Australia’s gone to the dogs. Part 4.

Australia has gone to the dogs. The nation is one of the world’s major drivers of climate change and is decimating its native wildlife and ecology, and is thus becoming an international pariah. The current government controls its gullible population with marketing spin, and education levels continue to decline. A tiny fraction of the population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and natural disasters arrive one after the other. But all Australians seem to care about are their dogs. Dogs are everywhere – in parks, beaches and cafes, and even public transport and libraries. This country has gone to the dogs.

Literacy dogs

Children can now read to dogs. Reluctant or weak readers can now attend sessions at local libraries and read to therapy dogs. Organisers claim it encourages reluctant readers to develop the vital habit of reading and thus improve their literacy skills.

Surely that’s a good thing. Yes, but is it necessary?

First of all, dogs can’t read. Secondly, reading to dogs won’t solve Australia’s literacy problems. Australia has some of the lowest literacy (and numeracy) levels in the developed world, and solving this problem requires a joint effort from society, governments and parents, not from dogs.

Parents must:

Read to their children.

More actively support reading and study in every year of schooling.

Spend less of their own free time glued to their devices while at home.

Buy and read books themselves.

Stop attacking teachers.

Stop buying their children smart phones, and stop paying for their data.

Society must value school teachers and academia, and governments must adequately fund all levels of education as well as increasing teachers’ salaries. Otherwise, the following scenario is likely to develop:

One reluctant reader enjoys reading to a therapy dog. The child insists on reading to a dog, even at school where most reading occurs. The student is allowed to bring a dog into every class. That student is not the only reluctant reader. Soon, school classrooms are overrun with therapy dogs. Teachers are then forced to integrate dogs into their curriculum after attending at-cost ‘literacy dog’ training sessions in their free time. Multiple dogs cause chaos in classrooms and in the playground, and at the end of the day, who will be forced to clean up the mess?

Even some university students, at one of the more prominent universities in Sydney, are able to pat a dog upon entering an exam hall – to help calm their nerves. The country’s best and brightest can’t handle the stress of doing an exam. More proof that this country has gone soft. More proof that this country has gone to the dogs.

Image: 2PhotoPots

Australia’s gone to the dogs. Part 3.

Australia has gone to the dogs. The nation is one of the world’s major drivers of climate change and is decimating its native wildlife and ecology, and is thus becoming an international pariah. The current government controls its gullible population with marketing spin, and education levels continue to decline. A tiny fraction of the population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and natural disasters arrive one after the other. But all Australians seem to care about are their dogs. Dogs are everywhere – in parks, beaches and cafes, and even public transport and libraries. This country has gone to the dogs.

Vaccine dogs

Dog lovers now have another Instagram account to follow. The account features pets accompanying their owners to COVID-19 vaccination centres in Australia. Sure, it’s a nice distraction from Australia’s shambolic vaccine rollout, which places the nation 101st in the world, but it distracts from the shameful reality. Only 2% of Australia’s population had been fully vaccinated at the time of writing this article, and the city of Melbourne has been plunged into yet another lockdown.

So incompetent is the current federal government in its handling of the pandemic, and the preceding bushfire crisis, that the prime minister’s popularity fell. In response, Scott Morrison was photographed with a cute little dog. 98% of Australia’s population are not vaccinated against a deadly virus, but the prime minister was photographed with a dog and his popularity has since increased. A sure sign of a gullible population. A sure sign of a country that has gone to the dogs.

But wait, there’s more…

Another prominent person was photographed with a dog. Tongan rugby league star Jason Taumalolo played his 200th NRL game for the North Queensland Cowboys recently, and the NRL/ Cowboys PR team arranged for his family to form a guard of honour as he ran onto the field. His dog was included in the guard of honour. An emotional Taumalolo rushed to pat and cuddle his dog (before acknowledging his wife and kids) and social media erupted with compliments for Taumalolo. They’re forgetting the time in 2016 that he was fined for throwing eggs at cars.

A dog’s breakfast

Cafes, beer gardens, picnic areas, barbecue areas, children’s playgrounds, sports grounds and beaches are overrun with dogs these days. Many of these places are officially off limits to dogs. In addition, most accommodation providers are pet-friendly, despite what PetCulture might think.

Strangely, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, when patrons are required to check in, socially distance and use sanitiser, muddy, sweaty, dirty dogs are still allowed to sit next to, or on, the furniture at eateries throughout the country.

Mobile dogs

Dogs have even found their way onto public transport. Guide dogs have always been permitted on public transport, as they should be. Now therapy dogs, or companion dogs, are allowed on buses trains and ferries across the country. Sufferers of mental health issues can now bring their dogs with them, and dogs of any breed, size or temperament can be therapy dogs. Subsequently, inefficient, overcrowded, slow and outdated public transport has been further compromised to satisfy the owners of dogs.

A trip to the Sydney CBD recently highlights the problem. Two young adults boarded an overcrowded bus heading towards the city centre. The tattoos, attire, cigarette breath, vocabulary and general demeanour of the pair suggested a troubled past and a fondness for illicit substances. The dog was some kind of Pit Bull, Mastiff, Bulldog breed – short, muscular and aggressive. It appeared agitated and nervous and its presence clearly concerned the people sitting close to it. As I pondered how this breed classifies as a ‘therapy dog’, I heard the owners say that it had recently become a therapy dog, and that they were taking it to the local shopping mall,

“…to get used to people…”

The couple soon alighted, leaving the bus with the overpowering stench of a sweaty dog.

Image: Gabriel Crismariu

Australia’s gone to the dogs. Part 2.

Australia has gone to the dogs. The nation is one of the world’s major drivers of climate change and is decimating its native wildlife and ecology, and is thus becoming an international pariah. The current government controls its gullible population with marketing spin, and education levels continue to decline. A tiny fraction of the population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and natural disasters arrive one after the other. But all Australians seem to care about are their dogs. Dogs are everywhere – in parks, beaches and cafes, and even public transport and libraries. This country has gone to the dogs.

A dog is a child…

Owners of dogs (and other pets) were recently invited to sign a petition by online pet company PetCulture asking employees to grant their workers the same rights as parents.

Melbourne’s Herald Sun newspaper, as well as website Kidspot, ran articles about the petition, which calls for employees:

  1. To be granted sick leave to care for their pets.
  2. To be granted leave to welcome their new pet family members.
  3. To be able to have their pets stay with them whether they are glamping in a five-star resort.

The article is not an April Fool’s Day joke (although one pet owner featured in the article is a comedian). It is not merely another example of lazy, shallow, gutter journalism from a NewsCorp publication. It is an advertorial (a paid advertisement dressed up as an editorial) placed by the ‘new online pet store’ PetCulture. Regardless, it indicates an obsession with pets in a country that has gone to the dogs.

The petition lists three primary demands.

  1. Owners expect time off work, on full pay, to look after a sick pet, just as they would look after a sick child. Colleagues would have to cover for the pet owner and/or the business would suffer a loss of productivity and profit. In addition, employers are expected to support the notion that pets are equal to children.

Some parents love their pets as much as their children, and some children love their pets with equal devotion. But does a dog or cat need the same attention as a sick child? If so, why can a healthy dog or cat be left unsupervised for hours or a whole day, but a young child (or even a teenager) cannot be left for hours on end? Owners seem to be forgetting that even though a sick animal requires appropriate medical attention, their innate survival instincts will stop them from falling down steps, or from touching or eating something that could harm them. Children lack the same survival instincts.

  • Owners are demanding time off, on full pay, to welcome a new pet into the home. How long does this take? An ‘expert’ recommended two days be spent familiarising the animal to its new surroundings. Easy, bring the pet home on a Friday afternoon, use the weekend to welcome it and return to work on Monday. Even within a less structured work schedule, time can be made to welcome a pet without taking time off work.
  • Clearly the word ‘or’ is missing from between ‘glamping’ and ‘in’, because five-star resorts don’t offer glamping, no matter how fancy the tents. Nevertheless, pet owners are complaining that they are prohibited from taking their pets to the most luxurious and expensive accommodation options, at a time when many Australians can’t afford to take a holiday at all, let alone to a five-star resort, especially after the financial stress of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Poor timing

PetCulture appears to have mistimed its advertising campaign. They are calling for greater access to luxury resorts just as JobKeeper and JobSeeker have been removed or reduced, and many Australians still don’t know when they’ll return to full-time, stable employment. PetCulture may be positioning itself as a high-end pet supply company, but the press release is still rather poorly-timed, especially since pet access to five-star resorts is one of the top three listed demands. This is a great example of clever marketing. It’s also a great example of a first-world problem, and a great example of a country gone soft.

PetCulture’s advertorial also claims that:

“…introducing a new animal member to a home is stressful, so it’s important to be supported…”

Really?

Fighting a bushfire is stressful. Fleeing domestic violence is stressful. Losing a job is stressful. Is introducing a pet to a house really that stressful?

Pet peeves

In recent years, pet owners have petitioned various levels of government to pressure landlords to allows tenants to bring their pets into rental properties, which has always been at the discretion of landlords.

Renters complained that owning a pet increased the difficulty of finding rental accommodation in an overcrowded and expensive rental market. A solution to this problem exists: don’t own a pet. Sit down, and do the calculations. Examine current and future earnings and expenses, and estimate the length of time that will be required to buy a property. Buy a property, then buy a pet.

Petitioning the government to change rental laws is symptomatic of a problem plaguing the nation: citizens expecting the government to bail them out of a problem of their own creation.

Housing crisis

Housing in Australia is becoming increasingly problematic. Rental properties remain scarce and overpriced, and home ownership is out of reach for many Aussies. Australia is estimated to have the world’s biggest gap between median salaries and median house prices, and many young Australians will never be able to buy a property.

Furthermore, social housing developments are insufficient and more Australians will be forced into homelessness or substandard accommodation – many of them older women. Meanwhile, the politicians who could introduce policies to alleviate many of these problems are too busy being photographed with cute dogs. The people who could vote out the current government are too easily persuaded by photos of politicians with dogs.

Australia’s gone to the dogs. Part 1.

Australia has gone to the dogs. The nation is one of the world’s major drivers of climate change and is decimating its native wildlife and ecology, and is thus becoming an international pariah. The current government controls its gullible population with marketing spin, and education levels continue to decline. A tiny fraction of the population has been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and natural disasters arrive one after the other. But all Australians seem to care about are their dogs. Dogs are everywhere – in parks, beaches and cafes, and even public transport and libraries. This country has gone to the dogs.

Dogs v native animals

Australia is home to an estimated 29 million pets and about 25.7 million people. That’s right, more pets than people. We might have to stop teasing New Zealand about having so many sheep. Most of those pets are dogs and cats, and roughly one in three households has a pet dog.

Australia also has the world’s highest rate of native mammal extinction – outright. Pets are one cause of the extinctions. Cats are the single most destructive introduced species in the country, and wild dogs cause large-scale destruction. Wild dogs were once pet dogs. Native mammal extinction points to a disregard for native animals among Australian people who demonstrate an obsession with pet animals. Australians clearly prioritise dogs and cats over wildlife.

Natural disasters

Even during the Black Summer bush fires of 2019/2020, concern for pets over native animals was evident. Unfortunately, many pets were lost, but millions of native animals also perished in the unprecedented fires. However, at one emergency centre, evacuees complained that their pets were not allowed inside the building, because health and safety regulations prohibit the entry of pets into the premises. Evacuees and fellow Australians erupted on social media and blasted the evacuation centre co-ordinators. The dogs were safe, they had food, water and medical attention, and they were supervised outside the premises. Even some of the evacuees themselves chose to sit outside the building while they waited for the fires to be put out. Australians decried the treatment of pets, while millions of native animals were dying.

National parks

Pet dogs are banned from national parks in Australia. Domestic pets have an adverse effect on native wildlife. Some dog owners ignore signage and they take their dogs into national parks. According to NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, rangers cannot effectively monitor all of the parks to prevent domestic pets from entering, because they lack the resources. National parks services are not sufficiently funded by government.

Where is the national outcry?

Why aren’t Australians demanding the protection of our national parks? Perhaps for the same reason that Aussies are not doing more to protect another national icon, the koala.

Experts warn that koalas could become extinct by 2050, and wild dogs are a major cause of koala deaths, along with land clearing and climate change. Environmental groups and concerned citizens are campaigning for habitat protection to ensure koala survival, but where are the owners of the 29 million pets?

Koalas are also a major contributor to the nation’s (pre-COVID-19) tourist sector and the economy. Tourists flock from all across the globe to see a koala up close. They will not fly halfway around the world to look at someone’s pet dog.

Wildlife shelter vs pet shelter

Controversy surrounds changes to the RSPCA NSW Blue Mountains Shelter in Katoomba, near Sydney. Essentially, the debate centres around the expansion and modification of the shelter to cater for native wildlife harmed by the 2019/2020 bush fires. The fires were so widespread in the Blue Mountains that the national parks and the animals therein are still being rehabilitated.

RSPCA members and community members have voiced objections to the inclusion of native wildlife in the shelter. The RSPCA conceded that:

“…wildlife could be stressed by the sight, sound or even smell of the dogs…” and thus dogs would have to be housed in a completely separate building. One member then stated:

“I am concerned for the dogs which will need to be locked away in the new, totally enclosed kennels…” and a local politician, Kerry Brown, expressed similar sentiments.

Many of the animals housed at the shelter are strays. They are animals left without a home due to the neglect of owners. Therefore, rehabilitation of native animals is being obstructed due to concern for dogs.

The RSPCA website states that:

“Along with cats and dogs, RSPCA helps a wide range of other animals from horses to rabbits, guinea pigs, birds, goats and sheep. All of these animals are non-native, (birds may be native or introduced). Rabbits cover Australia in plague proportions and destroy native flora and fauna, as well as crops. In contrast, an organisation called WIRES (Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service) cares for native animals. If the majority of Australians heard the names of these two organisations, which one would they be more familiar with?

Image: Gabriel Crismariu

ScoMo is UnAustralian.

A nickname is truly Australian.

It’s central to Aussie culture. Every Aussie gets at least one nickname during their lifetime. Expectant parents even have to consider how a name will be shortened or adapted before choosing a name for their newborn.

Nicknames can be ironic. Redheads are called Bluey. Tall people are called Shorty and fat people are called Slim. Turbo earned his nickname because he’s so slow.

Nicknames can be descriptive. Diesel plays footy. He’s big and strong, but can only run at one speed, so he’s called Diesel. Warren will be called Rabbit, or Rabs. Andrew Appledorf was called Strudel.

Nicknames can be cryptic. I once met a man known as Pockets. His real name is Paul – I still don’t know why he’s called Pockets.

Having a nickname is quintessentially Australian, and those nicknames are rarely complimentary. Colin was called Cul-de-sac because he lived in a cul-de-sac and had a prominent and expanding bald patch on top of his head. Poor Colin. Tony was called Shadow because he was always following around his older brothers. Richard Crane was called…well you can probably guess. In Aussie culture, you’re not meant to like your nickname. Nicknames are bestowed upon their owners – by someone else, and this is why giving yourself a nickname is UnAustralian.

Scott Morrison gave himself the nickname ScoMo. The prime minister, or his sizeable marketing team, created the nickname deliberately to make him seem more Australian, more likable, more down-to-earth, more in touch with the common people. It worked. The nickname endeared him to the Australian people and helped him win an ‘unwinnable’ election in 2019.

Scott Morrison is destroying Australia. He is owned by the fossil fuel industry, which is wreaking environmental and economic damage on Australia. His government has bungled the vaccine rollout and only 2% of the population is fully vaccinated. He started a war of words with China which has already cost Australian companies and industries millions of dollars. He did so to score a few political points and to appear strong and decisive. Morrison was hand-picked, and is controlled, by Rupert Murdoch. Rupert Murdoch is a US citizen. That’s UnAustralian.

ScoMo is a nickname that Scotty gave to himself. ScoMo is UnAustralian.

Scotty, don’t give yourself a nickname. Mate, give yourself an uppercut.

Image: http://www.gettyimages.com.au

Australia: the dumnation.

Australia continues on it’s path to dumnation. Intellect is spurned and academia is neglected, our economy is dumb and education is disrespected.

Australians are gullible.

A leadership challenge gave us a prime minister who is nothing more than a re-branding exercise for the Liberal National Party (LNP). At the time, Scott Morrison was called the caretaker PM. Some even referred to him as the night-watchman in reference to a tactic used in cricket in which a less competent batter is sent in for the last moments of a day’s play, in order to protect the more competent batters for the following day. If the night-watchman is dismissed, it doesn’t really matter – he is expendable, a sacrifice to protect the team. Morrison was a sacrifice, a less competent politician chosen to fill a gap. Then Australians voted him back in. They fell for the PR spin of the carefully-crafted persona, a man devoid of substance who is himself a marketing man. Australians continue to succumb to the marketing spin and support a man who is leading the country on the path to dumnation.

A carefully-crafted persona has kept Morrison in office. He is successfully sold as the daggy Dad, the typical Aussie bloke who loves beer and footy. He occupies his days with endless photo opportunities. Photo opportunities that are lame, predictable and vacuous, but successful. In his latest photo opportunity, he pretends to nail gyprock into a wall. He holds a hammer and pretends to hold a nail between his fingers. Only, he’s not holding a nail. A quick zoom in of the image reveals he’s holding fresh air. The Australian prime minister can’t even pretend to hammer a nail in correctly. For a man who is nothing but photo opportunities, this is a major failure.

He is sold as a leader of the workers, a man who identifies with the construction worker, farmer and tradesman (yes, tradesman, not woman), and yet he and his PR team can’t even manage a staged photo opportunity. Does it matter? Does it diminish his standing in the eyes of his new constituents? No, they still fall for the PR spin. Many experts predict he will win the next federal election. All Morrison needs to do is appear in high-vis, in lab coats, in footy gear or with his family, and Australians love him. It’s that easy.

The gullible Australian is a political creation. The Labor Party, and especially the LNP, have created the gullible Australian through the mainstream media and the public education system.

An uneducated population is easier to control. Leaders like the Sultan of Brunei know this, and deliberately underfund their public education systems. The current government also understands this. Government schools in Australia are grossly underfunded and teachers are overworked and underpaid. The nation ranks very poorly among OECD nations for basic educational standards in literacy and numeracy. It is impossible to develop critical literacy without basic literacy, and this motivates the current government’s attack on public education.

Citizens who lack critical literacy will not see, or even look, behind the marketing spin of the government. They will not question announcements and policy decisions. They can be fooled with targeted language, numbers and statistics, and controlled with slogans. The current government is a master of slogans – and the slogans work.

Tertiary education is also suffering. Universities are poorly funded, but for different reasons. Universities foment anti-establishment sentiment and dissent. Students and professors have a prerogative to reject the status quo, especially a status quo led by a conservative government. Universities often lead the dissent and robust discussion that is central to a functioning democracy. The current government has successfully stifled the debate that traditionally emerges from universities.

Technical education is also under threat. Funding has been stripped from TAFE (Technical and Further Education) colleges. The result is a labour shortage. Subsequently, labour was sourced from overseas (pre-COVID). Foreign labour disadvantaged local workers, who found less employment opportunities. Foreign labour benefitted large corporations, who could source cheaper, more compliant workers. Ironically, the tradies, labourers and construction workers who form the new supporter base of the LNP, are directly disadvantaged by their chosen representatives. They are one group of Australians who have voted against their best interests, but they are too gullible and uneducated to realise.

While the Labor Party has not attacked public education with the same vigour as the LNP, they have neglected the system for many years and left government schools crumbling. The undereducated masses blindly follow the current government on the path to dumnation.

Cool to be a fool.

Many Australian school students live by this mantra. It is considered cool to not study, not care and not pay attention at school. The attitude is typical of teenagers in many countries, but in Australia it stems from a cultural disrespect for authority and intellect. A country built on convict transportation from Britain naturally carries a disrespect for authority figures, including teachers, and this partly explains the behaviour of many students in class. Disrespect for intellect runs deeper, though. Australian identity is based on the images of the farmer, the soldier, the bronzed Aussie and the athlete – all exalted for physical prowess. None praised for intellectual prowess.

Australians can revel in this image for as long as they want. Other countries won’t mind. Other countries will leap ahead of Australia is education, technology, social policy, trade and economics while Australia celebrates its ignorance. Other countries will see Australia as an opportunity to be easily exploited.

Uneducated people passively consume mass media. Discernment and critique are nowhere to be found. Driving this consumption is one man – Rupert Murdoch. NewsCorp owns most of Australia’s national and regional newspapers, and the climate change-denying, racist, sexist, bigoted news empire is a powerful propaganda tool of the LNP. Not only does the news network spread propaganda, but it publishes content which is offensive in its quality. The simplified language is aimed at 13-year-olds. The content is over-sensationalised tabloid rubbish, and the targeting of people such as Indigenous Australians, left-wing thinkers, migrants, ethnic groups, environmentalists, women and other minorities is shockingly obvious to anyone with a modicum of intelligence. Unfortunately, this is lacking in its readers, and the Murdoch-led mainstream media is leading Australia on the path to dumnation.

At the same time, the current government is stripping funding and influence from the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) because the national broadcaster is famously objective, admittedly left-leaning in some cases, and trusted for its history of investigative journalism. The LNP is weakening one of its critics, but in doing so is weakening an important community service. Victims of natural disasters such as floods and fires turn to the ABC for updates and information which literally saves lives. Gutting the ABC could cost lives, as extreme weather drives further natural disasters, and pandemics become more likely. Some of those who will suffer voted for the very people who are destroying this vital public service.

Australia exports almost nothing that requires a university degree to make. The country’s economy relies heavily upon mining and livestock agriculture. While intelligent, tertiary educated people work within those industries, the act of farming and mining are not complex. Mining involves digging a hole, and farming involves animal husbandry.

Such a simple economy is not economically sustainable. Especially in a globalised world in which other countries are deliberately and actively diversifying their economies to withstand changes and progress, as well as unexpected events such as COVID-19. Mining and agricultural exports suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic, with border closures interrupting export activity and transport. Countries and businesses in the IT industry, in contrast, prospered during the pandemic as anyone who had access to technology used it to stay in contact, stay connected, stay employed or stay sane. Australia, meanwhile, runs on a nationwide internet service whose speeds recently placed it at 61st in the world.

Slow internet speed has no justification. There is no excuse for such a poor national internet service. It is simply the result of political incompetence. A country with slow internet speed, in a digital age, is heading towards dumnation.

Mining and agriculture dominate Australia’s economy, alongside construction and tourism. International tourism has halted due to the pandemic, and it is impossible to predict when it will resume and pour more money into Australian businesses and the national economy. Income from foreign tourists was previously considered a guarantee for Australians, but the country is now paying the price for the failure to diversify the economy.

Concurrently, the nation is destroying the very thing which lures so many international visitors: nature. Tourists flock to the country to see the Great Barrier Reef, Uluru, pristine beaches, rainforests, national parks and native animals. Most of these are under threat from climate change, over-development, mining, agriculture and poor regulation. Failure to protect Australia’s natural wonders will damage post-COVID tourism as well as destroying the nation’s biodiversity.

Destruction of the natural environment is not unavoidable. It is the result of direct action by Australian people since colonisation. It is the result of actions which have given Australia the highest rate of native mammal extinction in the world, the largest per capita carbon footprint of any nation on earth, and the number two world ranking in biodiversity loss.

What’s more, scientists predict the possible extinction of koalas in the near future. Only a country on the path to dumnation would knowingly destroy one of its most famous and loved national symbols. How many tourists will visit Australia in the post-COVID world if they know they can’t see a koala?

An ignorant nation does not recognise the importance of its natural environment. An ignorant nation believes the lies perpetuated in the mainstream media. An ignorant nation believes the lies told by politicians beholden to the fossil fuel industry, and the agricultural and construction sector. An ignorant population is a sign of a nation on the path to dumnation.

A useful barometer of a nation’s intellectual health is its mass media consumption. In particular, it’s free-to-air television content. Reality TV dominates this content in Australia, and every year it sinks to a new low. Scripted, manipulative shows in which contestants are rewarded for their selfishness, greed, betrayal and lies are surging in popularity and dominate the content on every commercial station.

Voting habits also indicate a nation’s intellectual standing. Fringe parties based on extreme ideologies such as racism are growing in strength in Australia. One such party is Pauline Hanson’s One Nation, named after Australia’s most famous racist.

Parties such as One Nation win support through outrageous statements. They also promise without fear because they know they will never have to fulfil the promises they make, because they know they will never form government. Of course, every politician makes promises, and most of those promises are not kept, but fringe parties can make more outrageous statements and promises, and attract more of the disgruntled voters, because the members know they will never have to deliver, and will not be voted out for failing to deliver. Members of the major parties make empty promises, but risk being voted out at the next election if they don’t deliver at least some of their promises.

Unfortunately, the people who vote for the fringe parties don’t understand this dynamic. They are ignorant, ill-informed, lowly educated or simply quick to judge and condemn, and they believe the extreme statements and policy announcements of the extreme right wing candidates. They possess the ignorance of a Trump supporter, and are a symptom of a nation on the path to dumnation.

The path to dumnation is the path to damnation. Australia will be left behind economically, socially, intellectually, technologically and academically unless it develops a respect for the enormous intellectual talent which resides in the country. Australia’s brightest minds must be recognised because they will save the nation from dumnation.

Image: http://www.worldatlas.com

Who will teach Australia’s children?

Australia demands a qualified, dedicated and capable teaching workforce to prepare its youth for tomorrow, but will this workforce comprise of long-serving, permanent teachers, or will it rely on an increasing number of casual teachers in the near future?

Teachers are quitting the workforce. Countless reports indicate that up to 50% of teachers leave the occupation within the first five years. Exhaustion, disillusionment, low pay, long hours, poor student behaviour, parental pressure and increasing administrative demands are driving many young people away from the profession.

Some of these teachers might take time off to study, find a new occupation, travel or simply recover from the trauma of modern-day teaching. Many of them may also return to teaching on a casual basis because they still have bills to pay, and because they wish to remain in touch with education with thoughts of returning to the job full-time.

Casual teachers earn a reasonable daily rate and are not burdened with the same pressures of daily planning, preparation and marking. Nor do they have to complete reports, deal with parents, attend every staff meeting or collect data on all of their students. Essentially, casual teachers are not requited to complete the endless administrative tasks which drove many of them away from the occupation in the first place.

The result could see an increasing number of Australian school students taught by casual teachers.

Is casual teaching easier?

No. Casual teaching may require less administration outside of the classroom, but the demands in the classroom are greater. An Aussie tradition is to ‘muck up’ when the regular teacher is away, so the casual teacher deals with more challenging behaviour from students. Sometimes it’s an absolute nightmare. Casual teachers often accept this trade off in return for the chance to do their job, get paid and do something they could never do as a full-time teacher – leave the job at work.

Why is casualisation a problem?

Casualisation is akin to high rates of teacher turnover. Students see different teachers regularly, and each teacher has a different personality and teaching style. Teachers new to the class may not know exactly what was covered, or how it was taught, in the previous class, and will spend time catching up the previous lesson – or simply learning the names of the students.

In addition, each individual teacher may not be a subject expert. Schools attempt to match casual teachers to the subject in which they are trained, but this isn’t always possible, Consequently, the students are supervised but not necessarily taught.

The greatest disadvantage of the casualisation of the teaching workforce is the loss of a personal connection.

‘Teachers teach people not subjects’

This saying reminds teachers that they must see their pupils as people before they regard them as learners of a particular subject. All teachers accept this role. It is the role of mentor, older sibling, counsellor, confidante, role model and, sometimes, parent. This connection with a student can only be established over time and after regular meaningful contact, and this connection is very difficult to establish as a casual teacher.

Also, if more and more teachers are casual, who will fill the roles of home-room tutor, year co-ordinator or subject co-ordinator? The aforementioned positions all entail a degree of personal mentoring and counselling of students which is vital for their general wellbeing and academic performance. If more teachers are casual, fewer will accept the responsibility of ensuring the emotional wellbeing of the students.

Casual teachers move from class to class, subject to subject and school to school. An increase in casual teachers across Australia will leave a dearth of trusted adults in schools and increase the pressure on primary school students who are developing the foundations of their education, and on secondary school students who are negotiating adolescence.

Special needs

Students with special needs will also suffer in a casualised school system. Students with special needs require individual activities or teaching strategies, and the most effective strategies are developed over time and after consultation with support teachers, the student, parents, special needs experts and the full-time teacher. A casual teacher simply cannot cater for the individual needs of every student in a class they have never met. It’s impossible.

How can this be prevented?

The best way to prevent the casualisation of the teaching workforce is to keep teachers in the teaching profession. Fortunately, the methods required to achieve this are not at all complicated.

Pay teachers more

This demand is made and ignored year after year. Even after the enormous pressure placed on teachers during the COVID-19 outbreak in 2020, teachers in Australia still have not been promised a pay rise.

Teachers are lowly paid. Lowly paid in comparison to the hours worked and the pressure of their occupation. Lowly paid according to the importance of their role in society. A mid-level teacher in NSW earns around $80,000 per year; the same amount earned by some Sydney bus drivers. Poor wages drive many teachers away from the occupation.

Low wages also create problems for schools. Lowly-paid teachers cannot afford to live in expensive suburbs, even if renting. Thus, teachers working at schools in wealthy suburbs face a very long commute from more affordable suburbs, and schools sometimes struggle to find staff on a regular basis. Teachers could live closer to school, but their meagre wages will disappear before they can even dream of buying their own home or living without financial stress.

Increasing teacher’s salaries would also improve the standing of the occupation in Australian society. Teaching is a profession, but is paid much less than other professions, and is thus regarded as inferior. Australia is a capitalist society and the worth of a job is linked to its salary. Teachers in Australia are respectful, but not respected. In a capitalist society, teachers also have bills to pay and should be able to do so comfortably in return for educating the next generation of the country.

Fund schools adequately

Schools are not funded sufficiently in Australia. Government schools lack resources to provide a variety of meaningful activities to students, or even to teach the students basic skills and knowledge. This places more stress on teachers and forces many of them to buy essential resources out of their own pockets, dipping into their meagre wages.

Funding schools adequately would improve academic outcomes and in turn improve job satisfaction among teachers. This would keep many of them in the occupation for longer.

Stand up for teachers

Society as a whole needs to stand up for teachers. Not just through uttering vague statements reminding teachers that they are ‘valued’ and ‘important’. Teachers are too smart to be fooled by empty words. Society, education departments, individual schools and sometimes individual principals need to stand up for teachers.

Teachers need to be defended from parents. Many parents now attack teachers every time their child is reprimanded or punished, or when they receive unsatisfactory grades. These attacks are usually verbal, but often physical. While parents of the past would support the actions of teachers, now they attack teachers. Unfortunately, even the most ill-informed and unreasonable parents wield enormous power in schools and can destroy a teacher’s career, as well as their general wellbeing.

Principles, schools and education departments need to stop giving in to parents.

In addition, teachers need to be defended in their interactions with students. Every year, the daily behaviour of students seems to worsen. Every year, the power of teachers to deal with that behaviour is diminished. Defending teachers does not mean bringing back capital punishment. Never. It means allowing educated, trained and experienced teachers to take reasonable action to hold children accountable for their behaviour and to stop them acting in a way that destroys their own learning and the learning of other students in the class.

All of these measures would keep teachers in the profession for longer, and prevent the casualisation of the workforce.

Paper work

Paperwork is a frustration for every occupation, including teaching. The administrative load is increasing and falls under two categories: data collection and self-defence.

Data collection is ‘on trend’ in modern education. It is not a trend initiated by teachers. It was initiated by bureaucrats. Teachers are now forced to collect and report data on student attendance, behaviour, exam results, assessment results, homework, classwork…on top of their daily tasks of planning, preparation, marking, student feedback, playground duty…

A great surge in administrative tasks has created an enormous workload for teachers and has not helped a single child learn. The data goes to schools, educations or government departments, and appears to exist only to bolster a politician’s press release.

Data is also a necessary weapon of self-defence. Teachers are forced to justify every action they take in dealing with students and parents. Teachers are filling out endless forms and databases to justify every action they take at school in fear of criticism from students or parents. Data entry allows teachers to pre-empt complaints from students or parents which could see them reprimanded, suspended or even sacked.

If a secondary student refuses to read the set text in their English class, the teacher must make a note. The teacher must prove that they have advised the student to read ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, because the class if studying ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. When the student proudly and publicly states that they are never going to read the novel, the teacher must create written evidence that they did everything possible to encourage the student to read the novel. When the student flies into a mad panic three days before the due date of the assessment task for ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ the teacher must provide yet more written evidence that they offered support to the student to help them pass an assessment for a novel they refused to read. The teacher must then use this written evidence to defend themselves when the parents complain to the school that their child is not able to complete the assessment task. The teacher must use the written evidence to defend themselves when the parents demand extra tuition for their child in the teacher’s lunch time or free period, so that the student who refused to read ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ can pass the assessment task about ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. One wonders if this is what Harper Lee had in mind when she wrote the classic?

Australia faces the real possibility of a casualised teaching workforce and further erosion of overall academic standards. Teachers must be enticed to stay in the occupation, and this can be done through increasing teachers’ salaries and school funding, standing up for teachers, stripping parents of the power they wield over schools and removing the administrative load forced upon modern teachers.

Image: Element5digital

Does China need to invade Australia?

The drums of war are beating. Australia is preparing for war with China as politicians and senior bureaucrats warn of armed conflict with the emerging superpower. Citizens are stockpiling weapons or boycotting their local Chinese restaurant and the tabloid media is disseminating fear to increase sales.

But would China ever invade Australia militarily? Would it ever need to?

China’s global ambitions are undeniable. Its construction of islands in the South China Sea and its actions in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang indicate plans to expand its influence. Counties throughout Africa, the Caribbean and the South Pacific are also being heavily courted, and China watched on with glee as its major rival self destructed under the disaster of Trump’s presidency. Boris and Brexit must also have pleased Xi Jinping.

China will not need to launch a military attack on Australia because the land Down Under is following Britain and The USA down a path of self destruction. China simply needs to wait and pick off the weakened state when the time is right.

Numbers

China can dominate Australia numerically. Millions of Chinese people comprise the diaspora which has created entrenched communities in Australia, as in other countries. Chinese people came to dig for gold in the 1860s, and since then to seek better opportunities for their families. Chinese influence will continue to grow as the number of migrants, students and tourists from China continues to grow.

Economics and trade

Chinese dominance of Australia will be achieved primarily through economics and trade. China is Australia’s biggest trading partner – and statements from Beijing remind Australia that it is the junior partner in this relationship. Indeed, when the Australian government made ill-timed and thinly-veiled racist comments towards China recently, Beijing imposed restrictions on Australian exports, and many Australian businesses suffered significantly. Some of the comments mirrored those of former US president Donald Trump, and were deliberately designed to appeal to the same demographic: ignorant, racist, narrow-minded, bigoted, lowly educated citizens whose influence has grown in Australia in recent years.

Australia has itself to blame for this situation. Australia has a ‘dumb’ economy. The nation exports almost nothing that requires a university degree to make, and its exports consist mainly of natural resources from mining, and the products of agriculture. Australia’s refusal, inability or reluctance to diversify its economy has made it dependant upon China, and this grants China economic control. It is also another reason that China does not need to invade Australia militarily.

One economic opportunity Australia continues to squander is renewable energy. Intelligent countries, including China, recognise the future economic as well as environmental opportunities inherent in renewable energy, but Australia remains fixated on fossil fuels which will destroy the environment and the economy.

The abundant sun light which attracts so many tourists to the land Down Under each year, especially from China, could be captured as solar energy and even exported for profit, but the fossil fuel industry controls the current government, and the semi-literate Australian mainstream believes the government’s rhetoric about the need for fossil fuels in Australia’s energy market. This is a situation entirely of Australia’s making, and one which weakens the country and makes it susceptible to Chinese dominance.

Education

Academia and intelligence are not prized in Australian culture. This is the reverse in China. Public education is poorly funded in Australia and more money appears to be stripped from government schools each year, especially under a conservative government. There are young Chinese people, studying at Chinese schools in China, with higher standards of English literacy than native-speaking Australian students studying at schools in Australia. Many Australian students don’t read, and won’t read. Their parents don’t appear concerned, the students are not concerned, and both major parties continue to strip money from public education and to further damage literacy rates across the country. Numeracy rates also continue to fall in Australia, and without succumbing to national stereotypes, China’s prowess in mathematics is well known.

In addition, many young Australians lack resilience. Too many primary and secondary students are diagnosed with stress and anxiety disorder, ADD, ADHD and myriad other academic or behavioural conditions. Some students genuinely suffer from these conditions, but many don’t. Australian society has allowed the over-diagnosis of these conditions, and a generation lacking resilience will inherit this country, making it ripe for the picking from a country that does not allow the same exceptions for its students.

A solution to this problem is to fund schools adequately, and to increase wages for teachers – as a starting point.

In a globalised world, Australia is weakened. Young Australians now compete for careers with youth from across the globe, including China, and need to form habits of resilience and dedication in their daily lives in order to protect their own futures and the future of the country.

Universities

Disrespect for academia extends to tertiary education in Australia. Public universities are inadequately funded, and this has further weakened the country. Universities are subsequently forced to operate as businesses and chase international fee paying students, most of whom come from China. Lecturers are pressured to award qualifications to international students even if they fail, because universities rely on their continued income. University staff tell tales of students from overseas, and from Australia, who lack the necessary English literacy skills to pass a course, but are awarded qualifications regardless because the universities need the money. The result is a decline in academic standards which will eventually devalue the qualifications international students have paid a fortune to receive. Soon, international students will seek degrees in other countries, and another lucrative source of income to Australia will be lost. This is a situation of Australia’s making.

Poorly funded tertiary education creates another problem for Australia – brain drain. If the country’s best and brightest are denied opportunities for research in Australia, they will take their intelligence overseas.

Historical pragmatism

China is not a coloniser. Not traditionally anyway. History reveals China’s focus on establishing trade and extracting resources from other lands instead of colonising those lands. Colonisation requires the invading power to manage the lands they invade and to manage the government, as well as transport, health, education, communications and other public services, which all require personnel, money, time and effort. China knew it could still enjoy the economic benefits of dominance over other lands without having to deal with the mess of governing the country. It is likely to do so with Australia.

Three superpowers in three weeks.

The Australian government has managed to upset three superpowers in the space of three weeks. Comments from the prime minister and senior minsters or staff have provoked negative responses from China, India and the United States, and the results could be very harmful to Australia.

China.

The threat of war. Senior government figures provoked China with comments about imminent armed conflict. Former Liberal minister Christopher Pyne, Senator Jim Molan, Home Affairs secretary Mike Pezzullo, and even Defence Minister Peter Dutton made comments suggesting Australia is already, or will soon be, engaged in some form of direct conflict with China. In contrast, an article by Ewen Levick appeared in Australian Defence Magazine in March this year entitled:

War with China is not inevitable.

Average Aussies don’t know who to believe. They also might not understand the true motivation behind the comments, but China does, and Australia’s largest trading partner has already responded the best way it knows how – economically.

India

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that Australian citizens attempting to return to Australia from the COVID-19 hotspot of India could be issued massive fines or sent to jail. Many Australian citizens were born in India, have family in India and hold dual citizenship between the two countries. Australian citizens have access to Australia’s health system, and could be treated in Australia after completing mandatory quarantine, but they are being forced to remain in a country in the middle of a crisis, and are placing more pressure on India’s overburdened health system. This has not just angered Aussies in India and back home, but upset the government of India, which is battling to bring the crisis under control.

The United States

The Australian government set itself at odds with The USA when it refused to follow plans to reduce carbon emissions and protect the natural environment. New US president Joe Biden has publicly stated an ambition to actively reduce carbon emissions in the US in the near future, but Australia has refused to match these efforts. One specific policy which will harm Australia is the carbon tariff. The tariff, or fee, will be imposed on any goods being imported into the United States which have not been produced using more environmentally-friendly methods. Goods that are produced using fossil fuels will thus be worth less, and those businesses will lose money. The European Union is proposing a similar plan.

Ironically, this will adversely affect traditional Coalition voters, whose businesses will suffer due to the tariffs. Australia, rightly or wrongly, has a very close relationships with the United States, and cannot afford to alienate the superpower.

Upsetting other nations is inevitable in international diplomacy. Upsetting other nations is also justified if those nations are acting in a way that clearly contravenes the interests or the accepted values of the nation making the comments. China, for example, needs to be called out for its actions in Hong Kong, Taiwan and Xinjiang. In this case, however, the comments are calculated, but careless, and are deliberately designed to appease specific sectors of the Australian population.

China. Anti-China comments appeal to the racists. Australia is a racist country, and anti-Chinese racism has existed since the gold rush in the 1860s. The Liberal National Party coalition taps into this anti-China sentiment because it is dependant on the votes of the country’s racist underbelly. Warning Australians of the threat of war is also a convenient way to justify enormous spending on defence, and observant commentators noticed that the comments were made close to ANZAC Day, which commemorates fallen Aussie soldiers and is the nation’s most sacred day. Ironically, however, the public comments about China have adversely affected trade with China and this severely disadvantages Australian producers of beef, wheat and wine, who would normally vote for the Coalition.

The USA. The prime minister rejected the US proposal in order to appease the fossil fuel industry. Australians are now cognisant that the fossil fuel industry owns the Coalition.

India. Racism, or damage control? Threatening to imprison Australian citizens returning from an Asian country is clearly racist, but the proposal could also be an attempt to save face. COVID-19 quarantine is ultimately a federal government responsibility in Australia, and it has been handled very poorly. The COVID-19 vaccine rollout has been even worse. Many Australians are staring to see through the government’s COVID-19 publicity stunts, so the threat to fine or imprison citizens could be an attempt to appear tough and decisive on border control and biosecurity.

Some of the Australians trapped in India have no Indian heritage. They are cricketers, chasing big money in the lucrative Indian cricket competition. A few of the cricketers have criticised the government’s stance. Will the words of some Aussie sports heroes be enough to the change the government’s stance?

For a government that is nothing but publicity, photo opportunities and marketing, this is a massive public relations faux pas. Will it persuade Australians to stop voting for the Coalition at upcoming elections?

Image: Aditya Joshi

ANZAC Day is an ideal time to denounce right-wing extremism.

Will Scott Morrison denounce right-wing extremism on ANZAC Day?

Will the Prime Minister of Australia use his national address on April 25 to publicly denounce the rise of right-wing extremism in the country and make a strong statement that the racist ideology is not welcome in a democratic country? The prime minster’s speech writers will fill his public statements with phrases about ‘protecting our way of life’ ‘laying down their lives for our freedom’, upholding ‘Australian values’ and ‘defending democracy’, as well as encouraging us all to ensure we never live through another war. He might even pretend to cry again. But will he denounce one factor which contributes to war?

Why do it on ANZAC Day?

ANZAC Day recognises the sacrifices, suffering and deaths of individual soldiers from Australia and New Zealand since WWI. It also reminds all of us to do whatever we can to prevent war in the future, and this includes preventing right-wing extremism and excessive nationalism from becoming entrenched and accepted.

Excessive nationalism = war.

Excessive nationalism is a form of extremism. Hitler understood this very acutely, and labelled his party the National Socialist party. He also created a nationalism which was deliberately exclusive. He famously scapegoated Jewish people, and excluded them from notions of German identity, and excluded anyone else who did not conform to his party’s ideal of the pure Aryan race. Ironically, Hitler himself did not satisfy his own criteria for pure Aryan blood. Right-wing extremism caused World War II.

The ANZACs fought against the Hitler’s Nazis in WWII.

Recent media reports point to an increase in public declarations of excessive nationalism and growing support for Neo-Nazi ideology and activity in Australia. Neo-Nazi groups, emboldened by right-wing media and defenders of ‘free speech’, have been gathering in groups and happily publicising their existence across social media platforms. Swastikas have been spotted on people’s cars, their clothing, their skin and their social media accounts, and racially motivated attacks on innocent people are reported regularly.

Furthermore, Brenton Tarrant is Australian. Tarrant carried out the two terrorist attacks on mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019, and Australia produced him. Tarrant grew up in Australia and is known to have followed various right-wing extremists groups on social media before he carried out the pre-meditated attacks. He also admitted that racial and religious intolerance motivated the attacks. New Zealand soldiers fought alongside Australian soldiers during the battles which are remembered on ANZAC Day. Is this how we repay their service?

The prime minster and his Liberal National Party coalition have yet to publicly criticise the extremism which provoked the massacres.

Will he do it?

No.

Morrison and the LNP need the Nazi vote. The conservative party’s new constituency includes right-wing extremists who believe in exclusive nationalism which excludes anyone who is not white, straight and Christian. The Nazi vote is even more important after the party and the prime minister failed disastrously to handle the 2019/2020 bushfire crisis, the abuse of women in parliament house and the COVID-19 vaccine roll out. Die hard coalition voters and right-wing extremists may well save the LNP from defeat at the next federal election. This is also the party which famously boasted about ‘Turning Back the Boats’ as the cornerstone of a racist immigration policy, and which has a disastrous record on Indigenous issues.

Should he do it?

Yes

Denouncing right-wing extremism close to ANZAC Day will carry more weight. War and the suffering of conflict are at the forefront of people’s thoughts. The desire to prevent another war is stronger during commemorative days, so denouncing the philosophy which led the world to war in the past is very appropriate on ANZAC Day. In addition, ANZAC Day has become more patriotic in recent years and right-wing extremists may be more likely to exploit the surge in patriotism to push their racist agenda, so the government should denounce this ideology strongly and publicly.

Image: http://www.abc.net.au