Thursday, October 19, 2017

Aboriginal poet fails to impress students

Though there's not much Abo in her.  Abos are black

Authors and poets have leapt to the defence of an award-winning Indigenous writer after she was allegedly abused online by year 12 students.

Ellen van Neerven also received messages asking her to explain her poem Mango from the book Comfort Food after students sitting the HSC English exam on Monday were asked to analyse the work.

The opening question in the exam asked students to "explain how the poet conveys the delight of discovery".

However, some students were less than delighted with the question, creating memes on social media inspired by the poem.

Other students expressed frustration and contempt for Ms van Neerven, whose first book, Heat and Light won a number of accolades including a NSW Premiers' Literary Award.

A post on the HSC Discussion Group Facebook page, purporting to be a message sent to the writer asking her to explain the poem: "In all honesty there wasn't much to analyse cos (sic) it reads like a 4 year wrote it."

Other comments descended to racist and vulgar abuse, prompting authors to criticise the actions of HSC students.

Evelyn Araluen, a poet and PhD candidate at the University of Sydney, said students had invaded Ms van Neerven's privacy and sent abusive messages: "It's not cute, it's harassment."

Author Omar Sakr called on the NSW Department of Education to investigate the online abuse directed at Ms van Neerven.

"[A]sking a poet to analyse their poem for you demonstrates a staggering lack of imagination and critical ability to engage with literature," Mr Sakr wrote in a separate post on social media.

Others criticised the NSW Education Standards Authority, which administers the HSC, for what they said was a poorly framed question.

David de Carvalho, the chief executive of NESA, condemned the treatment of Ms van Neerven. "I am appalled by the abuse of the author," he said. "This is a completely inappropriate response and I hope those involved see fit to apologise to Ms van Neerven."



PM Malcolm Turnbull blasts State Premiers, ABC journalist over National Energy Guarantee

MALCOLM Turnbull is urging State Premiers to listen to the “smartest people in the room” and not play politics on the federal government’s new energy plan.

A fired up Prime Minister today responded to the Premiers of Queensland, Victoria and South Australia who have already slammed the federal government’s new National Energy Guarantee.

Mr Turnbull said Australians were “fed up” with parties playing politics as their electricity bills soared.

He made the remarks today after a fiery clash with an ABC journalist on breakfast radio where he once again dodged questions on whether the strategy would slash power bills $115 a year.

“My message for the Labor premiers is put the politics aside for a moment, or put it aside for quite a while in fact,” Mr Turnbull told reporters in Canberra.

“Let’s focus on Australian families, let’s focus on delivering a genuinely bipartisan energy policy that will be enduring, that’s based on engineering and economics, and that will deliver affordable power, reliable power and meet our international commitments.”

Mr Turnbull refused to speculate on what would happen if the states blocked the NEG at the next Council of Australian Governments.

“I am confident that common sense will prevail,” he said.

“Australians are fed up with all of the political partisanship, that’s why we went to the Energy Security Board and we asked them to consider how we ensure we achieve this affordable, reliable and responsible outcome.”

The Prime Minister had earlier clashed with ABC journalist Sabra Lane on her AM program when asked whether he could guarantee prices would come down based on the modelling of the Energy Security Board.

In the heated interview, Mr Turnbull accused Lane of disrespecting the “distinguished Australians” on the ESB when she questioned the price cuts and why the experts were being touted as the saviours of Australia’s energy market when they had overseen the last decade of “disastrous policy”.

She claimed their bodies — the Australian Energy Market Commission, the Australian Energy Regulator, and the Australian Energy Market Operator — had overseen over-investment in poles and wires that had driven power bills up and the failure of the national energy grid to be fit for purpose today.

“I think we owe them the respect that their credibility and expertise deserves,” Mr Turnbull said.

“You can go through the history of it but you will find much of the over-investment was done at the instigation of state governments that gold plated their networks and then overcharged for them,” he said.

“There were mistakes made in the past but ... I can’t say how disappointed I am that rather than talking about the substance of the policy I’m sitting here with you on AM and you are attacking the credibility of the people ...”

“I’m not,” Lane said. “I’m sceptical. I’m a journalist and I am sceptical and these bodies have failed Australia to date and suddenly they are now the saviours to this.”

She asked: “What is plan B if the states do not support this?”

“Why don’t you ask ...” Mr Turnbull started to say, before Ms Lane interjected: “The mic is open and it is yours. You talk to the states.”

“This is the message, the states and the Commonwealth around the COAG table set up the Energy Security Board,” Mr Turnbull said.

“We all agreed to put the smartest people on the board and to take their advice. “COAG has sought their advice, so did we. “We have received the advice and we are following it. The same advice will go to COAG.

“Are the Labor states going to say, ‘We established the Energy Security Board, we put the smartest people on the board, now we will ignore their advice?’ I don’t think that is defensible.”

Meanwhile, Labor Senator Sam Dastyari questioned the suggested savings for households under the NEG.

In a stunt outside Parliament this morning, Senator Dastyari said a cheeseburger or a McDonalds soft serve ice cream were about all households could afford for the 50c to $2 savings per week they were likely to get from their power bills going down from 2020.

Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg also revealed this morning he had called former Prime Minister Tony Abbott about the policy before a party room meeting yesterday.

Mr Frydenberg told Sky News he explained the policy and asked Mr Abbott to keep an open mind.

The NEG, announced yesterday, includes a reliability guarantee that aims to deliver the right level of dispatchable power — from sources such as coal, gas, pumped hydro and batteries — needed in each state.

The level will be set by the Australian Energy Market Commission and Australian Energy Market Operator, and penalties for retailers missing the guarantee have yet to be determined.

Energy retailers such as AGL, Origin and Energy Australia would also face deregistration from the market if they failed to meet a new emissions guarantee.

The mechanism would force the energy companies to source a portion of their supply at a set emissions level.

If they persistently failed to meet their obligations — which would be set by the federal government and enforced by the Australian Energy Regulator — they would be deregistered.


Voters want courage, not Turnbull’s tentative approach to energy

When Malcolm Turnbull announced his new cabinet in September 2015, he declared his was a “21st-century government and a ministry for the future”. He said: “We have to remember we have a great example of good cabinet government, John Howard’s government … I am absolutely determined that we have a proper consultative ­cabinet system.”

He signed off that press conference assuring us that this was an exciting time to be an Australian, surely more an insight into the newly minted and very excited Prime Minister than into how voters felt after five prime ministerial changes in eight years.

In any case, not many are excited now. Turnbull’s recipe for returning Australia to a Howard model, by making decisions “in a collaborative manner”, was a good start. But it’s like throwing a cup of flour in a bowl without the necessary binding ingredients. For two years now, and reflected in 21 downward trending Newspolls, Turnbull’s formula for good government is missing two critical ingredients: conviction and courage.

The current mess of energy policy is a prime example of why Turnbull’s recipe for government has fallen flat since he became Prime Minister.

This week’s announcement — energy retailers must buy a minimum amount of baseload power from coal, gas or hydro for every megawatt of renewable energy — was preceded by endless delay and vacillation over the biggest policy and political no-brainer in the country. The Prime Minister called for a review by Chief Scientist Alan Finkel that was always going to support rent-seekers in the renewable energy business rather than look after people who pay for those subsidies through higher electricity bills.

Then the Prime Minister departed from any belief in free markets by threatening to control gas exports. In question time on Monday, Turnbull lauded his government’s “character and commit­ment” to bring energy heads to Canberra last month, demanding they deliver discounts to their customers. Except that these discounts are illusory; they will be swallowed by new price rises.

Last week, the Turnbull government came up with a real policy stinker, promising financial incentives, including free seats in an air-conditioned cinema, if people turn off their home airconditioners in the blazing heat of an Australian summer. The poor, especially the old and poor, will be the ones to turn off their airconditioners, hardly a policy win for the country.

You can consult all you like, but without conviction and the courage to implement real reform it’s simply not the Howard model. If Turnbull had equal doses of conviction and courage, he would have settled long ago on what he now claims to understand as the bleeding obvious: abolishing the renewable energy target, no new clean energy target and no more subsidies for renewables after 2020. In fact, none of this required much courage, unlike floating the dollar or introducing a GST.

Showing early and determined leadership, rather than being dragged to it yesterday, could have been an early and exquisite confluence of good policy and even better politics, given that voters are fed up with rising energy prices and the government sits on a primary vote of 36 per cent, down six percentage points from the election last year when it scraped in with a one-seat majority. Instead, Turnbull’s endless vacillation means voters may still wonder: what does he really believe in?

Turnbull’s scaredy-cat approach to energy policy infiltrated cabinet ranks, too. A chorus of cabinet ministers, from Scott Morrison to Barnaby Joyce, has preached to voters that we must meet our “obligations” under the Paris Agreement, the same agreement that is driving up energy ­prices while doing nothing to genuinely reduce emissions.

It’s tempting, then, to lay part of the blame for the Turnbull government’s woes at the feet of his cabinet. Where is today’s Peter Costello, the treasurer committed to genuine fiscal prudence by cutting spending? Or Peter Reith, the warrior who took on the waterfront unions and oversaw labour market reform? Or Alexander Downer, who as a former leader and foreign minister was an equally determined champion of the economic reforms overseen by Howard’s government?

Where’s a Tim Fischer or John Anderson, who as Nationals provided the political backbone to those same reforms, which were not always popular in the bush?

Howard’s cabinet included other determined reformers: Ian McLachlan, John Fahey and then Nick Minchin as respective ­finance ministers; Philip Ruddock, John Moore, Jocelyn Newman and Amanda Vanstone, who in cabinet were all committed to the same economic vision for the country. Sure, there were quibbles at the edges but, together with Robert Hill’s leadership in the Senate, Howard united his team with equal doses of consultation, conviction and courage.

On the 25th anniversary of his first election victory, Bob Hawke said he had “the best cabinet in the history of federation”. Ol’ Silver would say that, but it’s also true that plenty in Hawke’s cabinet had serious political and policy clout, from treasurer Paul Keating to John Button in industry, Peter Walsh in the finance portfolio and others. These cabinet ministers oversaw tangible economic reforms for the good of the nation.

As Paul Kelly has remarked, “the public wanted change — but it was not protesting in the streets for a floating dollar, free trade and low inflation. The intellectual momentum for the 1980s reforms were elite-driven.” In other words, genuine reform would not have happened except for the policy and political leadership that Hawke and later Howard brought to the cabinet table.

That’s why comparing the Howard and Hawke cabinets with Turnbull’s cabinet is not entirely fair. A strong prime minister makes it easier for cabinet ministers to shine, revealing their policy and political strengths. There are good, potentially great, ministers in Turnbull’s cabinet and outer ministry. Christian Porter and Alan Tudge are doing great work in the welfare space largely, perhaps, because Turnbull doesn’t appear to have a strong interest in the area. Peter Dutton is a strong Immigration Minister because even Turnbull knows not to mess with border protection policies that have stopped deaths at sea.

Elsewhere, it’s a different story. Mathias Cormann could be a very effective Finance Minister but he’s hampered by Turnbull’s lack of conviction so he’s forced to sell one levy after another as fiscal prudence. Same with Michaela Cash, the Minister for Employment. When, time and again, Turnbull refused to make the case for reform of penalty rates as a job-­creating policy, instead blaming Fair Work Australia for the recommended cuts, Cash was left with little support at the head the cabinet table. And Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg may well be champing at the bit to deliver a sensible energy policy that serves the national interest. But when the leader lacks policy conviction and political courage, what’s a cabinet minister to do?

In fact, two years and 21 dismal Newspolls later, it’s hard to discern what Turnbull brings to the leadership of the Coalition government. That’s why more dissatisfied voters support those wildlings in the Senate. The Prime Minister is not the great communicator he thinks he is: his press conferences are waffle and smiles rather than political clout and conviction. ­Decisive? Determined? Politically savvy? None of the above. Turnbull’s poor interpretation of the Howard model is missing so many ingredients, this latest energy policy may not be the saviour for the blancmange Prime Minister.


Most migrants from Asia

India has been revealed as the Australia's biggest source of skilled and family migrants, as new figures reveal the nation accepted fewer migrants this financial year.

Around 6,400 fewer permanent skilled and family visas were granted in 2016-17 compared to the previous year from a total of 183,600 visas.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton said the figures were in line with the government’s strategy of “ensuring that migration levels are consistent with Australia’s genuine labour market needs”.

Just over 20 per cent of migrants came from India, with about 38,854 visas granted - down from 40,145 in 2015–16.

Meanwhile, China accounted for 15.4 per cent of migrants, with 9.3 per cent coming from the United Kingdom.

Southern Asia; India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and others, now accounts for 30 per cent of the migrant program. This is slightly lower compared with the previous year.

The number of Chinese Asian migrants – from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and Mongolia – rose from 16.9 per cent to 17.1 per cent.

Most of the visas were granted to skilled migrants, with a substantial number of those sponsored by employers. Employer-sponsored visas accounted for 39 per cent of the skilled migrants stream.

Families sponsoring loved ones accounted for 30 per cent of the total number of migrants, most being applications for partners.


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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