Thursday, December 01, 2022

The Finnish example

In considering the article below, some caution is needed. One should, for instance, not mistake the initial results from a policy change for the final effects. Finland was for some time a world leader in education results on the PISA criteria but it has slipped back to sixth place recently

There are also ways in which Finns are different. Psychologically, they are famously taciturn for intstance. That may help Finns to minimize conflict

Sociologically, all Finns are clearly aware of their heroic struggles with the Soviets. That clearly fosters a sense of brotherhood among them -- something very conducive to acceptance of socialist policies

So what works well in Finland might not transfer well to other societies

The leader of the nation ranked as the happiest in the world arrives in Australia on Thursday, and it presents a great opportunity.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese will meet his Finnish counterpart, Sanna Marin, on Friday and will surely be interested to learn more about Finland’s success and how it might apply to Australia.

Finland has led moves towards emphasising wellbeing in economic decisions, of the kind that Australian Treasurer Jim Chalmers has commenced since Labor took office in May.

Finland is famous for its well-resourced schooling and equality in education funding. This contrasts with the considerable inequalities that remain in Australian school funding almost a decade after the Gonski review’s call for change. Those recommendations lie dormant.

Finnish experience shows that equality between schools – a mutual striving for all schools to be good schools – is the best way to lift a nation’s educational excellence. That collective striving relies on valuing, trusting and fairly rewarding the teachers in those schools.

People will obviously be happier if allowed to pursue what they really want to do with their lives, rather than be pushed into an occupation their parents or others deem to be of suitable status. Encouraging those who choose different vocational paths from a professional career, for instance, contributes to Finland’s happiness. Being in a trade such as a plumber, electrician or carpenter is more valued than here.

Students in Finland are encouraged to follow their natural curiosity. We learn most effectively through trial and error. In Australia, there is too great a requirement for competitive high-stakes testing. This leads to the recitation of pre-prepared “right answers”. It causes anxiety for young people, but it also fails to foster creativity and innovation.

Finland has a remarkable history of innovation, due in part to its strong investment in research and development, which has helped it establish niches of design and production excellence for export. The best-known example is the Nokia company, which dominated global mobile phone production for more than a decade. Australia can learn from this approach to rectify our own underinvestment.

Gender equality is also advanced in Finland. Prime Minister Marin has spearheaded initiatives to increase paternity leave. Last year, paid parental leave in Finland was extended to 14 months, of which almost seven months is allocated for fathers. While some of that paternity leave can be transferred to mothers, most has to be taken by fathers for the family to gain the full entitlement. This “use it or lose it” minimum requirement is the only proven way to lift men’s role in caring for their children.

The new Australian government has made a welcome decision to extend paid parental leave to six months. However, it still needs to demonstrate how fathers will be encouraged to actually take that leave. That will support more mothers to return full-time to the workforce. The proportion of women in full-time jobs in Australia is 20 percentage points below Finland.

Finland is also the least corrupt country in the world, according to Transparency International. It stands at equal No. 1 on that index, alongside Denmark and Jacinda Ardern’s New Zealand, who Sanna Marin met on Wednesday. Australia languishes at No. 18, underlining the need for the National Anti-Corruption Commission being legislated in our federal parliament this week.

Finland has consistently pursued social democratic policies, the kind that Australia needs to revive if it is to boost its happiness, educational achievement and gender equality. Marin’s visit should provoke us to ponder the question: Do we want to become even more like America, or be more like Finland? We are poised between those two poles on so many indicators.

Measurements have shown, for instance, that an American with tertiary-educated parents is almost seven times more likely to enter tertiary education than a fellow citizen whose parents had no post-school education. In England, the difference is six times and in Australia, it is four times. In Finland, however, you are almost no more likely to get a tertiary education simply because your parents did. Finland has thus created extraordinary intergenerational opportunities for people from less privileged family backgrounds, based on genuine merit.

Australia can learn from this to further realise the full talents of our people to achieve what they want according to their interests and abilities. Our success, indeed our happiness, need not be determined by inherited advantage.


Police officer who shot and killed Gabriel Messo may have committed homicide, coroner says

Stupid armchair criticism of a split-second decision

A junior police officer who gunned down a man as he savagely stabbed his own mother in broad daylight may have committed homicide, according to Victoria's coroner, who has referred the case to state prosecutors.

Gabriel Messo died after being shot three times by a Victoria Police officer who confronted him as he brutally attacked his mother in a public park in Melbourne's north-west about two years ago.

The assault was so ferocious that his mother, Lilla Messo, lost an eye and developed an acquired brain injury. She ultimately survived the attack.

Mr Messo's death was being investigated by the Victorian State Coroner John Cain, who today found that the first two shots fired by Constable Emmanuel Andrew was an acceptable use of force.

"The level of force used was not disproportionate to Constable Andrew's objective to prevent the assault from continuing and to protect Lilla from really serious injury," Judge Cain said.

But Judge Cain said he was "gravely concerned" about the third shot which was fired just five seconds after Gabriel Messo, who was by that point unarmed, had stopped attacking his mother and was moving away from police as he clutched his torso.

"I have formed a belief to the requisite standard that an indictable offence may have been committed by Constable Andrew in connection with Gabriel's death," Judge Cain said.

"The indictable offences I have formed a belief to the requisite standard include but are not limited to … of homicide, causing serious injury intentionally, conduct endangering life or assault."

He has referred the case to Victoria's director of public prosecutions, who will ultimately decide whether to criminally charge Constable Andrew.

Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton said he was confident prosecutors would assess whether to lay charges as quickly as possible.

"We will await the findings in due course," the chief commissioner said.

"I know this will be an incredibly difficult time for the member involved and Victoria Police will continue to support him during this process."

Police union backs officers involved in Messo shooting
Police Association of Victoria secretary Wayne Gatt strongly condemned the coroner's findings and said the two police officers attending the Gladstone Park assault had made the right decision.

"We've got a decision to make as a community in Victoria. I can tell you now, police forces around the world are being roundly criticised for attending scenes and doing nothing," Mr Gatt said.

"These officers did something. They went and saved the life of a Victorian, a vulnerable Victorian who had been assaulted there for 17 minutes."

Mr Gatt said the situation needed to be quickly resolved by prosecutors for the benefit of police officers who had been "tormented" by the years-long wait.

He said that he had spoken to both officers and they were shocked by the coroner's findings.

"Does that make us angry? Yes it does," he said.

"Because police officers are asked to do this each and every day, and they shouldn't have to do it under the shadow of this sort of persecution."

Mr Gatt warned the findings could have lasting implications for policing in the state.

"Most people in the community would understand the terrible message this sends to police officers across Victoria," Mr Gatt said.

"Police officers who will get out of their cars and question 'should I rush in and do something or should I sit back, save I be criticised in the cool light of day, years and years later?'"


Washing machine repairman wrongly targeted as a suspect in the William Tyrrell investigation is awarded almost $1.5MILLION in damages

Crooked cops again

A washing machine repairman who was wrongly named as a high-profile suspect in the investigation into William Tyrrell's disappearance will receive almost $1.5million in compensation.

Bill Spedding sued the NSW Police alleging detectives maliciously pursued him while investigating the disappearance of the three-year-old from his foster grandmother's home in Kendall, on the NSW north coast, on September 12, 2014.

His case before the NSW Supreme Court sought compensation for reputational harm and psychological treatment. Mr Spedding also sought exemplary damages to punish police for purportedly using the courts for an improper purpose.

The tradesman was an early high-profile suspect in the disappearance, with police searching Mr Spedding's Bonny Hills home and draining his septic tank in January 2015. But they found no evidence linking him to William.

Bill Spedding was awarded almost $1.5 million in damages after suing the NSW Police Force for malicious prosecution. Above, outside court on Thursday with his wife Margaret
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Bill Spedding was awarded almost $1.5 million in damages after suing the NSW Police Force for malicious prosecution. Above, outside court on Thursday with his wife Margaret

A coronial inquest later found Mr Spedding had an alibi on the day of William's disappearance. He was attending a school assembly for a child in his care that day, and had a receipt from a nearby coffee shop.

During the police investigation into Mr Spedding, the tradesman was charged in April 2015 over the historical child abuse claims, spending 56 days in custody and then being released on strict bail conditions.

The charges were later dropped by prosecutors.

Mr Spedding alleged that the charges were levelled against him in a bid to intimidate and place pressure on him.

Mr Spedding's lawyers claimed a police investigation prior to those charges being laid was 'done in extreme haste' in three or four weeks.

'The investigation was not in any way professional, careful or proper,' said Mr Spedding's lawyer Adrian Canceri during closing submissions in August.

Mr Spedding has claimed the anxiety and depression he suffers were caused by the prosecution and the public attention it brought.

Clear evidence emerged that the complainants had been coached by another person to make allegations and another person's evidence undermined the case, Justice Harrison heard.

Barrister Adrian Williams, for the State of NSW, had argued that misunderstandings occurred but it didn't follow that police were acting maliciously.

William Tyrrell has never been found


Coalition slams proposed changes to referendum rules

The Coalition says Labor is exposing the Voice referendum to a misinformation campaign by scrapping laws requiring voters to be posted a pamphlet that outlines the arguments for the Yes and No cases.

The Albanese government on Thursday introduced legislation to the lower house to modernise laws governing how the referendum will be conducted.

Among the proposed changes contained in the Referendum (Machinery Provisions) Amendment Bill 2022, is the ditching of a provision that requires households to receive an official pamphlet outlining the proposed change to the Constitution, comprising up to 2000 words each on the Yes and No cases.

Shadow attorney-general Julian Leeser said the proposed change would compromise the quality of public debate in the lead-up to the national vote and risked creating an avenue for misinformation and interference to circulate.

“This is not about whether you vote yes or no,” Leeser said. “This is about ensuring the government provides information so that Australians can make an informed choice.

“A successful referendum will only occur if the change is clearly explained, and there is transparency and detail.”

Shadow special minister of state Jane Hume said the scrapping of the pamphlet was worrying as misinformation had already played a role in Australian elections.

“But this is more than just an election, this is changing Australia’s governing document - it could not be more important,” she said.

Introducing the bill on Thursday, Assistant Minister to the Prime Minister Patrick Gorman said while the government had decided against publicly funding formal Yes and No campaigns, it would fund a civics education campaign, which would inform voters of the facts around the referendum.

“This information will provide voters with a good understanding of Australia’s Constitution, the referendum process and factual information about the referendum proposal,” Gorman said.

He said the pamphlet requirement was first introduced in 1912 and was an outdated mechanism for informing voters in a digital age.

“As the next referendum will be the first in the digital age, there was no need for taxpayers to pay for a pamphlet to be sent to households,” he said.

“Modern technology allows parliamentarians to express their views to voters directly and regularly through a wide range of sources, such as television, email, and social media that did not exist when the pamphlet was introduced in 1912.”

The bill will be referred to the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters, which will report in early 2023.




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