit; that serious income and company tax relief can only be achieved by GST reform such as a lift to 15 per cent; and that he will deliver a long-run incremental trajectory to deficit reduction that keeps our AAA-credit rating.

The Treasurer operates deep in the shadow of Abbott and Hockey and is anxious to avoid another "busted promises" fiasco. As a result, he puts a priority on either having a mandate for post-2016 election policy or ensuring options are not ruled out in the campaign.

That will be a daunting task — it means being honest with the public in a campaign about the long-run budget position. Both sides of politics have credibility problems with the budget though Labor’s problem is greater.

The speech from Treasury secretary Fraser on Thursday night saw an explanation, yet again by a Treasury chief, that Australia is living beyond its means and that today’s generation in an act of selfishness is spending big and asking its children to pay the bill. Conducting such extravagance in the name of "equity" only inflates the offence.

Fraser said the "greater share" of the budget problem is structural. Since the early 2000s commodities boom the nation has made too many permanent spending decisions off the back of temporary revenues. On current trends the spending-to-GDP ratio will fall from 25.9 per cent to 25.3 per cent over four years — modest progress if it happens. But Fraser warned that "spending will not get below 25 per cent at any time over the next decade" and 25 per cent is a historically high level.

In short, the outlook is not good enough: the political class, Liberal and Labor, is failing the nation. Australia is slowly sinking into a debt risk situation. New spending commitments remain an addiction with public expectations divorced from reality. Labor’s contribution this week with its Gonski pledge — funded "in full and on time" according to Shorten — is applauded by the education sector (what else would it say?) and proof that Labor has failed to learn the lessons from Rudd/Gillard economic failures.

Asked how he would pay for the full restoration of Julia Gillard’s Gonski funding, Shorten pointed to Labor’s tax crackdown on multinationals, its tobacco tax and its attack on superannuation tax concessions. "The top end of town aren’t paying taxes," Shorten said. He gifts Turnbull and Morrison their "tax and spend" attack.

Labor says it has provided for $70bn of "saves" over the decade but they are overwhelmingly via tax increases.

About $48bn of the total comes from the tobacco tax alone — a classic case of using a diminishing revenue base over time to fund a permanent spending commitment. The absolute key to grasping what is happening is that the Gillard government, in its outcomes, chose to prioritise vast new spending agendas (notably Gonski and the NDIS) over the return to budget surplus. Labor has not changed its priorities.

The Gillard government relied upon the false assumption spending would be held to 2 per cent real growth each year for a decade. Fraser said this week that since 2007 spending had grown in real terms about 3.5 per cent annually.

Labor’s technique was to structure its programs with the big spends beyond the forward estimates and this week’s Gonski decision reveals its determination to honour such funding and re-run the same political battle.

Meanwhile Turnbull, aware that fiscal responsibility is also his vulnerability, said yesterday the May budget would be "tight" for "tight financial times". "This is not going to be a fistful of dollars election campaign, from us, anyway," Turnbull said.

Whether cabinet keeps its nerve in the teeth of Labor’s big spending is another matter. But Morrison will be delighted that Turnbull has declared the May budget to be "tight". The government’s problem in attacking Labor’s fiscal credibility remains its own fiscal credibility.

Interviewed by 3AW’s Neil Mitchell yesterday Turnbull struggled on the "return to surplus" issue saying it was "a long way off" but refused to concede a future 10 years of deficits. Turnbull needs to watch the populists and intellectuals on the Right. They dispute his strategy, oppose GST reform and demand deeper and faster spending cuts, a stance unlikely to translate into a viable position for the election year.

These coming decisions constitute the moment of truth for Turnbull. He must decide — to paraphrase John Howard on leadership — what are the enduring four or five ideas he will embrace as a conviction leader to change the nation? Having decided, he must take the risk and back his judgment at the 2016 poll.

Given no tax decisions have yet been taken, there are some pointers to Morrison’s thinking. He would prefer a lift in the GST rate to a major expansion in its base and, in effect, has ruled out an expansion into health and education. He is prepared to tackle "excesses" in the super system by remodelling tax on the contributions side. While a strong supporter of negative gearing for mainstream Australia and calling it a "valid chance" for many people, he is prepared to look at reforms to limit "excessive" gains.

If Turnbull and Morrison bite the bullet the progressive side of politics — Labor, the Greens and the trade unions — will seek to turn the election into a referendum on the GST.

Their ability to do this should not be underestimated. At that point the issue becomes much bigger: it is whether the cause of reformism can prevail after a decade of retreats or whether yet another reform agenda is vanquished with dangerous consequences for the country.


Record number of students in higher education in 2015

The Coalition Government has overseen the biggest jump in Indigenous higher education enrolments in nearly a decade according to new student data released today that also highlights record overall enrolment numbers and increases in enrolments of regional and low socio-economic students.

Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said despite the Labor Party’s fear campaign about the cost of university degrees, the new data shows more than 1.2 million students were enrolled in higher education in the first half of 2015, up 3.1 per cent on the same period last year.

Minister Birmingham said the Turnbull Government is committed to seeing more students enjoying the benefits of high quality tertiary education, while ensuring the higher education sector remains fair and affordable.

"This data shows Australians are continuing to enrol in record numbers in higher education institutions, despite the Labor Party’s best efforts to scare students about the costs of higher education," Minister Birmingham said.

"Instead we’re seeing more students enrol than ever before, with strong growth in enrolments from Indigenous students and students from regional areas – who together make up nearly one in five of all domestic enrolments.

"The value of higher education is clear as the new stats show university graduates have an unemployment rate of 3.4 per cent, compared with an overall rate of 5.9 per cent."

Minister Birmingham said it was encouraging that the number of Australians who had attained a job in the first four months out of education had risen to 68.8 per cent, but the report still highlighted that one third of those finishing an education did not immediately get a job.

"Australians must think carefully about the courses they enrol in to ensure they are entering a course that they are not only passionate about but that has a job at the end," Minister Birmingham said.

"We also must ensure that the record number of students who are enrolling are being encouraged and supported to complete their degrees – and not just another number on a seat.
"Recent attrition rates show that almost 15 per cent of these Australians do not progress to their second year. Universities must take responsibility for those students they choose to enrol and ensure they have the capabilities and support to succeed.

"The Turnbull Government is committed to ensuring our innovative institutions are delivering the world-class higher education that students want and to produce the skilled, job-ready graduates that Australian industry and business needs.

"I am currently consulting with the higher education sector, my parliamentary colleagues, students and their families about how to not only ensure higher education remains sustainable in the long term but how to ensure more Australians who start a course, finish and end up in the workforce."

Minister Birmingham said Higher Education annual funding had increased over the past five years from $12.5 billion to over $16 billion today. 

"While the demand driven system has provided unprecedented access and must continue to be protected it has come at a significantly higher cost to the taxpayer," Minister Birmingham said.

"The Turnbull Government is committed to ensuring the system remains sustainable while continuing to support excellence, diversity and opportunity for all Australian students."

Key findings from the new data include:

·         growth in Indigenous students up 7.6 per cent

·         growth in regional student enrolments up 2.6 per cent, representing 18.6 per cent (nearly one-in-five) of the total domestic student population (up from 16.7 per cent in 2006)

·         increase in students from low socio-economic backgrounds up 3.8 per cent

·         strong continued growth in health-related courses, up 7.3 per cent on the same period in 2014, and up 81.7 per cent on same period in 2006

·         mixed outcomes in students participating in STEM subjects – engineering and related technology studies up 0.9 per cent while IT down 0.4 per cent.

Minister Birmingham said the Turnbull Government was committed to ensuring students graduating from secondary school and university had the skills to succeed in a more competitive, globalised world.

"The lack of growth in the number of students studying science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) in this publication highlights the importance of the Turnbull Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda," Minister Birmingham said.

"That’s why we are investing more than $112 million in the education components of our National Innovation and Science Agenda to drive interest in digital literacy and STEM subjects so Australians are prepared for the challenges and opportunities ahead."

Press release

Some NSW universities will admit anyone

We see here how the numbers above were achieved.

Regional NSW universities are admitting more than 70 per cent of students who have not scored the minimum marks required to get into courses such as business and law, new data from a Fairfax Media investigation into university admissions has revealed.

The latest set of statistics also shows that the University of Technology Sydney is routinely admitting students below the advertised cut-off. Most are being being admitted through bonus point schemes in courses such as business and combined law.

UTS' bachelor of advanced science course, which students undertake before entering the nation's top medical faculties, has offered 85 per cent of places to high school students who failed to score the minimum 96.9 ATAR.

Out of the relatively small candidature of 14, only two passed the required mark in the prestigious course. Within the university's much larger bachelor of business cohort of 462 high-school graduates, 70 per cent of students did not make the advertised grade.

"Looking at the entry policies of universities right now, flexible is not the right word – they are endlessly elastic," said Richard Hil, a university admissions researcher from Griffith University.

"We have been concerned about regional universities for a long time, but what is really surprising is the numbers in the more well-known group of eight," he said.

An ATAR [Australia Tertiary Admissions Rank] is awarded to more than 50,000 NSW high-school students in December each year. Universities set an ATAR cut-off according to what they believe is the minimum academic standard required to complete a course, as well as supply and demand for the degree.

UTS provost Professor Peter Booth said places at UTS are offered mainly to high-school applicants who have satisfied ATAR cut-offs, unless there are specific course requirements or they are considered as part of special access schemes.

"The claim that a large number of admissions don't meet the cut-off is incorrect and don't take account of the well-known above adjustments, the details of which are publicly available to applicants."

But the release of the data this week has revealed that the published ATARs for prestigious degrees across the sector rarely reflect the actual quality of the candidature as whole, with regional universities continuing the state-wide trend.

At the University of Wollongong, more than three-quarters of places in some of its courses were offered to students whose ATAR ranks were below the advertised cut-off.

Almost 75 per cent of places in arts/law were offered to students below the ATAR cut-off of 90, and several were more than 20 points below the minimum mark.

Hundreds of offers have been made to school-leavers with ATAR scores 20–30 – and in some cases 40 – points below the stated cut-off for courses at the university, which is 80 kilometres south of Sydney. It has made 6000 offers this year.

UoW's deputy vice-chancellor, Joe Chicaro, said the students had been admitted through alternative entry schemes which took into account factors such as discipline, personal circumstances and school recommendations.

At the University of Newcastle more than 60 per cent of main round admissions for the bachelor of civil engineering scored below the ATAR cut-off of 80. More than half of nursing and chemical engineering admissions were below the minimum standard.

The University of Newcastle said in a statement that the ATAR is simply one component of the judgement made about the capacities and potential of a prospective student.

"A raw ATAR is one measure and does not take account of the many factors that may determine whether an applicant should be admitted to a particular university degree, which include subject choices, geographic location, the results of interviews, school recommendations, auditions and portfolios," it said.

Academics have cited the lack of transparency around alternative entry schemes as a key issue as they look to move beyond the ATAR.

"The system is not satisfactory – that is why we are moving away from it," said UNSW dean of law David Dixon.

"People realise we need to do something different, there is a patchwork of additional point schemes. We need to have a system which is much more clear to everyone about what is happening."


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