Higher education in trouble:

Andrew Bartlett, Research Fellow, Migration Law Program, ANU, writes: Re. “Higher ed in trouble: fix visas, increase funding, or bailout with billions” (yesterday, item 1). At the end of his story on foreign students, Geoff Maslen says “the government acted to stop what had effectively become illegal backdoor migration”.

There is no doubt that the previous government’s policy of linking student visas to permanent residency prospects via a very broad skills list needed reform, as it had created serious distortions in our education and training industries, whilst failing to meet skills shortages in our employment market.

But it is simply wrong — not to mention unfair and inflammatory — to label those who did migrate through this mechanism as “illegal” or “backdoor” migrants. Rightly or not, the prospect of permanent residency was specifically used as a major selling point to boost our education export industry, so it is unfair to blame people for paying for courses.

Whilst the distortions created by the previous system needed to be remedied, at least part of the cause of the current plunge in international student numbers is due to the current government going too far in cracking down on these distortions. In effect, they retrospectively changed the rules mid-stream for thousands of international students who had already signed up to or completed courses — at enormous expense — because they had been told (rightly at the time) that this would assist them to gain permanent residency here.

When a country is prepared to change the rules after people have paid large amounts of money, it is not surprising that others start looking elsewhere to gain their qualifications.

The Gillard Government:

David Hand writes: Re. “A reform government? Gillard is all talk” (yesterday, item 2). I share Bernard Keane’s scepticism about the direction of the Gillard Government. In using the term “Economic Hansonism” Julia Gillard has begun to show true desperation. With her policy platform collapsing around her I wonder how long the government will last.

Yesterday we had Government spokesmen unloading on Joe Hockey while Wayne Swan was all but agreeing with him and the Murray Darling programme is falling apart before our eyes.  Add to this the increasingly shrill Conroy who has taken to shouting at anyone who questions the NBN, the unravelling of the MRRT and the (somebody’s girl) Kristina Keneally stabbing the workplace safety harmonisation Julia was so proud of in the election campaign and there’s not a lot for our glorious PM to be happy about.

She could show some backbone and demonstrate firmly held views that the electorate might latch on to so she needs to rustle up some focus groups quickly to tell her what her what views she should firmly hold. Oh sh*t!  The Greens have already got a mortgage on the issues ALP voters might firmly hold views about.

She’s a Dead Woman Walking.

War:

Keith Perkins writes: Re. “Video of the Day: Adam Bandt’s speech on Afghanistan” (21 October, item 8). Whilst my eyes may not have watered my heart certainly wept in sympathy with Andrew Wilkie when he emotionally pleaded with his fellow parliamentarians to end the senseless killing of our finest young men and bring them home from Afghanistan. My sympathy for Andrew was combined with anger at the hopelessness of his task; he has Buckley’s chance of instilling the slightest measure of logic, let alone compassion, to his parliamentary colleagues regarding the futility of this conflict.

In a chamber consisting of 150 members only one, the Green MP Adam Bandt, supported Andrew and while I may have been sad and angry I was not surprised. What hope did Wilkie and Bandt have of persuading the government, a government representing what are possibly the most warring people the world has seen for hundreds of years, to end this senseless killing.

In the 222 years of existence Australia has involved itself in 16 wars, commencing with the 3,600 soldiers sent to fight against the Maori in 1860-66  In all those wars there was only one where Australia was militarily threatened and that was WW2, all the others were non-defensive.

In the sixteen wars and conflicts that Australia has been involved in, since 1860, including Iraq and Afghanistan, there have been 102,839 deaths or, in more shocking and disturbing perspective, an average of 686 young Australians have died every year since the first shot was fired against the Maori in 1860

What hope pacifism, when war is such an exciting and profitable industry?

Lazarus Rising:

Marcus Vernon writes: Barry Everingham (yesterday, comments) used the pages of Crikey — and not for the first time — to make an uncivilised, sexist and crude reference to the unelected wife of a former prime minister (…”Howard knew who really had the balls and went along with her advice”). Will Crikey accept similarly crude references to, oh, let’s say, the unelected Tim Mathieson or his children; Quentin Bryce and her daughter, the new Mrs Shorten; or, perhaps, Penny Wong’s unelected partner? No? I didn’t think so.

Let me remind Barry that Janette Howard fought a life-threatening battle with cervical cancer while in The Lodge, which she kept a private affair for 10 years until she felt she could talk about it as part of her unpaid advocacy work in this area. Any shame yet Bazza about your gynaecological reference yesterday?

Jim Hart writes: It’s true that John Howard was “articulate, confident, courteous…” on Q&A as Marcus Vernon said (yesterday, comments). But that is merely evidence of an experienced and skilful politician. It says nothing about the substance what he said.

For the most part Howard employed the standard political tactic of saying what you want to say and never mind about answering the question. Tony Jones tried to pull him up on that at the start but let him get away with it the rest of the time.

Meanwhile The Australian continues its hagiography of John Howard, rivalling the Mary MacKillop adulation. The only difference there is that under Pope Rupert you don’t have to be dead before he declares you a saint.

Chris Hunter writes: Re. “Video of the Day: Howard dodges shoe attack” (yesterday, item 8). The thing that struck me during the Howard Q&A was the number of times JWH reached across and grabbed Tony Jones by the arm or wrist. When words fail JWH becomes quite physical. He invades your space. Interesting.

Now let’s dispel of one great myth — that John Howard and Peter Costello were brilliant managers of the economy. They were in fact high taxing slave drivers shoving the labour market from permanent to mostly part time employment. Too bad if you’re sick and have to pay the mortgage. Spread your disease in the work place — swine of an idea — economically irresponsible. And they spent bugger all on the aging infrastructure while selling off our natural resources for a song.

They feted the big end of town, mostly ignoring public hospitals (national dental care), public schools. They eroded freedom. They were paranoid, heavily funding agencies to watch citizens, whilst increasing national terror risks due to their disastrous, illegal foreign policy.

Howard the Horrible presided over a modern dark age and it will take many years for Australia to recover. If ever.

Mungo MacCallum writes: Re. “Tips and rumours” (yesterday, item 7).So Howard’s title, Lazarus Rising, is not original. But then, nor was the line from which it was derived — Howard’s reply to a journalist who asked if he could ever come back from his dumping by the party in 1990: “That would be Lazarus with a triple by-pass.”

Apparently Howard now claims that it came to him in a moment of inspiration but in fact it had already been used by Bill Hayden after his own resignation in 1983. I don’t know whether it was original then, either, but Howard’s use of it was definitely plagiarism — unconscious perhaps, but plagiarism nonetheless.

Children in detention:

Greg Williams writes: Re. Yesterday’s Editorial. Crikey’s editorial on (dis)approval ratings on moving families out of immigration detention centres, (with accompanying total figures chart showing 33% approve, 53% disapprove, and an amazing 29% strongly disapprove, across the three main political parties):

“Clearly the public need to be educated on this one.”

You. Pompous. Ass!

Obviously a case of too much time being spent in the company of Crikey‘s increasingly rabid-Left staff. Let the roll out of the “Crikey Re-education Centres” commence!

Australia, USA and China:

Keith Binns writes: Re. “Richard Farmer’s chunky bits” (yesterday, item 10). Richard Farmer is right to point out that our relations with the USA and China will become more convoluted. To speak some Paul Keating style realpolitik, we are a vassal state of the USA in the process of becoming (God help us) a vassal state of China. Of course that transition will be tricky.

The ALP:

Marcus L’Estrange writes: Re. “Self flagellation in the ALP left; deckchair shuffle on the Right”  (yesterday, item 9). In a two-three speed economy where:

  • 2 million Australians now live in poverty — 1 in 10 of us
  • 70% of poor children in Australia live in jobless families
  • Australia now has one of the highest levels of joblessness among families with children in an OECD country
  • 12% of all children aged 0 to 17 live in “relative poverty” and 57% of single parent families interviewed said they could not pay utility bills in the past 12 months and
  • 12% went without meals surely ALP National Left Co-convener Doug Cameron’s call (25/10) for the ALP Government to legalise gay marriage shows that his mind is not on issues of concern to the 97% of Australians who are not gay, why the ALP primary vote is around 35% and why his faction is neither socialist or left.

As an ALP member I urge Comrade Cameron to go out and consult his former union members, members of the ALP “rank and vile” and above all the battlers to see what they think. I bet they want real jobs, food on the table, coins that jingle in their pockets. Not the peripheral issues such as gay marriage.

After all people can choose their own lifestyles but marriage is a contract between a man and a woman to protect the rights of children to know and be raised by their biological mum and dad, wherever possible. Parties voting to change the definition of marriage can expect a backlash at the next election.

Joe Boswell writes: Andrew Crook wrote:

While Cameron has been vocal on the issue of caucus debate, saying the current rules lead to a party of “zombies”, insiders expressed befuddlement at the outburst, saying that during the meeting “it seemed to only be Doug”.

“The best way to implement progressive reform would surely be widespread agreement,” the source said.

Looks like your source believes in agreement without discussion or debate; everyone just agrees with the leader. Another helping of Führerprinzip, anyone? At least it explains why hardly anyone bothers to join the party.

Crikey unleaded:

Drover’s cat writes: From yesterday’s leader: “It’s time it lead definitively on this, and permanently.”

From Item 5: “Boxer has lead in most polls, but never by much.”

What’s wrong with “led”? Especially in your lead item.

Any chance I can have an unleaded version of Crikey from here on? Too much lead can do you damage, y’know …

Peter Fray

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