AUSTRALIAN EDUCATION BUDGET May 2017

 

 

Minerva
MINERVA MEDICA, ROMAN GODDESS OF WISDOM, SCIENCE, COMMERCE, MEDICINE AND ULTIMATELY WAR.(crystallinks.com)

Preamble

Two pillars fundamental to Australia’s survival are education and export income; the May budget apparently does not  recognise this fact. Today, comment will be confined to the education budget while the June contribution will examine  the budget implications for Australia’s export income.

Before discussing budget issues it is useful to recognise where Australia is situated vis-a-vis global education standards and our national degree of preparation to embrace the current reality of automation and artificial intelligence. On education standards the OECD  (March 2015) league tables indicate Australia ranks 14th behind Poland, Vietnam and Germany. Australia ranks 19th behind the United States and United Kingdom in secondary school enrolment rates. The Program for International Students Assessment (PISA) shows a striking decline for Australia between years 2000 and 2012 – for Maths down from 6th to 19th, Science from 8th to 16th and Reading down from 4th to 13th. The results speak for themselves. However, the burning question is – are competitor countries improving or is Australia just getting worse?

PISA
Australia. Decline in OECD-PISA Ranking in Reading, Maths ,Science (OECD)

At the Davos Economic Forum in January, the Committee on Artificial Intelligence noted Australian business is not ready to embrace the concept or the mathematics of artificial intelligence. The rate of Australian skills uptake and its poor grasp of STEM subjects increases the risk of its industry becoming uncompetitive. In recent years Professor Chubb, former Chief Scientist, frequently mentioned Australia’s serious STEM deficit.

STEM
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY ,ENGINEERING, MATHS – THE HOLY GRAIL FOR AUSTRALIA (Shutterstock)

Secondary Education.

There are five problems Australia must solve if it is to improve OECD rankings:

  • Teachers must obtain a Masters degree or higher.
  • Teaching must be raised to the status of the medical and legal professions.
  • The fractious State Education Departments must be replaced by a unified Federal system.
  • Australian parents must exert greater discipline on home studies.
  • Universities must be recognised as integral to Australia’s future and funded to recognise their export reality and innovation potential.

In assessing the OECD rankings of other countries, it is relevant to know which operate under a unified education system. Endeavouring to read between the lines of the Budget discussions, the Budget does not appear to be addressing Australia’s fundamental education problems.

A cunning Plan
BUDGET 2017. A CUNNING PLAN TO STEM THE SLIDE (abc.net.au)

A weakness of the budget forecast is it extends beyond the forward estimates period and is thus vulnerable to regime change. Below is an attempt to distill the core of the budget:

  • There will be an attempt to halt declining academic standards. This policy will be funded by an $81.1 billion expenditure over  four years boosted by $18.6 billion over ten years.
  • Professor Gonski has been reappointed to decide on expenditure priorities and to direct the program. From this, it implies the Government is unsure of its own priorities.
  • The School Reserve Standard (SRS) grants seek to ensure all schools provide education on a level playing field, an important issue but on its own will have little effect on overall ranking.

Prior to the budget, The Australian (9 November ’16) under the banner ‘How to improve teacher performance’  provided a glimpse into State education plans –all disparate:

  • NSW – is attempting teacher improvement through a ‘Great Teaching Inspired Learning’ initiative.
  • Qld – is targeting teacher quality to attract the best and is introducing teacher training modules.
  • SA – is offering 200 scholarships of $20,000 each towards Masters degrees. This appears to be attacking the root of the problem.
  • WA – is providing more teacher training internships.
  • Vic – is working on a policy to enhance teacher quality to improve student outcomes.

Dr G Craven, President of the Catholic University and Chairman of the Federal Government Teacher Education Advisory Board, has provided an insight into the problem bedevilling the system. There is an obsession with new teachers which is that young motivated teachers are showing under-performing teachers in a bad light. This obsession is part of an ‘industrial surrender’ by the State Education Ministers, all preoccupied with the blame game instead of investing in education.  There are education unions who do not wish to see innovation or improvement rolled out through the entire teacher population.

The Federal Minister for Education, the Hon S Birmingham, supports Dr Craven’s comments under the mantra ‘Quality Schools – Quality Outcomes’. This would hopefully produce effective policy and changes to the industrial relations agreements which will link pay progression  to nationally agreed professional standards.

The  initiatives of the State Education Departments will not solve the problem of Australia’s declining OECD rankings or STEM deficiency rankings. This problem will only be solved by raising the status and standards of teachers, amalgamating State  education departments under a unified system, and learning from those countries that are more highly ranked. This problem cannot be solved during the life of a single parliament.

Tertiary Education

The University of New South Wales Chancellor, Dr Ian Jacobs, (UNSW News Room, 9 May 2017) has commented that current Government policy on universities is not in Australia’s long term interest. The policy implies universities are an expenditure problem not a long term investment. A recent OECD global study indicated that six Australian universities were in the top one hundred in the world. A Deloitte study recently concluded university research accounts for 10% of Australian GDP, that is $160 billion per year.

The remarks by Dr Jacobs are in response to the 2017 Budget which has cut funding to Universities by $384 million over two years. The mechanism for this reduction is an ‘efficiency dividend’ of 2.5% and a reduction in student contributions of 1.8%. (The Conversation, 9 May 2017)

It is unsurprising Australia is in free fall on the OECD league tables. The funding history and current policy illustrate why. In 1974, the Commonwealth provided 90% of university income. By 2010 this had reduced to 42% and by 2014 it was 20% for the major research universities. This hollowing out of a principal driver to the Australian economy has been supported by both Labor and Liberal to the present day. In 2016 the Government proposed a 20% funding cut in  science, engineering, social science and arts education – this during a STEM controversy.

 

Parliament of Australia Budget Office

Projection of Nominal Government Higher Education Expenditure to 2025 ($billion nominal terms)

University Funding
PROJECTION OF NOMINAL UNIVERSITY FUNDING (ABS)

The big picture is that Australian spending on higher education has remained static at 1.6% of GDP for some years while the figures for Canada and the United States is around 2.6 to 2.8% of GDP. Australian student fees are now the highest in the OECD – and that does not include the 2017 budget increase.

This ‘penny pinching’ must be viewed against the value of export income derived from the value of international student education. This constitutes Australia’s highest value services export and third most valuable export after coal and iron ore. Data published by the AFR (3 Feb. 2016) indicate Australia hosts 555,000 foreign students in a population of 1.3 million students, i.e. 46% worth, an amount of $19 billion which is ahead of tourism at $16 billion.

Export income from students is increasing.

Foreign Students

Dr Jacobs further indicated that Australia’s high academic ranking and proven track record proves there is enormous potential for economic diversification and growth. This is being destroyed by short sighted budget cuts and proposed visa restrictions on well educated foreigners. It is a sad commentary when the Federal Government is in sync with One Nation on its policy to the entry of foreigners to Australia.

Australia’s mantra  should be “education, innovation, exports”,
NOT 
 “jobs and growth” or “fairness, opportunity, security”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TIMELINES & FAULTLINES, AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY. May 2017.

Book Cover
TANAMI DESERT, CENTRAL AUSTRALIA. SUNSET, 1988

TIMELINES & FAULTLINES chronicles the saga of a mining geologist,  John Hugh Hill. His life has spanned the turbulent 20th  Century and into the fraught decades of the 21st Century, from the rise of militant Nazi fascism, the implosion of the Soviet Union and to the rise of militant Islam. He lives in non-retirement in New South Wales, Australia.

This fascinating book is published by Austen Macauley, London and is available from Amazon and major bookshops.

British Solomon Islands Protectorate, Western Pacific, 1957-1959.

In the mid-1950s Japanese war wrecks  littered the coast of Guadalcanal. Americans bombed the retreating Japanese troops, rather than sinking at sea vessels were beached to avoid death in shark infested water.

 

Japanese Transport

Interior of Guadalcanal. Women returning from jungle gardens. In early missionary years Melanesians were encouraged to resettle along malaria infested coastlines, endemic malaria and malnutrition was a continuing problem.

Melanesian women

CYCLONE DEBBIE – AN OMEN – April 2017

Cyclone Debbie
CYCLONE DEBBIE CROSSES THE QUEENSLAND COAST (BOM)


CYCLONE DEBBIE –  AN EXERCISE IN TREND ANALYSIS
Trend Analysis is a technique used to estimate and predict future climate.

CYCLONE DEBBIE – THEOI METEORO

Deb Trail
DEBBIE’S TRAIL repeated thousands of times. (newsltd)

The return of the Greek Gods of Sky and Weather, Theoi Meteoroi, have spawned Cyclone Debbie, a category 5 storm which crossed the Queensland coast in March 2017. Considered in isolation, this was no more than an aberrant destructive event, however, considered as an emerging sequence of devastating cyclones, it raises serious implications for stable long term economic development. A review of significant cyclones in north-east Queensland is instructive. Over the past thirty four years two patterns of damaging cyclones are discernible. The Table summarises destructive cyclones since 1986, that is, seventeen years either side of 2000 AD.

TABLE –  Destructive Cyclones

1983 -20001983 - 20002000- 20172000 - 2017
YEARNAME - CATEGORYYEARNAME - CATEGORY
1997JUSTIN - C22017DEBBIE - C5
1995BOBBY - C42015MARIA - C5
1989ORSEN - C52014ITA - C4
1986WINIFRED - C32011YASI - C4
2006LARRY -C4

Summarising, in the seventeen years prior to 2000 there were four significant cyclones; in the following seventeen years to 2017 there were five devastating cyclones. In the past four years Queensland has been lashed by three cyclones. Estimated damage costs to the public and private sector over this period exceeds $5 billion. The cost to the national economy will have an adverse  ripple effect although the reconstruction of thousands of buildings and infrastructure will produce a spike in the local economy. This is unfortunately ‘dead’ money that cannot be used to produce export oriented income. Agriculture and tourism projects will be destroyed, some permanently.

TRENDS IN OCEAN TEMPERATURES
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has published data showing global sea surface temperature increase from the 1880s base line is 0.6°C and is trending higher. There is a disturbing corroboration of ‘amazing records’ from the Coral Sea lapping the Queensland coast. Temperatures of 0.7°C ( in places as high as 2°C) above the average temperature of 29.16°C have been obtained. (SMH, April 2015)SST NOAAGlobal Sea Surface temperature trend – 1880-2015 (NOAA)

Recent data from the Coral Sea lapping north Queensland have recorded sea surface temperatures of 0.73°C above recent average temperatures. (The Conversation, April 2016) The  historical  and inexorable rise in sea surface temperatures compiled by the BOM was recently published by The Conversation. (April 2016)

Sea Temperature
Sea Surface temperature Trend – Australian Region 1900 – 2015 (BOM)

TRENDS IN GREEN HOUSE GAS CONCENTRATIONS
Green house gas concentrations, carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere, prevent global heat loss, hence global warming. For the past 800,000 years atmospheric carbon dioxide levels have not exceeded 300 ppm. Due to the expansion of the Industrial Revolution, the 1950s, carbon dioxide levels now exceed 400 ppm and are trending higher. (United States Environmental Protection Agency)

Carbon Dioxide
Rising CarbonDioxide levels in the atmosphere for last 800,000 years and for the last sixty years. (EPA)

The trend in global temperature increase entered a critical phase in 1990. Between 1990 and 2013, NOAA established that the ‘radiative force’ (which is the warming effect caused by green house gases) has risen by 34% on the previous measured period. (The Guardian, September 2014)

 

 

 

 

CO2 conc

CLIMACTIC FUTURE
Homo sapiens has created its own unique, but probably damned, geological era – the Anthropecene. The International Panel on  Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that, if this species does not drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels, it will take around fifty years to stabilise the emerging climate. Irrespective, global temperatures will still rise by an estimated 0.6°C thus aggregating to about a 1.3°C increase. This is approaching the catastrophic 2°C level.

Current carbon dioxide concentrations will remain in the atmosphere for thousands of years and, after millennia, the gas would be laid down as carbonate rocks on the sea floor of Mother Earth. (The Conversation, IPCC, December 2014)

The bottom line emanating from Cyclone Debbie is that, if fossil fuels continue to be utilised at the current rate, global warming will rise closer towards 2°C by the mid-2030s, thus crossing the threshold that will harm human civilisation. ( R E  Mann, Scientific American, April 2014)

0 DEUS, NOS NISI, NOSTRAE TIBI PECCAVIMUS
Oh God, save us, for we have sinned.

 

 

 

TIMELINES & FAULTLINES. An Autobiography. April 2017

TIMELINES & FAULTLINES  chronicles the saga of a mining geologist, John Hill. His life has spanned the turbulent 20th Century and into the early fraught decades of the 21st Century; from the  rise and fall of militant Nazi fascism to the rise of militant Islam. He lives in non-retirement in New South Wales.

BOOK COVER –  TIMELINES & FAULTLINES

Book Cover. Time Lines and Fault Lines
TANAMI DESERT, CENTRAL AUSTRALIA.  SUNSET IN GOLD  MINING  COUNTRY.


RUSSIAN FEDERATION – PHOENIX RISING

During the 1990s, John Hill experienced the implosion of a decayed Soviet Union and the rise of cowboy capitalism in a flawed Russian Federation riven by obscene wealth and death in winter snowdrifts.

Moscow State University
 MOSCOW STATE UNIVERSITY

The Moscow State University dominates the Moscow skyline. It was built by German prisoners of war under the whiphand of Joseph Stalin (Iosif  Vissarionovich  Dzhugashvili). It was here, while lecturing in mining economics, that I joined in vodka and black caviar sessions and virulent political discussions.

 

Gulag Memorial

THE MASK OF SORROW – Gulag Memorial, Magadan

The ‘Mask of Sorrow’ overlooks the port of Magadan on the Sea of Okhotsk. Through this port passed thousands of political prisoners on their way to terrible deaths on the Kolyma goldfields. Hundreds of kilometres north of Magadan I worked in freezing conditions and experienced the Russian banya (Turkish baths), flagellation with branches, vodka toasts and more violent political discussion.

This fascinating book is published by Austin Macauley, London, and is available now from Amazon and major book shops.

TIMELINES & FAULT LINES – an AUTOBIOGRAPHY

 

Book cover:
Sunset, Tanami Desert,  Central Australia, 1988

TIMELINES & FAULTLINES  chronicles the saga of mining geologist, John Hugh Hill, which includes:     Antarctic whaling;  the Witwatersrand Gold Mines; Solomon Islands’ jungle;  the ethnic cauldron of Malaya;  the flesh spots of South East Asia;  the deserts of Australia;  Siberian gulag  country and Brazilian garimpeiros.

Ulu Terengganu,  Malaya, 1963

Life in the Malayan jungle comprised a mélange of leeches, tigers, elephants, scorpions, snakes, the remnants of the Chinese guerilla   insurgency, everlasting damp and rain. Jungle travel was by
panga-cleared tracks or by bamboo rafts.

Terenggan River. Bamboo Rafts 1963Terenggan River transport:  Bamboo Rafts 1963

Published by Austin Macauley, London.  Available from Amazon, Kindle and major bookshops.

 

TIME LINES & FAULT LINES. AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY

Book Cover
TANAMI DESERT, CENTRAL AUSTRALIA. SUNSET

 

J H HillJOHN HILL,  AUTHOR
SYDNEY COVE DURING A POLAR VORTEX, 2016.

TIME LINES & FAULT LINES  chronicles the life of mining geologist, John Hugh Hill,  from the days of sail to Antarctic whaling, the gold mines of the Witwatersrand, the jungles of the Solomon Islands, the ethnic cauldron of Malaya, the flesh spots of South-East  Asia, the deserts of Australia,  the gulags of Eastern Siberia and the garimpeiros of Brazil.
He now resides in Pearl Beach, NSW, Australia, planning further literary works.

Cambornemv CAMBORNE, THREE-MASTED TOPSAIL SCHOONER.
Early years as a deckhand.

This is a saga of social disruption before WW1: a small boy’s experience of  WW2, the decline of a Western Empire, painful politics and current social disruption. The Appendix, “Mankind in Affray”, is a thought provoking finale.

This book is published by Austin Macauley, London, and is now available at book stores and on line.

 

 

 

 

AUSTRALIA & DAVOS FORUM.
27 February 2017

 

 

Industry DepartureTHE HOLLOWING OUT OF AUSTRALIAN INDUSTRY

 

THE WORLD ECONOMIC FORUM, DAVOS & THE A50 ECONOMIC FORUM, SYDNEY

Preamble
Two recent events, vital to Australia’s hazy future, have run their course for another year: the first in January, the World Economic Forum, Davos, Switzerland and the second in February, the A50 Economic Forum (dubbed the mini-Davos) at the Sydney Opera House.

Davos was an international collective of powerful global CEOs and major political decision makers. Their final communiqué was one of dire warning. The A50 meeting in Sydney was a Federal Government initiative to invite fifty potential foreign investors overseeing $17 billion of investment funds, part of which might find their way to Australia. There are economic headwinds and navigational hazards to be negotiated before investors can reach a decision. (AFR Weekend, 8 Feb. 2017)

 

The World Economic Forum, Davos
To return to Davos – the final communique warned that, as technological, demographic and climate pressures intensify, there is a danger of systems failure (SA energy crisis and NSW partial power crisis). Competition between world powers and fragmentation of security efforts will put collective prosperity and survival at risk. There are three specific concerns, none of which are of an economic issue (Future Finance, 15 Jan. 2017):

  • proliferation and use of weapons of mass destruction,
  • rise of nationalism and declining cooperation between world powers,
  • climate change leading to crisis and disaster.

The Forum did emphasise the moral and ethical dilemmas of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. To date the Homo sapiens Revolutions through the Anthropocene have been:

  • First – from agrarian to coal/steam power,
  • Second – urbanisation, electricity and mass production,
  • Third – digital and mass travel,
  • Fourth – internet, robotics and artificial intelligence.

An urgent problem of the current Revolution is the need to invest in young people and the increasing risk of rising inequality between the techno-super rich and the rising underclass. Concerning the construction and application or artificial intelligence (robots), it was recorded that Australian business is not ready to embrace Artificial Intelligence. Participants in a seminar involving USA, UK, Canada, Australia, China, France, India and Germany concluded Australia was trailing in skills uptake and risks becoming uncompetitive due to a poor grasp of STEM subjects. (The Guardian, 25 Jan, 2017)

The take-home message from the World Economic Forum for Australia is:

  • Australia is lagging in its preparation for Artificial Intelligence due to inadequate STEM skills,
  • The seeds of social instability are starting to germinate due to loss of industry to Asia, unaffordable housing and under employment,
  • Australia’s relative decline in GDP (corroborated by CSIRO electricity consumption forecasts) is partly due to small population. Unlike Canada, Australia does not have the United States as an adjacent trading partner.

 

The A50 Economic Forum, Sydney
In early February, hard on the heels of the debilitating Davos findings, Australia hosted an investment seminar for fifty principals responsible for $17 trillion of investment funds. The purpose was to assess  Australia’s economy (infrastructure and property markets) for investment opportunities and to determine the probability of economic survival following the resources slow-down and the fragmentation of the global trading patterns. These giants of the financial world will arrive at their own conclusions aware Australia is facing economic uncertainty due to several factors:

  • Credit Ratings  The credit rating agencies, Standard & Poor’s, Fitch, Moody’s, have warned Australia that its AAA credit rating might be down graded if the budget situation does not improve.
  • Corporate Tax Rate  The Government’s intention to reduce industry tax rate from 30% to 25% over four years may be too little too late and may not impress investors. The tax rates of Australia’s competitors are comparable to that of the Australian proposal e.g. Korea 24%, Malaysia 25%, Thailand 20%, Canada 15-25%, India 30% and Japan 32% . A potential bomb shell is that if the USA reduces the tax rate to 15% and boosts infrastructure spending, there will be a flight of capital to the USA from Australia. This would be a bad outcome for Australia.
  • Imputation and GST  Although some nations have a higher tax rate than Australia, its Achilles Heel is the dividend imputation and the 10% GST. Since Australia does not tax dividends the Government will suffer a huge revenue loss when combined with the reduced income when the lower corporate tax kicks in. Industrialised countries normally do not provide this tax free wind fall to shareholders. Without the burden of imputation corporate tax rate would fall to 19%. The rational policy would be to remove imputation – politically this is not possible. With GST the sensible option would be to increase this to 15% to provide the Government with extra income – politically this does not appear possible either. GST for other industrialised nations are Germany 19%, New Zealand 15%, United Kingdom 20%, Japan 8%.  (Weekend Australian, 25 Feb. 2017)
  • Sovereign Risk  A50 investors may seek explanation of why the Australian Government rejected a bid for NSW Ausgrid by CK Infrastructure Holdings, Hong Kong, in 2016. Among discussion points it is possible that the expanding role of Chinese investment in the Australian energy industry will become a topic for conversation. An approximation of Chinese investment in this industry is:
    –    NSW   Energy Australia is partly owned by Chinese Light and Power,
    –    ACT   50% of power distribution is owned by Singapore Power International,
    –    VIC   CK Infrastructure, Hong Kong, owns 51% of Citi Power. CK Infrastructure has also bid $7.6 billion for Duet Energy
    which controls  gas pipelines in Victoria and Western Australia,
    –    SA    CK Infrastructure owns 51% of SA Power Networks.

Extreme Events
Confidence in the Australian power industry may have suffered by recent power failures in South Australia and New South Wales. In both cases, there were extensive power failures and heavy industry was required to cut power consumption, or lost power to major industrial complexes, namely – the BHP Cu-U Olympic Dam project, the Arrium steel mill, Whyalla, and the AGL Tomago aluminium smelter, Newcastle. If the violent winds and high temperatures have already caused these problems so early in the Anthropocene then far worse extreme weather may be expected in the period 2020 to 2030.

Australia’s Growth Projections
The Australian Electricity Market Report to 2020 and 2030 provides an estimate of future power consumption. Two growth scenarios are suggested. The first estimate suggests an annual growth rate between zero and 2.5% with a declining rate over time reflecting slow population growth. Uncertainties for this prognosis are exchange rates and manufacturing competitiveness, household energy use and the relative balance of centralised, on-site and off-site electricity generation. The second estimate considers consumption growth will be below 2% a year which is below the projected national economy growth rate. (CSIRO, EP141067,2014)

 

Postamble
The messages for Australia from Davos and Sydney are:

  • A Davos panel considers Australian business is less prepared for the Fourth Revolution than other industrialised nations.
  • The threat of a downgrade to Australia’s AAA credit rating  exists.
  • The Government is facing a significant revenue loss from the combined effects of a lower tax rate, dividend imputation and a low GST.
  • Australia is regarded as a stable investment platform but investors may require an explanation on the nature of Chinese investment and control in the National energy industry.
  • The effect of recent extreme weather events on Australian power security will be scrutinised.
  • Investors require stable growing markets – the growth projections for population and energy consumption will be closely scrutinised.

 

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AUSTRALIA DAY 2017 Sequel

 

Celebrating What
CELEBRATING WHAT??
(australiadental.com.au)

OBSERVATIONS FROM THE BARRICADES

On Australia Day morning I manned the barricades to keep vehicles out and merrymakers safe while participating in the Pearl Beach patriotic festivities. Celebrating  what? The character of our celebrations are far removed from those of other ex-colonial nations, Canada, United States, Brazil, Argentina and New Zealand, (Australia Day Prequel).

Returning to the barricades, there was a stark difference in celebratory effusion between people who passed across my checkpoint. Almost without exception, New Australians of Arabic, African and southern European extraction waved flags and enthusiastically greeted me  with “Happy Australia Day”. No doubt those from war torn, corrupt regimes would have much to celebrate. Conversely, almost without exception, long-domiciled Australians were less enthusiastic and a trifle reticent in their greeting. Perhaps a ‘life not meant to be easy’ is giving a lie to ‘Our Golden Soil and Wealth for Toil’ for too many of us. Question Time antics in the House does not inspire public confidence that Government policy will solve today’s problems.

 

PAYMENT OF RESPECT TO ALL AUSTRALIANS

First Australians
DESCENDANTS OF THE FIRST AUSTRALIANS
(buzzfeed.co)

It is right that at diverse meetings across this Land, Australians should pay respects to the First People to colonise Australia Felix, for example, the Gadigal people of the Sydney region and the Ngunnawal people around Canberra. Missing from these respects is a recognition that, wherever we are gathered, the Australian nation owes its prosperity, safety, freedom and culture to European settlers and pioneers who created the foundation for the Australia of today.

Australian Pioneers
AUSTRALIAN PIONEERS (beadsguru.blogspot.com)

It is concerning that too many younger Australians, in their comfortable surrounds, are unaware of the debt they owe their forebears and other early settlers. Payment of respects to all Australian Pioneers might provide an ethos for Australia and provide the  Nation with a focus for our National Day.

Young Australians
COMFORTABLE YOUNG AUSTRALIANS
(border.gov.au)

Australia is a nation of immigrants (convicts, settlers. Chinese miners, Ten Pound Poms, boat people). A pillar for social cohesion amongst the Australian nation can only be ‘One Law of the Land’, inviolate, absolute.  Australia Day, at whatever future date, must celebrate the achievements of Australia as an Immigrant Nation. This omission could be considered as evidence of a Cultural Cringe since we do not honour the toil, hardship  and achievement of the people who made Australia before the Second World War. Let us  remember them on Australia Day and pay our respects to them more often than we do. Without the energy of new immigrants Australia, as a Middle Power, will inevitably wilt and decline.

New Australians
NEW AUSTRALIANS, THE HOPE OF OUR SIDE (australiantimes.co.uk)

 

OVER TO THE POLITICIANS!

In an ideal world the Federal Parliament would grasp the initiative to ensure Opening Ceremonies would continue to pay respects to Traditional Owners and Pioneer Immigrants who collectively laid the foundation for the Australia of today. This policy would provide a focus for Australia Day rather than the vacuous “Enjoy Australia Day any way you like”.

 

 

 

 

 

AUSTRALIA DAY 2017 Prequel

THE SITUATION 

Australia Day
Another Face of Australia Day. GAZI – australiaday.vic.gov.au

For some weeks a Government Social Engineering Department has subjected Australians to the message “We may celebrate Australia Day any way we wish”. This supine edict provides no focus, no theme, no ethos, no sense of common unity or heritage, like children in a nursery school we are to enjoy ourselves for no apparent reason.

With in fortnight of our National Day two young Muslim girls wearing hijabs appeared on a Victorian bill board extending a message of warmth and harmony for Australia Day.  Following an objection by a member of the ‘public’ the Victorian Government apparently did not resist the removal of this image from the public domain. Enter Dee Madigan, creative director and author, who immediately crowd funded over $130,000 (The Guardian). This image will now appear round Australia. Like women leaders of yore and up to the present (Boudicca, Golda Meir, Thatcher and Merkel) Dee Madigan has ridden rough shod over the equivalent of Thatcher’s ‘vegetables’  to ensure this image of multicultural  Australia will encourage peace, good will and understanding.

Hopefully the image of these two immigrants (as we all are) will promote discussion on the wider significance of Australia Day, unless Australia verges more toward authoritarianism the hijab will become as unremarkable as the national foot ware , the thong.

NATIONAL HISTORIES

The Australian Government likes to define our place in the global order. Of the six nations that owe their origin to 18th and 19th century colonial powers, Australia is the outlier, the ugly duckling, the black sheep in terms of National Day origin. Nations with a comparable heritage are Canada, New Zealand, America , Brazil and Argentina.

Canada. On July 1st 1867 the embryonic Dominion of Canada came together to counter French influence  under a constitution that joined Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and the Province of Canada. This national holiday is one is one of festivity in Ottawa and the regions. There is occasional friction with French Canadians and the native people.

New Zealand. On the 6th February 1840 the British Colonial Government and the Maori tribes met at Waitangi, North Island, to produce a unifying constitutional document. New Zealand did not  commence celebrating Waitangi Day until 1934. Since that time there has been frequent Maori agitation for amendments to the Constitution.

America. On the 4th July 1776 the thirteen American colonies promulgated their independence from Great Britain  principally due to the restrictive   Mercantilist laws. July the Fourth is a National holiday. The Government  arranges patriotic displays along with the festivities.

Brazil. Brazil achieved independence from the United Kingdom of  Portugal following a twelve year war from 1808 – 1822. Each year  September 7th  is commemorated with festivities and celebrations.

Argentina. The Spanish colony of Rio de la Plata won independence after a bitter eight year war, 1810 – 1818. Independence was declared on 9th July 1816. Each year this National day is celebrated with patriotic events and family reunions.

Australia. The nation is the odd polity. Among the ex-colonial nations only New Zealand attempted an early integration of the indigenous people under a Constitution.  Canada sought to counter a French threat by closer ties of several territories.  America, `Argentina and Brazil fought bloody wars to earn  independence. All these nations fought ‘frontier wars’, this was normal. Australia, by contrast, celebrates its National Day to coincide with the establishment of a penal colony on Australia Felix, not Australia Nullius on the 26th January 1788.

The origin of Australia i Day is indeed curious. Before WW2 the 26th January was was celebrated as Anniversary Day with a Regatta on Pitt Water.  The rest of Australia was not involved. After WW2 the politicians considered it necessary to instil a sense of national unity into the new immigrants arriving from Europe. A pride was fostered in the in the arrival at Sydney Cove, the leadership of Captain Phillip and the achievement of the early settlers. Like topsy the Australia Day has finally been massaged into ‘Enjoy Australia Day any way you like’, with no sense of how this nation was created.

NEAR FUTURE 

The sensible option would be to consider a National Day commemorating Federation on the 1st January 1901 or Aboriginal suffrage on the 18th July 1962. Entrenched petty politics and commercial avarice would attempt to founder a logical alternative. In addition, there could be a reluctance for Australian people to ‘call Canberra Home’ untill respect for our political system improves.

Australia’s early Colonial history is no different the other nations, the difference now is that these other nations have relegated to history their ‘Frontier Wars’ while Australia still celebrates a period prior to their commencement, namely the possession of Terra Nullius for King George and Empire.  We are not accountable for the past but we have inherited the aftermath. In the words of L P Hartley “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there”. (The Go-Between )

 

 

 

 

.

AUSTRALIAN EDUCATION January 2017

 

TOO EASY – NO WORRIES – SHE’LL BE RIGHT

A poor education
RESULTS OF A POOR EDUCATION
(linkedin.com)

PISA EDUCATION RANKINGS and AUSTRALIA.

OZ Students
AUSTRALIAN STUDENT ACHIEVERS
(dailyexaminer.com.au)  .

Education of Australian youth is veering towards crisis. Catalysts for this opinion are the poor position of Australia in the OECD Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) and the observation by the Human Rights Commissioner, Dr Gillian Triggs, to the effect that “Our parliamentarians are usually seriously ill-informed and under- educated”. (Age, 23 April, 2016)  Australian politicians are the product of a failing Australian education system as illustrated by the following data. The parlous state  of Australian education is revealed  in the PISA rankings below. Top ranked are Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan.

  • Australian ranking is 14 – below Poland 11, Vietnam 12 and Germany 13.
  • Australia ranks19 for secondary school enrolments behind USA, UK and UAE.
  • Australia  ranks 17 for having the highest share of students who lack basic skills.
  • Concerning the science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects,  Australian standards are falling.

The PISA test results for 2000 and 2012 are:

OECD PISA RANKINGS for AUSTRALIA 2000 and 2012

SUBJECT20002012
Maths619
Science816
Reading413

The OECD report suggests that if PISA results improved by 25 points Australian GDP would improve by 7.2% by2095. (Education Policy in Australia , OECD, June 2013) Clearly, Australian education policy must improve – but how? Examples of education policy in South Korea (PISA 3) and Finland (PISA 6) should be a guide. The OECD makes the point that it is not the wealthiest countries that perform best but it is those nations that value education the most.

SOUTH KOREA, EAST ASIA, Ranking 3.

Asian Education
EXCELLENT EAST ASIAN EDUCATION
(utube.com)

The driving imperative for East Asians is for educational excellence as a means of improving ‘their lot’ in the harsh competitive reality of their lives. The quality of this education system depends upon the expectation and demands of the parents. The national culture of Korea has produced an ingrained drive for intense study with the objective of improving socio-economic status and mobility. Students acquire q clear objective and a sense of purpose at an early age. South Korean parents arrange after-school tuition as a matter of common practice; in this context Koreans prize effort above an inherently high IQ. East Asian children have about fifteen hours of homework each week while  Australia students apparently have around nine hours. This pressure  in South Korea produces suicide among the fifteen to thirty year olds but, despite this lurking danger, students persist with a vigorous education to improve their prospects. (South Korean Education, The Conversation, March, 2015)

FINLAND, EUROPE, Ranking 6 (Leads Europe) 

Finland
FINNISH EDUCATIONAL EXCELLENCE
(theguardian.com)

The successful Finnish system is totally different from the East Asian model and from Australia.
Summarised, the Finnish model results are:

  • PISA rankings for maths and science are 1 Singapore, 5 Taiwan,
    6 Finland, 7 Estonia, 14 Australia.
  • In 2000, Finland’s PISA ranking for reading was the best in the world.
  • In 2003, Finland lead in maths.
  • By 2006, Finland’s rankings were science second, reading third and maths sixth
  • The end product is that 93% of Finnish youth graduate to professional or vocational careers.

Reasons for Finland’s educational success,  in an approximation to importance, are:

  • The nation values education such that teachers have the same social status as lawyers and doctors.
  • Professional staff have progressed to a five year Masters degree or higher.
  • Teaching staff are selected from the top 10% of the nation’s graduates.
  • The teaching profession is totally dedicated to education.
  • Education is about education, not tests.
  • Teachers spend coaching time with students outside school hours – human interaction is the key.
  •  Set homework is minimal.
  • In sixth grade students may sit for district-wide exams (with teacher approval). Results are not published, but are discussed between student and teacher.
  • During school years there is only one final exam for for university entrance.
  • Finland has a single unified State school system.
  • There are no comparisons between schools or regions and the education system is not run on statistics.
  • Education inspectors have been abolished and the schools are run by academic staff. Politicians are banned from oversight.

By contrast, nearby Norway follows the United States education system –its PISA rankings have stagnated whereas Australia’s have declined.

 

AUSTRALIA AND THE TYRANNY OF CULTURE DISTANCE

Separation
CULTURES FAR APART
((slideshare.net)

 Culturally and historically Australia differs from South Korea and Finland. Australia enters 2017 with an education problem. Australia, dangling off the southern extremity of south-east Asia, is the poor country cousin in terms of PISA rankings compared to its northern neighbours.

The East Asian nations, due to population pressure, have struggled hard for their livelihoods, By contrast, the few in sparsely populated  Australia where ‘Our lands abound with nature’s gifts and boundless plains to share’ Australians have never had to fight and struggle for survival as have peasant communities to our north. The East Asians peasant poverty has generated an iron will to improve their lives, to generate an income or starve. Australians, en masse, have never suffered the same problems. For far too long it has been ‘Too Easy – No Worries – She’ll be Right’. This observation does not denigrate the hardship and achievement of our early settlers.

It is clear Australia does not value education to the same degree as East Asians or Northern Europeans. Australia’s PISA rankings are 14 and falling further away from our Asian trading partners. The 3, 5, 7 and 9 NAPLAN test results were described by the Federal Education Minister in August 2016 as ‘flat lining’ over the past three years. Combined, the PISA and NAPLAN results constitute a serious problem.

The Gonski Review Report (2012) identified concerning trends in Australian education – performance has declined over the past decade. Gonski stressed the need for equitable school funding with extra funding to disadvantaged students (a move toward the Finnish model). The original funding program was subsequently reduced by $30 billion by the Abbott Government (SMH 2 Dec. 2014). Subsequently, the Turnbull Government announced it will ‘re-invest’ $1.2 billion into education, this apparently still leaves a shortfall of $28.8 billion. As announced by Treasurer Morrison the Federal education  package over the forward estimates is $73.6 billion.

 

THE FUTURE.

Australia alone
THE HEAT IS ON FOR THE ASIAN CENTURY
(YUMPU)

Under the current situation, Australian youth are in a public  education system that leaves them trailing students in East Asia and Northern Europe. Initial suggestions to remedy this situation are:

  • Australia must change its culture and value education more highly. Our political elite will have to set an example.
  • The status of teachers must be raised.
  • Academic teacher levels must be improved to Masters qualification.
  • Teachers to spend more time with students after school hours.
  • There must be a single unified Federal education system.

On 24 March 2015, the Australian Financial Review resurrected a warning by  the Singapore Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew. In 1980, Australia was warned “It could become the white trash of Asia if it did not reform”. That comment was taken on board by the then Labor Shadow Minister Hawke who concurred with the observation. Unless Australia improves its education system perhaps another Asian leader will repeat the epithet.  Already, Australia is at a disadvantage. Both the Federal Minister for Education (Hon. Simon Birmingham) and the NSW Minister for Education (Hon. Adrian Piccoli) have no hands-on education experience; culture change must start at the top.

Is Australia prepared to fully participate in the Asian century or will indifferent education condemn future generations to education rankings below our neighbourhood nations? If our Australian children do not improve their education levels then responsibility can fall squarely on National culture and on politicians that are not prepared to enforce change.

Returning to the opening comment by Commissioner Triggs, she is not alone in her opinion on Parliamentary educational levels. Mr Barry Jones, polymath and ex-MP (Australian Inspiration) has opined that “much of Australian leadership has been and continues to be mediocre”. In a swingeing comment (ABC RN, 16 Dec. 2016), Dr Ric Charlesworth, AO, indicated “meritocracy in our political system is in short supply, it is diluted by party hacks”.

Australian youth will continue to be disadvantaged unless we, the people, improve our culture, Our new mantra should be:

DIFFICULT – CONCERNING – MAKE IT HAPPEN

.