AUSTRALIA DAY 2017 Prequel


Australia Day
Another Face of Australia Day. GAZI –

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.


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.


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 )









A poor education


OZ Students
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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:



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.


Asian Education

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) 


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.




 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.



Australia alone

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: