Australian Politics 2017-05-16 15:41:00

Reading to children at bedtime: ABC questions value of time-honoured practice

I question it too.  All the studies show that children read to subsequently do better at school but is that a result of the reading?  It is more likely a social class effect.  Middle class people are more likely to read and they also have higher IQs.  The question could easily be answered by controlling for IQ  but IQ and social class are both largely forbidden topics in the social science and medical literature. 

There is however one well controlled study here which found that NO parental lifestyle differences, including reading to children, had any effect on the subsequent IQ of the child

THE ABC has questioned whether parents should read to their children before bedtime, claiming it could give your kids an “unfair advantage” over less fortunate children.

“Is having a loving family an unfair advantage?” asks a story on the ABC’s website.

“Should parents snuggling up for one last story before lights out be even a little concerned about the advantage they might be conferring?”

The story was followed by a broadcast on the ABC’s Radio National that also tackled the apparently divisive issue of bedtime reading.

“Evidence shows that the difference between those who get bedtime stories and those who don’t — the difference in their life chances — is bigger than the difference between those who get elite private schooling and those that don’t,” British academic Adam Swift told ABC presenter Joe Gelonesi.

Gelonesi responded online: “This devilish twist of evidence surely leads to a further conclusion that perhaps — in the interests of levelling the playing field — bedtime stories should also be restricted.”

Contacted by The Daily Telegraph, Gelonesi said the bedtime stories angle was highlighted by the ABC “as a way of getting attention”.

Asked if it might be just as easy to level the playing field by encouraging other parents to read bedtime stories, Gelonesi said: “We didn’t discuss that.”

Swift said parents should be mindful of the advantage provided by bedtime reading.

“I don’t think parents reading their children bedtime stories should constantly have in their minds the way that they are unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children, but I think they should have that thought occasionally,” he said.

Professor Frank Oberklaid, from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute said he was bewildered by the idea. “It’s one of the more bizarre things I’ve heard,” he said. “We should be bringing all kids up to the next level.”


‘Fake’ Iranian refugees reportedly allowed to stay in Australia

Six Iranian refugees who were caught travelling back to the country where they claimed their lives were in danger have reportedly been allowed to stay in Australia.

The group have been accused of lying on their visa applications after voluntarily returning to Iran on holiday despite having obtained protection visas based on fears for their lives, News Corp reports.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton is considering what he will do in response to the reports, 9NEWS understands.

All six refugees’ protection visas were reportedly cancelled after it was discovered they were travelling between Iran and Australia. They were set to be deported, but after successfully appealing to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal they were allowed to stay in Australia.

One man reportedly made three trips to Iran despite earlier claiming he could face execution if he returned. A couple also reportedly travelled to and from Iran using their Iranian passports after claiming persecution.

Mr Dutton has the power to set aside decisions made by the tribunal, and is understood to be considering the reports on a case-by-case basis.


Inflated housing expectations

The Budget measures relating to housing are a case study in how to fail in meeting expectations. The government unwisely generated, then inflated, expectations that there would be major solutions to housing affordability in the Budget.

But we haven’t got those solutions. Instead we have a hodge-podge of measures that help and hinder the problem simultaneously. On the help side, the main funding agreement for the states will be reformed to cajole them into reforming planning laws and increasing housing supply. About time too.

The new Housing Finance and Investment Corporation (HFIC) for social housing could be worthwhile as long as it doesn’t have government backing.

There are also changes to super to facilitate saving for deposits by home owners, and downsizing by retirees, but these will make the super system even more complex.

However, the ‘hinder’ side of the ledger is long. There are several increased taxes on housing investors, particularly foreign investors. Tax deductions for travel to investor housing will be denied, as will depreciation deductions for plant and equipment installed by previous owners of housing. Foreign investors will pay more capital gains tax (CGT) and an extra levy on properties left vacant, while there will be added restrictions on housing purchases by foreigners.

And the big tax on big banks, worth $6.2 billion over four years, will flow through to higher mortgage rates, harming housing affordability and investment.

These measures send a totally mixed message when other measures purport to promote housing investment, including through reduced CGT on investment in affordable housing and the previously mentioned HFIC.

There is also $1 billion for a National Housing Infrastructure Facility, but this is unnecessary as the states should undertake housing-related infrastructure investment themselves — and lose funding if they don’t.

Overall, if the housing measures in the budget demonstrate anything, it is how mismanaging expectations can generate policies that are more bad than good.


Advance Australia Fair is our anthem, right or wrong

Stan Grant continues his rightwards drift below

When my brother was a young boy he was asked in class what he wanted to be when he grew up.

“Lionel Rose,” he answered.

The Aboriginal world boxing champion was a hero in our family.

For Aboriginal people like us, sport was a pathway to success.

We did not know anyone who had been to university, but we knew a lot of boxers and footballers.

One of my sweetest memories of childhood is walking with my father through the park that led to Redfern Oval, home of our beloved South Sydney Rabbitohs.

Dad would take me by the hand to see players like Eric Simms, the Aboriginal full back and point scoring wizard.

Sometimes we would bump into my father’s old mate Eric Robinson, a powerful, fast Rabbitohs player from the 1960s.

Eric’s son Rick Walford would later play for the St George Dragons and Eric’s grandson Nathan Merritt would pull on the red and green of South Sydney.

A wonderful football dynasty. They are part of a proud tradition of Aboriginal rugby league players.

Dad turned out for Newtown, my cousin David Grant played for Souths and later captained Canberra.

I remember them all, the immortal Arthur Beetson, Larry Corowa, Percy Knight, Cliff Lyons, Steve Ella, John Ferguson, Laurie Daley and modern day giants like Greg Inglis and Jonathon Thurston.

I could go on and on. Indigenous people comprise fewer than 3 per cent of the Australian population but are more than 10 per cent of the National Rugby League competition.

Of the 13 players who ran out for the Australian Kangaroos against New Zealand in the Anzac test, five were Indigenous. But for injuries there would have been more.

This weekend the NRL is honouring this extraordinary legacy with the Indigenous round.

Teams will wear specially designed Indigenous-themed jumpers, part of a celebration of the culture of the first people of Australia.

It is a high point of the year, but something troubles me.

The NRL has opted to play politics, to dabble in social engineering.

The national anthem will be played before each game. OK, nothing wrong there.

But alongside the “official” anthem the NRL is also including an “alternative” version, Advance Australia Fair rewritten by Judith Durham, the former singer of the 1960s pop group The Seekers.

Same tune, different words. It is meant to be more inclusive: “a new day dawns”, “Australians let us all be one” and “honouring the dreamtime”.

Nice sentiments. I am all for a new anthem that is less “girt by sea”.

But by including it this weekend it seems the NRL is apologising for Advance Australia Fair.

Could anyone imagine a football game in the United States offering an alternative version of the Star Spangled Banner?

Would the English football team walk into Wembley Stadium to a rewritten God Save the Queen? (I can hear the Sex Pistols playing faintly in the distance!)

Imagine an updated Le Marseillaise?

It is problematic for many Indigenous people. It sits with those other uneasy symbols of dispossession and colonisation, the flag and Australia Day.

Some have taken a stand. Indigenous singer Deborah Cheetham declined an invitation to sing the anthem at the 2015 AFL grand final.

Boxer and former footballer Anthony Mundine has boycotted the anthem and called on other Indigenous sportspeople to do the same.

But I have also seen black sports stars — like Thurston — proudly sing with hand on hearts while representing their country.

We live in a democracy and I support the right of people to boycott the anthem or reject the flag.

I also accept and respect those who cherish our national symbols.

We value pluralism — the right of many voices to be heard — but we also live in a system that accepts the decisions of the majority.

Our vote is our expression of our democratic right and for those in the minority our law should protect and defend us from potential tyranny.

Strange multiplicity

Getting this balance is right is crucial. The strength and primacy of the nation state is one of the challenges of our age.

Around the world we are seeing a blowback against globalisation, deindustrialisation and a liberal cosmopolitanism that has cost jobs, eliminated borders, challenged sovereignty and left some people feeling as though they no longer recognise their own country — strangers in their own land.

This dislocation has fuelled a wave of populism founded on xenophobia, racism, and trade protectionism that seeks to exploit division.

It is countered by identity politics that is often framed by a celebration of difference over unity.

British political scientist David Goodhart captures this phenomenon in his recent book The Road to Somewhere: The Populist Revolt and the Future of Politics.

He identifies two broad groups: “anywheres” educated, mobile professionals of no fixed allegiance at home anywhere in the world, and “somewheres” often working class, more rooted and loyal to a fixed place.

His message is, in a rapidly changing and connected world, somewhere still matters.

The task of so-called “liberal elite” is to negate the appeal of populists by strengthening a sense of nationhood while still opening up to the world.

Canadian philosopher, James Tully, speaks of a “strange multiplicity”. He asks how to manage constitutionalism in an age of diversity.

Professor Tully says we find ourselves locked in intractable conflicts of nationalism and federalism, linguistic and ethnic minorities, feminism and multiculturalism and the demands of indigenous rights.

    “The question is whether a constitution can give recognition to the legitimate demands of the members of diverse cultures that renders everyone their due,” he writes.

In the time of this “strange multiplicity” democracy has been in retreat.

A 2016 edition of the journal Foreign Affairs revealed that between 2000 and 2015 democratic ideals broke down in 27 countries from Kenya to Russia, Thailand and Turkey.

In this world of competing claims on nationhood and identity, can the centre hold?

Where is the role for citizenship? What does citizen mean?

All of this may seem very far from the National Rugby League. But it isn’t.

Just as sport inspired me and told a young Aboriginal boy he could have a future in the world, so it helps bind us as a nation.

    We don’t strengthen a nation by weakening the symbols of a nation. We don’t strengthen the values of our democracy by apologising for our anthem.

If we don’t like it, as a nation we should change it.

By offering an “alternative” version the NRL is trying to have it both ways, trying to appease any potential Indigenous political opposition.

It is well meant but misguided and potentially politicises what should be a celebration.

There are many things I would wish to see in Australia — a republic, a new flag, Indigenous constitutional recognition and treaties that enshrine the Indigenous place in Australia, that recognises our traditions and claims to this land, and produce economic and political certainty.

In a democracy we compete peacefully and persuasively for our ideas, we listen to and value the voices and opinions of others, we prosecute our case in the marketplace and seek validation in our courts and at the ballot box.

And, yes, one day I would like to see an anthem that speaks to us all.

When that day comes the NRL should play that loudly and proudly.

Until then we have an anthem it is Advance Australia Fair. The NRL should play it and accept and support those who may protest.

Otherwise, play no anthem at all


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