Here we go again…

Seems Malcolm Turnbull is these days Mr Potato Head’s glove puppet when it comes to citizenship and “Aussie Values”….

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Some say this could be our next Prime Minister and most agree Malcolm Turnbull is getting more and more desperate to hang onto leadership. The issue being dragged back into the spotlight is this: New citizenship test: Here’s what is changing. I agree wholeheartedly with Jonathan Green:

I remember a time when a key Australian value was abhorrence for the pompous, self righteous, sanctimonious expression of national values.

And haven’t we been down this track before!  Back in the day I posted: When asses rule…,  Migrants to sit English testThat idiotic citizenship “test”Government careers down path of superficial idiocy on citizenship testCitizenship and human rights and That de facto English test: scrap it, or admit what it really is! I also posted in May 2007 Ninglun’s Dinkum Aussie test, mate!

Since the sample citizenship test is such a travesty, let’s get real. The government, for a fee, may use this test any time they like. They can even employ me to generate thousands of similar questions.

1. The best blogger in Australia is

A) Ninglun
B) Thomas
C) Jim Belshaw
D) Marcel Proust

2. When you see a shark while swimming in a Blue Mountains creek you should

A) be very surprised
B) report it to the police
C) eat it
D) report yourself for environmental vandalism

3. Bushwalkers should beware of

A) politicians
B) bunyips
C) hoop snakes
D) all of the above

4. A popular Australian pastime is

A) gambling
B) getting pissed
C) horse racing
D) listening to Radio National

5. The ABC is

A) biased
B) very biased
C) very very biased
D) far too biased

6. Australia’s greatest Prime Minister is

A) John Howard
B) John Howard
C) John Howard
D) John Winston Howard

7. The Liberal Party is

A) the obvious choice to lead Australia
B) the best choice to lead Australia
C) the only choice to lead Australia
D) the party you should join tomorrow

8. Labor are

A) in thrall to the trade union movement
B) not to be trusted
C) getting too bloody cocky
D) all of the above

9. Work Choices

A) never existed
B) was a good idea at the time
C) is far better than anything in your home country
D) is a close relative of the hoop snake

10. When watching the cricket you should

A) avoid snoring
B) close your eyes and think of England
C) look for a bookie
D) wear a silly wig

Any suggested questions?

The real thing (current version) may be practised here. Apparently changes under consideration are as follows:

A new citizenship test, besides assessing their commitment to Australia, their attitudes towards gender equality and whether they have assimilated with the Australian social values, will also test their English proficiency by including a reading, writing and listening test.

If an applicant fails the test three times, they will have to wait for two years before they are allowed to attempt the test again.

Those seeking Australian citizenship will have to demonstrate that they have integrated into the Australian society by way of joining clubs, employment and enrolling their children in schools.

The new test includes questions on domestic violence, genital mutilation and child marriage but the government denies the test is targeted at the Muslim community…

The Revenant of Oz has quite rightly claimed credit.

Do read also The Lying Game: Turnbull Government Concedes Citizenship Test Can Be Coached And Fudged.

In my opinion all that is really needed is that we ensure by education that all Australian citizens take their pledge seriously. It really says it all. (Of course being descended from a family that goes back in Australia to at least the 1820s I have never been called upon to make this pledge. Obviously I would if I could…)

From this time forward
I pledge my loyalty to Australia and its people,
whose democratic beliefs I share,
whose rights and liberties I respect, and
whose laws I will uphold and obey.

Revisiting June 2016 – via 1959

A nostalgia hit for me, published yesterday on the Shellharbour Pictures page on Facebook:

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Shellharour with jetty: 1959 My grandfather rebuilt the jetty in 1909. Compare 1934.

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Now to June 2016.

End of June, and looking forward to voting KAOS!

Posted on June 30, 2016 by Neil

Second things first. It appears, as William Bowes’ Poll Bludger indicates, that Mr Turnbull’s party will get back in on 2 July, but with a reduced majority.

Daylight has finally opened between the two parties on the BludgerTrack poll aggregate, without quite freeing the Coalition from the risk of a hung parliament.

The Senate should be fun all round.

Bear in mind what is hiding in the basement, should Mr Turnbull get up. The influence of such should be proportionately stronger if Mr Turnbull is weakened.

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Here be monsters!

Following Mr T’s awful warning, if not quite in the spirit it was offered, I am definitely opting for KAOS all round! Exactly how is my business…

Interlude: M of Venice

Posted on June 26, 2016 by Neil

Or rather, M in Venice. One of a set he posted on Facebook on 24 June, though by then he was no longer in Venice. He was in Florence a few days ago.

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Great photo!

Very incomplete personal takes on Brexit

Posted on June 25, 2016 by Neil

“Certainly going to be interesting to see what happens in the UK in this coming week” I wrote here on 21 June. Well, that was a bit understated, eh!

Now I’m wondering if they should be dusting off the Honours of Scotland.

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Perhaps because I am conscious that the greater part of my ancestry derives from Scotland and Ulster (maternal and paternal lines), I still tend to see the UK through that lens.

The Brexit vote showed interesting divisions on those lines.

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See more maps here.

I must admit this aspect rather pleases me: “People gathered in Edinburgh and Glasgow to demonstrate against the result and show support for migrants.” Then there is this:

[Scotland’s First Minister] Ms Sturgeon said: “After a campaign that has been characterised in the rest of the UK by fear and hate, my priority in the days, weeks and months ahead will be to act at all times in the best interests of Scotland and in a way that unites, not divides us.

“Let me be clear about this. Whatever happens as a result of this outcome, England, Wales and Northern Ireland will always be Scotland’s closest neighbours and our best friends – nothing will change that.

“But I want to leave no-one in any doubt about this. I am proud of Scotland and how we voted yesterday.

“We proved that we are a modern, outward looking and inclusive country and we said clearly that we do not want to leave the European Union.

“I am determine to do what it takes to make sure these aspirations are realised.”

Here is a personal take from Edinburgh.

Amelia Baptie, 36, a mother of twins, said she was “heartbroken and devastated” by the result, as were most of the parents she spoke to in the playground.

She said: “I think if it was about hope on the Leave side then some good could come out of it, but it was about hatred.

“I am upset and worried. I don’t know what has happened to England. They have gone so much to the right and Scotland is being pulled along. My parents live in France and they are very worried now if they can stay, and about their income.”

I worry about some of the types in Europe who have been rejoicing about the UK’s choice – the likes of Le Pen and Wilders.

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See Exploring my inner Scot

I really do think we might see another Scottish Independence referendum not far into the future.

Another element in the UK vote was generational. This 21 June article by Chris Cook on BBC foreshadowed that.

A new piece of evidence on this has been released by Populus, a pollster that is doing a lot of work for the Remain camp. Their data suggests:

  • People aged 65 and over are 23% more likely to vote Leave than the average voter. Voters aged 18-24 are 37% more likely to back Remain. Those aged 25-34 are 19% more likely to back Remain than the average voter, the poll suggests
  • Students are 54% more likely to back Remain than the average person. Graduates are 21% more likely. Meanwhile, people with no formal qualifications are 48% more likely to back Leave…

After the event see  ‘What have we done’ – teenage anger over Brexit vote.

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Finally, a different, wider viewpoint: The Long Road to Brexit.

Markets are stunned. Commenters are shocked. But future historians may view this moment as inevitable…

The debate has cut across the usual divisions of Conservative, Labour, and Liberal Democrat. There are left-wing Brexiteers (who dislike the EU for its lack of democracy and enforced economic austerity) and left-wing Remainers (who like its internationalism); right-wing Remainers (who see the EU as a huge market) and right-wing Brexiteers (who see it as an affront to national sovereignty). There has also been a national dimension: The biggest supporters of Brexit have been the English, and now suddenly the Welsh; the Scots and Irish, for different reasons, have taken the opposite view.

The campaign has highlighted differences too among generations, among regions, and perhaps most importantly among classes and among cultures. Supporters of the “Remain” campaign were disproportionately the young, educated middle classes, who saw the EU as both in their interests and as the political equivalent of motherhood and apple pie. Supporters of Brexit were disproportionately older, less educated, and less wealthy, and think their voices are more likely to be heard in an autonomous national state. Attitudes to immigration from the EU — unrestricted under EU law and running at nearly 200,000 per year — became the shibboleth. Remain saw immigration as a token of enlightenment, economic freedom and cosmopolitanism. The “Leave” campaign saw it as a cause of depressed wages, stressed public services, and long-term danger to national identity. The EU question has become more polarized ideologically in Britain than anywhere else in Europe…

Where indeed will it all end?

Post script

Have been reading heaps of posts. This one stands out: Called back to the present by Scottish physician Bob Leckridge, now living in France.

… and Jim Belshaw:

I watched the UK’s Brexit vote first with interest then with fascination and then with a degree of  horror. I was opposed to the original decision to join the EEC, but after forty years membership unpicking the whole thing becomes difficult. Further, the campaign itself and the consequent vote played to and accentuated divides in the UK….

Alas!

Yes, Jim’s post has disappeared! But now it’s back!

And finally…

Look at Steve Cannane, Brexit: Is Scotland brave enough to defy the UK? and Ian Verrender, Brexit will deliver a few home truths, both on ABC.

HSC 50 years on

Posted on June 20, 2016 by Neil

Featured in today’s Sydney Morning Herald:

There were no calculators. Cigarettes were puffed on the school oval at lunchtime. One-third of students took French. And the most controversial musical you could study was West Side Story: that was the Higher School Certificate half a century ago.

This year marks 50 years since the first group of students exited the Victorian-era Leaving Certificate and entered the uncharted territory of the HSC after the Wyndham report changed the face of education in NSW.

And also in this year’s HSC Study Guide supplement:

This year marks the HSC’s 50th year. Since 1967, more than 2.3 million students have successfully completed the HSC and used the skills and knowledge gained to embark on the next stage of life at university, TAFE or work.

The HSC has evolved to reflect a constantly changing world, growing from 29 courses to 104 courses with exams. The first HSC included Sheep Husbandry and Farm Mechanics. The 2016 HSC includes Software Design and Development and Information Processes and Technology.

Students today are enrolled in five English, four maths, five science, eight technology, 63 language and 13 Vocational Educational and Training (VET) courses and 27 Life Skills courses…

Sheep Husbandry was not on offer at Cronulla High School where I as a newly minted English teacher fronted what would be the first 3rd Level (i.e. bottom) English Year 11 class in 1966. So strictly speaking this year it is 49 years since that first HSC, which was sat in 1967.

I did return to Cronulla back in 2011. See these posts: How young we were! (and do read the comment thread!) and Here I am at the Cronulla High 50th!

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Revisiting Cronulla High in 2011

See also my 2013 post If the jacarandas are out, the HSC must be coming… and my 2015 post Educational opportunity in Australia – 2015 and 1965.

Orlando

Posted on June 14, 2016 by Neil

There is no way I can hope to do justice to the horrific events that played out at The Pulse in Orlando. Let me first share Sydney’s response.

hb

See Candlelight vigils held across Australia to honour Orlando shooting victims….

Revisiting May 2016

Yes we have an election in Oz

Posted on May 12, 2016 by Neil

It is a rather long affair this time, but as nothing compared with the interminable goings-on in US elections. But of course we are not electing a president. We already have a head of state.

Here in Wollongong I am in the seat of Cunningham. All I can vote for is the representative for that seat. I do not vote for a Prime Minister, who will be whoever leads the party that controls the House of Representatives. Of course many of us vote for our local representative in line with the party whose leader we want as Prime Minister, so there is a “presidential” element to the election, but ideally not. As it happens I am quite satisfied with Sharon Bird, our local member. As of this moment the current governing party, the Liberal Party led by Malcolm Turnbull, has not selected a candidate for this electorate. I am sure they will. I am equally sure whoever it is has Buckley’s chance  of winning.

Meantime, consider Malcolm Turnbull. I used to rather like him, but as I said on Facebook the other day:

I fear we are doomed to hear countless variations on Malcolm Turnbull’s “most exciting time to be a wombat” speech over the next two months. It has already lost its freshness for me…

One of my ex-students from long ago commented: not as bad as having to listen to the inane mantra “jobs and growth”, “jobs and growth”, “jobs and growth”, oh yeah and “jobs and growth”

Or as someone in the Herald letters has it, a character (maybe a footballer?) called Jobson Grothe.

Love this cartoon from the Bendigo Advertiser.

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Voting for the Senate promises more scope. I will really have to think this one through. It isn’t every day we get to choose ALL the senators in one go. And for what it is worth I think I like the revision to the ballot papers.

For more good stuff on OzPoll 2016 see Australia Votes, Promise Tracker and The Poll Bludger.

The night-man cometh…

Posted on May 16, 2016 by Neil

Wonderful post on “Flashback Friday” on Shellharbour History in Photos the other day. Reminded me of a couple of posts on Ninglun’s Specials. First About the Whitfields: Wandering Willie’s Tales:

We had an outside toilet, of course, Sutherland not being sewered then; in fact I did not live in a place with a proper sewered toilet until we moved to Cronulla; Jannali and Oyster Bay had septic tanks. There were weekly visits by the dunny man, who came in a malodorous truck and left a Christmas Card in the toilet every year, a rhyming thing from “The Man Who Comes Around”. The custom was to leave a couple of bottles of beer in the toilet in exchange. It was good to keep onside with the dunny man, as he could easily spill his load where you didn’t want it, accidentally of course, if you offended him. Fear is having to go the toilet on dunny man day, knowing he might come barging in and take the can in mid act, so to speak. He never did of course.

dunny

Fear was also having to go there at night, since it was the abode of redback spiders (quite venomous) and one took a candle and newspaper to light, to flush the buggers out before you sat down. Happiness was being the first to use a fresh can. At night of course we usually used chamber pots, and the least enviable household chore for a kid was having to “empty the slops.” This is partly why every backyard had a patch of rampant nasturtium or pumpkin vines. I once caught my brother doing something strange into the chamber pot. He tried to explain to me there was something in his penis (a word he did not use — I think he just said “in there” as we rarely mentioned our bodily parts) and it had to get out, and not to tell Mum. I was suitably mystified.

Good heavens! Did I write that? True though.

The second post deals with a later time: Towns I’ve stayed in 2 — Dorrigo:

I was staying with a friend who was acting Presbyterian Minister at the time. Greg and Helen; no surnames, in view of the anecdote coming up, though I did get to recall it with Helen in much more recent days. The parkland I do recall, as desperation led us to “steal” (or swap) a pan toilet from the park in the dead of night one night; circumstances I won’t go into had led to a need for a replacement at “The Manse” — urgently! It was the only solution…

And here is the dunny cart from Shellharbour History in Pictures:

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Note the cigarette dangling from his mouth! Perhaps necessary, given the smell that hung around those trucks.

So I tried ABC’s “Vote Compass”

Posted on May 17, 2016 by Neil

I do recommend Vote Compass.

Based on your responses to a brief questionnaire, Vote Compass generates an analysis of how your views compare to the positions of the candidates in a given election.

This analysis is restricted to the specific issues included in the Vote Compass questionnaire and may not necessarily reflect your perceived political affiliation or intended vote choice.

The analysis generated by Vote Compass contains several different outputs, including a Cartesian plane and a bar graph. Each output measures something different and reflects a practical reality in which people think about politics in multiple ways. Some think in terms of ideology and others in terms of public policy issues. Vote Compass visualises your results in each of these terms, leaving you free to decide which are most suitable for your purposes.

I found it well designed and up-to-date. The overview of my political leanings came out thus:

Screenshot - 17_05_2016 , 8_28_55 AM

Not too surprising. See this repost from 2007:…

Mr Disappointment 2016: the person formerly known as Turnbull

Posted on May 19, 2016 by Neil

Chances are they will win, of course, but not with my vote. That one-time charming QandA star Malcolm Turnbull appears to be drugged or something these days. He now defends the indefensible with an enthusiasm hardly matched by the unlamented ex-PM TA. Remember when we were so exercised by the difference between robot Julia and Real Julia? Seems it’s happening again. Welcome robo-pollie Malcolm. Perhaps that has been the “real” Malc all along.

Before we go further, consider illiterate lazy bastard reffo Deng Thiak Adut. Remember him? He delivered the NSW Australia Day Address this year. See Connecting present and past posts…Now consider Malc’s stout defence of our nauseating Minister for Immigration.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has backed Peter Dutton, saying he is an“excellent” Immigration Minister and that he is right to say that many of the refugees who could head to Australia are illiterate.

Earlier Opposition Leader Bill Shorten lashed out at Mr Dutton, likening him to Pauline Hanson and accusing him of “insulting the millions of migrants” who have made Australia great.

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Peter Dutton

Now for the story about Peter Buffoon:

When Australia’s immigration minister spoke out about the level of literacy and numeracy among migrants late on Tuesday, he was addressing what has become one of the hot potatoes of this election season.

With the build-up to the 2 July vote now in full swing, Peter Dutton responded to proposals by the opposition Labor party to increase annual refugee numbers from 13,750 to 27,000.

“They won’t be numerate or literate in their own language, let alone English,” he told Sky News. “These people would be taking Australian jobs, there’s no question about that.”

At this point, it is important to point out that 26% of the population of Australia is foreign-born. That’s some 5.8m people, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), with a fair few voters among them.

In the hours after Mr Dutton’s interview, plenty of those people, their children and their supporters took to social media to respond…

A number of people mentioned the work of Munjed al-Muderis, a surgeon who fled Iraq after ignoring army orders to cut off the ears of deserters. He arrived in Australia by boat, and went on to become one of the country’s most prominent orthopaedic surgeons, known for his work helping amputees.

Another prominent refugee is Hieu Van Le, the governor of the state of South Australia, who travelled to Australia by boat in 1977 having fled his native Vietnam…

Thanks to Jim Belshaw for linking to that BBC story, and see Jim’s post Election threads – budget cuts, Liberal Party hypocrisy, the LDP and the Streisand Effect, stop the boats is back. (Incidentally, I also see in Jim’s post the “budget savings” move to close down the ABC’s Fact Check. Guess what the real reason might be? More from Mr Disappoinment’s team…)

Let me conclude today’s vent with The Shovel.

Illiterate Man Takes Australian Job

A man who can hardly string a sentence together let alone read, has secured one of the top jobs in the Australian Government.

“I got job,” the man – who is in charge of determining who enters the country – said last night.

Responding to a proposal to increase the nation’s refugee intake to 50,000, the man wrote in a statement, “That number is to big. We need a number wot we can count to. Like 20 or somefink. Actually maybe 10”.

Critics say the man is taking jobs away from Australians who can count and speak.

Related: posts on asylum seekers/refugees on this blog.

See Michelle Grattan, Peter Dutton: a menace to multicultural Australia:

In some quarters Dutton’s outburst, which was quickly challenged on points of fact, will resonate politically. In others, it will flow on to sully the reputation of Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull.

Turnbull did not slap down Dutton. That’s what surely his instinct would have tempted him to do. But in the election “whatever it takes” prevails. Border control is being relentlessly pushed by the Coalition against Labor, although government sources reject suggestions Dutton was put up to what he said.

Turnbull adopted the barrister’s approach. He praised Dutton extravagantly, as an “outstanding immigration minister”, on both border security and resettlement.

He then extensively reworked and redirected the thrust of Dutton’s argument into more palatable, less provocative terms, essentially saying that we can’t take more refugees than we can properly look after and integrate…

Turnbull’s celebration of Dutton as an “outstanding” immigration minister is a combination of shocking and ridiculous. Turnbull himself has not chosen to have him on cabinet’s national security committee. Dutton is a divisive figure, most at home with political head-kicking and policies of enforcement. The toughness required of a minister overseeing border control does not preclude having some compassion, which Dutton does not show…

Next day:

Mr Turnbull’s justification: The truth is our successful multicultural society is built on secure borders. But see also Dutton’s comments divide in an effort to conquer by Barrie Cassidy. The comment thread there gives too much evidence of the damage done to our national debate by the way this issue has been polarised. For example, this chump:

Mr Cassidy, you will never be able to come to terms with this situation while you continue to parade dishonesties like “Why, then, are refugees – for that’s what most of them are …”. They are not refugees. None of them are. They arrived illegally via the services of criminal people smugglers. They are illegal economic migrants.

Yes, he is smacked down pretty quickly because what he says is grossly untrue.

Oh for the days of John Howard when there were members of the government who conscientiously objected to the line their own party was taking on asylum seekers, who said so, and were allowed to say so. The current NSW Premier’s father, for example. I don’t find it strange that there are those in the Opposition who are not too keen on the solution their own party came up with at their last party conference. Let there be more than just two options up for discussion, I say. And said. See Now we musn’t get misty-eyed….

Saturday

Deng Thiak Adut is also disappointed:

A Sudanese refugee chosen by NSW Premier Mike Baird to deliver this year’s Australia Day address says he has always voted Liberal since arriving in Australia but has withdrawn his support for the party in response to Peter Dutton’s comments on job-stealing asylum seekers…

Sunday

Just caught up with Jim Belshaw’s Election threads – Minister Dutton.

Going, going… Myers in Wollongong

Posted on May 21, 2016 by Neil

Just to remind you: though I grew up in Sydney (in The Shire!) I visited relatives in Wollongong and Shellharbour from the 1940s on, moving to Wollongong myself in 1970-1981 and returning in 2010. So I have seen the place over a long period. As I first remember it:

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Corner of Crown and Keira Streets late 40s or early 50s

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Late 50s or 60s?

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Note that the David Jones store is now in place, flag flying on the right.

The southern corner of Crown and Keira down to Burelli Street is currently dominated by Myer. Not for much longer.

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I have to admit on the occasions I have walked through lately I haven’t all that often seen people buying things. At Diggers Alex has been saying for months that Myer would go. Now: Myer closes its Wollongong store: David Jones to relaunch….

Related: my Wollongong Transformed posts. Historic photos from Lost Wollongong.

Our Indian summer (autumn?) over at last?

Posted on May 27, 2016 by Neil

Yes, it is cool – 12C at 7.30 this morning – here in The Gong and in Sydney. Been some spectacular seas lately too. Check this from The Illawarra Mercury.

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Photo by Jon Harris: Werri Beach last Wednesday

See El Nino bows out after driving year of record heat as La Nina lurks in the wings.

Globally, the past 12 months have each set a record for that month, with four of the past five months smashing records for how much temperatures have departed from the long-term norms.

The El Nino was one of the three biggest on record, similar in size to the 1997-98 and 1982-83 events, Karl Braganza, head of climate monitoring at the bureau, said.

“The last 12 months to April have been the warmest on record for Australia,” Dr Braganza said. “And this month’s been pretty warm too.”

See details for April in Sydney from the Bureau of Meteorology….

Revisiting February 2016 – with a preface for Christmas Eve

A few must reads from a good/bad news week

Eric Tenin in Europe, a photoblogger of note, drew attention to this: This is the truth about the Berlin Christmas market terror attack. Do give it due thought as it swims rather against the tide at the moment.

I’ve lost count of the number of people who’ve said since: “This is the legacy of Angela Merkel’s open door to refugees.”

Well, no it isn’t.

This is the legacy of people who believe that what they FEEL is the truth must BE the truth. And that’s not how truth works.

Here is the truth we know so far…

Second, I endorse HRH the Prince of Wales.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s religious Thought for the Day slot, the prince delivered an outspoken attack against religious hatred and pleaded for a welcoming attitude to those fleeing persecution.

He said: “We are now seeing the rise of many populist groups across the world that are increasingly aggressive to those who adhere to a minority faith. All of this has deeply disturbing echoes of the dark days of the 1930s.

“My parents’ generation fought and died in a battle against intolerance, monstrous extremism and inhuman attempts to exterminate the Jewish population of Europe.”

The prince did not mention any politicians by name, but his address will be seen by some as a veiled reference to the election of Donald Trump in the US, the rise of the far right in Europe, and increasingly hostile attitudes to refugees in the UK.

“That nearly 70 years later we should still be seeing such evil persecution is to me beyond all belief,” he said. “We owe it to those who suffered and died so horribly not to repeat the horrors of the past.”

Finally, I commend C August Elliott to you. “C August Elliott is a former soldier, completed foreign language (Arabic and French) and anthropology degrees to the Masters level at the ANU and he now specialises in conflict ethnography and political anthropology in the Islamic world. Read his blog.” His latest on ABC: Melbourne terror plot: Extremist radicalised terrorism is a statistically enduring anomaly.

But while ISIS-inspired terrorist plots are on the rise in Australia, the nativist movement which is sweeping the West — exemplified by Trump, Brexit, Le Pen and One Nation — is a phenomenon which is tied to “fear of small numbers” — an inflated perception of actual risk.

At first glance, Mr Dutton’s comment that “of the last 33 people who have been charged with terrorist-related offences in this country, 22 of those people are from second and third generation Lebanese-Muslim background” seems pretty alarming…

There is a problem amongst Lebanese-Australian youth which police and community groups need to redress. Even still, we need not let the Minister’s alarmism colour our perceptions of the Lebanese community as a whole.

If there are in fact 22 young terrorists out of a community of 203,139 (the number of Australians who claimed Lebanese ancestry in the 2011 Census) a better way to truly gauge the scale of the problem comes from appreciating the reality that only 0.0108 per cent of Lebanese-Australians have demonstrable ties to terror….

Back in February

One theme to emerge and which continues to this day is profound disappointment with the person formerly known as Malcolm Turnbull.

Show some backbone, PM

Posted on February 25, 2016 by Neil

Looks like we are seeing on several fronts what the corollary of “agility” is for Malcolm Turnbull – a surgical removal of the spine. Very disappointing. I borrowed my heading from Sean Kelly at The Monthly.

Turnbull caves to Liberal right-wingers*…a couple of weeks ago I gave credit to Simon Birmingham, appointed education minister after the snarly mess Christopher Pyne had made of that portfolio, for sticking up for a schools program that was under threat.

Under that program a teaching manual, aimed at combating bullying against young people who might be just discovering they were lesbian, gay, bisexual, intersex or transgender, was distributed in schools.

As the Australian reported at the time, the program has the backing of the Australian Secondary Principals Association, beyondblue, headspace and the Australian Education Union.

Some religious groups, however, decided they knew better. The Australian Christian Lobby spokeswoman said that forcing students to imagine themselves in a same-sex relationship was a “form of cultural bullying’’.

Yes she did.

Birmingham didn’t give some mealy-mouthed comment in response to this garbage. On the substance he pointed out the program was opt-in for schools, and on the principle he said: “Homophobia should be no more tolerated than racism, especially in the school environment. The resource is intended to support the right of all students, staff and families to feel safe at school.’’…

Today Malcolm Turnbull hung Birmingham and his pretty principles out to dry. At the prime minister’s invitation, the minister will report back to the Liberal party room on the results of an independent review of the Safe Schools program that will now occur. (For “invitation”, read “order”.)

In other words, he gave a whole lot of oxygen to the very debate his own minister had recently called “foolish”….

See also Max Chalmers, The Anti-Gay Emails To MPs: Safe Schools Program Will ‘Destroy Civilisation’Safe Schools: Education or social engineering?, Safe Schools: Malcolm Turnbull requests investigation into program helping LGBTI students, Jill Stark, Safe Schools program: why zealots are trying to drag us back to the dark ages. From that last one:

Imagine being 12 years old and seeing your name scrawled across a school toilet door next to the word “faggot.” Or being beaten up and spat on by a gang of classmates who discovered you were a “tranny.” What if you were kicked out of your football team because you weren’t “masculine” enough?

These are just some of the real life school experiences young people have shared with me over the past few years.

We may pride ourselves on being the country of the “fair go” but in 2016, bullying of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) children remains rife in our schools. It makes the relentless and vicious attacks against a program set up to protect those children even more abhorrent.

As Malcolm Turnbull yesterday caved into his party’s religious right and announced an investigation into the Safe Schools Coalition one thing became clear: we are in the midst of a culture war. And vulnerable children are being used as cannon fodder.

In a Coalition party room meeting on Tuesday, February 23, Senator Cory Bernardi called for the program to be defunded, claiming it was being used to “indoctrinate children into a Marxist agenda of cultural relativism.”…

Now I am such a Marxist, eh! Why only a couple of days ago on this blog I was commending Robert Service’s Comrades: A World History of Communism (2007) to my readers! A Marxist I really am not, but I do embrace diversity as a core aspect of the human condition and commend any society or program that does the same. Hence on Twitter I wrote yesterday: “I totally support #safeschools.” I also retweeted: “RT @JoshThomas87:.@TurnbullMalcolm You’re turning out to be a real shit bloke.” Among others.

First, a really really good idea is to read the actual stuff that Safe Schools offers.

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I think it is brilliant and just wish that it had been there ten to fifteen years back when I was still tutoring and teaching and even on a high school welfare committee. Mind you there have been precursors like Bullying No Way and Racism No Way in NSW.

Of course I have form. Some will know my English/ESL blog, now an archive and not maintained, began as a semi-official resource c. 2000 to 2005 in the school I was working in. There is a section there called Diversity. A subsection is GLBT resources, that being the acronym 10-15 years ago. Now of course it is dated and who knows how many of its many links still work? But I am proud still of this. first written over ten years ago:

The theme of this page may offend some, but my position is that such offence is less than the needless suffering, failure of self-esteem, depression, and even sometimes suicide, that dishonesty about this subject can lead to.

Nor am I advocating a “lifestyle”: to quote from an article mentioned below:

There is a big taboo about converting straight people to homosexuality. (Personally I think the chances of that actually happening are as good as your chances of getting kicked to death by a duck.)…

See also from February 2016: Mardi Gras recycles: 2008, For the 78ers and Ian Thorpe, Gayby Baby, and today in my life.

More “Neil’s Decades” –6: Heimat/Shellharbour

Posted on February 5, 2016 by Neil

Several decades here, but let’s start with this photo from 1956.

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That’s Shellharbour’s ocean pool, image from Shellharbour History in Photos. It’s a bit unclear but I could almost believe the man right foreground is my father, especially if what is immediately behind him is a white dog (is it?) in which case the kid running towards him may well be me! We were holidaying in Shellharbour in the summer of 1956.

That pool was renovated and renamed Beverley Whitfield Pool in 1994. See Beverley Whitfield on the Shellharbour Local History blog.

12661968_1740439649512704_2123985810144368757_nL to R: Edgar (Dunc) Gray, Mayor Cec Glenholmes, Beverley Whitfield, Andy Gerke and Terry Gathercole

Andy Gerke was Beverley’s uncle, and my cousin Una’s husband. Sadly Beverley died two years later at the age of 42. I was at the funeral, but circumstances had led to my family not seeing much of the Shellharbour Whitfields after 1975.

For my father Shellharbour remained Heimat.

Heimat is a German concept. People are bound to their heimat by their birth and their childhood, their language, their earliest experiences or acquired affinity. For instance, Swiss citizens have their Heimatort (the municipality where the person or their ancestors became citizens) on their identification. Heimat as a trinity of descendance, community, and tradition—or even the examination of it— highly affects a person’s identity.

Though in the war years he broke away yet he always was rooted in that place and time 1911-1938. Indeed he returned in 1970 until illness/distress forced his return to Sydney in 1975. Strangely I too have returned in a way, back here in Wollongong almost six years now after an absence of 30 years, But I have only been back to Shellharbour once, and that just before I actually returned to the Illawarra. See Shellharbour – a double post (2010) and more posts here, here and here.

You see, there is much of Heimat in Shellharbour for me too, even if my parents left it before I was born. We did constantly visit in my childhood, and many a story have I heard about the place. But the place of my childhood is not there any more. Well, it is, but its surrounds buried under suburbia, some of it good and some of it rather awful. Progress I suppose.

Here is my childhood’s Shellharbour:

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My brother spent his first year or two in Shellharbour, having been born in Kiama.

Extra! Extra! Read all about it!

The Herald/Age have done good this morning! There were around six bombshells let off in today’s papers. Here for future reference are three.

1. Ross Gittins on Christian Porter and the Mal Content government.

These penny-pinching cost cuts aimed mainly at the socially disadvantaged and politically defenceless – if roughing up asylum seekers and their kids goes down so well with voters, why not extend the attack to bottom-of-the-pile Aussies? – are far from sufficient to make much impact on the budget deficit.

They show the government is near the bottom of the barrel in the quality of budget savings it’s prepared to make.

It wants us to believe the federal budget is close to bankruptcy but, in truth, it’s this government that’s nearer to being morally, politically and economically bankrupt.

2, Kevin Rudd on Mr Mal Content, Mr Potato Head and asylum seekers.

Malcolm Turnbull, in his 12 months in office, has now repudiated virtually everything he once stood for. He has done this because he has concluded that in order to hang onto his job, after his near-death experience in the July election, he must now appease the mad right of his party in every domain…

  • They have sought to negotiate a failed agreement with Cambodia at a cost of $55 million, and with zero effect, to deal with their failure to resettle refugees from Manus and Nauru.
  • The government cruelly refused the offer from New Zealand to resettle 150 refugees annually from Manus and Nauru, when the 2013 agreement explicitly provides for resettlement to third countries.
  • Where I recommended increasing our annual refugee intake above 20,000 if the regional resettlement agreement proved successful, after taking office they almost halved the existing 20,000.

Turnbull’s latest legislative folly should be opposed. I have kept silent on Australian domestic policy debates for the past three years. But this one sinks to new lows. It is pure politics designed to appease the xenophobes. It is without any policy merit in dealing with the real policy challenges all countries face today in what is now a global refugees crisis. And it does nothing to help those refugees left to rot for more than three years, who should be resettled now.

I really should do a post on this matter, but I can’t bear to yet. I am too deeply ashamed of where we now stand.

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Mal Content aka Mr Disappointment

Then we had bombshells on the probable invalidity of the election of Family First’s Bob Day (resigned) and the latest machinations of a resurgent Onion Muncher. But the biggie is concerning Donald J Putin:

3. Trump server link to Moscow bank revealed as FBI probes Kremlin’s five-year plan

Washington: The word “explosive” has been rendered meaningless in this US presidential election – so I’ll just state this baldly. The FBI is investigating a deliberate, years-long Russian effort by which Moscow co-opted Donald Trump, and the Republican Party candidate had, until very recently, a super-secret internet server, which carried heavy, two-way traffic between his Manhattan tower and a Russian bank with close ties to the Kremlin…

Now that really could be bigger than Watergate!

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Update – an hour later!

On that last Trumpshell see HERE’S THE PROBLEM WITH THE STORY CONNECTING RUSSIA TO DONALD TRUMP’S EMAIL SERVER and Investigating Donald Trump, F.B.I. Sees No Clear Link to Russia.

F.B.I. officials spent weeks examining computer data showing an odd stream of activity to a Trump Organization server and Alfa Bank. Computer logs obtained by The New York Times show that two servers at Alfa Bank sent more than 2,700 “look-up” messages — a first step for one system’s computers to talk to another — to a Trump-connected server beginning in the spring. But the F.B.I. ultimately concluded that there could be an innocuous explanation, like a marketing email or spam, for the computer contacts.