June gone already! And what a time for news!

Just as well you aren’t depending on this blog to keep you up-to-date, as there has been a bit of a break here as I nursed my remaining data allowance. And in that time we’ve had so many things happen, most recently the charging of Cardinal George Pell for alleged historic sex offences against children. He will be fronting court in Melbourne next month. I can’t help wondering what an old internet friend, Father Ken Sinclair, who died in 2005, would have had to say. Back in 2001-2 he was foreshadowing some of this stuff in conversations we had on ICQ. See my post Back to very early days–and the strange immortality of the internet.

Then today we have had Donald Trump showing what a small-minded vindictive arsehole he really is. no great surprise surely. Presidential? Pull the other one… And we’re supposed to trust the judgement of this person on the most important issues in the world? God help us all!

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And here in Oz Tony Abbott is in full feral mode. Rather liked former leader of his party John Hewson on this today.

…say what he likes, Abbott is still quite bitter and twisted about Turnbull seizing his job, and getting worse with time. His IPA speech this week was a clear example of “disloyalty”. Sure, he dressed it up as a speech of “principle” and “conviction” and true conservative “ideology”, but it was blatantly a direct attack on Turnbull, and his more “centrist” strategy, designed to undermine, and constrain Turnbull.

And a major part of the data from the 2016 Australian Census was released this week. That part concerning religion interested quite a few of us. Here are a couple of graphics from the Daily Mail.

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41CA08B500000578-4641728-image-a-1_1498523288531The Daily Mail and the Sydney Daily Telegraph made much of a “surge in the number of Muslims”. As you might expect these days.  Headline:

Muslim population in Australia soars to 600,000 as religion becomes the nation’s second-biggest – a 77% jump in the past DECADE, according to Census

Soared to 2.6% of the population, of whom “radicals” must constitute… Well, you guess…

The really interesting figure was the rise of “No Religion” — whatever that might actually mean.

But now for the really important stats: in June the most viewed posts on this blog have been:

Home page / Archives   614 views in June 2017
Friday Australian poem: #NS6 – Mary Gilmore “Old Botany Bay”  21
Testing for English competence?   18
A week of multicultural yums   17
On terror — just for the record   15
65 years on I recall Vermont Street  12
Otto Warmbier’s death underlines plight of thousands of North Koreans  12
Tangible link to the convict ship “Isabella” and the immigrant ship “Thames”   11
Going, going… Myers in Wollongong  11
Neil’s Family Specials — a reminder   10
Wollongong High: more on the centenary More stats 10
Flowers and grief: for my mother  9
Tom Thumb Lagoon   9
Some great stories, and some of them new to me…  9

Well, the mad uncle is out of the attic now…

That quote from an Australian government minister refers to the latest self-promotion by former but currently disgruntled Prime Minister, Tony Abbott.

Tony Abbott has told Liberal defector Cory Bernardi he hasn’t given up hope of a return to leadership, but would not make a public tilt for Malcolm Turnbull’s job…

Mr Abbott’s supporters are describing the Turnbull government as ‘the Malcolm vanity project’, a reference the former PM alluded to in a speech…

A Liberal minister has told Sky News Mr Abbott has little support in the party room for any challenge.

‘Well, the mad uncle is out of the attic now. But Abbott’s got no support,’ the minister said.

Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, who was a strong supporter of Mr Abbott throughout his prime ministership, told Sky News he was saddened by his decision to provide ‘more and more destructive’ commentary.

‘He’s not helping our cause, he’s not helping our country, he’s not helping himself, much of what he says is either wrong or inconsistent with what he did,’ Senator Cormann said….

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See also Tony Abbott’s five-point plan for the ‘winnable’ next election will infuriate Malcolm Turnbull and Tony Abbott: Coalition in danger of becoming ‘Labor lite’

FORMER Prime Minister Tony Abbott has penned a highly critical analysis of the Turnbull Government, highlighting voter “despair” and concerns “the Coalition has become Labor lite.”

In a stark manifesto, the leader of the Liberal Party’s Right said the next election was winnable and outlined his own plan that would take the Coalition to victory, from “scaled back immigration”, to scrapping the Human Rights Commission and ending the pandering to climate change theology.

Mr Abbott also acknowledged the disappointment in his own Government and said he could understand why support was surging for One Nation….

Suggesting policy changes, Mr Abbott declared: “The next election is winnable.”

Controversially, he suggested the Government “scrap” the Human Rights Commission and refuse to be an ATM for the states, to allow micro-economic reform in schools and hospitals.

“If we stop pandering to climate change theology and freeze the RET, we can take the pressure off power prices,” he said.

But see also Tony Abbott’s spray against Turnbull Government policies dismissed by senior ministers.

Tony Abbott has certainly guaranteed that I will never support him or his approach, but that is hardly surprising. Take his pandering to the denialists with “we stop pandering to climate change theology.” Goes down well with the house columnists at the Telegraph of course. But such phraseology is so quaint in 2017. I commend Skeptical Science again, explaining climate change science & rebutting global warming misinformation. And here is one for Catholic Tony:

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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.

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

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.

Body language, cross-cultural communication, Trump etc…

I see Tony Abbott has gone into bat for The Donald. That figures…

Mr Abbott defended Mr Trump’s policies, which include building a wall between Mexico and the United States to repel migrants, as reasonable.

“Many of the Trump positions are reasonable enough,” he said.

Mind you, I don’t entirely disagree with what Tony Abbott says there about T’s supporters. It is worth reading David A Hill Jr, I Listened to a Trump Supporter.

She was a family friend, a good person. In rural Ohio, everything was tight. Money, jobs. If you really needed quick cash, she’d put you to work doing landscaping. She’d pay fairly and reliably for the area.

She’s voting for Donald Trump. I disagree with her choice, but I understand why she rejects Clinton so fiercely, and why she’s been swept up in Donald Trump’s particular brand of right-wing populism. I feel that on the left, it’s increasingly easy to ignore these people, to disregard them, to write them off as racists, bigots, or uneducated. I think that’s a loss for everyone involved, and that sometimes listening can help you to at least understand why a person is making the choices they make, so you can work on the root causes.

Hat tip to Alex Au in Singapore for that article.

Meanwhile The Donald himself lately does seem to be verging on the barking mad:

Florida: Donald Trump has denied a slew of new allegations of sexually predatory behaviour in an angry diatribe of speech in Florida, accusing the women who made them of fabrication and the media outlets that published them as being party to a conspiracy against him…

Mr Trump claimed a variety of forces including the Clintons and the media were seeking to rig the US election.

“Their agenda is to elect crooked Hillary Clinton at any cost, at any price, no matter how many lives they destroy. For them, it’s a war. And for them, nothing at all is out of bounds,” he said.

“This is a struggle for the survival of our nation. Believe me. And this will be our last chance to save it on November 8. Remember that.”

Sorry. Did I really say “verging on” then?

OK, back to that second debate. I found myself riveted all through – yes I watched the whole show – by the body language, especially The Donald’s. What a study in proxemics!

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Pure monstering. The stills barely capture the effect that the pacing and scowling communicated. Not a nice man.

All that had me thinking again of what I learned from the 1990s on in my ESL studies and practice about cross-cultural communication, and the topic in fact came up earlier this week in conversation at Diggers with someone who spent considerable time in PNG and S-E Asia. A summary directed at business people is Different Cultural Communication Styles.

Factoring in personal space expectations between cultures enhances communication in any social or business setting. While Northern Europeans and European Americans feel most comfortable at an arm’s length away in a social interaction, Hispanics would consider that distance unfriendly. Knowing what is expected is helpful. Eye contact and touch etiquette also vary dramatically in different cultures. Asian cultures do not believe in touching in public settings, and they don’t favor direct eye contact. Like the Asian culture, Hispanics also view direct eye contact as a lack of respect. One significant difference between these two cultures is the way touching in public is perceived. Hispanics are a “high touch” society. Before meeting with a different culture, it is best to learn about these etiquette considerations.

That’s just one aspect. Oriented to schools is Communicating Across Cultures from the Victorian Education Department.

Interpretations of verbal communication can be culturally based. Misunderstandings can easily arise. For example in some cultures:

  • It is impolite to speak without being specifically asked by a superior, thus some students will not say hello, will not volunteer answers and will not answer generally directed questions.
  • It is not appropriate to refuse a request, thus saying ‘yes’ may mean ‘I am listening’, or ‘maybe’, or ‘no’. Avoidance behaviour rather than contradiction is used i.e. not doing what is requested is the polite response, as opposed to saying directly ‘no’.
  • Direct confrontation is to be avoided. It is more important to maintain the relationship, then to find an answer to an immediate disputed issue or problem. This contrasts with the anglo-Australian approach of trying to resolve issues by frank and open discussion of the disputed issue, clearly stating personal needs and preferences and direct bargaining tactics focusing on an immediate solution.
  • Asking questions when you already know the answer, which is a common teaching technique in Australia, can indicate a lack of intelligence in some cultures.

Then at the levels prom personal to international relations see the course Dealing Constructively with Intractable Conflicts, particularly Michelle Le Baron, Cross-Cultural Communication.

The challenge is that even with all the good will in the world, miscommunication is likely to happen, especially when there are significant cultural differences between communicators. Miscommunication may lead to conflict, or aggravate conflict that already exists. We make — whether it is clear to us or not — quite different meaning of the world, our places in it, and our relationships with others. In this module, cross-cultural communication will be outlined and demonstrated by examples of ideas, attitudes, and behaviors involving four variables:

  • Time and Space
  • Fate and Personal Responsibility
  • Face and Face-Saving
  • Nonverbal Communication

As our familiarity with these different starting points increases, we are cultivating cultural fluency — awareness of the ways cultures operate in communication and conflict, and the ability to respond effectively to these differences.

In a multicultural society in an even more multicultural world these are areas we all need familiarity with. Back to proxemics:

The difficulty with space preferences is not that they exist, but the judgments that get attached to them. If someone is accustomed to standing or sitting very close when they are talking with another, they may see the other’s attempt to create more space as evidence of coldness, condescension, or a lack of interest. Those who are accustomed to more personal space may view attempts to get closer as pushy, disrespectful, or aggressive. Neither is correct — they are simply different.

Mind you, Trump was being “pushy, disrespectful, or aggressive”!

Related: My 1998 UTS Grad Cert TESOL assignment A Japanese Backpacker’s year in Australia may even amuse you.