Australian Politics 2020-05-19 15:52:00

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Controversial character called the 'Genderbread Person' which teaches children that gender is decided in the brain and is not related to anatomy is dropped after a parent complained

Learning material teaching high school students about different gender identities has been pulled from one school.

An unnamed mother in regional NSW complained about the use of the 'Genderbread person' in her 15-year-old son's classroom.

The education tool is used to teach students that anatomy doesn't always determine gender.

The mother advocated against this after her son came home 'angry' over the material being taught in class.

She said she has written to state and federal health ministers but her school's principal. who called on Monday to apologise and reveal it had been removed from the school, was 'the first person in authority' to understand her.

'In over a year of feeling like I have been beating my head into a brick wall, at last a sensible response,' the mother told The Australian.

She said before this members of parliament had 'bounced her around like a hot potato'.

The woman believes the education material targets 'vulnerable children' like her eldest child.

Her child revealed he identified as a transgender boy rather than a girl.

The child's mother contributes the 19-year-old's gender identity to underlying depression.

She is furious the hospital gave her child the testosterone needed to transition.

'Gender and sex are being confused [in school] - it starts to introduce this confusion, especially with vulnerable young people like our daughter,' the mother told The Australian.

'Some parents I've spoken to have said their children who are on the autism spectrum have been sucked into this [trans identity] - these are kids who are looking for somewhere to fit in. Other parents, their kids have had sexual abuse.'

She said children like hers need support and therapy but not drugs.

Jack Whitney, Co-Convenor of the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, argues it is important to have a 'supportive learning environment that values diversity of all students'.

'We understand that education advocates and experts have long called for the inclusion of transgender and gender-diverse educational resources. As such the Lobby encourages the ongoing inclusion of these programs to ensure that the education children receive works towards a future where they are all able to thrive,' Mr Whitney told Daily Mail Australia.

'From our experience, the case reported in The Australian is often because a parent is apprehensive of what they don't know or understand, and their immediate response is to remove their children. However, we argue children have the right to an education that informs them of a world that is diverse and best prepares them to navigate the future.'

He said there is going to be unique needs for every child and it is important staff consult with students, their carers and family on these matters.

A spokeswoman from the NSW Department of education said their personal development syllabus covers a range of topics such as human anatomy, personal identity, gender roles and expectations and sex-based harrasment and diversity.

'Gender fluidity is not part of the NSW Curriculum. The department does not endorse the use of associated materials and schools have been made aware of this,' the spokeswoman said.

'The Genderbread resource was not developed by the NSW Department of Education. The school immediately withdrew this resource from future teaching and learning programs, following a request by the department to review its use.

'The Safe Schools program is not and never has been, part of the NSW curriculum. The NSW Department of Education does not promote this program or its resources.'

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Abbott backs Hastie

Tony Abbott has redrawn the battlelines and entered the conversation about China. The former prime minister’s long-forgotten website Battlelines — named after Abbott’s 2009 memoir outlining his political philosophy — has come out of hibernation to get behind Liberal MP Andrew Hastie.

In an email entitled “Looking to the future”, Abbott asks his loyal army of supporters to back Hastie, “a great defender of the values you and I hold so dear”.

Abbott describes the former SAS captain and member for the outer Perth seat of Canning as a “leading voice in the Coalition calling for a stronger Australia”. Hastie is chairman of the powerful parliamentary joint committee on intelligence and security.

He also is the public face of The Wolverines, a secret bipartisan group formed in Parliament House to speak out against the Communist Party’s expanding power and which last week added US ambassador Arthur B. Culvahouse Jr to its ranks as an honorary member.

“(Hastie) is a favourite target of the radical left and has been in some tough campaigns,” Abbott wrote. “For years Andrew has been a champion of Australia’s sovereignty and our need to be self-sufficient in times of crisis. I encourage you all to support Andrew and I have asked him to email you.”

The website was set up early last year and raised more than $1m for Abbott’s failed final run at Warringah. We’re told it’s being used to campaign for key conservatives around the country, hand-picked by the former prime minister. It’s a centre-right counterforce to progressive groups such as GetUp that hopefully has more thought than the much mocked satirical superhero Captain GetUp.

The NSW Moderates are suitably unimpressed, saying it’s a pointed snub. “Why hadn’t he gone out in support of a local Liberal,” one whinged, as the behind-the-scenes fight heats up in Warringah. For his part, Hastie is modest about being anointed by Abbott, telling Strewth: “I’m humbled by Tony’s support but I will never be able to match his raw physicality in a pair of Speedos.”

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Remove these roadblocks and our economy will take off

During the lockdown I have been tidying up, throwing out the ­orange jumpsuit I used to wear during that incarceration known as the budget lockup. I don’t see that contrived marketing exercise being resurrected, given the ongoing need for social distancing.

Sorting books into “keep” and “give away” piles, I came across Procuring Successful Mega-Projects. It’s in the keep pile because rebuilding the Australian economy in the post-coronavirus period is likely to involve very large projects, public and private.

You can’t attach “successful” to many recent mega-projects. Most have been public sector ones; the liquefied natural gas projects in Queensland and Western Australia are exceptions.

Consider the over-budget and much delayed Sydney light rail project or Melbourne’s calamitous West Gate tunnel project, now bogged down in a dispute about where to put contaminated soil. The Victorian government bestowed an egregiously generous concession to the toll road operator to construct the tunnel but the project is long delayed.

In the post-pandemic era, there will be an urgent need for Australia to achieve greater self-reliance and build more stable supply chains. The cheap and easy route of offshoring activities should come to an end. In turn, this will involve the construction and operation of large-scale projects.

It’s important here to identify the reasons for our deindustrialisation across several decades. This way we work on fixing the drivers that forced many manufacturers to leave, and to determine the means of achieving a more diversified economy, rather than one dominated by the services sector.

While some might assume cuts to import tariffs were the principal reason manufacturing industry shrank, it had been contracting well before tariffs were reduced. Tariffs were a tax on the poor and an impediment to our exporters.

The way forward involves strong commercial incentives for those considering investing in manufacturing activities as well as minerals processing and power generation. Without affordable and reliable energy, there is no real prospect of a resurgence of manu­facturing. So it was heartening to see Energy Australia give the go-ahead to the expansion of the Tallawarra gas-fired electricity plant in NSW.

The expectation is that there will be more investment in gas-fired electricity generation as the supply of gas from new fields comes on stream and the price moderates. Gas as a direct feeder stock also will be used by new manufacturing plants. The states need to play a role in facilitating this development, but the context of the post-pandemic exigencies will provide the basis for swifter and sensible decision-making to permit exploitation of gas fields.

The capital costs of building large-scale projects in Australia are way out of line with other countries, including the US and China. It is a substantial handicap, particularly compared with the small gap in operating costs relative to comparable economies.

There are four main impediments to the achievement of lower-cost successful mega-projects: approvals processes replete with red and green tape; the lack of competition among head contractors; industrial relations; and the lack of appropriate skills.

By international standards, the approval processes for many developments here are drawn out, expensive and subject to undue legal challenge. Companies commonly must submit reports that are thousands of pages long and governmental approval can take years.

The lack of competition among the head contractors also impedes mega-projects. Some are foreign-owned companies and they generally operate on the basis of not rocking the boat locally. They deliberately refrain from becoming involved in any policy debates — about lifting construction productivity, for instance. They tend to have cosy relations with the building trade unions.

Projects that do begin — mainly in the public sector — are shuffled between the small number of head contractors. Smaller firms subcontracted to work on these must accept conditions imposed on them by head contractors, following commercially onerous, template union enterprise agreements to secure work.

Last week the chief executive of Watpac, a smaller construction company, suggested that big projects could be broken into smaller pieces to inject more competition into the bidding process.

A similar view was expressed by Brent Crockford, chief executive of 12 local companies known as Australian Owned Contractors.

“Simply by breaking up procurement packages, local competition can be strengthened with greater skills development and domestic company growth, leading also to a reduction in the cost blowouts, project delays, company losses and litigation we’ve seen in recent years,” Crockford said.

One issue involves the Fair Work Act’s greenfields provisions. Because agreements can be made for only a fixed number of years, there is scope for costly disruption before a project is completed. A high-profile example was Chevron’s Gorgon LNG project being held up by a handful of workers seeking to alter roster arrangements. The solution to this problem is simple: allow agreements that last for the project’s duration.

The final impediment is also one that should be capable of remediation and without resort to the use of migrant workers. There are significant skill gaps in relation to project management as well as a range of building skills. There should be incentives for education and training providers to fill these gaps. Attention also should be paid to the contracting skills of public servants whose naivety and incompetence have contributed to some disastrous mega-projects

There are many economic challenges ahead, including securing jobs for the many workers who find their previous employer has gone out of business or needs fewer staff.

There are some clear opportunities when it comes to resurrecting parts of manufacturing and other large-scale employment that will have the added benefit of improving our self-reliance.

But this will happen only if we get the basics right. All levels of government must commit to ensure this happens.

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Coronavirus Australia: While an elite few savour the serenity, costs mount

A couple of weeks back an old school friend called, roused by ­arguments I’d been making about the damage of national lockdowns.

“I’m in construction doing government jobs that haven’t stopped, childcare for the kids is now free, petrol is cheap and traffic is better than it’s been for years and my commute time has roughly halved to 40 minutes,” he said. “I’m not minding the lack of social interaction, to be honest,” he added.

For those who managed to maintain their incomes throughout, lockdown has had its upside.

For a start, the outright deflation the Reserve Bank has forecast — 1 per cent over the year to June — means some of us might enjoy greater purchasing power even without a pay rise.

I confess lockdown did have a certain ascetic appeal. Opportunities to waste money at restaurants and bars were drastically curtailed, boosting saving. Overpriced scrambled eggs for breakfast on the way to work were out; porridge at home, at less than a tenth the cost, was in.

As a runner, the closure of gyms didn’t bother me. Pointless face-to-face meetings evaporated, saving hours. I only saw people I actually wanted to see; small talk ended.


And for those of us who can work from home, lockdowns, somewhat ironically, have given us greater freedom to structure our work around our lives, rather than the other way around.

For young lawyers and bankers — no one ever cared about “face time” in journalism — the quality of their work will matter more than how many hours they spend at their desk.

Of course, lockdowns have caused extraordinary economic damage. These sorts of benefits have tended to flow to a fortunate minority, especially public servants and corporate elites.

James Stratton, an Australian economist at Harvard, recently estimated that about two-fifths of jobs in Australia could be performed at home, and not all of them well. “Lower-income Australians, less-educated Australians, and rural Australians are more likely to be in occupations that cannot feasibly be performed from home,” he said,

“High-wage employees are three times as likely to be able to work from home as low-wage workers,” Labor MP and former economics professor Andrew Leigh noted last month.

News last week that 7.6 million people, excluding 2 million-odd public servants, are dependent in full or part on the government for their income highlights how much damage mandatory lockdowns can do.

The costs of the lockdown, including joblessness and associated social and economic pain, both during and after, will fall mainly on the young and less educated.

New analysis by economists at New York University released last week found lockdowns were likely to induce an L rather than a ­V-shaped recession, because of “long-lasting negative effects on unemployment”.

They found the “lockdown disproportionately disrupts the employment of workers who need years to find stable jobs”.

Some argue that states and nations such as Sweden that resisted mandatory lockdowns have received little economic dividend ­because their economies have been hit hard anyway.

“Private decisions to avoid social interactions in response to the epidemic would have reduced demand for activities like retail, air travel, hotel rooms, and on-site restaurant meals,” six US economists argue in a paper that finds jobless claims started to surge before states enacted shelter-in-place orders.

It’s no surprise that Sweden, or less draconian US states, will suffer economically given they are surrounded by seriously disrupted economies.

More troublingly, these arguments seem to place zero value on freedom. Being able to sit on a park bench doesn’t show up in gross domestic product, but it’s valuable nevertheless. Being under house arrest for six weeks, as New Zealanders were, is an impost far beyond GDP.

Over the weekend the Queensland Premier, on what must be threadbare justification, said she wouldn’t open the border with NSW. Again, that will affect lives far beyond what they would have been willing to pay for plane tickets or petrol.

But we are where we are. If there’s a serious silver lining to lockdowns it’s that businesses, especially large ones, will become more efficient, freeing up resources. That spells lay-offs, which will be painful for the workers concerned, but ultimately beneficial if they end up engaged more productively than pushing up costs at a bank or utility, causing higher prices ultimately for everyone else.

The long period of having staff work at home — seemingly successfully — was an experiment that would otherwise not have been conducted.

Twitter has told its global workforce of 5000 they can work from home indefinitely. Expect banks to shrink their footprint to save on rent. Big business will slash spending on information technology too. For seven weeks almost none of it was necessary, as employees used their own.

Circumstances will force savings in any case, given big firms have in effect been excluded from JobKeeper (because of the tougher eligibility requirement of a 50 per cent revenue downturn) and their revenue is likely to fall along with economic activity.

For smaller businesses the wage subsidy is working in the opposite direction, keeping enterprises afloat that would have folded sooner, and probably still will once the payments cease.

For years, chief executives of large corporations have been banging on about the importance of being agile. Insofar as that means to operate more efficiently, the coronavirus crisis has made it an urgent priority.

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 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