Australian Politics 2017-06-22 15:44:00
Labor MP claims it's UNFAIR for new immigrants to have to learn English as opposition looks set to reject stringent language test plan
I am inclined to agree. Learning a new language to native standard in adulthood is impossible for most people
A senior Labor politician has slammed federal government plans to make migrants sit a more stringent English language test if they want to become Australian citizens.
Linda Burney, a senior Opposition frontbencher from the Left faction, suggested stricter exams would be unfair on refugees or people fleeing persecution.
Her invention on the ABC's Q&A program came ahead of a Labor caucus meeting on Tuesday morning, which looks set to reject Immigration Minister Peter Dutton's proposal.
The MP from Sydney said it was unfair to require prospective citizens to pass university-level English when vocation training group Australia Education, Training and Employment Services only taught English to high school level.
'This test, we believe, is requiring people to have level six or university English,' Ms Burney said on Monday night.
'Now, is that really fair for people who are escaping terrible situations to be able to only get citizenship if they have level six when AMES only teaches to level four?’
U.K.-born author and academic Rachel Botsman slammed the idea of testing potential citizens on Depression-era cricketing legend Donald Bradman. 'Knowing Donald Bradman's batting average is not actually a useful thing,' she told the panel.
Ms Botsman also revealed she was studying in preparation to sit the test this week and was shocked by some of the questions.
Ms Botsman said she was surprised to discover questions about cricketers and even Australian cakes in the practice test. 'Knowing what an esky or lamington or who Donald Bradman is, I don't think they should be in the booklet. 'I do think certain things need to be changed.'
Ms Botsman also voiced concern about the English proficiency test. 'What it is saying is that you have to speak English to respect society and live in Australia,' she said.
'I came from a family of immigrants and I don't think they could speak the language when they fled, and they still made a positive contribution to society.'
Victorian Liberal Senator James Paterson, who also appeared on the show, defended 'a tough English language requirement'. 'If you are seeking to become a citizen, which will be after at least four years as a permanent resident, you should be able to speak English,' he said.
'And it's important to be able to communicate with your neighbours and colleagues and co-workers and friends in order to integrate successfully in society.
'It's not just good for the society but it's good for you as an individual as well.
Senator Paterson also argued the test should screen for values. 'Always as a country we've screened migrants for their skills and other things but one thing we haven't screened is values and I think that is an important part of coming here and wanting to be a citizen,' he said.
He said a values test would focus on issues like domestic violence. The Victorian senator said domestic violence was 'completely unacceptable' and it was non-negotiable that Australian citizens understood that.
'I don't think it's xenophobic to expect and require new migrants to abide by that,' he said.
'Respect freedom of speech or freedom of religion or equality before the law.
'These are principles we week to uphold and maintain in Australia and we'll find that much more easy to do if all the new migrants seeking to become citizens share those values.'
Peter Kurti, a research fellow from the conservative Centre for Independent Studies think tank asked: 'Who determines what the values are?'
'I have no idea who has decided what the values are for us as Australians, but that would be an interesting question to ask,' he said.
'Is it up to the First Peoples?'
Ms Burney, the first indigenous woman to elected to the House of Representatives, said: 'I don't know if any Aboriginal people, First People, have been consulted in terms of what those values are'.
The REAL cost of dole bludgers: How the long-term unemployed are costing taxpayers a staggering $222,000 EACH
The average taxpayer would need to work for 14 years to pay the $220,00 welfare bill racked up by a single long-term dole bludger.
Over 100,000 welfare recipients are taking hardworking Australians for a ride, failing to turn up to job interviews and reaping the benefits of generous dole schemes.
The latest figures were released by Social Services Minister Christian Porter ahead of introducing a suite of changes to the welfare system to parliament on Thursday.
The widespread changes to the welfare system will include a two-year program to drug test 5000 new recipients of Newstart or Youth allowances in three locations.
'If you are part of that group of 100,00 people who persistently don't turn up to job interviews, you stay on welfare for much longer,' Mr Porter told The Daily Telegraph.
'An average person on an average wage is going to work for a great number of years to support someone in the welfare system who isn't doing the right thing.'
The new legislation will target 'non-compliant' welfare recipients - people who consistently fail to show up for job interviews or welfare appointments.
'Too many people are not meeting the requirements attached to their welfare, such as attending appointments, and most suffer no penalty,' Mr Porter said.
'This not only puts a burden on taxpayers who face a higher long-term cost to meet these people's welfare bill, but does nothing to help them achieve self-reliance by securing work.'
The Turnbull government insists its proposed trial to drug test people on welfare is not about stripping payments off vulnerable Australians.
'This trial is not about penalising job seekers with drug abuse issues, it is about finding new and better ways of identifying these job seekers and ensuring they are referred to the support and treatment they need,' Mr Porter told parliament on Thursday.
It was part of a range of measures announced in the May budget.
The reforms would make the system simpler, more sustainable and focused on supporting people to move from welfare into work, Mr Porter said.
Central to that is a new single JobSeeker payment, to be introduced in 2020, replacing or consolidating seven different payments.
'The bill demonstrates that the government is completely committed to improving the integrity of the welfare system and ensuring that recipients receive the necessary support incentives to address barriers to employment, to look for work and take a suitable job when it's available,' he sai
Bill Shorten must show the sort of leadership Bob Hawke did
Bill Shorten must show leadership on the CFMEU or else thuggery will become an acceptable part of Australian politics.
The latest demonstration of intimidation by the union — via its Victorian boss John Setka — is the final straw for a union which appears to act as a law unto itself.
Mr Shorten’s response to Setka’s threats was appallingly weak — “that’s not the way to advance your cause.”
Why doesn’t Mr Shorten refuse to take the union’s money? Surely that would show strength of character and leadership.
After all, Labor’s greatest living former Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, showed such leadership in the 1980s when he deregistered the Builders’ Labourers Federation.
The BLF had been acting and speaking exactly the same way that the CFMEU are now.
It’s one thing for Mr Shorten to condemn the latest outburst — sort of — but surely the real test of what you think of someone is whether you are prepared to take their money.
Such a bold move by Mr Shorten would win him enormous goodwill among the Australian public.
John Setka has clearly crossed the line of acceptable political discourse when he threatened to reveal the home addresses of inspectors from the Australian Building and Construction Commission.
The “we know where you live” threat is one normally used by organised criminals and outlaw motorcycle gangs.
Let’s understand exactly what he was saying — he is making clear that the inspectors from a government body established by the national Parliament should not feel safe in their own homes.
“Let me give a dire warning to the ABCC inspectors: be careful what you do,” he told a rally in Melbourne. “They have got to lead these secret little lives because they are ashamed of what they do. You know what we’re going to do? We’re going to expose them all.
“We will lobby their neighbourhoods. We will tell them who lives in that house. What he does for a living, or she. “We will go to their local football club. We will go to the local shopping centre.”
Setka then crossed a second line — by bring children into the debate. There’s generally a consensus in Australian political discourse — usually observed also by the media — that children are off limits when it comes to what their parents do. But not for John Setka.
“They will not be able to show their faces anywhere. Their kids will be ashamed of who their parents re when we expose all these ABCC inspectors.”
Setka confirmed yet again the intimidation mentality of the CFMEU.
Labor giants such as Bob Hawke — himself, like Shorten, a creature of the union movement — can see the cancer that is the CFMEU.
As Mr Hawke told this paper last year, in reference to the CFMEU: “The unions need to clean up their act and get their house in order. “It is just appalling. I mean, I wouldn’t tolerate it. You know what I did with the Builders’ Labourers Federation — I would throw them out.”
By “throwing them out”, Hawke had the effect of ensuring that unions which took BLF members had to adhere to a higher standard of governance.
It had a positive impact as unions realised that Hawke — a former chief of the ACTU — was no pushover.
My sense is that unions at the moment regard Shorten as a pushover.
Hawke took action against one of his own constituency because the BLF were acting and speaking like thugs. The CFMEU are the “new BLF.”
The bottom line of all this is quite simple: unless Shorten acts, the expected victory by Labor at the next election will be underwritten in part by the CFMEU.
Which poses the question: should there be a Shorten government, exactly what will the CFMEU want in return for their money?
There should be no doubt: under a Shorten Government John Setka would be a man of even greater power than he is now. Is that what this country wants?
The growth of bullshit jobs
The resources boom may have petered out but Australia is still riding another — the decades-long expansion of well-paid jobs whose value is hard to pin down.
London School of Economics anthropologist David Graeber shot to fame in 2013 by drawing attention to what he called this "bullshit jobs" phenomenon in rich countries. "Huge swathes of people in Europe and North America spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound," Graeber wrote.
The growth is equally acute in Australia, as a recent deep dive into the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ quarterly employment data reveals.
The collapse of repetitive manufacturing jobs has paved the way for service jobs that improve our quality of life. Massage and beauty therapists, aged and disabled carers, fitness instructors and "personal care consultants" are among the 19 fastest growing jobs in Australia since 1987 — those whose share of the Australian workforce has more than tripled.
But Graeber’s "bullshit" jobs figure prominently, too, underpinning much of the celebrated growth of "professional services and management". Take the 23,000-strong army of "policy analysts", for instance; their share has almost quintupled since 1987 despite debatable progress on actual policy. "Nurse managers" and "nurse educators" have grown about four times as fast as the number of nurses in that period. "Advertising and marketing professionals", whose output Nobel laureate Simon Kuznets in the 1930s quaintly thought should be excluded from gross domestic product, have grown 252 per cent.
Like obscenity, these jobs are hard to define but you know them when you see them. The spending of other people’s money is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition. For a start, they often pay extraordinarily well. Human rights commissioners and National Australia Bank’s head of "thought leadership and insights (corporate and institutional banking)" are archetypical examples.
More general clues include: would anyone realise or care if the occupation went on strike? Practitioners in these jobs can never take industrial action. Imagine the consequences if the nation’s 49,000 "human resource managers" (their share of the workforce has jumped 260 per cent since 1987) declared a wildcat strike. Or if the other 64,000 "human resource professionals" (up 191 per cent) decided to work to rule.
"Say what you like about nurses, garbage collectors or mechanics, it’s obvious that were they to vanish in a puff of smoke, the results would be immediate and catastrophic," Graeber wrote.
Are the words strategy, innovation, engagement, development in the job title? Is the occupation called a "role" or a job? How many meetings are required? More abstractly, these dodgy jobs tend to thrive where the people ultimately paying for them are least able to influence the people doing the spending, which tends to be in large organisations such as governments, their agencies and in large oligopolistic public companies.
In government, think the federal departments of innovation, environment, health and education. In the private sector, think financial services, where compulsory superannuation and a raft of direct and indirect subsidies have induced a level of bloat unthinkable even a generation ago.
In fact, last week’s national accounts showed the financial services sector crept up to 9 per cent of GDP in March, the highest share ever (double its share in the 1970s), and by far the largest of the 19 sectors the Australian Bureau of Statistics tracks (more than retail and wholesale trade combined). Given almost $1 in every $10 spent now goes to banking, it’s no surprise that financial brokers, dealers and investment managers are among the fastest growing occupations since the 80s, more than tripling their shares of the workforce. In an earlier, more discriminating era, it might have been thought odd, even problematic, that the part of the economy meant to be an intermediary had grown so huge.
Poor old "arts and recreation", one of the sectors that might actually provide some satisfaction, has managed to increase its share by only 0.1 percentage points of GDP since the 70s increasing to 0.8.
"We have seen the ballooning not even so much of the ‘service’ sector as of the administrative sector, up to and including the creation of whole new industries like financial services or telemarketing, or the unprecedented expansion of sectors like corporate law, academic and health administration, human resources, and public relations," Graeber wrote.
Indeed, despite remarkable advances in technology that should curtail administrative costs, health information managers’ and records managers’ shares of the workforce have surged 350 per cent since 1987. The nation’s management consultants, now almost 60,000 strong, have seen their share almost triple while musicians’, florists’ and journalists’ have dwindled. Real estate agents, solicitors and economists have roughly doubled their shares as high school teachers’ have fallen about 30 per cent.
"I’m not sure I’ve ever met a corporate lawyer who didn’t think their job was bullshit," Graeber said.
Perhaps we should be grateful for such jobs. With them, the unemployment rate is about 6 per cent. Imagine if government and big business were run efficiently, in the interests of shareholders and taxpayers rather than managers and politicians.
But the phenomenon can be insidious too, making a mockery of the idea of work, and eroding confidence in the link between pay and people’s perceived economic contribution. People without these flimsy jobs are still the majority, and they vote.
Princeton philosopher Harry Frankfurt called bullshit the salient characteristic of our age in his 2005 critique. "Everyone knows this … (but) we have no clear understanding of what bullshit is, why there is so much of it, or what functions it serves," he bemoaned. Journalists, for one, are swimming against an increasingly powerful tide: the ratio of public relations and corporate affairs professionals to journalists has soared to about 12, by my calculations.
Whatever its value, the bullshit boom hasn’t yet peaked. The share of the economy subsidised and regulated looks set to expand, which only will weaken further the competitive forces that once would have eroded such economic flab.
Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.). For a daily critique of Leftist activities, see DISSECTING LEFTISM. To keep up with attacks on free speech see Tongue Tied. Also, don't forget your daily roundup of pro-environment but anti-Greenie news and commentary at GREENIE WATCH . Email me here