April 2008


Deep in an essay for Research Methods, but still finding stuff on Web 2.0. Here are some of the links:

Just the thing for a Monday morning before starting n assignment for Uni! My comments on each proposal in red.

PRODUCTIVITY

Parent and children centres Picks up the idea floated by the Prime Minister last week of a one-stop shop for familes, offering health, development, learning and care services.

Fine, makes sense, but what kind of care services?

Learning for life accounts for every Australian from birth into which the government and others can make payments for education, training, parental leave, and superannuation contributions, with capacity to go into deficit any repayments contingent on income. 

This is simply transferring responsibility away from government and back to the individual. The most vulnerable will not be able to accumulate sufficient savings to provide for all those things; and you can bet your life savings that there will be tax benefits that will give the better off and advantage! The devil in this good idea will be in the detail.

Golden gurus: Retired people acting as workplace mentors.

This sounds great, except experience shows that in many cases the golden gurus are not particularly aware of the knowledge society or economy. This may be only relevant in the area of the old economy. ON the other hand, mentoring of any kind is valuable to those mentored and increases social cohesion.

ECONOMY

New Federation Commission to completely review the roles and responsibilities of the three levels of government. The independent body would have the power to pursue constitutional and economic reform.

Will they make big decisions?

Sweeping review of the taxation system: A two-year deadline to simplify taxes, reduce inefficiencies in the system and remove poverty traps.

As the States are the problem, this will be a challenge for Kevin’s new federalism.

Low-cost funds for housing A government-guaranteed scheme that creates securities from prime mortgages to deliver a steady supply of cheap money to home-buyers.

Is the problem finance or other factors like land availability, housing type, proximity to work, transport and services? If money is provided and the housing isn’t appropriate or available, then the money only goes to the banks and the wealthy.

ENVIRONMENT

National Sustainability, Population and Climate Control Agenda: Government would use all its tools – spending, tax, regulation and investment- to address pressing environmental issues like climate change.

Tick

Carbon and water accounts

Tick

Sustainable Cities Program: National approach to urban and regional planning that puts a priority on water efficiency and 
reducing carbon emissions.

Tick, and start in Sydney, please.

RURAL

New Government body to consider national and global food security

Gosh, whatever will the ethanol lobby do?

Northern Australia as a new food bowl: Government should survey the region to determine its agricultural suitability.

I hope this means more than turning the NT into the kind of agri-disaster that we’ve managed with the Murray-Darling basin.

Rural-city student exchanges: to improve urban understanding of the bush and encourage more students to take up 
agricultural studies.

Yawn: no-one wants to live in the country, not even country people. It may be beautiful and economically important, but the structure of rural life is changing dramatically as the corporations move in. This happened for years in many independent schools and there was no influx to the bush, but we could all do with an understanding of how the other five per cent live!

HEALTH

National Preventative Health Agency. Funded by tobacco, alcohol and junk food taxes, the new body would research health 
issues and advocate change, such as requiring each sedentary job to include 30 minutes of physical activity a day.

Yes!

Bionic eye Applying better research to achieve a cure for blindness.

Yes!

Universal first aid training: Goal is to have all children undertake training by 2020, allowing better use of volunteers to  deliver health care in emergencies like the Bali bombing.

Yes! and it could be delivered in the existing syllabus.

FAMILIES

24/7 use of schools for day care Open up school grounds to provide care for pre-school children, courses for parents and 
“education-focussed” before and after school care.

This will work if the money is provided for differentiation of facilities and the high costs of personnel; but maintenance will also increase through simple wear and tear. It isn’t gain without pain. And many secondary schools run 7 to 5 already.

Micro-finance Provides small, low-interest loans to people currently excluded from the main finance system. These can be used for personal or business purposes and help build budgeting skills in struggling areas.

Yes ( in the light of some recent comments about single women on welfare, this is great.

National Disability Insurance Scheme for people who experience catastrophic injury.

What will the lawyers say? Will it lead to a limiting of liability or compensation? 

INDIGENOUS

High quality education to be made available through a use of ABSTUDY, private school scholarships and more government  funding.

Yes, but how?

Indigenous future fund to fund housing and major capital works and invest in innovation.

Tick

National indigenous knowledge centre network to provide support to regional communities.

Yes, but are these big enough ideas to support the legitimate ambition and vision of aboriginal Australians?

CREATIVE AUSTRALIA

National mentoring scheme Artists would be placed in schools, working as “practioners in residence”. The scheme would be 
funded by philanthropic funds and tax incentives.

Digital art The collections of major national institutions would be archived electronically by 2020.

Research priority The creative industry given access to research and development funding and other industry schemes.

All very modest, but I think more could have been done had the creative role of universities and the importance of quality education been given more of a guernsey. For art to flourish, people need education and leisure, something the aspirational voters don’t have. Mum and Dad have been flogging the cultural wagon in Penrith for years with much success, but what portion of the population could really be said to consume Australian culture. Their noses are in their mortgages and their faces are in the plasma TV, watching dross on Channel 9.

GOVERNANCE

Australian republic Stage one would end ties with the UK while retaining the Governor-General’s titles and powers for five years but “with wide community involvement and ownership of the outcome”.Stage two would identify new models after extensive and broad consultation.

Bill of Rights Australians would be consulted on how best to protecty their human rights.

Overhaul of federalism A constitutional convention to define roles and responsibilities and a National Co-operation Commission to eliminate squabbling between the levels of government.

Twenty years overdue.

SECURITY

Pacific Partnership to bring Australia closer to its smaller Pacific neighbours.

Regional energy security forum

High level advisory councilcomprising business, academic and scientific leaders to advise on emereging food, water and energy security challenges.

Interesting: not one word on the role of Australian defence forces. What are we to be: a regional power? A middle level power? Do we defend our shores, our region or our interests? At the moment, with commitments all over the place, it seems somewhat schizoid.

So, at some stage, I need to sit down and make an evaluation; but already I am seeing that those areas I nominated in a previous blog are neglected by the delegates. Given the preponderance of academics, I find the silence on research, education and the knowledge economy deafening.

So we didn’t score an invitation to Canberra for the historic talkfest hosted by the redoubtable Kevinator! Alas, were it not for the power of the internet, the future would be denied our invaluable input into this process. We turn to the blog to, once again, shoutinto the void, in the vain hope that someone will hear us.

Tomorrow, I will try to evaluate some of the ideas canvassed at the 2020 summit — which, by the way, I support completely on the the grounds that it can’t hurt and may provide some genuinely interesting ideas for the Government to pursue — and discuss how they may impact my constituency. Today, however, I’d like to cover some of the issues which I hope will emerge from the plenary sessions as ideas to pursue and policies to embrace.
  1. Sustainability: While most people associate this with environmental concerns, I would follow Peter Senge and Andy Hargreaves in seeing this as an integral part of human being (yes, that’s a verb) in the 21st Century. While much of the globe is going to stay in the steam/industrial economy for some time, the transforming paradigm of society is the knowledge society. Inherently, that involves sustainability as an organising principle, because it needs to be a learning organisation: hence, it needs to be founded in nurturing rather than exploiting. A sustainable society will not only seek to stabilise the natural environment, but will seek ways of extending social good. The greatest step that could come from the conference would be an acceptance that the goal of a mature society is not economic growth or hedonistic satisfaction, but a renewal of the sense of community and communities.
  2. Political Renewal: While I would happily sign up to the ‘Republic Sooner’ flag, it’s a none issue compared with the problem of democratic leadership at the state level, and even — having experienced the dead hand of Howard and the boring as opposed to looney Right — at the Federal. We need to re-establish the independence of the Public Service and stop the spinning of the political story. Politicians need to lead and encourage their constituencies to recognise the consequences of some of the unsustainable behaviours that they, as Howard aspirational voters, have engaged in. Perhaps we should collapse the Federation into two tiers: a federal government with similar powers under the Constitution to that which it now exercises; and regional governments that would manage those matters now the concern of state and local governments. Imagine a Sydney basin regional government managing Sydney’s transport needs: it would be a lesser responsibility than that exercised by Ken Livingstone as Lord Mayor of Greater London!
  3. Equity as a social principle: For years we have tolerated the idea that the rich should not be inhibited in their acquisition of greater and greater wealth, while indigenous Australians, the sick, the mentally ill and the unfortunate become poorer and poorer. If we had a great tradition of public philanthropy, one would be less offended and concerned, but perhaps the tax system needs to place a greater level of obligation on the rich to give their largesse to the poor, or hand it over the the common-wealth to do it for them. The former is preferable, but the latter may be necessary … and down with the tax minimisation rorts that featherbed life for the top one percent! I should say at once that we are among the most fortunate in our society, and indeed in our world, and we know we should be doing more and recognising our capacity to contribute wealth and time, but we are nowhere near the level of wealth enjoyed by some.
  4. Education and Research First: not only will an dramatic increase in funding for education at all levels have a tangible benefit for the economy, we need to recognise that education is a prime indicator of social capacity to manage those in need. Education correlates with physical health, mental health, social stability, community acceptance, sustainable social behaviour … the list goes on. And it we are to confront the major challenges of bringing an acceptable standard of living to the poor of the world while caring and maintaining our environment, then research needs not just an increase in funding but a torrent of money, because the need is urgent and the potential solutions of such great benefit to the whole human family in general and Australia in particular.
  5. The rest are just details. I hope your listening, Cate Blanchett.

Perhaps the only surprising this about this announcement was the faint air of surprise in the Sydney media. Archbishop Aspinal had obviously been preparing the way for some time and Perth is, at least in recent times, the most progressive of the Australian dioceses. So now the Church of England has dared to take a step forward in the face of the Pope and the Archbishop of Sydney!
I’m puzzled by the monolithic refusal to acknowledge the realities by the Sydney block. No sensible person believes the line from St Andrew’s House that everyone in Sydney would object to a woman as a bishop, and it was quite clear that Rob Forsythe was far less troubled by the issue that his colleague north of the harbour. Only one other diocese is likely to join Sydney (and its little club, but maybe even Armidale won’t worry) in finding worn out misogynist bishops to look after those with objections to women as leaders. A more important issue is, who will look after the non-Evangelicals in Sydney — and the St Andrew’s crew never showed any concern for broad and high church remnants in the Sydney diocese over fifty years.
I often wonder what my churchmanship might have been had I lived in a city other that Sydney. My parents have maintained a stance rich in irony, attending their local ‘chapel’ while visiting Christ Church at regular intervals. I couldn’t see myself doing it 25 years ago, and yet I’ve tolerated the cheerful exclusion of women from leadership in the Catholic Church for all that time. It’s not really double standards: Catholics in the West, particularly in the English-speaking world, have negotiated a way around this issue that is a tacit power-sharing, while waiting for inevitable change. When we run out of priests, or — sooner — decent priests, we might start realising what we have been missing.
A couple of questions. Would Bishop Goldsworthy be allowed to preside at mass in Sydney? Has she gone under the title ‘Mother’? all interesting signs of cultural change this side of the mountains, that are old news elsewhere, I’m sure.

For the first time, I am watching an American program which demonstrates a degree of reflective awareness about the Second World War. The fact that is is by Ken Burns is hardly surprising: since The Civil War he has demonstrated an ability to create a sense of nostalgia without sentimentality (if that’s possible). It’s an awareness of a time that is past or passing, that needs celebrating and understanding. While his methodology has been much imitated, he still is the master of the historical documentary.