Doctor and activist

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Category: Education

Secularism Australia Conference 2023

3 December 2023
I attended the Secularism Australia Conference on 2/12/23 at the NSW Teachers Federation in Sydney.
There were some interesting features:

There were a number of sponsoring groups, which cooperated to put it on. They were the NSW Teachers’ Federation, the Secular Assoc of NSW. Humanists Victoria, National Secular Lobby, Rationalist Society of Aust, Plain Reason and Humanists Australia. This seems a new level of cooperation, which is encouraging to see.

The Big Picture
Ex-Senator Chris Schacht drew attention to the 2021 Census which had 93% answer the religion question and a very large rise in the ‘No Religion’ percentage:
No Religion 38.9%
Christian 43.9% (Catholic 20%, Anglican 9.8%)
Not Stated 6.9%
Islam 3.2%
Hindu 2.7%
Buddhism 2.4%

It is also noteworthy that younger age groups are less religious with the 15-24 age group at 45.6% and 25-34 at 48.4%. Chris said that the political system and its patronage had in no way responded to this change and that it was necessary that they be forced to do so by more effective advocacy.

He said that a key problem was the reluctance of both Federal and State governments to reveal the true cost of the subsidies to religions. They get huge grants, pay no tax from their activities, not all of which may be charitable, and also have huge tax exemptions from State land taxes and Council rates. It would take quite an effort to get the full total of this, but it seems that neither Federal nor State gover\nemtns of both major parties do not want to draw attention to the issue. That is without considering aspects like private school funding, which is subsidised inequity. One politician when challenged said, ‘I have a 4% margin in my seat, and if I upset the Churches, it might be enough to change that’. Chris points out that if the ‘no religion’ votes were mobilised, it would certainly counter that fear, but most politicians have not considered the matter. And the ‘no religion’ voters have not demanded the end to these subsidies and unquantified tax lurks.

Senator David Shoebridge (whose speech is on his Facebook page) pointed out that there are 15,000 charities who receive government funding of $24 billion in addition to any tax-deductible donations. This is mostly for contracts for hospital or aged care services, but under legislation by Gillard they do not have to produce reports of how the money is spent!

School Funding
In terms of the Federal Government’s response to funding schools, Whitlam wanted a needs based formula and Gonski in his original report was similar, but the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) formula under Turnbull was that 80% of Federal money went to private schools and only 20% to public. Chris hoped to change the formula. The slogan should be ‘Excellence through Equity’ not through ‘choice and competition’, which has manifestly failed as Australia tumbles down the OECD Education rankings. Sadly the current Federal Minister of Education, Jason Clare, was photographed with the Parliamentary Friends of School Chaplaincy.

Religion and the Constitution
There was quite a lot of interest in the legal history, with Michael KIrby ex-Justice of the High Court and Prof Luke Beck an academic. The question was whether the government could support religion as the Constitution specifically forbids the government from having an official religion as discriminating on the grounds of it. There had been a prosecution of a Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) in 1894 for illegally working on a Sunday, and he had unsuccessfully argued that their Sabbath was on Saturday and he needed to work on Sunday. The guilty man was fined two shillings and sixpence (=25c) or two hours in the stocks. He chose two hours in the stocks, but it turned out that there were no stocks available and there was a bit of a fuss that the government declined to make any. SDA lobbying may have been the reason that the prohibition on the government sponsoring a religion was included in the Constitution. The precedent of course was the “Church of England’ set up by Henry VIII so he could divorce his first wife. Henry Parkes, the father of Federation did not want any mention of religion in the constitution, but the mainstream churches insisted, so it is mentioned, but not given any practical grounds to empower religious institutions.

When state money was first given to Church schools the Council for the Defence of Government Schools (DOGS) took a case to the High Court that it was unconstitutional to favour a religion. The High Court, whose members mostly came from private schools, ruled against the DOGS, Kirby himself writing a dissenting judgement. He wondered what would happen if the DOGS case were re-litigated today.

Religion and the Radical Right
Chrys Stevenson, a freelance researcher spoke on Christian Dominionism. These folk want a theological world where the second coming of Christ will be when there is a (Christian) God on the top of every mountain on every continent. I was inclined to think that this was crazy stuff, but it seems that huge amounts of money from the Right of US politics links to very conservative Christianity through the Atlas network, the Tea Party Movement and Charles Koch (22nd richest man in the world at $US 60 billion), There are quite a lot of ‘Think Tanks’ funded by these groups. It seems that a preoccupation with letting God fix things aligns quite well with unfettered market capitalism. There have been very successful efforts to put more religious people in political parties, particularly the Right wing evangelicals into the Liberals. The links between the religious Right and the US Republicans are well known. The Labor Party has a lot of Catholics. Chrys wonders if the religious nutters are ‘useful idiots’ for the Right. It may be crazy stuff, but I am less sure that it is irrelevant stuff.

Religious Education in State Schools
There was quite a lot of discussion of religious education in State schools. The National School Chaplaincy program was an idea of Peter Eawlings, taken up via Greg Hunt, Julie Bishop and John Howard. It had been previously called CHIPS (Christians Helping in Schools), but with the new funded program the new name for Chaplains became ‘Student Wellbeing Officers.’ Maurie Mulheron the ex-President of the NSW Teachers Federation noted the lack of qualifications of those delivering religious education in schools, which had increasingly been done by volunteers with a trend towards evangelicals as the only people willing to do it. They see it as an opportunity for recruitment. Bill Browne of The Australia Institute surveyed Chaplains on their knowledge of the National Student Wellbeing Program, which replaced the National School Chaplaincy Program. He asked 50 questions. 71% of Chaplains had not heard of the program, 10% were unsure, and 20% had heard of it.

Most schools had struggled to find alternatives to the Chaplains, and kids who stayed away for a free ‘do nothing’ period tended to be hard to get back to a school focus.

Prof Anna Halafoff had surveyed children 13-18 and found that 52% had no religion, as opposed to 45% in the 2021 census of 15-24 year olds.

A Western Australian teacher said that there was a preoccupation with Christianity, but she was concerned that girls in Muslim schools have to have their menstrual periods recorded as they cannot go to the mosque, which is a significant infringement of their privacy and human rights. She tweets under infidelnoodle.

Ron Williams had challenged religious education in schools under Section 51.23a of the Constitution, pointing out that $1.47 billion was spent on it since Howard initiated it, and that funding of $61 million a year was locked in until 2027. Albanese increased it to $307 million! Williams had run out of money so ran the case himself and lost in the High Court.

There is a group called FIRIS, (Fairness In Religion In Schools) run by Steven Cowgill and Craig McLachlan. The slogan is ‘Teaching not Preaching’. There is a similar group, ‘Queensland Parents for Secular State Schools’. It was felt that the teaching of religions should be by qualified teachers who would explain that there were diverse views with the object of increasing understanding and tolerance as well as ethical values.

Chaplains in the Military
Collin Acton was the former Director of Chaplaincy in the Royal Australian Navy. He pointed out that there needs to be reform of the Aust Defence Force (ADF) Chaplaincy service as the only training that the Chaplains have is a theology degree and there are a lot of problems in the ADF, PTSD being a major one. He wanted secular Chaplains, but the Religious Advisory Committee of the ADF targeted him and he was forced out. (There is a story about this on the Rationalist website). There are 150 full time Chaplains and 150 part-time ones, and all of them were Christian. The Navy changed this in 2017 and now has 2 Buddhists, 2 Islam and a Hindu. The British Ministry of Defence has its first 3 non-religious pastors! Acton points out that the major social divide in the ADF is between the military and the civilians. The Chaplains are embedded within the ADF so can be visited easily and without attracting attention. Seeing a counsellor or psychologist outside the military is likely to be noticed and may impact adversely on promotion prospects, so the existing chaplaincy service has an immense advantage.

Religion in Parliamentary and Council Governance Rules
There was quite a lot of discussion about the extent to which religion had embedded itself in society. Some politicians found it offensive that the Lord’s Prayer was said at the opening of Parliament every day, and absented themselves as I had while it was read. It is an opinion that since the Constitution forbids Parliament to make laws that favour any religion, the reading of the Lord’s Prayer is unconstitutional, but it has never been challenged, so the practice stays.

A local councillor from Boroondara in Victoria, Victor Franco, had challenged reading the prayer in his Council, which was in their ‘Governance Rules’. He pointed out that in the census 47% of his community were non-religious, 40% were Christians and 10% were the rest. He wrote to other councillors who still did not want to change. He said that he was going to mount a legal challenge with Prof Luke Beck and Morris Blackburn lawyers. A call for public submissions had 86% anti-prayer, and the Council caved in.

He had compiled some interesting figures of how many councils have prayers:
NSW 72/129 56%
Victoria 42/79 53%
Qld 35/78 45%
WA 11/137 8%
SA 23/70 28%
191/522 37%

He commented that because his Council caved in there was no test case that clarified the matter, and that it might have affected State and Federal Parliaments also.

The conference was felt to have been very successful in that a number of groups had come together to organise it.
It was intended to hold more conferences, regularly and in different States to draw attention to Secular issues and the anomaly of funding religions.
The huge rise in ‘no religion’ was felt to have been ignored and there was a large need to educate the politicians that the religious subsidies, tax exemptions and lack of financial reporting were no longer acceptable.
There was pressure on the politicians present to get the figures as to the extent of subsidies, which they conceded was necessary. All three present, Chris Schacht (retired Labor Senator), Senator David Shoebridge (Greens- NSW) and Abigail Boyd MLC (NSW Greens) said that they had tried without huge success, but would try again.
At an individual level, we need to get our voices heard!

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Private Schools- part of entrenching inequality

31 May 2023

In the 1960s State Aid for Church schools was initiated in NSW. Then there became an emphasis on ‘choice’ of school and subsidies for children to catch a bus away from where the child lived to the school that they wanted to go to.

Governments, particularly conservative ones want more children in private schools as this lessens total government expenditure, though private schools have successfully demanded closer to the amount of money per student that the public schools get.  The subsidies also favour their conservative voters.

Private school parents, seeking advantage for their students pay high fees so the government funding seems to be spent along with the other money on swimming pools and ‘luxury items’. 

Meanwhile Australia is slipping down the world education ratings, because public schools are neglected. The sociology also needs to be considered. The ‘choice’ is only for some.  The parents who do not have the financial means for a private school, nor the grades to get into a selective school have to take what they can get.  I visited a school in a disadvantaged area in Sydney, and looked at the school photos in the foyer. There was not a white face in the last 15 years- all the students were either of Pacific Islander or Middle Eastern origin.  The Principal said to me that she just wished she had a few Anglo students to model what the majority of Australians do.  There had been a stabbing in the playground about 30 years ago, and this had led to ‘white flight’.  There were also a considerable number of children with disabilities, which may be related to marriages within ethnic family or religious groups.  With poorer facilities, disadvantaged students  a lack of role models and teachers with lower pay, the Principal said it was very difficult to get her graduates good results and able to compete for jobs. 

I live in a relatively good suburb near a place where buses can turn around.  Each day 8 busses leave from close to me to go to 8 different private schools, 4 single sex male, and 4 single sex female. I think of them as Apartheid busses. The buses are all branded and new.  The students getting on board can go in relative luxury from the civilised suburb to the well-endowed schools. They need have no contact with poorer folk, even on public transport.  These advantaged students will go to universities, into top jobs and make decisions for us all.

I am reminded that in the US in the Johnson era there was ‘bussing’ which took more wealthy students to schools in poorer areas to make richer students aware of how the poorer student lived and to increase equality of opportunity. Australia, supposedly the land of the ‘fair go’, is now quite the opposite, subsidising inequality as we become the country with the most privatised (and unequal) education systems in the world. Now, just to emphasis the point, ‘for profit’ schools are coming in. ‘Hey, what is wrong with making a profit?’ we hear them cry.

When I went to school in Port Kembla, half the school were children of post-WW2 migrants from Europe, ‘displaced persons’, or what we would now call refugees. Half the children arrived at kindergarten unable to speak a word of English.  There were 46 in my class. All this was ‘normal’.  There was no anti-discrimination legislation.  But the over-riding unifying factors were that all the kids in the school had the same experience, all the parents had jobs and the Housing Commission was building whole suburbs of houses as fast as they could to settle the new migrants.  By the end of 3rd class there was really no difference between migrants and Anglo-born. It was equality of opportunity, a ‘fair go’. This is what is being lost. We see the example of the US where the gap between rich and poor keeps growing and we are subsidising the same process!

We forgot about the first Gonski report on educational inequality as the politicans did not want to offend the middle class by lessening their education subsidies. Gonski was pressured to do a weaker second report and inequality of opportunity keeps growing.

The politicians tell us that their education funding has never been higher. Perhaps this is so, but while the money is spent on luxuries for some and there is not enough financially or sociologically to help disadvantaged areas, Australia will continue to slide down the international education rankings and the entrenched disadvantage that continues from generation to generation will continue.

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Fake Science now an Industry

6 January 2022

Many years ago (?1977), I applied for the job as editor of the Medical Journal of Australia.  I had done two years as a surgical trainee and took a year off from the somewhat disillusioning hierarchical system.  I had done 3 and a half years of university English, but in terms of my experience editing, it was perhaps a long shot.

The salary was roughly the same as a second year resident, though more than half that salary had been overtime.  The job seemed a bit of dangerous niche, but it was worth thinking about.  I didn’t get the job (Dr Alan Blum from the US did), but was invited to apply for Deputy Editor.  The salary here was $20,000 less, which was more than a third. But the key reason I declined is that I hate having someone else waste my time. 

There is such an incentive to publish in order to climb academic ladders that most writing is done for the writer, not the reader.  As many papers are written as possible, so the idea of spending a lifetime sorting through thousands of papers to find ones of merit seemed a hazardous occupation with a great danger of drudgery.

When I thought about the issue I devised the Chesterfield-Evans theory of knowledge acquisition. It is an exponential graph with time on the horizontal axis and knowledge in the vertical.  With a little time you can get quite a lot of knowledge, but to get a little more or to get the forefront takes an immense amount of time, for the last bit of knowledge. This extra bit of knowledge may be well rewarded financially in medicine if you get it ‘approved’ as a specialty, but in many scientific endeavours there is no reward at all.  Getting to the forefront is made harder by the lack of incentive to write concise papers for the benefit of the reader.

In practices as a medical professional the explosion of information of indifferent quality has made reliance on key journals the easiest way to go, but even here the increased specialisation makes even being a reasonable generalist more difficult. The monetisation of knowledge makes the specialties not want to share all their information, the college and universities act like businesses and the drug companies want to sponsor a certain view.

When I wrote both my Masters theses, getting a good supervisor was a problem. No one really wanted to go through the writings of yet another postgrad.  My supervisor, Dr Chris Winder said that he would simply prefer students write concise papers and send the lot to a publisher, giving degrees to the ones considered worthy of publishing. 

But there has been a profusion of journals, initially driven by the profitability of these.  Now the pressure from students has been joined by a rogue element, the dodgy rip-off factories.  Plagiarism and now straight out fraud are now industries.

Those who seek knowledge now have to be more discerning. There is delight amongst the non-scientific who can, like Pontius Pilate ask, ‘What is truth’ and then also like Pilate not want to know the answer.

Sadly, politicians and managers who have agenda other than optimal knowledge are flourishing  in this environment.

I am glad that I did not become a medical editor; it is hard enough getting a broad-based knowledge of reasonably indisputable facts.

I am quite unsure how the confluence of factors favouring ignorance can be countered.  Making everyone learn some science and maths at school might be a start.

How fake science is infiltrating scientific journals

Harriet Alexander

January 5, 2022

In 2015, molecular oncologist Jennifer Byrne was surprised to discover during a scan of the academic literature that five papers had been written about a gene she had originally identified, but did not find particularly interesting.

“Looking at these papers, I thought they were really similar, they had some mistakes in them and they had some stuff that didn’t make sense at all,” she said. As she dug deeper, it dawned on her that the papers might have been produced by a third-party working for profit.

“Part of me still feels awful thinking about it because it’s such an unpleasant thing when you’ve spent years in a laboratory and taking two to 10 years to publish stuff, and making stuff up is so easy,” Professor Byrne said. “That’s what scares the life out of me.”

The more she investigated, the more clear it became that a cottage industry in academic fraud was infecting the literature. In 2017, she uncovered 48 similarly suspicious papers and brought them to the attention of the journals, resulting in several retractions, but the response from the publishing industry was varied, she said.

“A lot of journals don’t really want to know,” she said. “They don’t really want to go and rifle through hundreds of papers in their archives that are generated by paper mills.”

More recently, she and a French collaborator developed a software tool that identified 712 papers from a total of more than 11,700 which contain wrongly identified sequences that suggest they were produced in a paper mill. Her research is due to be published in Life Science Alliance.

Even if the research was published in low-impact journals, it still had the potential to derail legitimate cancer research, and anybody who tried to build on it would be wasting time and grant money, she said. She has also suggested that journals could flag errors while articles were under investigation, so people did not continue to rely on their findings during that time.

Publishers and researchers have reported an extraordinary proliferation in junk science over the last decade, which has infiltrated even the most esteemed journals. Many bear the hallmarks of having been produced in a paper mill: submitted by authors at Chinese hospitals with similar templates or structures. Paper mills operate several models, including selling data (which may be fake), supplying entire manuscripts or selling authorship slots on manuscripts that have been accepted for publication.

The Sydney Morning Herald has learned of suicides among graduate students in China when they heard that their research might be questioned by authorities. Many universities have made publication a condition of students earning their masters or doctorates, and it is an open secret that the students fudge the data. The universities reap money from the research grants they earn. The teachers get their names on the papers as contributing authors, which helps them to seek promotions.

International biotechnology consultant Glenn Begley, who has been campaigning for more meaningful links between academia and industry, said research fraud was a story of perverse incentives. He wants researchers to be banned from producing more than two or three papers per year, to ensure the focus remained on quality rather than quantity.

“The real incentive is for researchers to get their papers published and it doesn’t have to be right so long as it’s published,” Dr Begley said. He recently told the vice-chancellor of a leading Australian university of his frustration with the narrative that Australia was “punching above its weight” in terms of research outcomes. “It’s outrageous,” Mr Begley told the vice-chancellor. “It’s not true.”

“Yes,” the vice-chancellor replied. “I use that phrase with politicians all the time. They love it.”

According to one publishing industry insider, editors are operating with an element of wishful thinking. This major publishing house employee, whose contract prevented him from speaking publicly, said when his journal started receiving a torrent of applications from Chinese researchers around 2014, the staff assumed that their efforts to tap into the Chinese market had borne fruit. They later realised that many of the papers were fraudulent and acted, but he was aware of other editors who turned a blind eye.

“Obviously there’s so much money in China and the journals have their shareholders to answer to, and they are very careful not to tread on Chinese toes because of the political sensitivity,” he said. “There’s a lot more they could do to sort the good from the bad because there is good science going on in China, but it’s all getting a bad name because of what some Chinese people have worked out — that there’s a market here for a business.”

Last month, SAGE journals retracted 212 articles that had clear evidence of peer review or submission manipulation, and subjected a further 318 papers to expressions of concern notices. The Royal Society of Chemistry announced last year that 68 papers had been retracted from its journal RSC Advances because of “systematic production of falsified research”.

To indicate the upswing in cases, German clinical researchers reported last week that in their analysis of osteosarcoma papers, just five were retracted before the millennium and 95 thereafter, with 83 of them from a single, unnamed country in Asia. University of Munster Professor Stefan Bielack, who published the study in Cancer Horizons, said some open access journals charged academics US$1500 to $2000 to publish their work, so they were more interested in publishing lots of papers than their scientific validity.

“There is a systematic problem and in some countries people might have the wrong incentives,” Professor Bielack said. “I think the journals have a major role. They all need to be more rigorous.”

The problem is not confined to China, but it has accompanied a dramatic growth in research output from that country, with the number of papers more than tripling over the last decade.

In 2017, responding to a fake peer review scandal that resulted in the retraction of 107 papers from a Springer Nature journal, the Chinese government cracked down and created penalties for research fraud. Universities stopped making research output a condition of graduation or the number of articles a condition of promotion.

But those familiar with the industry say the publication culture has prevailed because universities still compete for research funding and rankings. The number of research papers produced in China has more than tripled over the last decade, with dramatic growth over the past two years. The Chinese government’s investigation of the 107 papers found only 11 per cent were produced by paper mills, with the remainder produced in universities.

Until last year, University of NSW offered its academics a $500 bonus if they were the lead author in a prestige publication and $10,000 if they were the corresponding author of a paper published in Nature or Science. The system, which was designed to reward quality over quantity, was discontinued due to financial constraints.

But others have questioned whether the quality of a paper can be measured by the journal in which it is published, and an open access movement has sprung up in opposition to the scientific publishing industry, arguing that research paid for by taxpayers should be freely available to all.

Alecia Carter, an Australian biological anthropologist at University College London, said the emphasis on getting published in a high-impact journal rewarded sensational results over integrity, positive results over negative results and novel findings over building the evidence base. Researchers might inflate effect sizes or omit conflicting evidence because it muddied the overall story they were trying to tell.

“We as scientists know all these things that are wrong with the way the system is set up, but we still play the game,” Dr Carter said. “We’re all chasing the same thing.”

Dr Carter boycotts luxury journals, publishes as much as possible in open access journals and reports negative results, though this has come at a cost to her career. She was once asked at a job interview why she would bother reporting results that were not interesting.

“I said, ‘If it’s interesting enough to do the research then we should publish the results’.”

She did not get the job.

Here is an SMH article which stimulated my post:

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Australian Universities’ Neoliberal Legacy

10 October 2021

The legacy of being turned into financial entities may be very severe. This article looks at their finances.

What will happen to Australia’s intellectual elite, now hopelessly underpaid or unemployed with no stable career path?

How can Australia compete internationally in this scenario?

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Threat to Free Speech- when Chinese students pay and have an agenda.

9 July 2021

Here is an article from The Conversation talking of the effect of Chinese resistance to certain views on their history.  Teaching is already distorted by the need to pass students who have paid a lot.
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Who Gets to be Smart?

27 June 2021

Author Bri Lee ties it to privilege in education.

We have to bring back the Gonski reforms and stop just giving money to the elite schools.

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Noam Chomsky’s 10 Media Manipulation Strategies

10 May 2021

Noam Chomsky, one of the most important intellectuals in life today, has drawn up the list of 10 media manipulation strategies.Give 5 minutes and you won’t regret it.If only to expand your knowledge.

1-The strategy of distractionThe primordial element of social control is the distraction strategy which consists of diverting the public’s attention from major problems and the changes decided by political and economic elites, through the flooding technique or flooding continuous distractions and insignificant information.Distraction strategy is also essential to prevent the public from becoming interested in essential knowledge in the area of science, economics, psychology, neurobiology and cybernetics. Keeping the audience’s attention deviated from real social problems, imprisoned by themes without real importance.Keeping the public busy, busy, busy, with no time to think, back to the farm like other animals (quoted in the text ′′ Silent weapons for quiet wars ′′).

2-Creating problems and then offering the solutions.This method is also called a ′′ problem-reaction-solution “. It creates a problem, a ′′ situation ′′ planned to cause a certain reaction from the public, with the aim that this is the source of the measures they want to accept. For example: letting urban violence intensify or intensify, or organize bloody attacks, with the aim of the public being those requiring security laws and policies to the detriment of freedom. Also: create an economic crisis to make social rights demotion and dismantle public services accept as a necessary evil.

3-The Strategy of Graduation.To make an unacceptable measure accepted, you only need to apply it gradually, to dropper, for consecutive years. This is how radically new socioeconomic conditions (neoliberism) were imposed during the decades of the 80 s and 90 s: minimum state, privatisation, precariousness, flexibility, mass unemployment, wages that no longer guarantee dignified incomes , so many changes that would have brought about a revolution if they were implemented at once.

4-The Strategy of Deferring.Another way to get an unpopular decision accepted is to present it as ′′ painful and necessary “, gaining public acceptance, in the moment, for future application. It is easier to accept a future sacrifice than an immediate sacrifice. First, because effort isn’t that taken immediately. Second, because the public, the mass, always tends to naively hope that ′′ everything will be better tomorrow ′′ and that the required sacrifice could be avoided. This gives the audience more time to get used to the idea of change and accept it resigned when the time comes.

5-Reach to the public like children.Most advertisements directed at the large audience use speeches, arguments, characters and a particularly childish intonation, many times close to weakness, as if the viewer was a few years old creature or a mental moron. When you try to deceive the viewer the more you tend to use a childish tone. Why? Why? ′′ If someone addresses a person as if they are 12 or under, then based on suggestionability, they will probably tend to a response or reaction even without a critical sense like that of a 12 person. years or less ′′ (see ′′ Silent Weapons for quiet wars ′′).

6-Using emotional aspect much more than reflection.Take advantage of emotion it’s a classic technique to provoke a short circuit on a rational analysis and finally the critical sense of the individual. Additionally, the use of emotional register allows the unconscious access door to implant or inject ideas, desires, fears and fears, compulsions, or induce behaviors.

7-Keeping the public in ignorance and mediocrity.Making the public incapable of understanding the technologies and methods used for their control and slavery.′′ The quality of education given to lower social classes must be as poor and mediocre as possible, so that the distance of ignorance that plans between lower classes and upper classes is and remains impossible to fill from the lower classes “.

8-Stimulating the public to be complacent with mediocrity.Pushing the audience to think it’s fashionable to be stupid, vulgar and ignorant…

9-Strengthening self-guilt.Making the individual believe that he is only the culprit of his disgrace, because of his insufficient intelligence, skills or efforts. So, instead of rebelling against the economic system, the individual devalues himself and blames himself, which in turn creates a depressive state, one of whose effects is the inhibition of his action. And without action there is no revolution!

10-Knowing individuals better than they know themselves.Over the past 50 years, science’s rapid progress has generated a growing gap between public knowledge and those possessed and used by dominant elites. Thanks to biology, neurobiology, and applied psychology, the ′′ system ′′ has enjoyed advanced knowledge of the human being, both in its physical and psychological form. The system has managed to learn better about the common individual than he knows himself. This means that, in most cases, the system exercises greater control and greater power over individuals, greater than that which the same individual exercises over himself.

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Skilled Migrants Needed as we stopped training people.

16 April 2021

I note in Australia’s recovery, we now need skilled migrants. Why? Because we stopped supporting TAFE and gave the money to dodgy private providers.

At the other end of the pile we need unskilled migrants to pick our fruit because the wages are so low that Australians do not want to work for them.

Where are young Australians in all this? Are our kids going to unis with no jobs at the end of their courses?  In India excess doctors drive taxis.  Marx said that the capitalists were more loyal to their class than their country.  Are we for a fair go for all Australians of not?  A living wage?  Or are skilled migrants who settle more likely to vote Liberal?

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Amateur Hour in Management and Politics.

16 April 2016

When friends discuss why the world of politics seems to be going downhill, they mention that there seems to be no respect for knowledge any more.  Because information is so available it is not valued.  But this is not the key.  The problem seems to stem from two sources;

Firstly the two wars last century were over markets and at Bretton Woods at the end of WW2 the key to preventing wars thought to be free markets, where there would be unrestricted trade and countries could rise on fall on their relative advantages, or harder work.  The second item was the notion of neo-liberalism where the duty of a company was to make as much money as possible, with other objectives being looked after by someone else.  But as free trade progressed like a monopoly game multinational companies became more powerful than governments, so there was no one to stop the accumulation of wealth and power.  Power and wealth became the important items.  If you had these, clearly you would know what to do.

A number of small stories often give insights into changing priorities.  When I was at school and aged about 11 another boy, Geoff, went on a trip to the USA, a rare thing to do at that time.  We eagerly asked him what it was like over there.  He said, ‘Money just stands up and talks over there.  If you have money and you say something everybody listens’.  What he meant was that it was not because the rich person actually knew anything.

When I worked at Sydney Water, there were 17,000 employees and there was had a program to separate storm water and sewage in the pipes in the old part of Sydney, where they had all been the same.  There were employment programs for the long-term unemployed, disabled people and even ex-prisoners.  There were quality control units and a well-respected apprentice training school with about 220 people that produced plumbers, electricians and carpenters. The staff worked their way up the hierarchy so everyone knew their job and the tasks that they were supervising.  In the early 1980s these was a major change.  Sydney Water was reclassified as a State owned enterprise. It was to be ‘right sized’ which was the euphemism for downsized to about 3,000 people.  All functions not immediately necessary were stopped.  No pipe replacement programs, fix them when they burst. No apprentice training. No quality control- (has to be out-sourced). No printing. No computerised land mapping program (a world first, given to the Land Titles Office and later privatised) and the government was entitled to a ‘dividend’ from the enterprise which was about a billion dollars a year from all the salaries saved and work not done.  There was a game of musical chairs which went on for about a decade with new management structures, each with fewer places in it, where people repeatedly applied for jobs that had slightly different titles but which amounted to what they had done before.  But more than this there was incredible nepotism and people who knew about money or were politically favoured replaced those who knew about pipes and water.  Deskilling was on a massive scale. Then there was a project to look at salary relativities, which seemed to come to the conclusion that the salary should relate to how many people you managed.  Professionals were hard to fit into this framework, so it was opined that they should get less, but in order to get them at all, there had to be some consideration of what they were paid outside the organisation.  As a professional I was also high enough up the hierarchy to get ‘management training’.  It seemed that the key objective was to create a new culture in the organisation, and the main element in this was the destruction of the old culture, which was naturally assumed to be inferior to the new vision of the new management.   Workshops were held to define our objectives and visions. The silly old guard had thought that it was to provide water and take away the pooh.

This seems to be what has happened throughout the entire public service.  Lifetime employment has gone, and the gradual salary increments that made public servants content to work for less because they had lifetime security of employment and respect for the niche knowledge that they had developed. 

Now the two overwhelming values are power and money. They are assumed to go together.  Money buys political power, and political power gives control of large amounts of money.  So part of this new values hierarchy is the assumption that other values are lesser.  Public interest knowledge as stored in the public service, the Australian Bureau of Statistics or the research community are run down as the new breed of consultants rise. The consultants are chosen by their masters for their political or economic orientation and have to come up with solutions that fit with the views of their masters lest they not get their next job.  It is an incestuous and nepotistic system where ideology and opinion have displaced long-term experience and expertise.

Some years ago, as a NSW Democrat MP, I went to a YADS (Young Australian Democrats) conference in Canberra. The YADs were enthusiastic young people interested in politics, and some of them were lucky enough to work in Parliamentary offices.  On the Saturday they hospitably asked me to come to a party that they were attending.  I felt a bit old for the group, but they insisted.  It turned out that the Party was at a Liberal staffer’s house.  No one took much notice of the old guy in the corner sipping his beer, so I observed a group of very privileged young people telling stories of their exploits in the corridors of power. The striking part of the stories was the extent to which they were merely playing a chess game.  They were the goodies, Labor were the baddies and the whole discussion was about winning. There was no policy content at all. The issue was whether we won or not.  John Howard was Prime Minister and I was left with the overwhelming feeling that power was in the hands of those who had neither knowledge nor respect for the responsibility that they were carrying.

So I was interested to read this article by Jack Waterford, which traces the replacement of the public service by political staffers, ambitious non-experts with a lot of ideological baggage and little time for long-term expertise. 

The replacement of respect for knowledge with respect only for power and money may be the reason for the decline in decision-making in our political and management systems, and may yet be the cause of the decline of Anglo civilisation.

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Subsidies for Inequality

5 March 2021

As a child our family moved to Port Kembla, and we lived on Hill 60, just above the rocks where a lot of people have drowned recently.

I went to Port Kembla Infant’s School, which was overcrowded but interesting.  Half the kids there came from the migrant hostel in the old WW2 army camp where ‘displaced Persons’ (as WW2 refugee families were called) lived.  These kids arrived in kindergarten without a word of English. This was taken as normal by the teachers, who just plugged on. The kids from the hostel were called ‘Hostels’, but it was a descriptor rather than a pejorative.  By the time we got to 2nd class in our 4th year (Kindergarten, Transition, 1st Class, 2nd Class) there was no difference between Aussie borns and Hostels.  There were 46 in my 2nd class and girls filled the top 6 places.  There was minimal racism in kids leaving this school.   

There was no anti-discrimination legislation or bureaucracy in the 1950s but all the parents had jobs in the steelworks or associated industries and the Housing Commission was building suburbs full of affordable housing as fast as it could.  If you had a go, you got a go. The ABC Radio had an awkward segment before the news called ‘Learn English with us’ where some somewhat stilted practical speech exercises lasted about 2 minutes.  I used to wonder how the new migrants all tuned in for this little segment if they could not understand the rest.  But the intention was there.

In 1966 there was a movement demanding ‘State Aid for Church Schools’ on the basis that they had paid their tax, and now they had left the state system they were paying twice.  The government wanted to win the election, and this was seen as critical for the Catholic vote. The Democratic Labor Party, which had split from the ALP were the champions of this and still represented a significant threat to the ALP as they preferenced the Libs.  State Aid came in.

Some time later there was a lot of emphasis on ESL (English as a Second Language) classes at TAFE, which were held during school hours.  Their target was migrant women and their objective was to encourage English speaking to allow the women both to meet each other and to participate in society more easily.  John Howard defunded the programme; ‘user pays’ was the new paradigm.

I now live in Sydney in a relatively central affluent suburb. Each morning 8 private school buses start near my door ferrying students to 8 private schools.  No public transport needed- the school takes care of it all.  Others students in private school uniforms catch subsidised public transport to the schools of their parents’ choice.  But the cost of ‘choice’ is ‘residualisation’.  Schools where there are a lot of ethnic students suffer from ‘white flight’, and so have concentrated social disadvantage and a lack of native role models. One school I visited in Western Sydney had had a stabbing in the playground about 25 years ago.  The school photos in the foyer had no white face for the last 20 years. That was as far back as the photos went.

When we wonder if the Cabinet have any idea how the poorer folk live, my opinion is that they do not.  These social dynamics have now been going for long enough that it is possible to be old enough to be in Cabinet and have no idea how the other half live.  Some think that people without jobs have ‘wasted their opportunities’ or have alcohol or gambling problems.  Add a little self-ri ghteous religion, ‘the poor are always with us’, a touch of arrogance and a peer group that thinks the same, and you have policies that are increasingly dismantling the fair go and equity that should be at the heart of our culture.  It may be that you cannot make all people equal, but you can give all children equality of opportunity, and all adults enough to live on. We have to change direction and do just that.

Here, at the risk of being repetitive, is an article on Christian Porter.

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