Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Australia's top universities shoot up the international rankings

Since I have degrees from two of the universities highly ranked, I rather like this. I am particularly pleased about how highly UQ was ranked -- seeing it was my alma mater. Having UQ ahead of ANU is quite something.

The Shanghai Jiao Tong index is the oldest ranking system and is still highly respected.  It has been questioned because it gives a big weight to research but research is what distinguishes a university from a technical college and other teaching-only bodies so I think the criticism is tendentious

Australia's most elite universities have shot up an international rankings chart as their intake of China international students has surged.

The Academic Ranking of World Universities league table featured seven of Australia's Group of Eight universities in the top 100 list.

After the United States and the UK, Australia came third when it came to having the most number of universities in the upper echelons.

In 2003, Australia came ninth in the world - in terms of having the most universities on this top 100 list.

University of Sydney associate professor Salvatore Babones, a China expert and an adjunct scholar at the Centre for Independent Studies, said the Group of Eight universities also, between them, sourced 68 per cent of their international students from China.

'How did Australia climb from tied-ninth to third in the world in less than two decades in the world's premier research-based university rankings?,' he said.

'In two words: Chinese students.

'Until the coronavirus struck, they were the 'cash cows' that funded Australian universities.'

Last year, before coronavirus, Australia's education exports to China were worth $12billion.

The ARWU list is compiled by the Shanghai Rankings Consultancy, a commercial spin-off from the Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

The University of Melbourne was ranked at No. 35, putting it ahead of the Sorbonne in Paris at 39.

The University of Queensland in Brisbane came in at 54.

Australian National University in Canberra was 67.

The University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales both came in at No. 74 in the world.

Monash University in Melbourne and the University of Western Australia both came in at 85.

The University of Adelaide was the only Group of Eight university not to make the top 100 but it was placed in the 151 to 200 band.


China's targeting of Australian wine 'politically motivated'

This is another example of the stupidity and futility of picking on China.  China is a proud nation and will hit back.  China has done nothing deliberate to hurt us so why do we dream up petty quarrels with it? What end will it serve?

China's move to levy hefty import duties on Australian wine was "politically motivated" according to a leading winemaker, as Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said there was no grounds for Beijing's dumping investigation.

China's Ministry of Commerce announced on Tuesday morning it would begin investigating allegations the Australian wine industry was receiving subsidies and selling into the mainland market below cost.

The Australian Financial Review has been told officials in Canberra were notified in recent days about the impending investigation and local wine growers had been warned.

At risk is $1.1 billion in annual exports along with Australia's largest and fastest growing wine market.

In a statement Trade Minister Simon Birmingham said there was no basis for the claims being made by China. "This is a very disappointing and perplexing development," he said. "Our wine industry has worked incredibly hard to establish itself as a world-leading producer and export powerhouse."

Mr Birmingham denied Australian wine was being sold below market price in China and said exports were "not subsidised."

Shares in Treasury Wine Estates, Australia's biggest winemaker, were down more than 9 per cent as news of the investigation began to leak and were briefly halted on the ASX.

In its statement, the Ministry of Commerce said it had received an anti-dumping complaint from the local industry on July 6 and as a result would investigate all wine imported from Australia in containers of two litres or less.

China said the 2019 calendar year would be the primary focus of its investigation, but there would be a separate "industry harming" period from 2015 to 2019.

The investigations will begin on August 18 and would normally run for a full year. "Under special circumstances it can be extended to February 18, 2022," the Commerce Ministry said.

The Commerce Ministry said it had already conducted an initial investigation between 2015 to 2019, which found Australian wine took up a large percentage of the market.

Figures compiled by Global Trade Atlas showed Australia accounted for 37 per cent of China's imported wine by value in the year to May 2020, well ahead of France on 27 per cent, Chile with 13 per cent and Italy 6 per cent.

One winemaker in China said the investigation was politically-motivated as there was room in the local market for domestic and imported wine.

However, the person said, alcohol sales in China have been hurt by the coronavirus as consumers mostly drunk at public gatherings rather than at home.

"This is a political action," said a leading Chinese winemaker from the region of Ningxia, who did not want to be named. "Our winery has not complained about any Australian anti-dumping behaviour. We are surprised by this," the winemaker said.

The person said the market was big enough for both Chinese and Australian wines to survive and there was no competitive threat. "We don't need to exclude each other to survive," the winemaker said.

China's move follows warnings that wine imports would be restricted as punishment for the Morrison Government's support for a global coronavirus inquiry.

At the same time China is seeking to promote its local wine industry and focus more on boosting domestic sales of popular consumer products given weakening demand for its exports as coronavirus ravages the economies of its major trading partners.

State media have suggested over the past week that President Xi Jinping wants to embark on a so-called "dual circulation" strategy aimed at reducing reliance on global markets and generating more demand for local products from domestic consumers.

Details of this potential shift in Mr Xi's economic policy have been vague so far.

Australian wine exports to China were up 0.7 per cent to $1.1 billion in the year to June 30, according to Wine Australia figures.

The move to levy import duties on the wine industry follows Beijing imposing an 80 per cent tariff on Australian barley farmers in May. At the same time it banned beef exports from four of Australia's biggest abattoirs.


Google accused of spreading ‘fake news’ over claims it would charge Australians for search engine under new laws

If Google does impose charges or restrictions on Australians it would be a wonderful leg-up for Bing and Duck-Duck-go -- so it won't happen

Google has been accused of spreading “fake news” and “misinformation” after the technology giant claimed it would have to charge Australians for its search engine as a result of new Federal Government legislation.

The California-based search engine today published an open letter claiming the “news media bargaining code” proposed by the Federal Government could make Google hand over user data to news companies, “dramatically worsen” Google Search and YouTube and put the free services at risk.

The letter was addressed “to Australians” and signed by Google Australia managing director Mel Silva and was promoted on Google’s home page.

Shortly after its publication, Australian Consumer and Competition chief Rod Sims released a statement accusing Google of spreading misinformation about the draft news bargaining code developed by the ACCC.

“The open letter by Google today contains misinformation about the draft news media bargaining code which the ACCC would like to address,” he said.

“Google will not be required to charge Australians for the use of its free services such as Google Search and YouTube, unless it chooses to do so.

“Google will not be required to share any additional user data with Australian news businesses unless it chooses to do so.

“The draft code will allow Australian news businesses to negotiate for fair payment for their journalists’ work that is included on Google services.

“This will address a significant bargaining power imbalance between Australian news media businesses and Google and Facebook. A healthy news media sector is essential to a well-functioning democracy.”

Mr Sims said the ACCC would continue to discuss the draft code with interested parties including Google. Consultations will close later this month.

Treasurer Josh Frydenberg announced last month that the code would allow media companies to join forces to compel major tech giants Google and Facebook to pay for content.

Today, Mr Frydenberg said the Government remained committed to introducing “this significant reform with a world leading mandatory code” that would “govern relations” between media and tech giants, “increase competition” and “strengthen consumer protection and ensure the sustainability of our media landscape”.

“The Government tasked the ACCC to undertake a detailed world-leading study over 18 months to examine the impact of digital platforms on competition in the media and advertising services markets,” he said.

“The inquiry found a significant bargaining power imbalance between Australian news media businesses that produce original content and the digital platforms.”

Communications Minister Paul Fletcher said the Government had taken a “careful approach” to the “policy issues which emerge from the market power that Google and Facebook have accumulated”.

Free TV chief executive Bridget Fair said Google’s letter was straight out of “monopoly playbook 101 trying to mislead and frighten Australians”, adding that the fact they had claimed Google might have to provide user data to news companies was “fake news”.

“Google has shown once again how important a free, strong independent news media industry is so that they can hold Google to account for pushing such deliberately inaccurate information to its users,” she said.


Australia’s travel bans are looking less and less sustainable as the world opens up

Australians are increasingly prisoners of the government’s success fighting coronavirus, but it looks like we don’t have an exit strategy to get us mixing with the world and each other, writes James Morrow.

One of the most remarkable things about this whole coronavirus pandemic has been how one of the most extroverted nations in the world became, virtually overnight, a fortress.

Not only are foreign visitors (and returning Australians) forced to spend 14 days in dreary hotel quarantine at their own expense - reasonable, perhaps - but we Australians also have to apply, like naughty students looking for a hall pass, to leave the country.

Even if we are planning on staying away for months, or years, or hold a second passport of another nation.

It’s a bit like trying to get papers to get out of town in the movie Casablanca, except that everyone would have to scan a QR code to enter Rick’s Cafe Americain, and singing La Marseillaise would be banned because it might spread viral droplets.

(And no, I’m not comparing Australia to the collaborationist Vichy regime, but rather pointing out the absurdity of havng to apply to leave your own country, and risking a 75 per cent chance of rejection if you do).

But at some point we are going to have to get back to some degree of normal, with or without a vaccine. And that will mean being allowed to get back on a plane and go not just to Perth or Port Douglas, but LA or London or anyplace else that will have us. Which is an increasing number of countries, if only we were allowed to go.

But, I hear you saying, there’s a pandemic on, haven’t you heard? And we all need to do our part to stop the spread.

Yes, sure, except, of course, the higher education sector.

In a few weeks, 300 foreign students from Asia will be flown in via Singapore to Adelaide to test how universities might begin to cover the $3bn in losses they are expected to suffer for allowing themselves to become so dependent on overseas students in the first place.

It’s a sort of pragmatic authoritarianism that demands ordinary Australians give up their rights for the greater good (“keeping us safe”) and then bends the rules for others when there’s a quid to be made.

All this while countless Australians remain stranded overseas, in many cases paying well over the odds for business class tickets to improve their chances of getting on a flight.

And that’s before we talk about the absurdity of many of the state border restrictions, which have resulted in countless petty, bureaucratic cruelties.

Queensland’s premier said Monday she would not relax borders until there was zero community transmission in NSW or Victoria. Seriously.

Yet in the face of all this Scott Morrison seems to be loathe to do anything about it.

Particularly with his polls sky high, why risk a fight with the states, or cop the panicky criticism he would receive from the “lockdown until elimination” camp for re-asserting Australians’ freedom to travel?

But here it’s worth noting what epidemiologist Donald Henderson had to say on the subject.

Henderson, who died in 2016, is probably best known for essentially ridding the world of smallpox – which makes him about as good an authority you can get on this sort of thing.

In 2006, at the age of 78, Henderson swung into action when he heard about a program initiated by the George W. Bush administration which put together computer modellers with public health officials to work out how to lock down and quarantine society in the event of a future deadly influenza or SARS-like pandemic.

Henderson’s work was resurrected recently by Edward Stringham at the American Institute for Economic Research, who points out the great doctor spent his life “devoted to implementing the great discovery of modern virus theory that we need not flee but rather build immunity through science, either by natural immunities or via vaccines.”

“If particular measures are applied for many weeks or months, the long-term or cumulative second and third order effects could be devastating socially and economically”, Henderson wrote, before concluding “experience has shown that communities faced with epidemics or other adverse events respond best when the normal social functioning of the community is least disrupted”.

Ain’t that the truth.

Travel, both inbound and out, is a huge part of the Australian identity, and represents a massive benefit to the nation in terms of tourism and commerce.

Yet the disruption imposed on us by the reaction to the coronavirus has created a “new normal” that is anything but.

It’s time our leaders started to explain what the end game is here, particularly if there is never a vaccine. Australia’s a wonderful place, but we can’t stay trapped here - not just in our own country, but our own state - forever.


Are they dying from the virus — or with it?

The coronavirus panic has been exaggerated by a simple counting confusion. Not all our nearly 400 dead were actually killed by the virus. Many almost certainly were dying already.

As a very senior leader of the fight against the virus confirmed to me, the official death count includes not just people “dying from” the virus, but those “dying with” it.

This became obvious last Friday, when Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced the virus had just killed the youngest Australian yet, a man in his 20s.

Sure, it suits some politicians to make healthy young Australians think this virus “does not discriminate” and can kill them, too, even though most of our dead were aged over 80.

That terrifies the young into obeying lockdowns, and excuses governments for not doing more to save the people overwhelmingly most likely to die – the very old, especially in nursing homes.

Only under questioning did Andrews admit this youngest victim may actually have had other comorbidities, saying it was up to the coroner to decide if he’d actually died of the virus, or just with it.

But how much more true is this of the more than 220 people – dozens aged more than 90, many extremely frail – who we’re told were killed by the virus in nursing homes, but may actually have died of other conditions?

We also know at least three other deaths in Victoria were of patients in a cancer ward. At least two were in residential care for the disabled. How many were really killed by the virus?

Britain last week checked exactly that with its own 46,706 dead, and lowered its official death toll by more than 5000.

Until then, Britain – like Australia – counted people “dying with” the virus among those “dying from” it.

I am not accusing our own governments of doing this to exaggerate the danger and spread panic. I’m told their motivation was “transparency”. They didn’t want to be accused of hiding deaths.

But now they should clear this up so we can calm down and better understand what exactly we’re panicking about.

How many of our nearly 400 dead would really still be alive today if this virus had not hit?

Could we have saved them all by smashing our economy so hard that suicides rose and a million Australian were thrown out of work?


 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

1 comment:

Paul said...

"What end will it serve?"

US dollar hegemony. That's the only political game in town. They lose that and they lose America. China knows this because the Americans funded their Middle Eastern adventures of the past 20 years by selling bonds to China, which are now coming due. America basically can't pay its loans back.