Australian Politics 2015-06-02 15:45:00

Waltzing “New Matilda” again:  Aborigines and Adam Goodes

The latest cannonade from the Matildas covers a lot of ground but I don’t have time to comment on much of it so I will concentrate on the one issue that will get me most abused.  I find pompous and self-congratulatory Leftist rage amusing.

Matilda has a commentary on the aggressive charge towards opposition supporters by part-Aboriginal football player Adam Goodes.  It was said to be a war-dance but a prance was what it looked like to me.  An Aboriginal corroboree it was not.  It was a fairly hateful act of an ungracious player and I think the alleged Aboriginality of the action was an afterthought to excuse unsportsmanlike behaviour.

Compare what I have just said with the excerpt from the Matilda account below.  A very different story.  I have reproduced below all that the author said about the episode but there is no description of what Goodes did at all:  Only the vaguest of references.  We can’t let reality get in the way of a hate opportunity, can we?  But I have watched the video of the episode a couple of times and have tried to describe exactly what I saw.  It was Goodes who was hateful.

The comment on Goodes was preceded by a wail about how badly blacks are doing generally — and there is no doubt that they are doing very badly indeed by white standards.  But who is responsible for that?  The attendance of Aboriginal children at school is very patchy — so much so that governments try to bribe Aboriginal parents to send their kids to school.  And the major talent of Aboriginal adults seems to be for sitting down.  They even get paid “sit down money” on occasions.

That Aborigines live very poorly by white standards has long attracted the interest of Australian governments.  And everything that could be tried has been tried — from pernmissiveness to paternalism to just giving them things.  And nothing works.  Aboriginal behaviour patterns remain unchanged regardless of the government regimes adopted towards them.

There is something that DOES work, however.  I have had a fair bit to do with Aborigines over many years and I think most people who know much about them will admit that their behaviour has  deteriorated over the years.  I have known quite a few older Aborigines who dress well, take care of themselves generally and who could almost pass as whites.

Who were they?  They were Aborigines who had grown up on church missions. Aborigines are a very spiritual people in general and the Presbyterian church and others were influential in preaching a gospel that included not only the message of redemption from sin but also a message of redemption from Aboriginal ways.  The missionaries did not always do it consciously but they tried to make whites out of blacks.  And they had considerable success. The rampant alcoholism and abuse of women and children was rarely found on the missions.  And misbehaviour was greeted with a preachment on the resultant danger to your immortal soul.  As an atheist, I find that a bit amusing but it worked with a spiritual people.

Bring back the missionaries?  It won’t happen. The only “correct” religion these days is Islam. So the bulk of the Aborigines will continue to suffer from the bigotry that denies them the one thing that might help them: Orthodox Christian Faith.

For the most part, sporting contests represent a safe space where white Australians can access black Australia, devoid of the uncomfortable truths that they have had to overcome on their path to sporting glory.

The athletic prowess of people like Greg Inglis, and Johnathan Thurston, Lance Franklin and Lewis Jetta, serves to overshadow the true reality in Aboriginal Australia – that we are behind on every health indicator, that we are shockingly over-represented in jailing rates, that our suicide and self-harm rates are a national emergency and that the rights to practice our culture and heritage are being severely undermined by governments all across the country.

The latest incident came yesterday, when Goodes celebrated a goal with an Indigenous war dance while playing against Carlton in the annual Indigenous Round.

The Daily Mail lead the charge with a shrieking headline “Goodes defends ‘war dance’ goal celebration that included pretending to throw a SPEAR at rival fans… triggering another race controversy”.

News Limited asked its readers this morning in an online poll: Did Goodes go “too far”?

The social media furore included allegations Goodes was unsportsmanlike, a wanker and aggressive.


School lunchbox inspections ‘perverse’

A University of Queensland health expert has labelled the practice of inspecting children’s lunchboxes at school as both “perverse” and unlikely to improve children’s health.

Associate Professor Michael Gard of the School of Human Movement and Nutrition Sciences said hysteria about childhood obesity was fuelling a range of school-based practices that infringed the rights of parents to choose how they raise and care for children.

“Panic around obesity appears to trump all other concerns in the current climate,” Dr Gard said.  “Despite quite well-known data that Australian rates of childhood obesity have changed very little over the last 15 to 20 years, this is an issue that still tends to be discussed in breathlessly apocalyptic terms.

“Yes, too many children are overweight, but the hysteria we have created is out of proportion to the problem.  “As a result, we now have a kind of Wild West situation in which some schools, often with the best of intentions, have decided to take matters into their own hands.

“In this environment, the lunchbox inspection appears to have become a quite ‘normal’ and acceptable practice.”

Dr Gard, the author of the recently-published Schools and Public Health: Past, Present Future book, said he had spoken to many parents and teachers concerned about lunchbox ‘blitzes’.  He described it as an “invasive” practice, unlikely to deliver health benefits of any kind.

“We know that many health-related activities that happen in schools make a very marginal difference to children’s health, particularly in areas such as smoking and sex education,” Dr Gard said.

“Although widely used and popular among politicians and law enforcement, the US anti-drugs program DARE has been shown to be largely ineffective.

“Rather than making a difference to young people’s drug use, DARE’s value is symbolic because it allows people to stand up and point to what they are doing to address the problem.

“Lunchbox blitzes are similar in that they make sense in the context of obesity hysteria, but without any evidence that they improve health their real impact is to shame kids at school and embarrass or outrage parents at home.

“Perhaps the most dispiriting aspect of the lunchbox inspection is that it seems to rest on the assumption that the teacher knows more about what children need and how they should be parented than parents themselves.”

Dr Gard said the concern about lunchbox inspections was part of a wider debate about the public health role of schools and how far public health concerns should be allowed to infringe on schools’ educational work.


I oppose same-sex marriage (and no, I’m not a bigot)

We are told there are those in favour of same-sex marriage, and then there are the bigots. But allow me to make the case for traditional marriage as being between one man and one woman, writes Michael Jensen, rector at St Mark’s Anglican Church, Darling Point

The passing of the Irish referendum on same-sex marriage has triggered a round of Australian advocates announcing that it is now “our turn”. We lag behind the UK, many European countries, some states in the US, and (perish the thought!) New Zealand, and we ought to get with the programme.

The Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, in line with the new ALP dogma, has announced that he is introducing a private members bill into Parliament next Monday. He has said:

“It’s time for our laws to reflect the values of modern Australia and to include everyone as equals … It’s time for marriage equality. Whatever our religious views about marriage … I believe we have to change this law which discriminates against adult couples on the basis of who they love.”

How could anyone stand opposed? The terms in which the pro-marriage redefinition case are stated make it sound as inevitable as the dawn, and as unstoppable as the tide. And these same terms make opposing a redefinition of marriage sound primitive and even barbaric. There are those in favour of change, we are told, and then there are the bigots.

But simply saying “it’s time” doesn’t make an argument. Neither does the need to keep up with the O’Haras, the Smiths, and the Pedersens. Neither does the support of TV stars, comedians, or even Bono. At best, these are arguments from fashion.

It is not even the case that “all the surveys say Australians want it” is a sufficient argument. The surveys say that Australians want capital punishment. Wisely, our politicians don’t listen to surveys on that issue (and I agree with them). They should exercise leadership, not follow opinion.

Could it be that if you haven’t heard the case opposing a change to the marriage law, it is because the language of those advocating it has been so emotive that the contrary case can’t be heard above the noise? Could it really be said that a civil disagreement has taken place? I am not confident that it has.

I would like to make the case for traditional marriage as being between one man and one woman; but to do so with some important qualifications.

One of them is this: if the Marriage Act changes, this is not the end of the world for me. There are greater causes in this world than this. I am more distressed by our inattention to children in detention, or our national greed problem, than by the possibility that the definition of marriage might be changed.

Another is that I stand adamantly against the bullying and vilification of people of minority sexual identities.

Nevertheless, I don’t think that the case for change is anywhere near as convincing as its proponents think it is. The case has been made almost entirely in terms of “equality” and its alleged opposite: “discrimination”. The argument is that applying the word “marriage” to some relationships and not to others is unequal treatment, and thus discrimination. These are both apparently self-evidently bad.

But it is the duty of the law to judiciously discriminate and to appropriately recognise difference with, at times, unequal treatment of things that are not the same. It isn’t automatically wrong to discriminate per se.

In fact, it may be the case that offering supposedly “equal” treatment is incoherent, as it is in this case. It is crucial to notice that the proposed revision of marriage laws involves exactly that: a revision of marriage. In order to offer the status of marriage to couples of the same sex, the very meaning of marriage has to be changed. In which case, what same-sex couples will have will not be the same as what differently sexed couples now have.

It will be called marriage, but it won’t be marriage as we know it. It won’t be “marriage equality”: it will be an entirely new thing.

This is where Bill Shorten again misunderstands what marriage is. As we now understand it, marriage is not merely the expression of a love people have for each other. It is, or is intended as, a life-long union between two people who exemplify the biological duality of the human race, with the openness to welcoming children into the world. Even when children do not arrive, the differentiated twoness of marriage indicates its inherent structure.

Now, I didn’t pluck this definition from the sky, nor is it simply a piece of religious teaching. It is the meaning of marriage that emerges from all human cultures as they reflect on and experience what it is to be male and female. It is only in the last 15 years that anyone has seriously thought differently.

I prepare many couples for marriage each year. Most of them already cohabit. When I ask them about marriage, they almost always indicate that it is for them the beginning of a new family unit open to welcoming children.

A child is a tangible expression of our sexed twoness.

To remove the sexual specificity from the notion of marriage makes marriage not a realisation of the bodily difference between male and female that protects and dignifies each, but simply a matter of choice.

This is precisely what many pro-revision advocates themselves argue: that a new definition of marriage would establish marriage as a new thing altogether. As Brandeis University’s E.J Graff puts it, a change in marriage law would mean that marriage would “ever after stand for sexual choice, for cutting the link between sex and diapers”.

Instead of the particular orientation of marriage towards the bearing and nurture of children, we will have a kind of marriage in which the central reality is my emotional choice. It will be the triumph, in the end, of the will.

The revisionist case has not provided a clear and reasonable definition of marriage beyond saying that if two people want to call their relationship by that name, they should be able to by choice.

Now, having put that opinion forward, I fully recognise that there are many people of intelligence and good will who disagree. I do not expect to convince everyone. What I do hope is that my contribution here will not be derided as bigoted or homophobic out of hand, but that it will be seen as part of a civil discussion.


Global ranking underscores UQ’s international standing

Seeing both my son and I have degrees from UQ, this sort of report does tend to please me.  There are thousands of universities in the world so 51st is an honourable placing indeed

The University of Queensland is ranked 51st in the world for academic performance, according to the University Ranking by Academic Performance (URAP) 2014-2015, by the Middle East Technical University.

UQ Acting Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Max Lu said the University was pleased to rise a place compared to last year’s URAP rankings, particularly given the competitive environment in higher education.

“The URAP result, along with other indicators such as UQ’s top position in the Nature Index and our position as the leading Australian university for research income, is further affirmation for the excellence of UQ researchers,” Professor Lu said.

“Importantly, our researchers work hard to translate excellent research into products and services that improve the quality of life for individuals and communities, and that benefit the economy, society and the environment.

“Strength in research gives our students an important competitive edge as they learning directly from leading academics and take advantage of UQ’s national and global standing, helping them in turn to transform the world around them.”

The URAP ranking looks at 2000 universities world-wide and is based on six academic performance indicators, including quality and quantity of publications and international research collaboration.

UQ has consolidated its global standing to be well within the top 100 in the world, with several rankings in the top 50, such as the US News and World Report (47) and QS placing (43).


Australian regional university builds China ties
The University of Wollongong (UOW), Australia, received a Westpac Australia-China Business Award (ACBA) on 28 May for providing quality education and training services to the Greater China region.
UOW was named the winner of the Education and Training category at the Awards Gala Dinner held at the Grand Hyatt Hong Kong.

Professor Joe Chicharo, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Global Strategy), said the award reflects on more than two decades of UOW’s strategic engagement with greater China.

“Our engagement spans deep collaborative partnerships with leading universities, research organisations and industry bodies. We also partner with government officials on professional development initiatives, providing tailored training programs in business and public administration for Beijing Municipal Government officials,” Professor Chicharo said.

Importantly, UOW was the first non-Chinese academic institution to collaborate with Baosteel, the largest government-owned steel company in China. This collaboration incorporates the AUD25 million Baosteel-Australia Joint Research Centre.

UOW has also enjoyed great success when collaborating with Beihang University. The two institutions won the Solar Decathlon China in 2013.

UOW has also fostered a teaching partnership with Zhengzhou University for more than 11 years. This partnership has seen more than 2,000 people graduate from a program with a teaching model labeled by China’s Ministry of Education as one of the most innovative and mutually beneficial models of collaboration with an international university.

In November 2014, UOW formed a strategic alliance with the Community College of City University (CCCU) in Hong Kong.

UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings, CBE, said the ACBA award was an important recognition of the University’s growing engagement with China.

”China is Australia’s largest trading partner and higher education is a key part of the trade activity. The University of Wollongong is determined to be at the forefront of deepening bilateral education, business and cultural ties between our two countries  as we develop a new generation of talent to create growth in Hong Kong and Greater China more broadly,” Professor Wellings said.