Australian Politics 2015-09-12 15:50:00



In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG says that Winston Churchill is lucky that he did not have  today's hand-wringing Greens to to harass him

Are immigrants economically desirable?

One would have thought that the obvious answer would be:  "It depends on the immigrant".  Some immigrants are obviously better than others.  But there is an argument popping up rather a lot lately, mainly from the Left and people of recent immigrant origin, claiming that ALL immigration is desirable. 

There is a completely empty such argument consisting of nothing but hand-waving assertions by neo-Marxist economist Thomas Piketty here. One could with complete adequacy reply to Piketty simply by saying:  "No.  Immigration is NOT good for a country".  Both the reply and the original would be equally free of relevant data.

Another example  written by Mat Spasic is here. It does at least mention Australia so I will say a little about it.  Judging by the surname, Mr Spasic's forebears did not come to Australia in convict ships, as two of mine did. More likely they came from what was for a while Yugoslavia.

Spasic's argument is basically just a load of old cobblers.  He sedulously avoids mentioning any relevant statistics about the different immigrant groups.  No mention that Muslims and Africans tend to be highly welfare dependent, for instance.

If all immigrants were equal, his argument would be sound.  He points out well-known demographics which show sub-replacement birth rates and an ageing population.  Adding a large number of younger newcomers to the workforce would be very helpful in those circumstances.  But that's the point. How many of the current crop of "refugees" will enter the workforce?  And how many will go onto welfare? Mr Spastic offers no information on that.

And some of the arguments he puts up are quite laughable. He argues that Germany is prosperous because it has a large immigrant population.  That Germany is prosperous because Germans work and study hard he does not consider.  There is no chance that he would have mentioned the fact that Germany is the only country where members of the national parliament (Bundestag) normally hold a doctorate.  Germany has ALWAYS been prosperous, with or without immigrants.

So here are just a few of the things that the Spastic ignores: 

Sweden's immigrants are almost entirely Muslims from the Middle East.  And there is ten times higher welfare dependency among them than among native Swedes.  How beneficial is that to Sweden? 

And in Germany, 80% of those Turkish Muslim "guest workers", that Mr Spastic praises, claim welfare payments.  "Guest parasites" would be a franker description

And in the Netherlands: 50-70% of former Muslim ‘asylum seekers’ live permanently on welfare.

And in Denmark the crime rate among Somalis (African Muslims) is ten times the rate among native born Danes.

And according to the most recent figures released by Australia's Immigration Department, Muslims had an unemployment rate of 12.1 per cent in 2011 while the national average was 5.2 per cent.  And if we look more closely at the statistics, the unemployment rate among some migrant communities is 20% -- all living off the Australian taxpayer.

It is quite simply unreasonable to generalize about immigrants.  All men are not equal.  If we care for our national wellbeing, we have to ask:  "Which immigrants?".

Even official economic research acknowledges that.  I quote:

"It is clear that the experiences of immigrants in the labour market vary between NESB [non-English-speaking-background] and ESB [English-speaking-background] immigrants. The experiences of ESB immigrants are generally very similar to those of people born in Australia, while NESB immigrants are generally less successful in the labour market than the other two birthplace groups.

It is clear that NESB immigrants, when compared with the Australia-born, are less likely to participate in the labour force (partly due to NESB immigrants being more likely to be discouraged in their job search), have higher rates of unemployment, and are more likely to be underemployed"

A good example of how much ESB background matters is the large number of white South Africans who have fled to Australia to escape the racism of the "rainbow" regime there.  They just do not show up anywhere in any statistics.  They blend seamlessly into the native-born population.  Were all other "refugees" like them!

South Africa is a bit of a bee in my bonnet (I have been there both during and after Apartheid) so let me diverge slightly from my original topic at this point:

Even a lot of affluent South African "liberals" (critics of Apartheid) have decamped.  When they got the "rainbow" nation they had campaigned for, they decided that they didn't like it after all.  Liberals like J.M. Coetzee and Tony Bloom have emigrated:  Bloom to London and Coetzee to Adelaide.  Crime was very low under Apartheid but is astronomical now.  When I was in S'Af in 1979 during Apartheid, I saw no fences in Sandton (an affluent Jo'burg suburb).  Now there are 8' high fences topped with razor-wire.  Some things speak for themselves.

So when it came to the safety of their own skin, ideology took a back seat for the likes of Bloom and Coetzee.  Do they care about the many other whites who have not been able to flee the situation that liberals  helped create?  Not as far as one can see.  All white South Africans should be welcome wherever they want to go in my opinion.  They really do risk life and limb by staying.  Thousands of white farmers ("Boers") have already been attacked and killed by blacks in the last few years, to say nothing of urban crime -- JR.

Greenie irrationality at Sydney university

The Greenie religion is a powerful one.  Universities started out as religious bodies and it seems that we are returning to that.  And the religion is not much different:  Preaching doom for evildoers

Last week, Ideas@theCentre argued that Newcastle Council has entered an alternative reality by withdrawing deposits from banks that fund coal and (potentially) companies involved with alcohol.
Given the Newcastle region's dependence on coal industry and wineries, it is hard to imagine a more bizarre divestment decision.

But this week, we have another organisation entering the Twilight Zone: Sydney University is reportedly cutting its investments in mining companies while increasing investment in alcohol, soft drinks and tobacco. Sydney University is effectively saying it is OK for me to unwillingly receive second hand smoke, but it is wrong to replace unhealthy wood fires with electricity from coal.

Air pollution from indoor fires causes 4.3 million deaths around the world per year and the divestment movement opposes replacing these fires by coal-fired electricity. Yet again, a first world organisation (with reportedly $1.4 billion under investment) is dictating to developing countries that they shouldn't use coal, when coal could save more lives than would ever be lost due to global warming. The University is being paternalistic towards the third world, while at the same time academics at the University criticise Western imperialism.

In addition, as Peter Kurti has previously pointed out in relation to the Anglican Church's coal divestment strategy, coal's cheap energy has been instrumental in raising the living standards of hundreds of millions in developing countries around the globe.

The University's divorce from reality is compounded by the increased investment in tobacco, and it is hard to see how they could possibly justify that as better than investment in coal.


Scott Morrison says Christians will be focus of Australia's refugee intake

A second senior government minister has reiterated that Christians will be the focus of the government’s 12,000 humanitarian intake from Syria, as the prime minister, Tony Abbott moves to reassure the community that all persecuted minorities will be considered for resettlement.

On Wednesday, Abbott announced that Australia would resettle 12,000 refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria and Iraq, on top of the existing 13,750 humanitarian intake.

The social services minister, Scott Morrison, said Christian Syrians would make up the bulk of the intake.

“Middle Eastern Christians have been run out of town in the Middle East now for many years and that is why our government right from the outset has had a much higher priority focus on those persecuted minorities in the Middle East which are predominately Christian and that is where our focus will be,” Morrison told reporters.

Morrison’s comments come just days after his cabinet colleague, government Senate leader Eric Abetz, said that Christians should be “high up on the priority list”.  “Given the plight of Christians, I think a very strong case can be made that Christians should be prioritised,” he said on Tuesday.

The grand mufti of Australia, Ibrahim Abu Mohamed, took issue with the government prioritising Christians for resettlement, saying it was discriminatory.

“When it comes to catastrophes such as these we should be prioritising human beings rather than prioritising a certain religion,” he told Guardian Australia.

Abetz labelled Mohamed’s objections as a “misunderstanding or something else” of his comments.

“The advice I have at least is that they won’t have anywhere else to go, even if peace is restored, and therefore to make them a focus – not the only focus, but a focus ... is I think perfectly reasonable,” Abetz told reporters on Thursday. “I would invite anybody who wants to take issue with what I said to actually have a look at what I said.”

Abbott, who is attending the Pacific Islands Forum in Papua New Guinea, did not single out Christian refugees as the focus of the resettlement scheme.

“We’re resettling persecuted minorities – people who cannot realistically ever hope to return,” he said. “Some will be Muslim, some will be Christian, but the point is: these are people who have been displaced by war and because of the changes engulfing the Middle East, it’s unlikely that they will ever, ever be able to go back.”

Labor thinks religion should not be the only factor that is taken into consideration when deciding who is persecuted.  “You need to think about a range of characteristics that make a person vulnerable, and you need to judge based on who needs the most help” the shadow foreign minister, Tanya Plibersek, told Sky News. “Of course, religion is a factor making people vulnerable to attack.”

Muslim and Christian religious leaders alike raised concerns with Morrison’s comments at a forum in Sydney’s west on Thursday.

Sheikh Wesam Charkawi, from the Lakemba mosque, welcomed the additional 12,000 places but said Australia’s intake “should be based on need, not creed”. “Many millions are suffering, but there is also a majority Muslim population that’s suffering,” he said.

He was joined by Father Rod Bowers of the Gosford Anglican church, who said favouring Christians “sends entirely the wrong message to the Australian community”. “It should be based on need, and on no other criteria than that,” he said.


Lifting literacy needs more than just money

An unpublished evaluation by the NSW Department of Education has revealed the $50 million a year Reading Recovery program – the main early intervention reading program used in NSW public schools – is ineffective for many students.

Numerous studies and evaluations have provided similar findings during the past two decades or more, yet it remains the department’s preferred intervention program: about 100,000 NSW students have been enrolled in the program during that period.

Reading specialists have also been voicing their concerns about another NSW reading program – Language, Learning and Literacy (commonly known as L3) – which, like Reading Recovery, has few of the hallmarks of effective evidence-based reading instruction identified in research. In particular, there is an absence of explicit and systematic phonics instruction.

Limited information about Language, Learning and Literacy is publicly available, but a freedom of information request last year confirmed no proper evaluation had been conducted on the program. The only evaluation data were pie charts showing the percentages of students in this program who had achieved reading and vocabulary “goals” in the 2007 pilot schools. In 2012, this program was being used in 456 NSW public schools, but a 2013 report by the Australian Council for Educational Research said “no formal research evidence or program evaluation was available to assess the efficacy of [it] in improving student achievement”.

The latest edition of the Learning Difficulties Australia Bulletin includes a detailed critique of the Language, Learning and Literacy program by Dr Roslyn Neilson and Dr Sally Howell. Howell raised concerns about the program at the time. Her questions about the literacy standards against which the program was being assessed remain unanswered and access to the teaching materials was denied.

Howell and Neilson nevertheless obtained information about this program, and their assessment is alarming. Its guidelines claim it uses explicit instruction and includes phonics, but this is debatable. Neilson and Howell report there is “no planned sequence to the introduction of letter-sound correspondences, and no opportunity for children to practise mastering the skills of letter-sound identification, phoneme segmentation and blending”, and the program’s guidelines discourage the use of any other formal phonics instruction.

Howell and Neilson commend the wealth of literature-based activities for building vocabulary in the program. This is essential, but not enough for many children to become independent readers – especially those without literacy-supportive home backgrounds. That the program is deliberately targeted at socioeconomically disadvantaged schools adds greater weight to Neilson and Howell’s warning that the program is “potentially a recipe for disaster for at-risk students”.

Reading Recovery and Language, Learning and Literacy are both at odds with the department’s own evaluation unit, The Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation. In 2014, this unit produced an excellent report, What works best: Evidence-based practices to help improve NSW student performance.

Explicit instruction is second on the list of effective practices. According to the report, “The evidence shows that students who experience explicit teaching practices perform better than students who do not. Worryingly, data shows that students from low socioeconomic status backgrounds are less likely to experience these practices”.

The report was similarly clear about the importance of explicit, sequential and systematic phonics instruction in early reading.

The Department of Education gets many things right, but some critical areas of policy require scrutiny. Early reading instruction is the foundation of educational success. The 2015 Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation priority work plan lists a project called Evaluation of Literacy and Numeracy in the Early Years of School: Identifying What Works.

Reading Recovery has been put under the microscope, now it’s time for a rigorous and objective evaluation of the Language, Learning and Literacy program.