Friday, November 29, 2019

Jason Murphy launches another attack on the elderly

This time he makes it clear that it is only home-owners who are in his sights. But he also loathes superannuants.

Some people scrimp and save to pay off their own home. It usually takes them many years.  Other spend all their spare cash on beer and cigarettes (etc.).  Which group should we encourage? Neither, seems to be Jason's answer. Yet the savers take a huge burden off the taxpayer.  They get reduced pensions and no housing allowance.  In a rational world the savers would be praised but Murphy is clearly a Leftist envier.

He is right that a small number of homeowners and superannuants live more comfortable lives in retirement than others do but that is so throughout a capitalist system.  Some people are better at using their opportunities and may be envied for it,  but the alternative -- communism -- just makes everyone poor, the nomenklatura excepted, of course.

It's the whole capitalist system that Jason dislikes.  Capitalism runs on incentives and incentives produce very uneven results. Because of that unevenness in results Jason wants to take the incentives away.  He apparently wants, for instance, to abolish the tax concessions to superannuation. 

But those incentives are there for a good reason.  They were put in place to encourage more people to save for their own retirement and not depend on the pension.  And they do exactly that.  That the concessions benefit some people more than others is what Jason dislikes.  He wants a Soviet-like system for us  -- with enforced equality.  I will not be alone in saying "no thanks" to that.

Part way down page 17 in a long report released last week, Treasury boffins buried a landmine.

“Where one generation is required to fund their own retirement as well as the retirement of a previous or future generation they may view this as inequitable,” they wrote.

No kidding, Treasury. No kidding.

This line comes from the consultation paper on a retirement income review the government is doing. The review has promised to recommend no changes, lest the powerful be disturbed.

Nevertheless my former colleagues at Treasury, perched in their modernist office block on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin ought to be careful.

Last week, I wrote a story about the immense privileges being provided by our system to the boomer generation, and the backlash was strong.

People contacted me in droves to tell me they knew someone who was struggling. I called the boomers a “luxury generation” and the response I got was #NotAllBoomers.

You know what, fair enough. I should have been more specific. If you’re 65, renting a place to live and reliant on the pension, you’re having a bloody hard time. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to be unkind to you.

Poverty among people aged 65 and over who don’t own their own home is extremely high. It’s a genuine issue; but, of course, they are not the only ones doing it tough. The type of household with the worst rates of poverty is the sole parent. There are more children in those households living in poverty (230,000 children) than there are people over 65 renting and living in poverty (135,000 over 65s).

Anyway, that’s beside the point. Because the point of the boomer wars is not to focus on people in poverty, it’s to focus on people who have many millions and are getting more.

The boomers I don’t mind niggling a little are the ones who point to the two million dollar home they bought for $50,000 and say “we earned this!”.

The ones who strolled out of school into a labour market with 2 per cent unemployment and found jobs with no degree.

The ones who like to chirp about how they endured 17 per cent interest rates without ever mentioning that, in 1974, average weekly ordinary time earnings rose 28 per cent in one year alone (and then rose 20 per cent the next year, and 13 per cent the year after).

The ones who feel, when they structure their financial affairs in order to maximise the tax breaks available through superannuation and home ownership, that these are the product of a universe where all is suitable, appropriate, just and correct.

People in the top 1 per cent of the income distribution get a very handy $700,000 helping hand from the government in preparing for their retirement. That compares very generously to people at the middle of the income distribution who get $250,000.

The biggest helping hand for lower income earners is the pension. That’s not available at the top. But what they lose on the swings, they gain on the roundabouts, because the superannuation earning tax concessions really start to kick in.

When your super investments earn income (eg, dividends), they are taxed. But unlike income from working and other income earned outside the super system, this income is treated differently. It gets tax concessions. Earnings inside super get taxed at 15 per cent.

Superannuation contribution tax concessions also help. Money you put into super is taxed on the way in too, at 15 per cent, which is potentially a lot lower than your marginal tax rate. These contribution tax concessions are not quite so powerful at the top of the scale thanks to some recent changes that double the tax rate on contributions for people earning more than $250,000.

It certainly causes a person to wonder if the taxes on superannuation are designed to help those that need help in getting ready for retirement. Treasury is calling for comments on its retirement income review. It is sure to be besieged by furious people calling for the benefits to be retained.

But there’s a trap here for any young person who wants to play the intergenerational equity game. Any push for fairness here will probably be introduced gradually. Which is to say that it will be staged and scheduled in such a way that it hits not the retirees currently floating off the Whitsundays, but the ones who intend to give up work in two or three decades time. That is, you and me.


Advance Australia’s new boss Liz Storer says political correctness is alien to Australian culture

If Bob Hawke was an early career politician today, the plain-talking larrikin would’ve inevitably offended a certain cohort on Twitter and become a victim of “cancel culture”.

That’s the view of Liz Storer, who’s settling into her new role as the boss of Advance Australia – the right’s version of left-wing activist group GetUp.

The 36-year-old former political adviser believes there are “millions more of us” than what she describes as the “radical left”.

It’s just that her potential supporters – quiet Australians, to borrow a phrase from Scott Morrison – haven’t felt a sense of urgency to get involved in “boots on the ground” activism.

Until recently, that is.

“You know what I think the vast majority of mainstream Australians miss? The straight-talking Aussies of the past. I know I do,” Ms Storer told

“This political correctness rubbish has absolutely undermined our culture – our larrikinism, our very heritage. What we’ve become … this is not us.”

Ms Storer claims the broader community has been paralysed by fear – a fear of saying the wrong thing, being shamed, having their businesses boycotted or being “bullied” online.

“I used to love watching political clips of Paul Keating, (Bob) Hawke – those guys were straight shooters before political correctness rotted the way we talk, the way we relate to each other, the way we do business, the way we conduct politics.

“These days, they would’ve absolutely been de-platformed.

“It’s why politicians now are having to dumb down their speech, to try to say things in a way that ticks the PC box.”

She believes many figures in Canberra – of all ilks – are a shadow of what they used to be – not saying or doing much out of fear of losing votes.

“Say it like it is, call it like it is. If you want to be respected by the Australian public, that’s what you’ll do. So far, the only role political correctness has played is to eat away at our heritage, our very culture as Aussies.”

It might come as no surprise who she blames for the trend.

“This culture of pandering to the radical left, can’t be seen to call a spade a spade, dance around it, we want everyone’s votes come the next election, it has such far-reaching effects,” Ms Storer said.

Ms Storer points to the recent decision by Inner West Council in Sydney to cancel Australia Day festivities on January 26 out of respect to Indigenous peoples – a decision reportedly based on just 37 survey responses.

“Whether it’s climate alarmism, cancelling Australia Day, threatening free speech … it’s this squeaky wheel getting the oil. But the radical left are not the majority.

“It’s a small contingent getting upset about what the majority of us mainstream Australians are up to.”

She also attacked the “de-platforming” of Australian tennis great Margaret Court and rugby union star Israel Folau over their religious views and homophobic remarks.

“This constant bullying by the left – you’re not allowed to have a dissenting opinion,” Ms Storer said. “People cop it because they won’t bow a knee to the PC authoritarian rubbish.

“I do believe mainstream Australians are well and truly waking up to this. They’re sick and tired of the tripe.”

While she wouldn’t be drawn on whether she accepted some of Ms Court and Mr Folau’s remarks were offensive to the LGBT community, Ms Storer said it was unfair for anyone to suffer because of their personal beliefs.

“There’s no mainstream Australian who’ll look at that and think it’s fair and it’s OK,” she said. “Once again, it’s the radical left.”

Advance Australia launched about a year ago in a bid to mobilise the centre right to champion its own issues of importance.

“The centre right is best known for our thought leadership,” she said. “There are lots of groups out there doing good work, but we’re lacking in boots on the ground.”

Ms Storer, who has worked as an adviser to Liberal MPs at a state and federal level, was herself a local councillor in Perth for two years. Her efforts now will be focused on expanding Advance Australia’s membership base and campaigning efforts.

In Ms Storer’s view, “there’s no end of work to do”, but she identified free speech, climate change “alarmism” and national sovereignty as major concerns.

Advance Australia has 45,000 members across the country, she says, and they call the shots, deciding what campaigns are rolled out.

While the group might be on the right, Ms Storer isn’t shy to criticise her own side when the need arises.

“We (recently) saw our PM give $1 billion more, taxpayer dollars, to the CEFC (Clean Energy Finance Corporation). For what? These guys started back in 2012 as a Labor-created, snot wad of a useless body,” she said.

“They sunk $11 billion into it at the time. It’s done absolutely nothing, except ruin our grid with a pile of unreliable renewables.

“We’ve heard en masse from our supporters saying they elected a Liberal Government that have just enacted a Labor Party.

“I don’t care whether you’re in opposition or in government, Advance Australia is here to speak for the mainstream. Whether you’re blue team or red team, we will fight you if you’re not representing us.

“We will be speaking up and calling out hypocrisy. You certainly cannot be elected saying one thing and less than six months, change and do another. You’re not going to get away with it.”

Despite some of her pointed language when discussing “the left”, Ms Storer doesn’t believe Australians are any more divided now than they have been.

She even claimed to champion a respect for differing opinions and political views.

“We can respectfully disagree with each other – we live in a representative democracy,” she said.

“Australia is the land of opportunity. That is the best thing about this place. We (can be) a lot better than we are now.

“I’m optimistic about the future because Australia, in my humble opinion, and I’ve travelled the world, is the best country on earth.”

But Ms Storer then added: “But are the radical left undermining that? Absolutely.”


A politically correct but mostly imaginative rewrite of Aboriginal history

If indigenous author Bruce Pascoe is correct, most of what we were taught of how Aboriginals lived prior to the arrival of Europeans was based on a combination of ignorance, omissions and lies.

In his landmark book Dark Emu, Pascoe claims indigenous Australians were not hunter-gatherers but were sophisticated in the ways of food production, aquaculture, and land management. They were not nomads but lived in large towns in permanent dwellings. Their civilisation was, he wrote last year, “one that invented bread, society, language and the ability to live as 350 neighbouring nations without land war, not without rancour … but without a lust for land and power, without religious war, without slaves, without poverty but with a profound sense of responsibility for the health of Mother Earth for more than 120,000 years.” According to him they also invented democracy and government.

The book won the 2016 NSW Premier’s Literary Award and has sold over 100,000 copies. The ABC and Screen Australia have provided funding for a documentary series written by Pascoe. According to the head of ABC Indigenous, Kelrick Martin, the book “offers a revelatory context for future generations of Australians and ABC Indigenous is proud to work alongside Bruce Pascoe … to correct these stereotypes.” A children’s version, “Young Dark Emu: A Truer History”, is now part of school curriculums.

Much of Dark Emu’s positive reception has to do with Pascoe’s masterful presentation skills, for he is naturally telegenic. Showing a knack for reading his audience, he can be avuncular, affable, disarming, reserved, and even melancholic. He is articulate, an orator, persuasive and endearing. Complementing this is his disdain for modernity and his claim that we can control climate change by using the techniques of the “old people”, as he refers to them, thus “calming the bush down”.

He has admirers aplenty. Such is their effusiveness, you could say Pascoe is the Tom Jones of historians. To his detractors, he is a revisionist and fantasist. Writing for the Weekend Australian Magazine in May this year, journalist Richard Guilliatt observed “many academic experts also believe Dark Emu romanticises pre-contact indigenous society as an Eden of harmony and pacifism, when in fact it was often a brutally tough survivalist way of life”. But as Guilliatt also noted, there is a reluctance in academia to make public these criticisms given the author’s popularity and aboriginality.

If you think that is too much of a stretch, remember that this year the University of NSW’s science faculty distributed guidelines to lecturers, warning them that it was “inappropriate” to specify an estimate of when the first human migration to Australia occurred. Instead, staff were told it was “more appropriate” to say Aboriginals have been here “since the beginning of the Dreaming/s”, as this “reflects the beliefs of many Indigenous Australians that they have always been in Australia, from the beginning of time, and came from the land’’.

That a science faculty would resort to this is ridiculous. While some studies estimate that Aboriginals have been here for as long as 65,000 years, the conservative estimate is 50,000 years ago. You would think then that any public figure who claimed it took place 120,000 years ago would be asked to justify that estimate. Yet I know of at least three occasions this year when Pascoe has repeated that claim when interviewed by an ABC presenter, none of whom even so much as sought clarification.

The ABC’s political correspondent, Andrew Probyn wrote this month that Dark Emu “demolish(es) the myth that Australia at the time of white settlement was a wilderness occupied by merely hunter gatherers”. ABC presenter Wendy Harmer referred to Pascoe as an “oracle”, and chief political writer Annabel Crabb tweeted admiringly regarding Dark Emu: “I don’t think I’ve ever learned so much from one slim volume”. Another ABC presenter, Benjamin Law, said “reading it should be a prerequisite to non-Indigenous citizenship”. Just this month RN Drive host Patricia Karvelas concluded an interview with Pascoe with a fawning endorsement of the book, urging listeners to buy it. “Just do it now,” she stated.

If scholarly authenticity in the fields of history and anthropology were determined by the number of “oohs” and “aahs” uttered into an ABC microphone, Dark Emu would be nothing short of magisterial. In reality, such recognition is properly realised only through sources that are both primary and verifiable. Even then, the mere inclusion of this material is nothing more than window dressing if the analysis and conclusions are far removed from those sources. The “feel-good” factor should never be a criterion in such evaluations.

Those giving accolades to Pascoe seem oblivious to the many instances, particularly on the website Dark Emu Exposed, where readers have highlighted stark inconsistencies regarding what appears in his claims and what is outlined in the respective primary source. Peter O’Brien, a Quadrant magazine contributor and retired military officer, has written a book “Bitter Harvest: The Illusion of Aboriginal Agriculture in Bruce Pascoe’s Dark Emu” highlighting what he claims are Pascoe’s omissions, mischaracterisations, and distortions.

The stoush has been described as a resumption of the history wars, a term I think unhelpful, for it leads to much distraction in fruitlessly arguing solely about the motives of historians. If anything, and for once I am not being facetious, the modern historian’s role is in one way analogous to that of today’s comedian. Both professions now operate according to the woke expectation that practitioners must always “punch up”, never down. A historian can be sure of at least a favourable reception, as in Pascoe’s case, if he or she promotes and defends the wretched at the expense of a so-called privileged demographic.

To do the reverse, however, is taboo. Many of you will remember the furore that erupted in 2002 following the release of historian and now Quadrant editor-in-chief Keith Windschuttle’s book “The Fabrication of Aboriginal History: Van Diemen’s Land 1803-1847”. Taking issue with many historians, Windschuttle disputed the theory that indigenous Tasmanians were the subject of genocide, arguing they had succumbed largely through introduced diseases. He also dismissed the romantic theory that the original inhabitants had engaged in “guerrilla warfare” against Europeans, stating their attacks were motivated by a desire for tea, sugar and flour.

To question the narrative was unforgivable, but what made it worse in the eyes of leftist academics was that Windschuttle both exposed and embarrassed many a historian by forensically analysing their footnotes. What he demonstrated was both revelatory and disconcerting. Historians had inflated the figures of killings, misquoted colonial administrators to give the appearance of malevolent intent towards Aboriginals, and even listed as sources local newspapers that had not yet existed at the time of the historical incidents in question.

The response from the historical establishment was both defensive and risible. As reported by The Australian’s Ean Higgins in 2004, the Australian Historical Association even discussed enacting a code of ethics to prevent historians from criticising their peers’ integrity in public. One academic described his astonishment at the “pack mentality” of his fellow historians. “It was like ‘let’s get a group of people together to ambush Windschuttle’,” he stated.

The Australian’s Janet Albrechtsen wrote nearly 10 years ago to this day of visiting the National Gallery of Victoria and seeing an exhibition surrounded by a fence. In the confines pasted individually on the floor were the 472 pages of Windschuttle’s book. The work, by artist Julie Gough, was designed for visitors to walk over the exhibition and thus, in her words, “blacken and erase this text”. As Albrechtsen states, this was an example of “the Left’s addiction to emotion, feel-good symbolism and an infantile rejection of facts as heresy”.

Despite the many misgiving concerning Pascoe’s research and findings, Dark Emu shows every sign of being regarded as the most authoritative text in its field. Whether it be apathy or pusillanimity, our public institutions accept without question his conclusions, irrespective of the anomalies, or how ludicrous his premises. Only last year Pascoe wrote “Almost no Australians know anything about the Aboriginal civilisation because our educators, emboldened by historians, politicians and the clergy, have refused to mention it for 230 years” – a claim that can only be described as a conspiracy theory.

Indigenous and non-indigenous Australian students alike are entitled to a history curriculum based on fact, whether the subject matter is triumphs, tragedies or atrocities. To have it any other way is a politicisation of the discipline. It is time Pascoe responded to his critics. Only then can readers decide whether Dark Emu is historical fact or a flight of fancy.


ASX200 hits new all-time high

PM Morrison take a bow

The Australian share market has hit a fresh intraday all-time high in early trading before fading a bit in the afternoon.

The benchmark S&P/ASX200 index traded as high as 6,869.5 points before closing on Thursday at 6,864, up 13.4 points, or 0.2 per cent, from Wednesday.

The broader All Ordinaries was up 15 points, or 0.22 per cent, to 6,965.6 points - also a record.


NSW Labor Leader: Shorten Daylight Saving Time To Fight Climate Change

Labor leader Jodi McKay has lobbied the NSW government to consider a request made by one of her constituents that daylight saving be shortened to help combat climate change.

In the letter sent by the Strathfield MP to Energy Minister Matt Kean, Ms McKay writes that her constituent "advises that daylight saving time in NSW had made last summer too hot for walking in Hammond Park, her local park, at 8pm as the temperature at that time remained at the 40°C mark".

"[The constituent] has requested the duration of the daylight saving period in NSW be shortened as it has a significant impact on climate change," Ms McKay wrote on October 11. "I await your consideration and response on this matter."

Daylight saving has been a fraught issue since being introduced in 1971, with multiple referendums in Queensland and Western Australia rejecting the arrangement.

Over the years, critics have attributed the change of time to a fall in robberies, increased petrol sales, a jump in heart attacks, less milk being produced by cows and faster fading curtains.

There are also various studies that show the change in time leads to higher or lower energy use.

A spokesman for Ms McKay said it was not her view that daylight saving should be changed. "Strathfield has a diverse community with a wide variety of views," he said. "It is the job of the local member to represent those views to government without judgment ... she will never apologise for making sure that members of her community have their concerns heard."

Mr Kean, who is in London, declined to comment.

Without daylight saving, which begins on the first Sunday of October and continues until the first Sunday in April, the sun would rise in Sydney between 4.30am in summer and 7am in winter.

Ms McKay's constituent is not alone in calling for the daylight saving period to be shortened. Adam Marshall, now the Agriculture Minister, told the Moree Champion in 2015 that he would propose cutting the first and last months of the daylight saving period.

"While it's not in my top two or three burning issues, it's an old chestnut, but it's a real burr in the saddle and it grates for many of my constituents," he said at the time.

Despite the Strathfield electorate resident's concern, and numerous university studies, there appears to be no strong connection between daylight saving and climate change.

A 2011 study published in The Review of Economics and Statistics found daylight saving time increased the social cost of pollution emissions by up to $US5.5 million that year. Another paper, published in the journal Energy Policy in the same year, found energy had been saved in southern Norway and Sweden.

Earlier research by two University of California, Berkeley, academics — which focused on Sydney during the 2000 Olympics — decided there was no effect on energy consumption whatsoever.


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

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Australia fails on early childhood education

We read below: "The report shows children who attend early learning services are as much as 33 per cent less likely to be developmentally vulnerable when they start school "

But why?  Does it mean that mothers who do all the caring are harming their kids?  Is the contrast with care-by-mother?  Probably not.  The report below admits that Aborigines and the poor tend not to send their kids to kindergarten.  So the comparision is between the poor and the rest. 

The results below are NOT a comparison between mothers of equal status, some of whom use kindergartens and others who do not.  There is no evidence that going to kindergarten is of itself better for the child

The percentage of Australian families with two parents in the workforce is increasing, as new data shows the number of couples with both adults employed full time doubling.

Data from the latest snapshot of early learning in Australia shows in 2013 the number of couple families in which both parents worked full time was 16 per cent. By 2017, the number was 33 per cent.

The Early Childhood Australia report, to be released on Monday, shows women remain more likely to be the primary carer for children, and  the proportion of families with a single earning father, whose partner is not in the labour force, decreased from 36 per cent in 2013 to 31 per cent in 2017.

Australia's upward trajectory in rates of female workforce participation — up by 1.5 percentage points in the past decade — aligns with trends in OCED countries, and brings the economy closer to Sweden, often viewed as an international leader in gender equity in the workforce.

The report shows children who attend early learning services are as much as 33 per cent less likely to be developmentally vulnerable when they start school than those who do not attend early learning services.

Disparities in access to early learning persist, however.

While nearly 45 per cent of children used early learning services in 2018, those living in remote areas, children from Indigenous and non-English speaking backgrounds and those with a disability are under-represented in early learning services.

For preschool programs in the year before full time schooling, enrolment levels are over 90 per cent. But actual attendance at preschool varies widely across the states and territories and economically disadvantaged and Indigenous children are less likely to attend.

Indigenous children are more likely to be developmentally vulnerable when they start school than non-Indigenous children. States where Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children are provided free or near-free access to preschool from age three tend to achieve the national Closing the Gap target of 95 per cent enrolment in the year before school.

Low-income families  spend a higher proportion of their income on early learning services, despite subsidies from government.

The report shows those on the lowest incomes pay almost double the proportion of their income after subsidies, at 8 per cent, compared with those on high incomes, who spend 4.7 per cent.

Australia falls below average the average investment levels for OECD countries, 0.7 per cent of GDP, and ranks 11th among the 21 member countries.

"While the headline figures indicate strong national progress in early childhood education and care provision and quality, closer examination highlights significant pockets of unmet need, and problems of affordability and workforce planning," the report said.

"The picture also differs between states and territories, where differences in the early childhood education and care landscape combine with varying policy settings to produce inconsistent results for children and families.

"The goal of fully realising the benefits of early learning for all children in Australia has not yet been reached."

The report will be released at federal Parliament. It notes a decline in investment in early learning per child occurred under the Turnbull and Morrison governments.


Bunnings' iconic sausage sizzle raises $600k for bushfire victims after hardcore vegans demanded the hardware giant CANCEL the fundraiser

I have no objection against people believing anything they like.  They can believe the moon is made of green cheese as far as I care.  It is when they want to impose their beliefs on others that I object

Bunnings raised more than half a million dollars for bushfire victims with a national sausage sizzle, despite a flock of irate herbivores campaigning for the fundraiser to be cancelled.

The hardware giant hosted the fundraising event last Friday with all stores across Australia raising money for those affected by bushfires that ravaged the eastern states.

The sausage sizzle raised more than $580,000 and Bunnings contributed an extra $20,000.

But the event drew criticism from the vegan community.

'Why oh why are people selling sausages to raise money when it's known that meat is a contributing factor to climate change? Which is a contributing factor to these fires!', one woman wrote on a vegan Facebook page.

'It honestly baffles my mind and makes me so sad. It's a heartbreaking cycle.'

The post went viral and has since been deleted, but dozens agreed with the woman's notion. 'They can shove their sausage where the sun don't shine,' one said.

But others believed they were looking at the fundraiser in the wrong light. 'Right now, helping those fighting the fires is more dire than fighting the meat industry for climate change,' one user posted.

'Sorry what? There is nothing they can do about the sausages already produced but they can sell them to raise funds for fire fighters who are actually facing the real fires happening right now,' another comment reads.

Despite the uproar, Bunnings Chief Operating Officer Debbie Poole thanked the thousands of people who supported the cause.

'We are so grateful that people from across Australia dropped by their local Bunnings' on Friday to buy a snag and donate to help those in need. The result would not have been possible without their generosity,' she said.

Hardware store employees in fire-affected communities helped support evacuation centres.

The funds will be donated to GIVIT - a charity that assists communities during disaster. GIVIT CEO Sarah Tennant said the money will be used to to buy items for farmers and communities in drought-affected regions, and supporting households and communities affected by bushfires.

'We will be working closely with our charity and community service partners on the ground to ensure people are getting what they require, whether that be a fridge, a table, school uniforms, or fuel and grocery vouchers.'

Four people died in unprecedented fire conditions across the eastern seaboard. 

More than 600 homes were destroyed in New South Wales since bushfire season began on October 1.


Insane wages for buiding workers proposed

A new Queensland Government plan could reportedly see lollipop workers earn close to $180,000 a year. The massive wage would apply to jobs on regional construction projects under minimum conditions being considered by the Labor Government.

The Government is trialling minimum requirements for major state-funded projects, similar to a Construction, Forestry, Maritime, Mining and Energy Union’s industry agreement.

It will force builders to ensure subcontractors apply the rates, but builders claim the move will drive up costs by at least 30 per cent.

They also say it will put principal contractors at risk of breaching workplace laws on adverse action and coercion in relation to subcontractors.

The requirements would apply to projects worth more than $100 million, the first understood to be the $130 million expansion of the Cairns Convention Centre.

The project’s 122 pages of minimum conditions, sent out to tenderers in October, include five per cent annual pay increases, requirements to pay weekend hours at overtime rates of 200 per cent and 12 per cent superannuation contributions, according to the Australian Financial Review.

Under the plan carpenters would earn $198,000 a year on a 46-hour week and traffic controllers about $178,000, according to calculations from the Master Builders Association.

MBA Queensland chief executive Grant Galvin attacked the policy as “Orwellian”. “They’re not minimum conditions – they’re maximum conditions,” he told AFR.

“The fact that the state government would even trial a policy which ensures that the most expensive and restrictive work practices in Australia are applied to all major government jobs across the state, is beyond comprehension.”

Mr Galvin said that money represented less the government had to spend on teachers, nurses or other public infrastructure. “We have strongly requested that they review this policy approach in the knowledge that these conditions don’t improve quality, safety or productivity,” he said.

“They just increase costs, particularly for regional areas and undermine the government’s ‘buy local’ policy.”

Queensland Major Contractors Association chief executive John Davies said the minimum conditions were 75 per cent higher than current market rates for civil construction.

The policy could result in breaches of the Fair Work Act, which could see employers banned from federally funded building work.

CFMEU Queensland secretary Michael Ravbar argued that the minimum conditions were “nothing like” the union’s agreement.

He said the government was trying to ensure that taxpayer money filtered down to the workers.

He said traffic controllers wouldn’t earn $180,000 a year because they “were lucky to get permanent employment for three to four weeks”.


"Green" Victoria is locking up almost all publicly-owned land from any use

Victoria is the vanguard of states in major struggles over the control and use of public lands.  These comprise around 35 per cent of the state, the majority of which is in parks and reserves that aim to minimise human impact. Such areas have long been seen as under-managed and infested with exotic flora and fauna. They are increasingly recognised as perilous host to ferocious and destructive fires.

The rest of the public land is state forest, traditionally available for forestry, grazing, mining and a whole range of leisure activities such car rallies, hunting, horse riding, camping and dog walking, none of which are generally permitted in National Parks.

Two developments are changing the nature of Victoria’s public lands. The first is increasing restrictions on the activities allowed in the state forests. Over the past 30 years governments have progressively constrained the use of the forests for timber harvesting and grazing.  Grazing has been all but eliminated and only 6 per cent of Victoria’s public forests are available for timber production, the annual harvesting area having been reduced from 25,000 hectares 40 years ago to just 3,000 hectares today.  Last week, the Andrews government announced a 2030 phase-out of all timber-getting in the state forests.

The second change is the conversion of state forest to national park and other conservation reserve categories.  This not only imposes restrictions on use but is also an essential step to converting the land to Aboriginal title, which unlike Native title, grants beneficial-use and veto rights over the activities and intentions of others.  Even within the remaining state forest, the government is moving to enhance designated Aboriginal groups’ influence by granting them controls over exploration licences.

To effect the transfer the title of the land to National Parks or similar classifications, the government funds the Victorian Environmental Assessment Council (VEAC), an environmental bureaucracy comprised largely of former eco-activists, to sequentially investigate regional areas. Under the guise of community engagement, VEAC acts largely at the behest of environmental activists and Aboriginal groups (see, for example, the latest annual report).  The latter are paid to rediscover long-dormant attachments to the area under investigation and, with the prospect of title and financial support for management, are quite naturally all in favour of a change.

VEAC also hires economic consultants, who over the course of several investigations have demonstrated a skill for divining how much people supposedly value land being redesignated as being exclusively for conservation. In their most recent investigation, applying an alchemistic methodology called “contingent valuation” VEAC’s consultants have estimated that the Victorian public would be willing to pay $247 million in order to convert 60,000 hectares of state forest in the Victorian Goldfields (the Central West) into National Park.

The valuation ($4600 per hectare) of restraining public use of public land is not based on some marginal change to land use.  It would be equally applicable to the whole of the state. Its logic means people would be willing to sterilise all of the 3,100,00 hectares of state forest from commercial and most leisure uses and consider themselves to be $14 billion better off as a result!  It would mean that, if half the state’s agricultural land were to be surrendered to non-uses, we, the people, would be better off! In addition, the consultants place a trivial value on the loss from preventing car rallies, hunting, horse riding and camping. They do so with little evidence of usages.

In the case of forestry, there has been a steady, politically-driven erosion of the area permitted to be harvested.  The Regional Forest Agreements at the turn of the century were supposed to have settled the conservation/harvesting split, but harvesting has since been reduced by three quarters.  The latest proposals envisage further reductions on the road to the total embargo.

VEAC’s consultants also argue against mining and prospecting and claim that future mineral discoveries are well-nigh impossible. This view about minerals is remarkable since the Geological Survey of Victoria estimates that half the state’s gold is yet to be found, and the area has hosted much mineral production in the past.  In relatively recent times, two major gold mines have been opened near the area – one of which, Fosterville, actually has the second-richest gold concentrations of any mine in the world and is presently producing at over one billion dollars per annum.  Moreover, entrepreneurs risking their own money take a different view to VEAC – expenditure in the 42 exploration licenses current in the area is around $9 million a year. A recent discovery in the area of a nugget worth $160,000 by an amateur prospector is further evidence of the region’s prospectivity. Uncovering any further hidden wealth would be foreclosed by reclassifying the land as National Park which VEAC have recommended.

So, we have a double whammy.  First, policies are being pursued to banish commercial and much leisure-use activities that have proven to be perfectly compatible with forest conservation.  Secondly, requiring the cessation of commercial forestry also means eliminating many of the roads, and thereby heavy machinery, essential to fight fires. It would be hard to devise a more destructive set of policies.

Several hundred regional forest workers have held a rally outside Parliament House to protest the new measures that will bring needless and counterproductive job losses.  Coalition MPs showed their solidarity, but with green philosophies dominating the bureaucracy and a state government  determined to court inner-city votes, the march to transform Victoria into an unproductive tinderbox continues apace.


 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

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Christian schools join to train teachers

This is a very positive development, as secular teacher traiing has very low standards in every respect.

It is however regrettable that they have followed the secular example and mandated four years for teacher training.  That was always a highpoint of out-of-control credentialism.  Teachers in times past did perfectly well with a one-year diploma and "Teach for America" sends graduates into difficult schools with only months of preparation.

A saving grace may be that the new arrangement will see trainees spending much more time in the schools than they do in the secular system

The Pentecostals have provided the lead for the new setup but the participating schools are mostly Anglican, so the  new setup is non-denominational, in the best Protestant tradition.

Five Sydney schools have joined together to pilot a training program to ensure the future supply of high-quality teachers for their schools.

Trainee teachers will enter into a four-year undergraduate or two-year postgraduate degree program with a big difference: the trainee teachers will be working in the schools with students for their entire tertiary education.

The Teaching Schools Alliance Sydney has been established by Blue Mountains Grammar School, St Andrew’s Cathedral School, The Scots College, Inaburra School and William Clarke College. The Alliance will partner with Australia’s largest Protestant-affiliated tertiary provider, Alphacrucis College, to deliver the degree program.

The Alliance hopes to address wider social concerns about student teacher quality, high attrition rates in the profession and classroom readiness of graduates. The pilot program will lead the way in directly addressing these issues and becoming a model that can be replicated across Australia, particularly in regional areas.

The initiative reconnects schools with the training of the next generation of teachers and utilises the tertiary partnership to form a ‘Teaching School Hub’. The model is already operating successfully in the Hunter Valley NSW with a cluster of schools from St Philip’s Christian College group of schools.

Each Hub will assess applicants on the basis of proven volunteerism, ethos alignment, EQ, IQ and appropriate academic standards before commencing training.

Alphacrucis liaison for the Alliance, Dr David Hastie, said that the ‘Hub model’ of teacher training provides significant benefits to the schools as well as the trainee teachers. “The clinical training approach embedded in the model has proven to be effective across the globe, but this Hub model adapts it for our unique Australia education context. The model provides professional and contextual preparation with a wealth of experience in curriculum development, assessment, small group teaching, parent interaction, problem-solving and conflict resolution.”

“The trainees are also well supported, their tuition fees are subsidised, they are paid part-time as a teaching assistant and they graduate with significant work experience.”

A typical Alliance trainee will spend 1-2 days per week paid to work in the classroom with a Mentor Teacher, which means that by the completion of their degree the trainee will already have hundreds of days of school-based experience.

The academic program includes a mixture of local face-to-face intensives, mentor training, and online coursework. A significant point of difference from existing models is that the training follows the rhythms of the school calendar rather than the traditional university calendar. This means that trainee teachers are receiving 40 weeks of training each year rather than the common university calendar of two 13-week semesters.

The degrees awarded are the same degrees awarded at traditional universities with the same standards, rigour and accountability to the governing bodies that set and monitor academic standards in Australia. In addition, the pilot is to be evaluated by an independent research team.

Full and partial scholarships are available to prospective trainees.


Blue Mountains Grammar School is a co-educational Pre-Kindergarten to Year 12 Christian school in the Anglican tradition. The school has two campuses located at Wentworth Falls and Valley Heights.

St Andrew’s Cathedral School is a co-educational Kindergarten to Year 12 Anglican school located in Sydney’s CBD.

The Scots College is a Pre-Kindergarten to Year 12 non-selective Presbyterian boys' school for day and boarding students. The College has campuses in Bellevue Hill, Rose Bay, Dolls Point and Kangaroo Valley.

Inaburra School is a co-educational Kindergarten to Year 12 Baptist school located in Sydney’s South.

William Clarke College is a Pre-school to Year 12 co-educational Anglican College located in Kellyville in Sydney’s north west.

Alphacrucis College is Australia’s largest Protestant-affiliated tertiary provider, and is aligned to the Pentecostal denomination. Founded in 1948, the College’s main campus is located in Parramatta with additional campuses in Brisbane, Melbourne, Hobart, Adelaide, Perth and Auckland.

Media release. Contact: Dr David Hastie – 0405 153 048. Alphacrucis College, Associate Dean, Education Development.

Lure of big cities too strong for regional Australia to keep migrants, despite government efforts

Over four decades, country towns have mostly failed to retain migrants, according to the most comprehensive snapshot of Australian migration ever collated.

And this trend of migrants moving to the cities appears to be increasing, despite repeated government efforts to make life in the regions more appealing.

Professor James Raymer, who led a team of Australian National University (ANU) researchers to collect and refine almost 40 years of data, said migrants in a regional or remote area have a "very low chance" of staying in that area, and this pattern has been "very consistent over time".

"Most will leave within a five-year period, over half, if not 70 per cent, will leave, and if they're going to stay in Australia they're going to go to one of the big cities, probably Sydney or Melbourne," he said.

"What we actually see in the data, the chances of them leaving remote and regional areas has been increasing for a lot of the newer migrant groups."

Same access to services

Immigration Minister David Coleman is confident the new visas will attract migrants to regional communities and keep them there.

"We want skilled migrants to settle in regional areas long-term and want to ensure they are not disadvantaged compared to permanent migrants in our major cities," he said.

The visas require migrants to work in regions on temporary visas for three years before they are eligible for permanent residency.

Proposed laws will give these temporary visa holders the same access to welfare and government services as permanent visa holders.

"This Government will continue to back those migrants who commit to living and working in regional areas, to support local economies and contribute to regional communities," Mr Coleman said.

Details of the visas are still emerging, as the Department of Home Affairs holds briefings with migration agents and lawyers around the country.

However, the Migration Institute of Australia has criticised the decision to require regional-based migrants to earn $53,900 a year in order to qualify for permanent residency.

"While the Government is telling regional Australia it is listening to concerns about skills shortages, they are going to make it as hard as possible to fill them," institute president John Hourigan said.

"The requirement to earn this level of income for three years is not reasonable given the already suppressed nature of rural economies struggling with drought and diminishing investment."

New glimpse of internal migration

The ANU data is the most comprehensive picture of regional migration ever collected in Australia.

Across 47 regions and 19 nationality groups, the project tracks who has moved where every year back to 1981.

It finds that regions in Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory have the lowest rates of retention of migrants.

Professor Raymer said his study also found that, for the most part, people were becoming increasingly settled. "The likelihood of us moving in Australia has been decreasing, so we're less likely to make moves across Australia these days as we were in the 1980s."


Medicine prices in Australia among the cheapest in the world, research shows

If you take medication for several health issues, you may be surprised to find out Australia has some of the cheapest prescription drugs in the world.

A recent drug price index compared the cost of 13 common medications across 50 countries and found on average the prices were 25 per cent below the median global cost.

These medications were used to treat common health conditions including heart disease, asthma, depression, anxiety disorders and erectile dysfunction.

Australia ranked as the 11th most affordable place to buy common prescription drugs, including antidepressant fluoxetine (better known as Prozac) and erectile dysfunction drug sildenafil (marketed as Viagra).

"I wasn't surprised to see us the top of the list for affordability," said Anna Kemp-Casey, research fellow at the University of South Australia who was not involved in the study.

"Our Commonwealth does a really good job of negotiating prices for things that go on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme."

In Australia, the vast majority of prescription drugs are subsidised by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) which aims to ensure people have access to affordable medication.

The price index, conducted by healthcare company Medbelle, found drugs were cheapest in Thailand, Kenya and Malaysia, while the US topped the list for having the most expensive pharmaceuticals.

"Mostly that's to do with lack of regulation around pricing," Dr Kemp-Casey said.

"It's a free market in terms manufacturers being able to charge what they like, which is not the case in Australia."

Australia fared best (in terms of affordability) with cholesterol-lowering drug atorvastatin (brand name Lipitor), our second-most commonly prescribed medications, and sildenafil.

The cost of life saving lung cancer and leukaemia drugs will soon be slashed after the Government listed new medications on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

There are, however, a handful of medicines the index found to be significantly more expensive in Australia than in other parts of the world, such as the sedative alprazolam (marketed as Xanax) and insulin glargine (branded Lantus), used to treat diabetes.

But Dr Kemp-Casey said the drugs found to be less affordable in Australia weren't a cause for great concern, since they are either new (and so don't have a cheaper generic version) or aren't doctors first choice of treatment.

"Our ability to negotiate a low price with the manufacturers is much less than another country who is using [a drug] first line ... because their market is much bigger," she said.

"It makes sense to pay more for something we don't want to use as much of. "In terms of things we'd be expect people to be using a lot of in Australia … they are the very low-priced ones, and that makes sense."

Generic drug prices in Australia were more than 36 per cent lower than the global median, while brand drug prices were 7 per cent cheaper, the index found.

While Australia fared well in the ranking, Dr Kemp-Casey said this index should be interpreted with some caution, as it only looks at 13 types of medicine.

"When you look at a larger range of generic medicines, things might come out a little differently," she said.

Medicines still too expensive for chronically ill

In 2017 a Grattan Institute Report found Australians were still paying too much for prescription drugs because of "loopholes" in PBS pricing policies.

Dr Kemp-Casey said the Australian system was largely affordable for people in good health, but those with chronic illness or multiple diseases found the cost of medicines prohibitive.

Under the PBS, the government subsidises the cost of medicine, so that general patients pay no more than $40.30 (for most PBS medicines), and concession card-holders pay a maximum of $6.50.

"It's not unusual for me to hear about someone who has 15 or 20 different medicines they take in a month," she said. "You multiply each one of those by $6.50, and you can start to see how things get very expensive for people, especially on low income."

The PBS Safety Net is designed to protect patients (and their families) who require a large number of medicines in one calendar year by discounting or eliminating the cost of drugs once they reach a certain threshold.

But Dr Kemp-Casey said, unlike the Medicare Safety Net, in which medical expenses are automatically recorded, patients using the PBS are required to keep track of their own spending.

"Unless you go to the same chemist every time … those records aren't all kept in one place," Dr Kemp-Casey said. "So, a lot of people are probably eligible for the safety net who don't actually get there … that causes extra hardship too."


Thriving in drought: How investing big in water saved the Brown family

The Barkly Tableland is a large inland area about half way between Darwin and Alice Springs, a most unpropitious location for any economic activity.  But grass does grow there most years

When Adrian and Emma Brown bought Amungee Mungee Station in 2014 to build intensive cattle production in the Northern Territory, they were warned it could be an expensive project that may not succeed.

But five years on, their business has been thriving. They haven't had major destocking, like most nearby properties on the Barkly Tablelands

Their bold cattle management strategy allows them to run more cattle without degrading the land

The Browns have built some of the most significant water infrastructure in the northern pastoral industry and it's holding them in good stead amidst the lowest rainfall on record in the Barkly Tablelands.

As a result of the drought, hundreds of thousands of cattle have been trucked from properties in the region, and the Browns say if it wasn't for the water infrastructure development, they would have de-stocked too.

"We're really starting to push forward at a rapid rate and this drought probably won't hold us back," Mr Brown said.

But Ms Brown said investing in this water infrastructure wasn't just about drought-proofing but also getting better use of the entire property during all types of conditions.

"There was never a question of let's put a massive development in for the one in seven years where we don't get a wet season," she said. "It was … we've got an investment here, we've spent the money buying the land but we're not using it, so it's like having a hotel and only using the bottom floor when there's another 20 floors above it.

"So, we basically said let's be able to utilise as much of the country as we can and do it in a way that it's sustainable long term.

"We don't want to put 1,000 cattle on a watering point and run them there for the rest of time, we want to be able to have 200 cattle in a paddock, do a slow rotation system so the country is getting spelled and there is no land degradation happening."

Within three years at Amungee Mungee, carrying capacity increased from 2,600 cattle in a normal season to over 40,000.

"Our feed quality has improved so we're now in a position where we can actually sell at this time of the year which is great," Ms Brown said.

The family also doesn't have the stress of needing to scramble to buy cattle once the drought does break, where prices will probably go up and quality breeding cattle will be in demand.

"This de-stocking program hurts for three to four years ahead," Mr Brown said.

So how does it work?

The Browns say it's a simple strategy that includes restricting the cattle numbers in a paddock by fencing off paddocks extensively, installing more water tanks and troughs so cattle walk no more than four kilometres for a drink.

This means they don't lose condition and allows them to graze across more areas. It also means less land degradation.

At Amungee Mungee there are also 200 sites where pasture is monitored and water quality is tested, and this helps them with long-term budgeting for grass.

The Browns have now expanded their project to other stations.

Along with their long-term investor, billionaire Brett Blundy, the Browns have now purchased two more stations, Walhallow and Creswell Downs on the Barkly Tableland.

The same infrastructure and cattle management plans will be rolled out at those stations over the next few years.

But building the infrastructure in conditions where temperatures push over 40C can test workers. Gary Cutting, who's in charge of fencing more than 1,000 kilometres on Creswell Station, says it's hard work, but they've found ways to cope. "We get to rotate and sit in the aircon for 400 metres so it's not too bad," Mr Cutting said.

Innovation is part of the solution; Mr Brown and his team invented a fencing machine that can cover more than six kilometres in a day using a GPS and a barbed wire machine that strains the fence as they go.

Unlike building in the city, popping down to the local hardware store isn't an option — so thousands of pieces of this infrastructure puzzle all have had to be brought in from hundreds of kilometres away.

Dealing with those long distances led the Browns to another idea.

Innovation in the outback

They were unhappy with the quality of polythene pipe and concrete troughs being brought up from southern states, so they decided to build their own.

They'd also seen the limited options for products to build up infrastructure on Ms Brown's family property Beetaloo Station on the edge of the Barkly Tableland.

"We just saw a market, there was no-one specialising in that, so we basically moved to Katherine and started the trough business," Ms Brown said.

Since then the products have been in such demand from pastoralists and the mining sector that the Browns recently opened a new factory and large extrusion shed in Darwin to bring all of their manufacturing into one location.

They can produce tanks, troughs, barbed wire and polythene pipe of different sizes.

The Browns say they're motivated by a desire to show the rest of the country what can be done in northern Australia if the right investment is made.


 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

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Marine heatwaves threatening Australia's oyster industry and affecting Great Barrier Reef, scientists warn

Note the dog that didn't bark below.  The people involved are NOT barking about global warming.  They cannot logically do so.  If waters are warming much more rapidly than the global rate, it is not global warming!  Sometimes a tautology is needed

Waters off parts of Australia are warming at some of the most rapid rates in the world, threatening the future of some of the country's most important marine industries, scientists say.

Scientists say the heatwaves are having a severe impact on oysters — and threaten the future of the industry — as well plants and creatures that rely on the ocean for life, pushing some into new areas, while killing others.

"The oceans are really ringing the alarm bells," said CSIRO biological oceanographer Alistair Hobday, a leading expert on MHWs.

"[The oceans] are telling us we've got big problems and those problems are not going to go away."

A MHW is defined as a period of warm water that lasts five days or longer, where temperatures are in the top 10 per cent of events typically experienced in that region.

They are graded in severity — similar to how cyclones are — with category five being the most intense.

The heatwaves lead to outbreaks of diseases that can be fatal to oysters and other molluscs, and reduce the reproduction rates of species such as salmon and abalone as well as killing seagrass and kelp.

"[We thought] marine heatwaves were an example of what the climate would look like in 100 years time," Dr Hobday said. "But we [are] getting it today."


The federal bureaucracy has continued to shed jobs and is now at its smallest size in 13 years, after losing more than 3,000 staff over 12 months

This is good news, somewhat tempered by the increased use of contractors.  Contractors are under much more pressure to perform

The Australian Public Service (APS) has been shrinking since 2012 — a trend that has coincided with increased government spending on consultants and labour-hire firms.

The latest snapshot of the public service shows it employed 147,237 staff on June 30 — 2.1 per cent less than a year earlier.

Most of the job losses were in the Tax Office and Services Australia, which includes Medicare and Centrelink offices.

The Government explained the reductions in a report, saying "fluctuations in the overall [staff] headcount occur for many reasons, including seasonal patterns, business and government requirements, and demand".

The decline of the APS workforce divided political parties during this year's election campaign. A parliamentary committee had also been examining the growing use of businesses to do government work, but its inquiry was abandoned when the election was called.

Labor pledged to end staffing cuts and reduce spending on contractors and consultants, saying the loss of government jobs was a "false economy" because buying the skills from elsewhere cost more.

Australian National University academic Leo Dobes also warned the reliance on consultants had left the APS with too few skilled economists and "a woeful lack of ability and knowledge in that area".

However, the Coalition argues that using outside expertise makes the Government more flexible and efficient.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann told public servants last year that contractors and consultants could "keep the overall cost of government administration low, when the business needs to access relevant skills and expertise, or a surge in demand for certain public services is temporary".

The federal budget papers also point out that per capita spending on administration (whether on public servants or businesses) is falling, which Senator Cormann says is good — it should be "as much as necessary but also should be as little as possible".

A former deputy head of the Finance Department, Pegasus Economics director Stephen Bartos, says the private sector can be more cost-effective — if used sparingly.

"Unfortunately, what we have seen, in … some departments, is over-reliance on consultants, when there is ongoing work that would be more cheaply and effectively done by public servants," Mr Bartos said.

Lure of cities too strong?

Former Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce managed to move an agriculture regulator — the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority — from Canberra to his regional New South Wales electorate, provoking an uproar and staff resignations in the process.

But the Government's policy of shifting the APS workforce out of the nation's big cities appears to have failed so far.

Since the policy was announced in 2017, the proportion of public servants who work in Australia's six largest cities (Canberra and larger) has remained exactly 82 per cent — a ratio that hasn't budged in seven years.


Parents give Australian school policies poor report card

Parents are generally satisfied with how much money their child’s school has, but they don’t agree with how it is spent. If that sounds familiar it’s because it echoes what the CIS has been arguing for years.

The results of a national survey of more than 1,000 parents (relating to 1,394 children) — revealed in the CIS policy paper released this week: What Do Parents Want from Schools? — show that 88% of parents believe their child’s school has enough or more than enough funding. This includes 86% of parents with a child in a government school.

This cuts against the dominant education policy discourse — driven by the union movement and progressive educationalists — which both major parties have swallowed hook, line and sinker.

It is already clear that huge increases in public funding aren’t delivering educational improvements. This new research also shows that it is also not what parents want either.

The unions have rallied — and largely won — for money to be spent on endlessly reducing classroom sizes (presumably unsatisfied until we are practically educating one-to-one), increasing teachers’ pay (presumably until it’s in line with doctors), and amassing an army of support staff in schools.

In contrast to these priorities, parents say that they want to see better facilities and more extra-curricular activities offered at their chosen schools. This could be because funding for capital works is around one-eleventh of that of the spending on staffing. And extra-curriculars are generally paid for out of parents’ own pockets and in their own time.

The research also found that a considerable proportion of parents regret their choice of a school for their children, with around 40% saying they either would not choose the same school again or were unsure if they would.

This means that around 1.6 million students are enrolled in a school that their parents aren’t happy with. However, some appear to be more happy than others.

Unsurprisingly, those that felt limited in their choice — around two-thirds of surveyed parents — are less satisfied with the school their child is in.

Those that chose a non-government school, for instance, appear to be happier with their choice. This appears to be linked with findings of higher levels of confidence in how funding is being used in non-government schools, compared to their government school peers.

And parents who sought independent sources of information to help with their choice of school — like meeting with school staff, visiting school websites, and checking the MySchool website — are more likely to be happier with their choice. As the old adage goes, more informed shoppers are happier shoppers.

When it comes to school funding and school choice, this research is a poor report card on policymakers in state and federal government. It’s past time for government to listen to the message that parents want to see a spending shakeup and that more choice is indispensable to educational improvements.


A friend of free speech bows out, integrity intact

In the final months of 2016, a jaded Cory Bernardi was cooling his heels on a 12-week parliamentary secondment to the UN in New York.

The conservative Liberal senator was fed up with the leftward drift of the party under the prime ministership of Malcolm Turnbull, who had limped across the line at an election earlier that year having wrested the leadership from Bernardi’s good friend Tony Abbott the year before.

Bernardi, a lifelong Liberal supporter, was having dark thoughts. Through circumstance, he was now living in the same city as his mentor, former Howard government minister Nick Minchin, who was then the Australian consul-general in New York.

Minchin had sponsored Bernardi’s rise through South Australian Liberal ranks in the early 2000s as a powerful and intelligent young conservative, challenging the state’s historic moderate domination. Minchin knew where Bernardi’s mind was at, and he set to work. “While Cory was in New York we spent many a while together talking it through,” Minchin tells The Weekend Australian.

“There were quite a few of us who had difficulties with Malcolm’s view of the world. But I did a lot of work to persuade him not to leave. I wanted him to grit his teeth and hang in there. I understood what he was thinking because I had also been shattered by the Turnbull coup against Abbott, but I was desperate to keep him in the party.”

Minchin’s pleas failed to convince Bernardi, who on his return home in 2017 quit the party in ­disillusionment at Turnbull’s lead­ership and founded the unsuccess­ful Australian Conservatives.

“I understood why he did it. But he sacrificed what would have been a long and successful senior ministerial career. He could have gone all the way,” Minchin says.

This week, Bernardi announced he was leaving politics for good, but with no sense of ­regret at having quit the Liberals or derailing his own career. “I remember those chats with Nick and he definitely did sound a cautioning note in our conversations,” Bernardi tells The Weekend Australian.

“I had confided in a couple of people about where I was at. He said that I needed to realise what it would mean for my life and my ­career. It was a mentor’s concern, that I needed to understand the implications of leaving. But like all my good friends he understood the motivations for my decision. And I can console myself in the fact that the people who said bad things about me after I quit were already saying bad things about me before then ­anyway.”

Bernardi may be unique in the annals of Australian political betrayal in that he is the only politician to have “ratted” on his party and still received a warm send-off from many of the people he abandoned.

Bernardi, who turned 50 this month, will leave the parliament at the end of the year, with the SA Liberals to hold a fresh preselection to find his replacement.

The announcement came almost three years after he walked away from the Liberal Party, for whom he was elected a senator for South Australia back in 2006.

Unlike most other famous political defections and departures, Bernardi’s was motivated by ­neither spite nor self-interest.

He wasn’t Mal Colston walking out on Labor in 1996, enraged at having been denied the glorious honour of elevation to the Senate deputy presidency.

Bernardi’s reasons — like Bernardi himself — were 100 per cent ideological.

He had come to regard his relationship to the Liberal Party, then under the leadership of Turnbull, as akin to a bad marriage, where he felt that his own role was pointless and that he was living a lie ­remaining in a party that, he believed, was swinging leftward away from its traditional values.

And rather than acting out of self-interest, he acted against his own interests, in that the party he founded on his departure, ­Australian Conservatives, endured what Bernardi described with trademark bluntness as “an unmitigated disaster” at this year’s election, polling just 16,000 first-preference votes in his home state, less than one-third the result enjoyed in South Australia by One Nation.

The fledgling party had been caught in a pincer movement with traditional Liberal conservatives returning to the fold once Scott Morrison replaced Turnbull, and the headline-grabbing Pauline Hanson scooping up disaffected blue-collar and regional right-wing voters.

“The inescapable conclusion from our lack of political success, our financial position and the re-election of a Morrison-led government is that the rationale for the creation of the Australian Conservatives is no longer valid,” Bernardi wrote on the party’s website in June on announcing its deregistration.

Bernardi is now in the business of cleaning out his office in the inner-eastern suburb of Kent Town ahead of a return to the family business where he received his start in the 1990s, as publican of the now-defunct hotel Bernardi’s, a rollicking city pub propped up by an army of drunken journalists from the neighbouring Advertiser building.

Bernardi became famous for a string of so-called controversies that stemmed from his enthusiasm for plain speech, be it on ­issues such as banning the burka or his defence of the traditional family unit. While in New York, he had a front-row seat for the unheralded rise of Donald Trump, deliberately goading his lefty critics back home by posing on social media wearing a red “Make America Great Again” baseball cap.

He says this week he has been reflecting on the battles he has had during the past 13 years, most of which emanated from his lived commitment to freedom of speech. He fears that censorship, self-censorship and a growing inability to agree to disagree are now the biggest threat to the exchange of ideas.

“A lot of the battles I had were really because people weren’t ready for the conversations,” he tells The Weekend Australian.

“In the fullness of time we can now have mainstream talk about the problems with China and its interference in our political system, the merits or otherwise of high immigration levels, or altering our cultural norms. I am happy to have participated and in some cases led those ­debates.

“If we stifle free speech or the battle of ideas we will go backwards as a country. I know it’s not what Australians want.

“When I consider the relationships I have formed in Canberra, there are people I respect on all sides of the political divide. It’s because I respect their intellect, their consistency, their application of principle, and the fact that they are prepared to counter the political battle in a rational and sensible way. The ones I have the least ­respect for are those who are reactive, emotionally driven, rather than driven by an actual factual nature.

“We can’t have a society where we say ‘we are going to denigrate your character because we disagree with what you say’.

“Now too often it’s about shrillness and denigrating others. Any society where 100 per cent of the people are agreeing 100 per cent of the time is a false one. You can go to North Korea for that.”

Minchin says that when Bernardi emerged on the SA political scene in the late 1990s, he was keen to enlist him to the cause in a state where the party had been historically dominated by small-l Liberals. At the time, Minchin was at the height of his enmity with moderate powerbroker Christopher Pyne. The Howard cabinet also replicated the SA factional split, with Minchin and foreign minister Alexander Downer flying the flag for the Right in a sometimes uneasy coalition with moderate ministers Amanda Vanstone and Robert Hill.

“When I got to know Cory I was struck by our common judgment on a whole range of issues,” Minchin says. “He and I shared a common view of the world. He was a fellow traveller for me, a fellow conservative. He was also a very commanding figure, and a good mate. A loyal mate. Someone who was keen to get stuck in and help the party.

“My friends and I were always on the lookout for young conservative talent to bring through the ranks. He wasn’t someone who was there out of ego or a thirst for self-promotion. At the time the moderates did have a bit of a grip on the younger side of the party and Cory helped challenge that. He did it by being honest and ­direct. He was never a game-player, he was never devious, he was what you see is what you get, not like some of the cockroaches that scurry around.”

Bernardi feels no qualms about ending his career the way he did. “I don’t take any angst or unhappiness out of this. I’ve had a wonderful journey and I’ve met some extraordinary people. Your opponents often make you better. The qualities I admire in others — integrity, honesty, resilience — are all enhanced by your opponents picking on you when they think you’re wrong.”

And while he won’t name names, he confirms that there are several farewells planned in Canberra by his former party colleagues. “There are a lot of dinners,” he says. “They’re all secret though.”


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

Monday, November 25, 2019

Are the Left now toning down the hate?

I believe Joe Hildebrand is right below in saying that the current level of hate in Australian Federal politics is an historical departure. 

Sir Robert Menzies, Australia's most storied conservative Prime Minister, ran Australia for most of the 50s and 60s and always had a good reply to his Leftist critics.  And he kept them out of office over many elections. 

In his retirement he wrote two autobiographies.  I read both  shortly after they came out.  That is a long time ago so I remember now little of what I read then.  The one thing in them that has stuck in my mind is his praise for his erstwhile opponents in the Labor party.  He described them quite warmly -- as good and sincere men who honestly believed they were working for the good of the country.

So what Hildebrand says below of the Hawke era in fact goes back a long way.  Politics in Australia were for a very long time marked by real interpersonal civility

I was talking to Bob Hawke’s widow Blanche d’Alpuget.

It was the first time we had spoken since Hawke’s death – which is hardly surprising since we hardly know each other – but like anyone with a passing relationship with the Labor Party, I somehow felt that they were part of my extended family.

At any rate, I certainly felt very close to her then and as we talked about Bob’s death it was clear that she was a woman blown apart. You could see right through to her shaken soul.

But when we talked about Bob’s legacy that soul turned to steel. Hawke was, above all else, a consensus builder – a peacemaker. He took not just his party with him on his and Keating’s grand economic project but often the opposition too.

As Blanche angrily lamented, even amid all the fire and fury of political and parliamentary life, politicians always used to work together behind the scenes to get things done. They would shake hands, do deals and share jokes behind the Speaker’s chair. They would work across the aisle – bridging the often artificial divide between left and right – in pursuit of what used to be known as the common good.

This was Australian politics’ dirty little secret: The people that pretended to hate each other actually quite liked each other.

And this was the culture that prevailed in Canberra under both Labor and the Coalition for a quarter of a century – so much so that when an escalating travel rorts war resulted in a senator attempting suicide both sides immediately agreed to a ceasefire.

But a decade ago that all changed. A nasty condition known as “the NSW disease” crept into Canberra, a culture in which leaders were brutally knifed at the first whisper of discontent and which swept through both the Labor Party and the Coalition, decimating them both.

It is no coincidence that all of this took place in the new age of social media – in which politicians, activists and any member of the public could slug it out directly without the niceties of standing orders or news cycles.

And it is no coincidence that it happened amid the online news revolution, in which both old and new media outlets became more tribal than ever in an effort to hold or attract their audience.

One man who was at the centre of it all was Craig Emerson, a softly-spoken economist and academic who was an adviser to Hawke before entering parliament and becoming a minister under the fractious Rudd and Gillard governments.

Emerson’s latest thankless task for Labor was to find out how it lost the unlosable election, which he and former premier Jay Weatherill dutifully performed. Their conclusion is neatly summarised in the report as follows:

“Labor should position itself as a party of economic growth and job creation. Labor should adopt the language of inclusion, recognising the contribution of small and large businesses to economic prosperity, and abandon derogatory references to ‘the big end of town’. Labor’s policy formulation should be guided by the national interest, avoiding any perception of capture by special interest groups.”

In short, the party needed to be inclusive, not divisive. And it was a philosophy Emerson took to heart when he bravely defended Barnaby Joyce in the unbecoming shitstorm that accompanied last week’s bushfire disaster.

Emerson observed that contrary to the outrage being generated by both social and mainstream media, Joyce had not been attacking two dead bushfire victims for being Greens supporters but clumsily trying to say that he wouldn’t – albeit for reasons known only to Barnaby himself.

For this attempt at nuance Emerson was naturally crucified on social media, leading him to write a thoughtful piece for the Australian Financial Review lamenting the blind ideological tribalism that had taken hold of politics.

And of course for this he was naturally crucified by blind ideological tribalists. He was condemned for breaking a cultural embargo in his effort to bridge the divide.

But he was not alone. In the small pond of Australian politics, Emerson’s piece received a tsunami of support – not from alt-right fascists, as his extreme left accusers tried to claim – but from the leading lights at the ABC. The Germans might have brought down the Berlin Wall but it was Annabel Crabb who brought down the AFR paywall when she tweeted a picture of the whole column as a vital read for her half a million followers.

And of course Emerson joins a growing number of leaders from the moderate left who are coming to realise the extreme left poses a greater threat to their cause than the moderate right does. No less a figure than Barack Obama this month condemned “woke” cancel culture and plenty of once-woke celebrities from Sarah Silverman to Michael Leunig have found out the hard way that the hard left only loves you until they come for you.

The champions of censorship like to claim that they are on the right side of history but it is just possible that future historians may remember this November as the time when cancel culture got cancelled.

Man, I hope I live to see that.


Update from Bettina on firefighters

Just a quick post-script to my recent firefighter skirmish.

Last week I heard from a professional firefighter telling me he’d approached his employers for funding for a small event to be held on International Men’s Day. He was told none was available but he could “apply for funding” for possible future events. Last March their organization, which consists of over 95% male employees, held lavish celebrations for International Women’s Day.

Here’s what he wrote to me: “I would love for you to be a voice for male firefighters to bring attention to this brazen inequality and insult to men; who risk their lives for others day in day out during their professional careers as firefighters. As you know, sadly in this current climate it is probably not wise for me to make noise about it myself for the backlash and fallout may be career limiting. đŸ˜””

I was very happy to be able to appear on Sky News last Tuesday, for International Men’s Day. And my short interview with Chris Kenny did focus on our brave firemen and the fallout over former Victorian equal opportunity commissioner Moira Rayner’s attempt to smear me.

We’ve made a short video of that interview. Given that over 5,600 people ‘liked’ her twitter post having a go at me, it would be great if you could circulate this video so people know she fell flat on her face. Here’s the link:

Via email

Decline in nurse education standards

Union claims graduates unable to perform basic tasks

Student nurses nearing the end of their training are unable to perform basic tasks such as calculate medication doses, set up IVs or take blood pressure, leaving them flailing in high-pressure hospital wards.

Explosive claims by the Nurses Professional Association of Queensland highlight the career is in crisis and some graduates are declaring their $20,000 nursing degrees are worthless.

The union says the "dumbing down" of bachelor of nursing degrees means necessary practical skills are missing, knowledge of anatomy is poor and patient interaction often appalling, posing serious risk not only to patients but to the students themselves who are filled with anxiety and fear.

Veteran nurses report that many registered nurse trainees lack the stamina for a busy shift in today's hospitals that have fast turnover of patients and some have no more knowledge of health conditions than the patients themselves.

The Queensland Nurses and Midwives Union says that the problem lies with the lack of time available for experienced clinicians to act as mentors and instructors to students on clinical placement and to nurses at other stages of practice development.

"That is the systemic fix we need far more than any tinkering with the educational preparation program," QNMU assistant secretary Sandra Eales told The Sunday Mail. The QNMU insists that nursing work is at the core of why hospitals exist and nurses are not "bottom rung".

The Nurses Professional Association of Queensland was set up five years ago as an alternative to the QNMU. It is not a registered industrial body but has close to 4000 members.

Phill Tsingos is 'a clinical nurse in the emergency department of a Queensland hospital. He has been nursing for 27 'years and is a supervisor to student nurses, and is very concerned about the level of nurse education. "I have worked with students who were doing a bachelor of nursing and gained access to the degree with an OP 20.[A very low high school mark]

I see some in their third year and am stunned at times over the lack of knowledge. "Don't get me wrong, we have some great young people but the general standard is not up to scratch," he said. "Many do not know how to spike an IV fluid bag or calculate medication doses when they are at the end of their degree. "Patients often know more about health conditions than the students. "I would struggle to trust some of the students."

Mr Tsingos says student nurses need more on-the-job experience rather than being stuck in a classroom learning the difference between private and public hospitals.

"The universities are turning out a glut of nurses, many of whom have little chance getting a job," he said. "One girl went for an interview for one of 30 jobs in Brisbane and there were 90 plus vying for the positions. "The whole sector needs an overhaul."

State Health Minister Steven Miles says he is disappointed to hear an association talk down the skill set studies of nurses. "We have highly trained and hardworking nurses and midwives employed in our public hospitals," he said. "There are many rutal areas in Queensland that are struggling to recruit nurses  and midwives.

"The National Graduate Outcomes Survey suggests that 90.4 per cent of graduate nurses were employed in 2019 and 91.5 per cent in 2018.” Tertiary education, including university places, are the responsibility of the Federal Government.

Flagging the need for change, an independent national review "Educating the Nurse of the Future" has just been completed and the final report, taking into consideration 83 submissions, has been presented to federal Health Minister Greg Hunt. The report will be considered by government and a plan for public release developed soon. The review was announced as part of the 2018-19 Federal Budget.

Ms Eales says there is no evidence of admissions to nursing with OP 20s. "Skills acquisition within the workplace, both practical and theoretic, is as important as classroom or simulated learning environments," she said. "Professional Practice Environment is key to ensure safe learning at all levels and stages of nursing practice development."

NPAQ founding director Graeme Haycroft says if there is a shortage of nurses their value goes up. "The first responsibility of any union is to ensure there is a 'small' shortage of your member base skills," he said. "If there is a shortage of nurses wages go up in response."

Mr Haycroft says there has been an ongoing campaign by the QNMU to constantly train and recruit more nurses to the point that there is a glut "There are thousands and thousands of three-year degree nurses who will never get a fourth and final grad year enabling them to become a trained nurse who can start on the bottom rung in a hospital" he said.

From the Brisbane "Sunday Mail" of 24 November, 2019

Fuel tax hike will send us broke, truckies warn

A massive hike in trucking taxes, being secretly considered by state and federal transport ministers, could send firms broke and increase the cost of groceries and other goods, the industry warns.

Transport industry associ­ations have told The Australian they are aware of plans to increase the Road User Charge, which already adds 25.8c to the cost of every litre of diesel used by heavy trucks.

The Queensland Trucking Association said it understood the hike, ending a three-year freeze on RUC rises, to be as much as 11.8 per cent over three years when combined with increases in the roads component of state registration charges.

“When you’re looking at companies on margins of about 4c in the dollar, an increase like this could well send a number of businesses to the wall,” QTA chief executive Gary Mahon said.

“It is three times the CPI for three consecutive years. It may only be 3c a litre but when you look at the consumption levels of our industry, that is big money.

“The second biggest bill a transport company gets is fuel, after wages. It’s a significant component of road freight, and there is nothing that happens in the economy that road freight does not underpin.”

He said the proposed tax hike would cost trucking companies an estimated $650m over three years, flowing through to consumers when contracts were renegotiated, or else forcing firms to cut jobs or close.

In an industry contributing to 8.6 per cent of the nation’s gross domestic product, this could have a disastrous further dampening effect on the sluggish national economy.

“One way or the other, the taxpayer is going to feel the difference,” Mr Mahon said.

The Transport and Infrastructure Council of state, federal and New Zealand ministers is due to meet in Melbourne this week to discuss the proposed tax hike.

Any commercial heavy vehicle weighing more than 4.5 tonnes pays the RUC, as well as state heavy vehicle registration charges, with proceeds used to fund road construction and maintenance. The federal transport minister can vary the rate and collects the diesel component of the charge, which was set at 25.8c per litre in November 2016.

Mr Mahon said the industry already paid its “fair share” towards road funding. This included via toll charges, which had grown in recent years to raise $1.5bn a year along the eastern seaboard alone, an amount equal to ­registration charges levied by all jurisdictions.

The industry believed increases in the RUC above inflation treated the sector as a “cash cow” and were unjustified and “intolerable”.

The national Australian Trucking Association has been in talks with federal Infrastructure and Transport Minister Michael McCormack, seeking to head off the plan.

ATA chairman Geoff Crouch, also managing director of Ron Crouch Transport, said trucking firms were already overcharged for their impact on roads.

“The projected over-recovery for 2018-19 was $189.5m, all money that trucking operators should have been able to use to employ more staff and buy new equipment,” Mr Crouch said.

“There is no justification for ­increasing the Road User Charge and registration charges.

“It’s a tax grab by the state and territory governments, and comes on top of dramatic increases in toll road and port access charges. The trucking industry simply can’t ­afford another tax hit.”

Mr McCormack’s spokeswoman said: “No decision has been taken on heavy vehicle road users. This is a matter for all states and territories to discuss at a ministerial council meeting next week. “No changes will be made without extensive consultation with industry.”


 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