University applications are down, but we really shouldn’t be worried
about the “perennial problem of unmet demand” in our tertiary
institutions, says Ross Gittins in The Sydney Morning Herald.
Instead we should be more worried about the “notion that in these days
of the knowledge economy and the
Clever Country,” there’s the belief that everyone should be going to uni. It’s a pursuit driven
more by “parental pursuit of social
status than common sense,” which encourages applications to the flashest
courses in the most elite sandstone institutions. But uni graduates are still
in the minority and are outnumbered by those with technical
qualifications. And “this is how it should be” – because not
everyone can, or should, be managers or professionals.

For the ABC, “filling the gap left by commercial broadcasting requires
strong intellectual leadership” – it should be provocative, but never
mindlessly biased, says Alan Mitchell in The Australian Financial
Review
(subscription required). And the most crucial audience for the national broadcaster is
the “tertiary educated professional and semi-professional
middle-class,” which wants high quality broadcasting, not a marginal
left-wing commentator to counter low brow commercial TV and radio. It’s
essentially middle-class welfare that’s under easy attack from the
Howard Government, and if it plays its cards right, its problems of
political bias, program quality and financing will be internalised –
free from government attack. But only if its builds its comparative
advantage – and that’s the growing intelligent middle class.

Julian
McGauran’s actions “look suspiciously like those of a rat deserting a sinking ship,” says The Canberra Times,
but McGauran’s defection will not “precipitate the collapse of the
Nationals as a political force, at least not yet.” Vaile has a lot of
work to do and needs to quickly initiate a debate about where the party
is heading. For the “bogeymen for today’s Nationals are the new breed
of independents” who have exploited the party’s failure in the bush.
Unless the Nationals “arm themselves with new policies that mark
them as more than mere country cousins of the Liberals, their ultimate
destiny will be death by political apathy.”

“Australia wasn’t the only English-speaking American ally to put the
squeeze on speech last November in the name of fighting Islamic
terrorism,” writes Matt Welsh in Reason. And
while Britain also made it an offence to glorify terrorism, thankfully,
in the United States, you still can glorify terrorism every single day
because the American founders were “hyper-conscious of the thick line
separating word from deed.” Such allowances serve as an “important
pressure valve, allowing dark ideas to be exhumed, debated, and shot
down openly, rather than left to fester in the shadows.”

With radical party Hamas expected to win up to 40% of the vote in tomorrow’s
Palestinian elections, many are worried about the future for peace in
the Middle East. But “if democracy is truly going to take root in the
Middle East, then Islamists are going to have to be allowed to compete
for power” – elected voters will be then forced to judge them and
hold their decisions accountable, says The Wall Street Journal. And even though a “strong showing by Hamas will be dispiriting,” the Palestinians will at least have
had a choice “denied them in the Arafat era, and they will have to live with the
consequences.”

As he enters the next stage of his trial, Saddam Hussein has “returned
to doing what he does best: seeking to prolong his life,” says Efraim
Karsh in The New Republic. So far his tactic has been to
“delay the proceedings by any means possible,” seeking injunctions and
prosecuting the legitimacy of the Iraqi court. The enduring myth about
Saddam’s life was that he wanted to transform Iraq into the Middle
East’s biggest powerbroker, but all he wanted to do was survive as long
as possible. And in his trial, nothing has changed. ”
Hussein still likely believes he is “far cleverer” than those who are
trying to kill him, but this time let’s hope he’s wrong.

Voters have denied Canada’s newly elected conservatives a “strong mandate to shift the country in any radical direction,” says The Toronto Star. New
Prime Minister Paul Martin and his minority Conservative government
spent the long election campaign firmly fighting for the middle ground,
and the future Canadian parliament promises to be an unstable place where
he will have “no natural allies for many of his socially conservative
policies.” “Having run from the centre, Harper has a responsibility to
govern on behalf of all Canadians,” but if he tries to push the country
radically to the right, parliament has an obligation to resist.

Worth reading Highly recommended

Peter Fray

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