Category Archives: Uncategorized

TIMELINES & FAULTLINES, An Autobiography

 

Book Cover
TANAMI DESERT, CENTRAL AUSTRALIA. SUNSET, 1988

TIMELINES & FAULTLINES comprises a panorama of Colonial history, painful politics and resultant social issues across a swath of the 20th century. The author, a mining geologist, has recorded unusual events and stories from sub-Arctic gulag country to Antarctic whaling waters, from coral atolls of the Pacific to the fleshspots of South East Asia, from European mining might to the the uncertain life of Brazilian garimpeiros.

 

Garimpeiro
GARIMPEIRO ON MINESITE (Pinterest, Sebastio Salgado)

Working in the Amazon Basin, Minas Geras, in 1973 I witnessed first hand the dreadful working conditions of the garimpeiros (illegal miners) eeking out a tin scratchers living on the Sierra Branca cassiterite deposit. Their lot is one of heat, dust, dirt, mud and violence.

PIRHANA
PIRHANA (Getty Images 92121157)

The Sierra Branca deposit is located adjacent ro the Rio das Mortes, a waterway infested with pirhañas, carnivores that will strip cattle or a humans to the bone in moments. The only way to reach the deposit is by an unstable punt. The operator was on the way to becoming a millionaire, no charge one way, a kilogram of cassiterite for the return trip.

TIMELINES & FAULTLINES An Autobiography

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

This autobiography records issues prior to the ‘low dishonest decade’ of the 1930s when Europe sleepwalked its way to war. It covers a small boy’s WWII, the loss of Empire, the rise of failing states, halcyon days of global growth and the implosion of the Soviet Union.
It has been a fortunate life, often living in communities freed from the yoke of Colonialism and resenting the need for foreign investment.

Canoes
NEW GEORGIAN WAR CANOES (alamy.com – ER98P7)

The Soloman Islands’ history was bloody, dominated by inter-island warfare. New Georgian war canoes raided islands seeking ‘mana’ from skulls of their enemies. Early in the 20th century, missionaries requested the British navy to destroy the great canoe houses.

Skulls
SKULL MOUNDS, NEW GEORGIA, SOLOMON ISLANDS. (traveladventures.org)

High on a misty jungle-covered mountain top on Vella Lavella, I came across mounds of skulls, most with holes in the back of their heads. The Melanesian porters fled in terror.

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.

 

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 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

.

 

 

 

The United States Election. November 2016 – 1

American Election. News Travels Fast.  (MATT)
THE AMERICAN ELECTION.   NEWS TRAVELS FAST.   (MATT)

The Situation.  The result of this election will reverberate with Western developed economies for some time to come. In one way the election result can be partly attributable to the Judaeo-Christian practice of capitalism.

Senator Clinton secured the East and West coast urbanised better educated and more fully employed states (41.7% popular vote) while Mr Trump prevailed in the less educated Central and Southern states with higher unemployment (41.5% popular vote). The Electoral votes were Trump 279 and Clinton 228. (nor.com, 9 Nov.)

This election result has resonance  for the UK Brexit where 51% of the Leave vote was centred round the disadvantaged industrial Midlands while the southern British literati were left spluttering into warm beer with 49% of the Remain vote.

The recent election in Australia produced a comparable knife edge result, whereby better educated and more fully employed urbanites, by the narrowest margin, prevailed over urban and regional centres suffering under employment and unemployment

Painful History.  Once again, history warns but never repeats itself identically. The Great Unrest (1910-14) in the United Kingdom is instructive. From the mid 1800s, the Industrial Revolution powered along.  A depression in the mid-1890s dented progress but then manufacturing growth continued into the first decade of the 20th century. To increase profits, the industrial elite reduced operating costs by cutting wages and replacing workers with more efficient machines. The working class revolted. there was mayhem on the streets until the First World War was declared when thousands of workers were sent to the trenches to be slaughtered. In passing, it is curious to note that the painful 1929 Crash and the turbulent later years were ended in 1939 by the Second World War when thousands of men were called up.

Fast Forward. One hundred years later there is a cracked mirror reflection of a comparable situation. The  boom years of the later 20th century were interrupted by the GFC hiccup and a hesitant recovery which evaporated around the turn of this century. For the past decade, blue collar workers and the middle class has been squeezed by stagnant wages, employer exploitation, declining living standards, unemployment and under-employment. Machines – robots – are fast replacing workers as in 1910. One situation has made this situation worse,  Western industrialists have established manufacturing companies in the Developing World which has meant unemployment for millions of Americans and others. Meanwhile, the wealth gap widens for Americans and Australians who are developing increasing contempt and distrust for the established political elite. This problem is facing the Western democracies; it is unsurprising Mr Trump has prevailed.

 

UnEmployed
Under Employed or Unemployed
(huffingtonpost.com)

A New Order?  Perhaps the Western brand of capitalism was only able to flourish utilising a low-cost working class in a world dominated by empire and colonies; a prerequisite was an inexhaustible supply of cheap raw material and a ready market with little manufacturing capacity.  This situation no longer exists, perhaps this is the Achilles Heel of Western commerce.

The more philosophical might ponder on today’s economic conditions where chronic under-employment and flash points around the globe resemble  the situations in 1914 and 1939.