When other people’s money runs out

Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister, said that socialism works well until other people’s money runs out (or words to that effect). In spite of my extended life in Australia (almost 7 decades as an adult), I do not believe that I have experienced (lived under) a socialist government. My exposure to the Australian polity ranges from White Australia (with its overt racism) to the current rule under Vaticanite social doctrines.

Although the Australian Labor Party (ALP) purportedly represented the working class, it has allowed generous tax concessions to the wealthy, and to powerful interests (especially the foreign-controlled mining industry). As a swinging voter, and thereby a political orphan, I am perpetually aware that our major political parties are akin to Tweedledum and Tweedledee in that wonderful story ‘Alice in the looking glass’. Changing places in Parliament makes little difference.

The cost of welfare payments is said to be rising. Eligibility seems to be widening. There are visibly wealthy senior citizens receiving some age pension (the cut-off point for couples is close to a million dollars). The disability pension (which pays about 25% more) appears to be easily exploited; I personally know 4 recipients who are not in any way disabled.

By retiring from the work force from about age 55 to 60, and living on one’s superannuation until retirement age, one could then live on the age pension until death. (Super is intended to be a replacement for the age pension.) The use-by date for men is now (Oct 2017) about 80; and for women about 84.

In the late 1980s, when asked about the policy implications of the proliferation of welfare eligibility – and how he proposed to deal with it – the responsible public official replied “I am too busy”!

With the political parties playing politics, were the responsible public officials to sit on their hands in the circumstances of the increasing casualisation of the workforce and falling union membership (about 12%), are those taxpayers who are unable to reduce their tax to be increasingly burdened? How long before the ‘camel’s back’ collapses?

Yet, there are increasing demands for widening welfare payments. In spite of a substantial intake of identified refugees, we are also asked to take more. It has also been suggested that welfare should enable a sustainable lifestyle. Worse still, that ridiculous concept of a ‘poverty line’ has re-surfaced. Under this definition, anyone whose income is below the median income (at the halfway mark) is in poverty; and therefore needs financial supplementation. How irresponsibly generous are those proponents of expropriation of other people’s hard-earned money!

The cost of welfare in October 2017 is reportedly $300,000 per minute or $430 million per day. The total lifetime bill for those receiving welfare benefits is estimated at $2.1 trillion. Furthermore, dole recipients are reported to be not attending interviews. Does anyone in office care?

Welfare is now based, not on need, but on a right; what about reciprocity? I read recently that a nation in Europe insists on reciprocity in relation to payments to refugees. Was I correct in believing during my youth that socialism is no different from communism – and to be fought in terms of a human right – the right not to subsidise those not in need?

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Delaying learning through fads in education

Teaching a young child (say, 3 to 5 years old) or adults learning a new language has been successful through the phonics method. I learned my mother tongue, Tamil, as a 4-year old, and English as my second language from age 7 in British Malaya, through phonics. As an adult, I taught Indian shopkeepers in Singapore necessary English through phonics. Before that, I taught Chinese high school students basic English through phonics.

hen the pronunciation varied from the norm, all of us accepted the variations through memory. Yes, bough/ bought/rough/cough, row/row, and similar temporarily confusing sounds were memorised as idiosyncrasies in a slightly confusing foreign language. That the letter ‘a’ has a variety of sounds was no problem to me or to those I taught.

My wife and I taught our 3-year olds to read without difficulty in distinguishing between ‘sight’ words and ‘memory’ words. There are not that many ‘memory’ words in the English language of common usage. One can learn these without recourse to semantically unclear and confusing jargon phrases. I once read a short paper by a professor in education whose phrases were so abstract that a barrage of anvils was needed to be attached to them to obtain any operational meaning.

Then, when I found that my granddaughter could not read, even near the end of her second year at school (Year 1), I admit to having been disgusted. She had been taught by the whole-of-word method for 2 years, and could not work out the word ‘kingfisher’. I put her on the right track to reading, learning and enjoying books in two 20-minute sessions. How could a school hold back any child because of a sacred fad?

This bright child had been held back by a fad – which had been inflicted on little children for about 25 years, with the teachers bound by the edicts of their trade union, academics in education, and a certain arrogance by some teachers, when the right of teachers to decide how our children are taught had never, to my knowledge, been challenged. This arrogance did lead to a claim by some teachers that they should be free to decide what is taught. What arrogance! How would they know about the nature and needs of the society into which our children grow; and how our youth are enabled to fit into this future society?

We live in a global and competitive environment. Our children need to be as educated and as prepared for the real world as will be children from other nations, and who will be fluent in English. I do not detect that emphasis on excellence which is required to equip our youth for the real world, although a few educators and some politicians do their best.

Cheapening Australian citizenship

For years, the residence qualification for citizenship in Australia was a total of 5 years out of 8. Then, reflecting a quaint policy of harnessing ethnic votes, including offering some ethnic empowerment, the qualifying period began to be reduced. One government reduced this period to 3 years. The other government educed this period to 2. Just like competition in the retail sector.

Reducing the waiting period for permanent residents to apply for Australian citizenship from 5 years out of 8 to 3, and then to 2, may not have captured the ethnic vote. The reality is that immigrant voters engaged in business tended to vote conservative; the workers generally voted labour. However, this diminution of the value of citizenship allowed those with criminal intent to keep their heads down during this period. With citizenship, they could not be deported.

Prime Minister Howard’s 4-year residence requirement was a pragmatic solution. Was lawful temporary residence included in the qualifying period? Currently, a total of 4 years’ residence, with a minimum of 1 year’s permanent residence is required. As a consequence, now there is a perception that a 1-year residence as a permanent resident should be enough, even without any prior temporary residence. What are the risks for the nation?

Dual citizenship (introduced for political purposes) had already diminished the value of our citizenship. Australian citizens can now fight for their country of origin, if they have dual citizenship.

To re-clad citizenship, which requires a commitment to the nation, it is surely desirable that 4 years of permanent residence be a primary requirement. A secondary requirement is that those seeking our citizenship should demonstrate clearly that they wish to integrate into the nation. What is unfair about these requirements?

(I was the Head of the Citizenship Branch in the then Department of Immigration & Ethnic Affairs, whose expert team conducted the first ever review of our Citizenship Act – in the early 1980s. It was my recommendation, which was accepted by the government, that no one should govern, administer, or fight for the nation without Australian citizenship.

Beware those who want to make citizenship easy to access. Ask ‘Who benefits?’

I am also the author of a number of books, under my author name Raja Arasa Ratnam, on the successful settlement – integration – of immigrants and refugees. Refer amazon kindle)

 

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Institutional prejudice – is it always racism?

An employer chooses not to employ a physically handicapped applicant who is able to do the job: is that racism? An applicant for a job who has a ‘foreign’ (ie. non-Anglo) name has, as has been known for some time, reduced chances of getting even an acknowledgement in the Western world: is that racism or just prejudice? What kind of prejudice – tribal? A coloured employee in a workplace is assumed by white visitors to be a low-level worker, frequently: this is obviously a culturally-conditioned perception. Does it reflect prejudice? Not necessarily. Is it institutional racism, since the trigger is skin colour?

Australia’s Racial Discrimination legislation, under Section 18(c), accepts that words can ‘hurt and humiliate’ a complainant. The legislation deems such words as discrimination as well, although no act disadvantaging the complainant in any way was involved. Is this trivialising the concept of discrimination?

Worse still, the oral abuse may have been triggered by the headgear (a turban, skull cap, or hijab), or other apparel, which identifies the wearer as different from the abuser’s people. Is this not religious or cultural prejudice?

Hitherto, it has been the residue (dregs?) of the White Australia supremacists who have sought to defend ‘white space’ (physical or cultural) from those not like them. However, it may not be long before Australia’s multicultural society produces non-white or non-Christian residents publicly responding to the yobbos who abuse them.

The term racism, misused as it has been to cover a wide range of prejudices, will proceed from being confusing to being ridiculous. The concept of races was coined by European colonisers, mainly the British. The white race was posited against all others. This mythical race was claimed to be genetically (innately) superior to the coloured races. Its weaponry was more powerful, and its greed excelled anything previously seen in the history of mankind. The buccaneers who sought to over-run and exploit other peoples would not have known about the cultural and religious advances of some of these other peoples.

Those who create legislation in the English-speaking nations of the world are now probably conditioned to the misuse of the terms race and racial. They may experience some difficulty in splitting prejudice into its correctly-defined categories.

One can only hope that the terms race and racial will follow that wondrous bird, the dodo. There have been no races on Earth.

Ignorance or prejudice?

At a gathering of (ostensibly) religious leaders at a dinner table, a Hindu deity (a non-human) was included. The gathering was seemingly to celebrate the sharing of a meal based on the flesh of an animal. This animal is normally depicted in children’s story books as a cuddly ‘baa lamb.’ Lamb is a popular source of protein in Australia – which once rode to prosperity on the back of sheep (aged lamb).

In my early days in Australia, a great distinction was made between lamb and the less-popular mutton (the flesh of sheep). Mutton, however, provides a more tasty curry because of its higher fat content. A comparison could be made between range-fed beef and lot-fed beef, the latter containing the desired strings of fat threading the flesh.

As for the gathering of lovers of lamb meat from diverse faiths, which I saw on tv, it showed a caricature of Ganesha, the elephant-headed Hindu deity. This caricature showed ‘Ganesh’ with a trunk which wiggled (in my view) like the tail of a pig. The trunk was thus a caricature of the trunk of an elephant.

Since the Hindu God, although omni-present, omniscient, and omni-powerful, is ‘unknowable,’ Hindus pray to a spectrum of deities who are manifestations – each with a predominantly characteristic attribute of relevance to humanity – of the one and only God of all mankind. Ganesha is one of these deities. He is much-preferred. My formative years included regular prayers at a Ganesha (Pilleyar) temple.

Where the Indian Government has reportedly protested that this advertisement for lamb meat is an insult to Hindu culture, I suggest that it represents sacrilege. I am offended. In the new multicultural Australia, could those responsible for the creation and approval of this advert. be so ignorant as to include a Hindu deity within a group of humans? And at a dinner table!

Further, since Hindus tend to be vegetarians, or eat very little meat, could the advert. be a form of thumbing one’s nose at a foreign faith? That is, does this advert. indicate a degree of religio-cultural prejudice? Is White Australia being re-visited?

Just asking!

The dearth and probable death of democracy

Democracy, as we in the West know it, is correctly referred to as Western democracy. Effectively, in this form of citizen-participation in the process of governance, electors vote for a political party. Political parties became involved in governance only about 400 years or so ago. Technically, electors vote for the candidate offered by their party of choice. Electors have no say in the selection of candidates. Even local party members have almost no say in the selection of their candidate. The political party controls all.

With compulsory voting, as in Australia, there can be many ‘donkey’ votes, some with added rude words. Interestingly, as eligible voters become disenchanted with the process, many reportedly do not even register as voters. Where non-voting by registered electors will result in a fine, non-registration seems to be substantially ignored. Not long ago, when the responsible poobah was asked about non-registration, a media report quoted him as saying that the public would not accept punishment for non-registration.

The whole process has lost its credibility. The political parties prefer playing politics rather than debate policies in parliament; that is beyond question. The Opposition of the day, and minor parties, can delay or deny necessary policies. Minority parties can be single-issue parties, cherry-picking potential winners in policy. Some politicians act as individuals, pushing their personal barrows.

Australia does not have long-term policies: no economic policy; no population policy; no infrastructure policy; no housing policy; no policy regarding the objectives and outputs of tertiary education; no coherent and integrated social-welfare policies; no climate policy; and no energy policy.

‘Market forces’ influence outcomes in the economy, just as the USA influences defence policy. Without an ongoing inflow of foreign capital (with increasing foreign ownership of sound enterprises) Australia will sink. Worse still, we rely on cheap foreign labour (on short-term entry visas) in industries of no apparent interest to able-bodied, childless, unemployed persons.

Yet, we offer free hospital treatment for all residents, irrespective of capacity to pay. Then there are tax concessions galore, which benefit mainly the wealthy. These concessions require those who have no means of minimising their burden to also subsidise those who ‘create wealth’ (for themselves) by paying less tax. Overall, acquiring OP (Other Peoples’) money is a highly-preferred approach to achieving a lifestyle of choice.

To be fair, Western democracy permits a wider range of people to be subsided than those nations ruled by autocratic, kleptomaniac, rulers supported by a limited circle of supporter-beneficiaries.

Is there a fairer, or more efficient, or less-corrupt system of participation in the governance of a nation?

Speaking American English on Australian tv

For years, the Australian media has tended to follow any new developments in American media. For example, way back in the 1960s, when some radio advertisers in the USA began to shout their messages, Australia followed. Until recently, a particular presenter on Australian tv shouted his wares as if he had to rush off to void something.

Then, more recently, tv news readers on the national broadcaster and on the multicultural channel (part subsidised) began to interview reporters during the news broadcast. Unlike the olden days, when the speech sounds were (sort-of) British, the accents heard in recent decades were those of educated readers speaking Australian English.

Now, there has developed a new trend. Increasingly, some presenters and reporters are attempting to speak American English. I set out below a letter I wrote for publication in my local newspaper; it did not see the light of day.

“Speaking American English on ABC tv and SBS tv

It is fascinating to hear some Aussie newsreaders and reporters on ABC tv and SBS tv attempting to speak American English. They do this by accenting the first syllable; for example, Sah-hara (the desert), dough-nation, dee-fence. Increasingly, we also hear nairies and tawries, like ordi-nairy and terri-tawry.

Are we preparing for the privatisation of these two institutions? Or for that desirable shift from satrapy to new American state? Heh! Heh!

In view of the probable isolation of Australia on the edge of Asia, when mother hen progressively gathers the chicks wandering about on their own up north, as well as for a desirable shift in Australia away from policies based on welfare to individual enterprise and effort, and for us not having to pay for our military equipment, I have recommended in my book ‘Musings at death’s door: an ancient bicultural Asian-Australian ponders about Australian society’ that Australia should seek to become the next state of the USA.

Although my adopted nation (of which I have reason to be proud) is clearly a satrapy of the US hegemonic empire, rushing off to back the USA in any conflagration commenced by it, our media and politicos pretend that we a middle power. That we may be as well, but we cannot be an Asian nation.

I find it fascinating to hear how some readers and reporters try to emphasise that first syllable in what apparently is the way Americans speak. However, some words, like ‘missils’ (for missiles), pose no difficulty.

How do our school children cope with this dual approach to speech, with their teachers speaking Aussie English and tv offering American English?