University degree vs. vocational training.

Forty-five percent of all Australian youths should attend a university – so decided the federal government. Such a move would obviously keep the job-seeker level low for a while. Yet, the same government allows the entry of a very large number of immigrants and refugees each year. The belief-theory underlying this entry policy is that the consumer demand generated would benefit the economy. What of development?

Australia is already deficient in necessary infrastructure and needed housing. Development, however, requires investment by entrepreneurs and qualified tradespeople. Would the 30 or so universities which are re-badged vocational colleges produce the needed tradespeople?

An article in the 28 Feb. 2018 issue of the Sydney Morning Herald by Ross Gittins is pertinent. Ross is an account who explains economics more clearly than many of the economists I have read. In his article ‘Back to school with job training,’ he wrote “Don’t be so sure that going to university is the best way to get a good job.”

He points out that:
• Less than 10% of the increase in employment forecast by the government will be for those with no post-school qualifications
• 43% of the jobs will require a bachelor or higher degree (In what?)
• 47% will therefore require trade qualifications
• Median pre-tax earnings by employees with a bachelor degree was $1280/week whereas an employee with a trade qualification would earn $1035/week.
• While funding for trade training was reduced, university entrance was ‘demand-driven.’ “The vice-chancellors couldn’t believe their luck. Particularly, those at regional and outer suburbs unis went crazy, lowering their admission standards and admitting largely increased numbers.” (And competing with one another.)
• “It’s likely that many of those extra students will struggle to reach university standards – unless, of course, exams have been made easier to accommodate them.” (Multiple-choice questions for first degrees, and no essay for a postgraduate degree?)
• “Those who abandon their studies may find themselves lumbered with … debt without much to show for it.”
• Trade and related training was then exposed to “competition from private providers of ‘vocational education and training.’ To attract … more entrepreneurial for-profit training providers, the feds extended … a version of the uni system of deferred loans to cover tuition fees.”
• “… the supposed trainers could get paid upfront by a federal bureaucracy that took an age to realise it was being done over.”
• “Far too little is being done to get TAFE (Technical & Further Education) training properly back in business after most of the for-profit providers have folded into the night.”
• There is a need for a “thoroughgoing review of our malfunctioning post-school education arrangements.”

(Comment: Could a nation which has no forward plans be expected to avoid the mess its bureaucrats had allowed to happen?)

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Corruption galore

Corruption seems to be a very human attribute, evident all over the globe. Yet, is it not strange that the majority of people I have met are not in the least interested in taking advantage of their position to acquire wealth or possessions? Against that, those who are corrupt include (everywhere) very rich or very powerful people enjoying a high lifestyle. If that does not indicate extraordinary greed, what does?

The latest corrupt behaviour in Australia I have read about involves some unlawful arrivals claiming asylum because they are gay, that is, homosexual. Migration agents are reportedly involved; how so? Are pro bono lawyers involved too? Media reports are somewhat opaque about such matters. It is, however, interesting to read about the preparations made by some asylum seekers to convince decision makers that they are practising homosexuals.

Since these applicants are already in Australia, but are not allowed to work for a living, who feeds and houses them? Australian charities? Do members of their tribal community provide material support? Do their supporters among the host-nation population who are not tribally-linked provide necessary sustenance?

How did these applicants get into the country? Unlawfully? Or, by not being honest when applying for a visitor-visa?

Corruption in Australia is petty compared to the grand larceny reportedly to be found in many countries. Yet, would it not be sensible to attempt to close the holes now available through faulty policies or lax administration? The financial cost to the nation now must be ridiculously high.

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?

Do universities meet the needs of society?

Here is the view of an eminent historian. “… the historian of the 20C notes the love of the conglomerate. Originally used for business, the word denotes here the wish to mix pleasures, activities, and other goods so as to find them in one place.” … …

“The conglomerate that best fulfilled the idea of the time was the course offering of the large colleges and universities. It had ceased to be a curriculum, of which the dictionary definition is: ‘a fixed series of courses required for graduation.’

Qualified judges called the (current) catalogue listings a smorgasbord and not a balanced meal. And large parts of it were hardly nourishing. The number of subjects had kept increasing, in the belief that any human occupation, interest, hobby, or predicament could furnish the substance of an academic course.

It must therefore be available to young and old in higher learning. From photography to playing the trombone and from marriage to hotel management, a multitude of respectable vocations had a program that led to a degree. On many a campus one might meet a student who disliked reading and had ‘gone visual,’ or be introduced to an assistant professor of family living.”

‘Fifty-some majors, thirty-some concentrations, and hundreds of electives.’ – The Dean of an Ivy League College to arriving students.

‘A university that offers a doctorate in sensibility, including courses in “niceness and meanness” and “mutual pleasurable stimulations of the human nervous system” was (well described) in 1992 as “an academy of carnal knowledge.” – New York Times (1996)
(These are extracts from ‘From Dawn to Decadence – 1500 to the present’ by historian Jacques Barzun. He has published more than a dozen books, and been described ‘As one of the great one-man shows of Western letters.’

One might ask, in the context of the Australian Government’s subsidy to our universities (based on enrolments rather than graduation, or on the utility of the content of courses,) about the taxpayer cost of university courses which do not provide usable skills. Of course, those who seek other kinds of courses can pay for these courses themselves.)

 

An Asian screens foreign takeovers in Australia

Nearly 50 years ago, a conservative government, concerned at the rate at which foreigners were buying up profitable Australian enterprises, passed legislation to screen foreign takeovers. Ironically, the day the screening process commenced was the first day of a Labor Government. Since Australia has always relied on the inflow of foreign capital to keep afloat, the government had placed the responsibility for the screening process with the Treasury.

With a staff of 3, with 6 years of experience in another agency in dealing with senior executives of private corporations, I opened the takeover screening office. While I reported to a senior executive, I had no reason to consult him. I set up operating procedures, interpreted the legislation (with the concurrence of Attorney-General’s Department), and obtained agreement from my boss to proceed. I had previously told him about my background. My reports to the Treasurer, via the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB), would be approved by my boss, obviously.

Even after the FIRB Secretariat had grown to 8 Sections (in 3 Branches), I was the one who wrote the occasional briefings to the Treasurer about changes to the policy. This was an extension of my initial role – of explaining to powerful people how my office would operate. My offsider and I, together (to avoid any risk of being misquoted), would point out that a foreign takeover had only to be ‘not against the national interest.’ We were also required to guide the foreign investor to the gateways available. Later, I briefed lawyers and company executives about our approach, by invitation, in their offices.

For a former ‘blackfellow’ for whom the Australia worker was not yet ready, it was significant that, as with my work in the 1960s with the then Tariff Board, I was accepted readily by all the senior executives I dealt with in the 1970s.

In the 1980s, I again related successfully, but with the leaders of our ethnic communities and State Government executives. Australia had clearly joined the Family of Man.

Our political structures have now to open the door fully to multicultural participants, perhaps with a greater emphasis on secularism.

Did squatters destroy an Aboriginal civilisation?

“A few years after the initial ‘discovery’ by Captain Cook, it was apparently known that the indigenes not only occupied the land and used it with economic purpose, but also (according to the highly respected Dr.Coombs) “… lived in clan or tribal groups, that each group had a homeland with known boundaries, and that they took their name from their district, and rarely moved outside it.”  It was also known that they had, and applied, firm rules about trespass, kinship ties, marriage, child rearing and other matters, the hallmarks of an organised society; that they had a “habit of obedience” to their rulers and leaders, a hallmark of a political society; and that they had an ordered ceremonial life, reflecting the sharing of a spiritual vision, a hallmark of a civilisation. Apparently, they also had their own zodiac, which guided their activities. Their artistic records are also well known and respected.

It has now been accepted that the indigenes did not cede any of their land. As the famous poet Oodjaroo Noonuccal said, “We are but custodians of the land”. Whilst the settlers saw themselves at war, and killed to acquire land, officialdom (later supported by local jurists) preferred occupation to conquest. Occupation follows discovery, of a presumed empty land. How were the natives to establish ownership without a Titles Office?

Because the morally political Australian rejected the idea of an invasion, a Senate Committee came up, in the early 1980s, with prescription. This apparently applies when there is no clear title to sovereignty by way of treaty, occupation or conquest. An extended occupation, and an exercise of sovereignty were apparently enough to vest title in the Crown.

But, prescription requires a show of authority on the one side, and acquiescence on the other (says Prof. Reynolds, the renowned contributor to the nation’s enlightenment on this black subject). Since the natives never acquiesced to anything, voluntary abandonment was claimed. The Senate’s clever semantic exercise seemed to accept that being killed or driven away is tantamount to voluntary abandonment! A prominent white Australian sociologist reminded me that cities such as Melbourne and Sydney represented the most effective sites of ethnic cleansing; and that every fence in Australia encloses land that was once the soul, or the shared possession of a particular group of Aborigines.

A very substantial majority of the Aboriginal people died in the years following the invasion. Killing was both official and private. “My father used to round you mob up and shoot you for Saturday and Sunday entertainment”. This was uttered by a school mate of a recent head of ATSIC (the Aboriginal and Torres Straits Islander Commission). One does not visit the sins of the father upon the son. Yet, there are Australians today who attempt to defend the historical brutality that led to women and children being shot without compunction, and large numbers of fellow humans being killed through the use of poison. What sort of humans were the early arrivals that they could do this? What does it say about their origins, the way they lived before arriving in Australia, and their moral and cultural values? Why were these casual killers so debauched? “ … …

“It would not be quite fair to apply the aphorism ‘The criminal cannot forgive the victim he has defiled’ to those who deny what they call the ‘black armband’ view of Australia’s history. Why someone who cannot claim any ancestors who ‘cleared’ the land so vehemently rejects an honest view of a black history, makes sense only if one accepts that such people have strong tribal affinities, ie their people could not have behaved so brutally; or that, because that was normal colonial behaviour then, the perpetrators cannot be judged by current criteria for morality.

 I have had similar statements made to me when I occasionally refer to my exposure to Aussie racists. Some of these defenders of past brutality, however, confuse guilt with responsibility. That is, they cannot accept that today’s generation has a moral responsibility to compensate, but without any sense of guilt, for the damage done by earlier generations.

(These are extracts from my book ‘Hidden Footprints of Unity: Beyond tribalism towards a new Australian identity.’  My hope is the Australian Family of Man, arising eventually from, and through, cultural differences. Our indigenes need to find a place in the sun as a community before participating within a mesh of integrated cultures forming the nation. However, a generation or two of superior white Australians have to join their Maker before that can happen.) 

 

Cope and adapt – or whinge?

After nearly 7 decades of a highly interactive and contributory life in Australia as an adult, I believe that I am qualified to conclude thus:

  • This is not the country I entered. Then, residents were self-sufficient and relatively poor, displaying respect where appropriate, and with pride in who they were. They adapted very successfully, progressively, to the tremendous changes to their society. ‘God’s Will’ did have a role.
  • Today, new rights have been coined by the greedy and the opportunistic; government is required to accept responsibilities which were traditionally those of individuals, families, and private enterprise. The ‘nanny state’ has arrived.
  • ‘Other peoples’ money’ is thereby demanded to compensate for the evil behaviour of priests; offset the low taxes paid by tax-minimising corporations, especially the multinationals; compensate for the calculated profligacy of individuals; and subsidise the so-called ‘wealth creation’ by the rich (including politicians) benefiting from questionable tax concessions. Taxpayers who have no way of protecting their earnings are increasingly fleeced.
  • Our politicians are not trusted. Governments are seen as pre-occupied with politics, rather than with policies. And the nation is more backward than it should be, while political careers move forward.
  • Early post-war immigrants integrated into the nation successfully, ignoring the prejudice (not always racism) displayed through spoken words and painful acts of discrimination. More recent immigrants, entering a nation considerably tolerant of difference, profess to have been hurt and humiliated by pejorative spoken words!
  • These new arrivals could have no idea of the insults and denial of equal opportunity suffered by those of us who acclimatised superior white Aussies to the presence of people not like them.
  • Welfare is not directed just to offset hardship. It is now a right. Spokesmen for the industry seek a ‘sustainable lifestyle’ for recipients, which includes going to the cinema, etc. etc. Why not? Someone else is paying.
  • Some new arrivals are quick to adapt to the current national ethos: whinge, and whinge yet again.
  • Castles built on clouds will collapse. Wait to hear the cacophony of complaints as the need for greater self-sufficiency zooms sky high (as the river begins to dry out).