Sunday, April 02, 2023

A symphony of disgust

Mark Latham was called "disgusting" by a homosexual man. In reply to the insult Latham described a homosexual act and called such acts "disgusting". But the disgust did not end there. Latham has been called disgusting by all and sundry for describing what male homosexuals do.

A rather overlooked point however is what the condemnation of Latham implies. What he described was called disgusting. That surely implies that homosexual acts are disgusting. Many would agree with that. But their condemnation of Latham surely implies that his critics too regard homosexual acts as disgusting. Did they really mean to let that cat out of the bag?

One Nation's Mark Latham under fire for homophobic tweet.
Mark Latham's second controversy over LGBT issues in as many weeks has caused a split in One Nation, with federal senator Pauline Hanson admonishing his remarks as "disgusting".

Mr Latham, the One Nation leader in NSW, posted and deleted a graphic and homophobic tweet, directed at comments by Independent MP Alex Greenwich, on Thursday.

It has sparked widespread condemnation, including from within his party, and comes just 10 days after queer activists were allegedly bashed outside one of his pre-election speeches.

Ms Hanson, the federal senator and One Nation leader, said Mr Latham was not returning her calls last night.

"I want you to know that I don't condone them [the comments], and neither do my members of parliament or party associates," Ms Hanson said in a video statement.

"I think they are disgusting.

"I have actually tried to ring Mark a couple of times, to no avail … and also I've asked him to give the people an apology."

Mr Greenwich said he was not expecting an apology and that he planned not to engage with the matter further.

"We know that some people seek to target the LGBTQ community to get attention, I don't intend to help them with that," he said.

"When you're in public office, and public life, as an openly, proud gay man, you're going to get targeted.

"But I focus more on the majority of people across the state who love, support and celebrate the LGBTQ community."

He later posted a tweet of his own, showing a picture of him with husband Victor Hoeld.

"For those wondering how I'm doing after Latham's homophobic attacks today, I'm fine and I'm more motivated than ever to deliver long overdue LGBTIQA+ reforms … and I have the most handsome husband."


The unsafe Safeguard Mechanism

And so, the Greens have joined the ALP in imposing additional carbon taxes on the top 215 greenhouse gas emitting firms. In passing the so-called Safeguard Mechanism, the voluntary program that the Coalition originally introduced is converted into a requirement on the nation’s top mining and industrial firms to reduce their emissions by 30 per cent by 2030. Those emissions are said to be 137 million tonnes a year. Their curtailment builds up to constitute 40 million tonnes a year. This is in addition to abatement measures already in place, which confer a subsidy on wind and solar, that has enabled those energy sources to displace a quarter of the supply formerly provided by coal.

One way to meet the new reductions is by internal measures (for some firms, like AGL, this simply means closing down generation facilities). Alternatively, the targeted firms can supply or buy emission reduction certificates under one of the schemes managed by the Clean Energy Regulator and state governments.

The Commonwealth schemes create large-scale generation certificates (LGCs) and small-scale generation certificates (STCs) by requiring electricity retailers to include increasing shares of wind/solar energy in their supply mix. The certificates only have a value because governments have placed (hidden) regulatory obligations on consumers to buy them. Unlike goods offered in normal markets, the certificates have no intrinsic worth but confer a value of $40-90 per MWh on the renewable supplies. That is more than the total average market price of electricity that prevailed before the subsidies themselves undermined the economics of supply from coal generation.

Anthony Albanese and Energy Minister Chris Bowen, drawing off faulty CSIRO analysis and the pressures of the renewables lobby, maintain that renewables are already the cheapest form of energy. That belief is largely behind their concoction of a $275 per annum reduction in household energy prices that they claimed their ambitious renewable replacement policy would bring.

The irony of all this – and one the ALP and their media supporters missed – is that if renewables really were cheaper the subsidy these schemes confer on them and the penalties they impose on coal and gas would be an unnecessary cost.

The previous government introduced a further scheme, which was funded from the budget, that created Australian Carbon Credit Units (ACCUs) that confer a value on selected activities. The ACCUs, like generation certificates, subsidise high-cost measures thereby increasing the cost of living. Eligible activities include carbon capture and storage, converting farmland to bush, and capture of waste gas. The ACCUs have provided a cheaper means of meeting obligations but Greens in Australia and elsewhere have (correctly) come to view them as con jobs that are easily manipulated and provide no real emission reduction. Hence, as part of the deal to pass the Safeguard Mechanism, their use is to be sharply curtailed. Naturally, farmers and carbon capture subsidy seekers are spitting chips at their loss of taxpayer largesse.

The creation of new LGCs is the most likely alternative to shutting down facilities and moving production offshore (which, of course, brings no consequent reduction in emissions!). These will come at a likely price of around $80 per tonne (roughly $80 per MWh). The cost of the 40 million additional tonnes the 215 targeted facilities are to abate annually by 2030 would therefore be some $320 million a year. As this would largely be imposed on the internationally tradable sector it will, of itself, severely dent the nation’s competitiveness and income levels.

But the Greens boast that, through the concessions they have won in acceding to the government’s measures, they will create additional damage. Some of this is due to the restriction on the use of the cheaper ACCU means of firms buying out their new liabilities under the Safeguard Mechanism. In addition, they claim that the government will be obliged to restrain all new or expanded coal and gas proposals.

The measures certainly introduce new machinery that intensifies the government’s oversight and approval of new proposals. That is a real bonus for a government seeking to ensure support from major producers and to constrain their criticism. It also promises considerable new outlets for lobbyists in their roles of not-so-hidden persuaders and in confecting plans that get promising new proposals over the regulatory hurdles.

These outcomes constitute an Antipodean form of fascism. As a vehicle for greater economic control, the present government finds this irresistible but it will bog down the economy in the tentacles of political corruption and new layers of costs.


Conservative Australians should be very angry

John Howard was a conservative. He won, again and again and again. Tony Abbott was a conservative. He won a landslide. Scott Morrison dressed himself up as a conservative and won his first election before shedding his conservative clothes and lost his second one. Turnbull, the luvvies’ preferred Prime Minister, only survived by the skin of his teeth and lost Abbott’s huge majority.

Virtually every state election across the nation in the last decade has seen Woke Liberal parties getting thrashed. Dominic Perrottet is just another in the long list of non-conservative conservatives. Can we please stop this errant nonsense that the Liberal party needs to become more like its opponents in order to win?

What Liberals actually need to do is to start fighting for the freedoms and values at all levels of our daily lives that are being daily tossed onto a Labor and the Greens bonfire of virtues and vanities.

Leftist parties will always win on emotional issues and utopian fantasies. The job is much harder for conservatives. Conservatives must argue from sound principles grounded in hard-earned experience and sell concepts that are anathema to the laptop class – concepts such as thrift, hard work, sacrifice, the Protestant work ethic, dedication, individual freedoms, resilience, and above all equality of opportunity not equality of outcome.

Conservative values, by recognising the weaknesses of human behaviour as well as the strengths, are grounded in reality. Leftist values, grounded in fantasies, lies, and fabrications, are easy to sell but impossible to deliver. Only a strong, single-minded conservative convictions-based leader can ever point this out.

(A classic example: in the Sky News Australia debate, despite performing well, Dominic Perrottet allowed his opponent to repeatedly trash ‘privatisation’, without once pointing out that the only alternative to a market based on the notion of profit is socialism, which always leads to more inequality, not less. How can Liberals ever hope to succeed if they refuse to defend and more importantly explain even the most basic economic free market principles?)

Traditional Australians should be very angry with the Liberals. The factional warlords have squandered the genuine faith mainstream Australians put in the Liberals to be the party to protect them from the ravages of the Left. Instead, they have time after time simply pandered to them. Name a cultural issue, and you’ll find the Liberals have simply vacated the field.

(Another example: after correctly resisting Labor’s calls to stick the Aboriginal flag on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge – a hugely important symbolic victory to the Indigenous activist class of ceding sovereignty – Mr Perrottet, as Premier, turned around and did exactly that before compounding the error by supporting the Voice. Or another: Kean and Morrison capitulated to the climate cult and were lauded by the activist classes, but not only went on to lose the next election but in one fell swoop destroyed their most powerful weapon the Liberals once had against the Left.)

Only Peter Dutton can save the day. Only Peter Dutton can return the Liberals to power within the next three years. But to do so he must fight with every sinew in his being. He must expose the vile agenda behind the extremist trans movement. He must oppose the Voice without further ado. He must insist on the removal of the nuclear moratorium. He must abandon Net Zero. He must rescue our children from the permissiveness of the more extreme parts of the LGBTQ+ activist agenda within our schools. He must fight for small business in the face of Labor’s hard-left industrial relations regime and the unions. He must denounce Labor’s fantasies about EVs and green hydrogen for the snake oil that they are.

No more excuses. No more flirting with the Teal agenda to try and pacify the doctors’ wives. No more selling out conservatives in the name of the supposed ‘broad church’. No more putting ‘moderates’ into key economic or political positions.

Fighters win fights and only fighters win the future. Cowards and appeasers are destined for the dustbin of history. Take a look around you, Liberal Australia. Wall-to-wall Labor. Wokeness means weakness. You have betrayed the people who put so much faith in you. Conservatives want a party they can believe in.


Blame politicians, not teachers

Our political elite are to blame for our educational malaise, not our educators…

At the start of another academic year, a quick survey of the educational scene is in order. Unsurprisingly, as anyone who’s taken even a cursory glance at our schools will note, the results are grim. Along with our slide down the PISA scales, there are plans to reform NAPLAN, install tutors in classrooms, and abolish the ATAR. All of this occurs alongside the sobering realisation that for all our increases in technology and funding, little has been achieved in tangible results.

In fact, we’ve gone backwards. As the latest PISA results show, over the last two decades Australia has slipped from being a top-ten performer to a country that fails to ‘exceed the OECD average in one of the assessment domains’. We’ve dropped ‘from fourth to 16th in reading, eighth to 17th in science and 11th to 29th in maths’. Even the commercial media are talking about a ‘crisis in education’.

Who’s to blame then? That’s easy: teachers. Across the political divide, there has been a unanimous answer to our educational malaise: we lack quality teachers. As piece after piece after piece has pointed out, improving teacher quality is the easiest way to lift educational outcomes and productivity.

It’s no surprise then that figures like Victoria’s Shadow Minister for Education, Matthew Bach, have waded into these murky old waters. Writing in The Australian and Spectator Australia, he cites a Productivity Commission report summarising the prevailing wisdom by stating, ‘…the largest single factor in student success, and their ability to go on and make a meaningful economic contribution, is teacher quality.’

Cue then the usual easy answers to what has been an intractable problem. Per Bach et al, what’s needed are relevant reforms: something inclusive of a higher ATAR entrance and a training regime with ‘meaningful and rigorous systems of teacher appraisal’. Simply put, hire brighter teachers and give them the right tools and training, and decades of decline will vanish overnight.

This is clearly not the response we require. In part, it’s impractical and tautological. In any field of endeavour, having higher-quality practitioners will lead to better results. Better chefs will improve our restaurants; better builders our houses. And dare I say it, better politicians will improve our politics. If Canberra expects a Montessori in every classroom, are we not entitled to a Metternich in return? Speaking as a qualified teacher, I can confirm that – like all jobs – our teachers reflect the usual range of abilities and intelligence. And that the majority carry out their roles with aplomb.

Yet this is not the primary problem. While there is some truth to the remarks that teachers have a part to play, it is my opinion that their main function is to obfuscate. The goal is to shift our social failures onto teachers and away from politicians. It’s a cynical ploy designed to exculpate the political class for their vast errors and offer up teachers in return. It appears to have become little more than a vanity project in which the innumerable problems now afflicting education and the economy can be alleviated with a sole teacher-led silver bullet.

As those really responsible for our decline are our elite and not our educators. A notion that is evident with even the most basic logic. For one, we already have a generation that has spent much more time in education than their predecessors – with more of us earning a degree than ever – for far inferior results. How do we square the circle that prior teachers – with their one year ‘dip-eds’ – spent far less time in training for far superior results?

Primarily, what recommendations such as Bach’s ignore is the decline in the social context in which teaching takes place. As like many such articles, little mention is made of the vast socio-cultural changes that have taken place and within which schools now operate.

The most obvious is our diversity. As is often noted, Australia is one of the most diverse societies in the world. Something that is not unrelated to our educational decline. As unfortunately for the cosmopolitans, per Pisa, the most successful education systems tend to be found in places of profound homogeneity. Aside from Singapore, the best-performing systems are in traditionalist locales like East Asia and Eastern Europe – and not the liberal West.

The negative effects of diversity are also witnessed within countries. As American author and educator Freddie de Boer has noted, there are a large and persistent gaps in educational attainment between different groups – and of which teachers can do little.

Related to this is the issue of classroom management. A notion that is the sine qua non of teaching and without with no learning can take place. This is something that continually successful systems such as Japan take for granted, yet it’s an area in which Australia performs particularly badly.

As a recent article in The Australian observed, our educators are now on the front lines of ‘classroom war zones’. A trend that has led to staff shortages as teachers leave the profession in droves as they are ‘stabbed…kicked…[and] bitten’. As the OECD confirms ‘Australian classrooms are among the least disciplined in the world’ with a third of surveyed students reporting that ‘the teacher has to wait a long time for students to quieten down’ and that ‘students don’t listen’.

This is not to mention even more extreme cases. Aside from ill-discipline and poor behaviour, pupils are now permitted religiously-sanctioned weapons, students are stabbed in schools, and schoolboys are killed in gang riots. On top of this are the increasing number of students with some form of learning disability such as ADHD or autism.

The state of the family is another concern. Even in schools of relative success and stability, many children are now attending without the support of a stay-at-home mum or traditional two-parent family. A trend that’s predictive of an assortment of negative outcomes and that starts from the earliest years of education. As American author Mary Eberstadt has observed, more time in child care and away from parents correlates with maladies such as sickness, disobedience, and aggression.

These are trends that are evident in Australia too. Despite the desires of our politicians, the farming out of infants to the State is not in their best interests or ours. Most importantly, even the much-touted economic calculus doesn’t add up. As Virginia Tapscott recently noted in The Australian:

Even the economic rationale of childcare has been called into question. While group care is the cheaper option in the short term due to a high carer to child ratio, the likes of Peter Cook, an Australian family psychiatrist, and Jay Belsky, a researcher with the University of California, have long argued that the consequences of childcare make it more expensive than parent care in the long run.

As like much economic thinking, it fails to consider non-economic criteria. In essence, many of the benefits of childcare are illusory. As Tapscott, citing the Australian psychiatrist Peter Cook, states: ‘Generous parental leave and caregiver support … would actually cost less than the consequences of parental absence.’

That’s right: it’s cheaper (and better) in the long run for parents to actually parent their children than to hand them off to strangers and the State. Childcare is thus a false economy. Like cheap wine or junk food, it’s something that appears to be a ‘financial saving at the outset but ends up leading to greater expenditure’.

All of which is related to our broader subordination of education to economics. Witness the state of our universities, for example. Now dominated by (full fee-paying) foreign students, tertiary education in Australia has become a farce: with worries by academics about the decline in literacy, numeracy, and academic standards ignored by administrators only concerned about the bottom line.

An explicit focus on teachers (and teaching) also ignores the main social trends taking place and against which teachers are essentially impotent. Book reading is down. Screen time is up. As is the continued dominance of America-led liberalism and its vulgar tendencies: like Hollywood, fast-food, and the coarseness and crudity it promotes. An ‘Empire of Lies’, as some have called it.

So by all means, train our teachers as well as we can. But don’t use them as a scapegoats for an elite-led social failure. It’s the political class who are to blame for our malaise, not our educators. It’s they who’ve changed the character of our schools and suburbs. It’s they who’ve reduced education to a business. It’s they who’ve helped eviscerate the family. It’s they who’ve overseen the deterioration in reading and culture. They are to blame for our decline, not our teachers.




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