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"Dear Mr Rudd" - nothing needed on Welfare or Education?

Waiting in Tullamarine Airport on Sunday night for a flight back to Sydney, not needing food owing to large and excellent lunch with Fiona at Silex / Willow Creek vineyard, and having finished my book, I gave in and bought Robert Manne's collection of demands Dear Mr Rudd. As it turned out, I'd finished it by the time I really needed it, as Qantas took an hour and a quarter to deliver my bag, but that's another story.

It's an odd collection, the content being of highly variable style and depth of analysis, indicating that Manne's briefing of his authors must have been a tad ambiguous. Most of it is at or below the level of detail of an extended Age or Oz opinion piece: Manne is obviously happier at this superficial level, given his comment in the Introduction on the more detailed Water Management piece that "only true experts in this area will know if he is right" ...

A full third of the book is devoted to what are essentially management issues on the Republic, Federation, Parliament, etc, and the rest of the first half on defence and foreign affairs, leaving the book's subtitle Ideas for a Better Australia to be carried by the second half alone. And now here comes the interesting bit - or rather here it doesn't come. Nice, if mostly lightweight, chapters on The Economy, Health, Families (which chapter is almost entirely about childcare), Indigenous Affairs, Workplace Relations, Housing, Universities and the Arts.

What's missing from this picture? Well, Manne's Introduction tells us there is a major gap: " During this remarkably painless operation, only one aspect of the book changed. ... I had initially intended to have a chapter on possible changes to media law. I invited the person I regarded as the most cogent critic of this aspect of the Australian media to contribute. He declined." So, there we are: if the Media chapter had been there, our list of needed reforms would be complete?

But wait - let me think - we've covered pre-school, uni. workplace, health - the whole life of an Australian, surely? Oh, yes, oops, we forgot to say anything at all about Social Services and Welfare outside childcare (but then it's only 40% of total spending, twice that on Defence), and about primary and secondary Education, and tertiary Education outside Universities. We know from his Introduction quoted above, that Manne didn't even think to ask for essays on these subjects. So, are we to assume that more than half of the Commonwealth's expenditure is pretty much on course and doesn't need any reform by the incoming government? Everything at Centrelink is going well? Our schools are all working as we hope and expect?

There would be some backing for this theory from the 2020 summit agenda, where Education is subsumed under the "Productivity" agenda - whose webpage is named "Infrastructure", and where the Education discussion is introduced by these fine words (and only by these fine words):

How can parents become directly engaged in their children’s schooling in a way that really improves their child’s results? What skills will our young people need to succeed in tomorrow’s economy? What kinds of teaching and curriculum will deliver those skills? How might digital technology create new learning and teaching opportunities?"

So, if we get the curriculum right, there'd be no problem in schools? Improved results = the best of all possible worlds.

Likewise, welfare comes under "Communities and Families", and gets introduced thusly:

Social and community services operate across the country, providing everything from childrens’ services to care for the elderly. Many focus on specific issues such as housing, recreation, drug and alcohol rehabilitation or the needs of specific groups of people such as women, newly arrived refugees or people with disabilities. Services are organised under different arrangements, with funding from governments, philanthropics or community fundraising. What should the social services system look like in 2020 and beyond? Are there common reforms that need to be made to support a more socially inclusive Australia?

Apart from borrowing the UK Labour mantra of Social Exclusion - and at least putting it positively: when a good friend was Deputy Director of the Social Exclusion Unit at No.10, we used to ask her what new ideas she'd come up with to promote Exclusion this week - this isn't exactly heady stuff. So maybe we can assume that Labor's worries about "working families" don't extend to "non-working families"? I hope not, but Manne's book doesn't have any worries about them, either.

We can hope that other submissions to the summit have brought out other aspects of Education and Welfare that need attention - and we can even hope that the co-chairs will add them to the discussion at the weekend - assuming they had any prospect of even reading them - 905 submissions were received on Productivity, and 1139 on Communities and Families. Too late to submit anything more formally, but here's a space for Webdiarists to put forward their own Ideas for a Better Australia.


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Smiling Justin me lad

Justin me lad, you don't have to apologise. I was not offended one little bit. Just a bit amused as sweet and precious is not exactly how I would describe myself, despite the other half always calling me Treasure.

Yes I recall teasing Phil Moffat over saying Kathy seemed sweet while I was whatever ... cannot even recall now. Seems a long time ago. Kathy and I are now great pals incidentally, even though to date we have not yet met and our first encounter here was rather feisty. So Phil started something good there.

I must present a mixed face here. As I recall a certain barrister diarist said I reminded him of the Widow of Bath. I think that is stretching it a bit too.

Just a country girl who feels no need to prove anything to anyone, or play word games, and has no desire to be drawn into conversing with those who do. That's me.

Cheers and as I said, no need to apologise for anything.

Still screen-dumping

Richard: " Your assumptions are incorrect."

Well, it turns out my assumption was perfectly correct, didn't it?

Richard:  Nope, 'cos I didn't do anything!  Webdiary mods have been known to edit links when they're considered inappropriate, as you'd be well aware, so dump away!

Empty 2020

As a true supporter of innovation, an open and people driven referendum style government, I actually watched the entire pantomime on ABC2 and this morning read through the preliminary report. But I must have fallen asleep for the entire show, as I didn't hear one thing which was different, exciting, innovative, provided hope, or would change the current approach and outcome. I did see many bureaucrats, politicians and heads of business hog the forums, dismiss people's comments and put forward what really appears to be pre-written outcomes.

I was amazed at how the brain dead senior bureaucrats sneered and ignored just about everything said, only to push their clearly ignorant and stupid ideas, presenting them with as much useless meaningless jargon as they could. Now Rudd the dud, who thought he was in ego heaven over the weekend, will take at least 6 months to say what and what not will be utilised. Which in political speak means nothing but what the market determines. As expected, all in all it was a big flop, a waste of money and certainly was not representative of the what the people wanted, because the only ones who got a real say were the same old elitists and I never heard one idea which will change the direction and outcomes that this country is facing, except to make politicians and bureaucrats legally accountable for their words and actions. I note that didn't make it to the preliminary report.

So just another ego trip for the god fearing dud and a waste of people's time and money. Which means we will be seeing Ruddaway airlines back in action bigger than ever, now duddy feels he's done his job and can get back to the real priorities, egocentric travel, economic growth and wealth creation for the elite at any cost.

Two cute suggestions

This was the most original suggestion at the Summit:

"Make death a better experience"

Followed by this as reported in the Sydney Morning Herald:

"One idea aired was to strip every Australian of their citizenship and only re-issue it to those people who could prove they were environment-climate friendly."

Oh hello Richard. Fiona not looking?

"Quote removed for which the link does not provide any evidence that it was said."

Oh, did I forget the link Richard? This time I'll save a screen dump before providing the link to this:

"One idea aired was to strip every Australian of their citizenship and only re-issue it to those people who could prove they were environment-climate friendly."

Richard:  Your assumptions are incorrect.   Fiona is always looking!  Also, you're not quoting me.

Oh sorry, Eliot...

... there were several moderators on the site yesterday morning, so I took some time out to answer emails and look at cartoons....

By the way, any time I put an ed comment on somebody's post, I think I've always included my name.

Just one of the many, many benefits from Kyoto

Craig Rowley: "Kevin Rudd and the Australian Labor Party did not promise to make gas, produce, and housing prices cheaper."

Indeed, carbon emissions trading and the inflationary budget cuts and expenditure promises to be announced in the up-coming Budget Stunt are almost certain to make them much, much more expensive.

Some heat will be taken out of the economy though as energy intensive industries flock to China and India. Just one of the many, many benefits from Kyoto.

Alan Curran: "Have the Catholic church ever thought how many homeless kids could be helped with the $86 million? Have we gone mad?"

The visit is expected to generate more income than it costs. That's the major reason the NSW State Government is allowing it.

Destroy Westminster. Then strip every Australian of citizenship.

Fiona Reynolds: "I for one am so happy to see Australians debating ideas again - debating with passion, differing with passion. "

Me too. It's a pity, though, none of that happened at the carefully orchestrated A-list Federal Labor stunt fest.

For me, the most single shocking revelation came when, on the Seven network's Sunday morning news programme, Rudd said he was "surprised" by the business sector working group's proposal that Australia have a "uniform national economy" (or words to that effect). The idea of a uniform national economy has been a major, continuing topic of discussion since Federation. That Kevin thought this a very original idea is a depressing insight to his intellectual capacities, notwithstanding his spin-doctors these days pushing about the word "genius" (ie bi-lingual) at every opportunity.

 The other important revelation, and perhaps more sinister since Australia has been until now one of the most stable democracies on earth, is how Kevin's mob now propose to use a 'shell game', basically, to by-pass debate about the implications of their push for Teh Republic.

The two stage process employing:

  •  firstly a "plebiscite" on Australia "cutting ties with Britain", and
  • secondly then deciding on "what sort" of a Republic "we will have" (as Kevin boldly declares daily now) through a Referendum

is an appalling, if transparent, confidence trick.

We already cut ties with Britain as an independent nation in 1901, let's get that clear for starters.

So, asking if we "should" do so is precisely like asking a loving husband and father "have you stopped beating your wife and children yet?".

He's doomed if he says "No", and also if he says "Yes".

The purpose of the Plebiscite is surely to shuffle aside any discussion whatsoever about the risks to our democracy in taking the "second step", not saying "Yes" to the loaded plebiscite question being the "equivalent" to "not wanting independence" from Britain. A load of hogwash.

Then there's an ever worse danger lying ahead. For the reasons which have been much discussed elsewhere on this blog, most ordinary Australians assume an elected President is the "more democratic" between the Minimalist and Maximalist models previously advanced. And indeed, they're correct.

That the latter model would be radically de-stabilising is not something the Republican phonies can afford to say - and therefore we could indeed end up with the Zimbabwe/Pakistan/Kenyan Maximialist model of a post-Westminster Republic, instead of the Well Paid Sinecure/Les Patterson but essentially pointless-but-harmless experimental model of long-cherished Labor careerist fantasy.

Odd they should choose the word "plebiscite", too, that typically denoting a vote of assent or rejection by a docile populace for a decision already made. So many Freudian slips during this Love In, not least this:

 Quote removed for which the link does not provide any evidence that it was said.


Eliot Ramsey, perhaps you would be more relaxed and comfortable with this approach?

Was I asleep?

Craig Rowley: "So when Kevin Rudd made a number of promises in 2007, promises to be implemented in 2008-2009, and then, after winning the election, he set about leading a team that has delivered on one promise after another ... wasn't he being a true leader?"

I was under the impression his only promise was to make gas, produce, and housing prices cheaper? Costs of living and all that jazz?

Perhaps he promised more? Why didn't he speak about it at this gathering? To do so is something I'd call leadership. It all just seems a little directionless to me.

You must have been asleep

Paul Morrella: "I was under the impression his only promise was to make gas, produce, and housing prices cheaper? Costs of living and all that jazz?"

That "impression" can only be formed on misinformation. Kevin Rudd and the Australian Labor Party did not promise to make gas, produce, and housing prices cheaper.

The promises made, those written into ALP policy and published during the election campaign, are all set out here.

Paul Morrella: "Why didn't he speak about it at this gathering?"

That's probably because all gathered and the majority of people watching what transpired at that gathering all know what had already been promised. They're all awake to the reality and don't share your erroneous "impression."

Leadership Or Lack Thereof

Kathy Farrelly

Typical politician. No different to the rest.

A true leader would've spoken about 2008-2009.

True leaders do not speak about of the past; nor the distant future; the future, they shall never be held accountable too.

It's rare a true leader is found in political ranks.

A true leader?

"A true leader would've spoken about 2008-2009."

So when Kevin Rudd made a number of promises in 2007, promises to be implemented in 2008-2009, and then, after winning the election, he set about leading a team that has delivered on one promise after another ... wasn't he being a true leader?

Promises promises

Promises are one thing (one promise after another?), achievements are another.

Saying "sorry ", ratifying Kyoto?

Promises fulfilled. Nothing achieved.

A true leader achieves results. Makes a difference. Rudd is just pissing in the wind.


Justin, I suggested the shutting of high schools.  Your teacher was year 6.  But seriously I contend that about 90% of what we learn is never used.

I totally agree that it is the method that is more to blame than the content.  Learning maths we'll never use probably doesn't do much harm.  The brutalisation of students by the way things are taught is far more serious.

John, teaching all points of view does not help people be open to all views.  It can often lead to a sense of disorientation leading to a leap to some kind of fundamentalism (in which I think we should include post-modernism).  "It is easier to step out when we are sure of where we stand."  The way to openness is from the appreciation of our own tradition - which will more likely lead us to see its gaps.  The other problem with teaching all points of view is that it is impractical.  We could spend all our school lives going through the different faiths, or western philosophy or biology or . . .  However, we do teach something - largely in our culture an Enlightenment rationalism (which I personally think has many virtues - the valuing of the individual, the importance of free enquiry and questioning, the individual as the ethical subject and so on.  But it has weaknesses too - the 'value free' stance of a technocratic methodology and so forth).  We cannot not communicate. 

The vision thing

Wonders will never cease - Michelle Grattan has come out in support of the 2020 Summit:

In his speech to the glitzy opening, Rudd invoked another image: the summit was all about "throwing open the windows of our democracy". It's part of a "new way of governing our nation" — which elevates the long term over short-termism, the substantial over the trivial, and the positive over the partisan.

Rudd also pre-empted the summit knockers.

"Already there are those who are predicting that the summit will fail," he said. "In fact some have predicted that it has already failed." Of course, it hasn't, and won't, although it is getting its share of criticism and cynicism.

It's too well orchestrated and broad-based to bomb. Fun will be made of some of the ideas, but people like consultation, and a bit of glamour never goes astray. The knockers can't even get too narky about the cost. Participants have paid their own way, and their lunch packs looked like they came out of a school canteen.


There have been some magic moments, as when the McKinsey facilitator had the serious ladies and gents of the economics group put their ideas on their heads. Another came when the facilitator struggled to get a participant to spell out her idea on tax. "A review," she said finally. Rudd, who happened to be sitting on the floor of that session at the time, smiled benignly.

The PM has once again managed to co-opt the Opposition. Brendan Nelson spent quite a lot of time in the economy session. Shadow attorney-general George Brandis was vocal in the governance group.

I for one am so happy to see Australians debating ideas again - debating with passion, differing with passion. No longer does it seem necessary for those with different ideas to be ridiculed, and ultimately for dissent to be silenced. 

Hardly fulsome

Fiona, my take on Michelle's comments was different to yours. I thought she reported accurately. It was a political sucess, nothing more. Where was the input neccessary for change to the management of the MDB, energy and population; the defining issues of our immediate future?

Burnside's idea and that of a bill of rights you can be sure will be put into the category of "ideas that we will not embrace so enthusiastically".

So much hot air.

Someone edited one of my posts again; deleting an innocuous last sentence. That person is in danger of being struck off my Christmas card list.

Richard: And do peope who correct your whiskey spelling get thanked?  Can't remember editing yho otherwise.  There's been a few of us around tonight.

Thank you Richard

You'd think I'd know how to spell it, I look at the bottle often enough. Midnight blogging, never a good idea.


Jenny, you have the right to believe whatever you want.  However, in my experience of Christians, many are as materialistic as the atheists I know.  The Calvinistic idea (that the USA seems to be based on) is that God shows his favour to the "elect" by showering them with wealth.  Therefore, if you are poor and/or disabled, it's a sign that you are not favoured by God.  All poppycock, I know.

I cast no aspersions on your personal faith and have no idea of how you live your life as a Christian, but if all Christians actually lived as Jesus did, and followed his teachings (the Sermon on the Mount would be a start), they might be more respected.  Until then, they are seen as hypocrites from atheists such as myself, who have read the whole Bible many times.

Omar Khayam

Ruth, I do not know you so hello. Maybe you are new to WD or I missed you.

This is what one of the finest of mediaeval minds had to say. I've posted it before but it bears repeating.

"Allah, perchance, the secret word might spell;
If Allah be, He keeps His secret well;
What He hath hidden, who shall hope to find?
Shall God His secret to a maggot tell?

The Koran! well, come put me to the test—
Lovely old book in hideous error drest—
Believe me, I can quote the Koran too,
The unbeliever knows his Koran best.
And do you think that unto such as you,
A maggot-minded, starved, fanatic crew,
God gave the secret, and denied it me?—
Well, well, what matters it! believe that too."

The old, somewhat cheesey Abu ben Adam says much. We who have no god are not devoid of "Godly virtues".

Atheist or gnostic, it matters not. There are gentle folk and bastards. I know my category and I think you do too.

Jenny, I don't knock any belief system, whatever gets you through the night; it's just that none are part of my reality. As you might remember I was a devout Christian from childhood until early adulthood. I thought as a Christian that should I lose my faith I would become hedonistic and amoral. I didn't, nothing about me changed. It all comes down to the character we are.

Ah yes Scott

I thought as a Christian that should I lose my faith I would become hedonistic and amoral. I didn't, nothing about me changed. It all comes down to the character we are.

Ah yes Scott, but has it not occurred to you that the good character you obviously are may be the result of your early Christian upbringing?

I just wonder why parents these days seem to think they can do a better job than the church once did, when clearly in many cases they do not.

I think many are recognising that however in turning back to independent schools in droves, knowing that the majority of those schools give a Christian based education.

Have a good time in WA. Bring some rain back with you. Over and out.


I know this is a bit off topic, but I was staggered when I read this:

The Catholic church World Youth Day events in July will cost NSW taxpayers $86 million in transport, accommodation, traffic management, security and emergency medical units.

The chief executive of the World Youth Day has justified this by saying the cost was significantly less than the $390 million it cost to put on the Sydney Olympics.

 Have the Catholic church ever thought how many homeless kids could be helped with the $86 million? Have we gone  mad?

2020 Vision a "Kevin Performance Indicator."

I must be an old fool; I was riveted to the TV coverage of the 2020 Summit.

Often, I was emotional; I fought back tears, seeing and hearing things that seemed like a dream just six months ago.

To see conservative politicians such as Bill Heffernan and Tim Fischer working with Labor politicians to produce a better outcome for our rural communities was a highlight for me. It was the first time in many years I had heard something constructive come out of Bill Heffernan. The 2020 Summit made it possible to get people on both sides of politics working for a common cause: the future of Australia. Kevin Rudd has shown how we can overcome the party political system and get brains on both sides working together.

There was a revitalising of many old ideas.

Words that came across strongly at the summit were republic, new federalism, sustainability, inclusive policies, recognition of indigenous people, an Australian Head of State, consistent national approach, seamless national economy, unprecedented opportunities to increase productivity, material resources are finite but intellectual capital is unlimited, need to overcome entrenched disadvantage.

  • Equipping all Australians through an education and training system that leads the world in excellence and inclusion
  • Deploying Australia’s human capital efficiently and fairly including by overcoming the barriers that lock individuals and communities out of real opportunities
  • Connecting through new collaborations across our education, business and innovation systems.

I think a KPI (Kevin Performance Indicator) will be to see how many of these ideas are in place before the next election.

At last we have a vision of where we want to go. Let’s hope we have the courage to get there.

My top idea: I think we should have a Summit every two years or so to check progress and develop other new ideas.

Tears in your eyes

John Pratt, I wonder if this brought tears to your eyes, "A ban on new coal-fired power plants has been left out of recommendations by the 2020 summit despite widespread support among environment delegates.

Federal Climate Change Minister Penny Wong cited a lack of consensus in not including a moratorium on building plants which did not capture and store carbon.

Climate scientist David Karoly said industry figures within the stream and some others with concerns about the effects on coal mining communities had blocked the ban idea.


"There is and was within the group very strong support and a small minority of opposition that in the end prevented that because the minister and co-chairs wanted consensus," Professor Karoly said after the meeting.

The Kevin Performance Indicator will not move before the next election unless it indicates how much he has spent on overseas trips or how many speeches he has made in Mandarin.

Fiona: Alan, it would be helpful if you would include the url for any quotations that you include in your posts.


John Pratt: "Often, I was emotional; I fought back tears, seeing and hearing things that seemed like a dream just six months ago".

John, it is a dream, a bad one. Rudd the Dud has conned you again.

So the "Cate Blanchett Talkfest" has come to an end and the top suggestion they have come up with is Australia should become a Republic. The whole thing was stacked for this. When is Labor going to get over the Dismissal?

Parliamentary Secretary Maxine McKew, outlined her vision for politicians in 2020 to be sworn in by an Australian head of state:

"After the ceremony you will take tea with Quentin Bryce.”

Now there is a real step forward for Australia. What is this women on about?

There was also a push for a special fund to be set up for creative arts in Australia. Actress Cate Blanchett says the importance of creativity cannot be underestimated. So she wants us to spend money so that people who don't want a proper job can ponce about on the stage and have fun. Have these creative types ever thought that if they do something good people will actually pay to go and watch them, instead of them playing to half empty houses.

How about this from the brightest minds in the country? Health Minister Nicola Roxon, says there were many other ideas that did not make the final list, but were still worth a mention.

"The final one of the out of the box ideas is that by 2020 we would like all sedentary jobs to be redesigned so that at least half-an-hour of physical activity was part of daily work,"...." A bit like Red Square in Beijing (Peking) under Chairman Mao, I wonder if Kev brought that idea back from his trip to China, that was well worth the trip. Most of them do that already walking to the water-cooler or coffee machine, or even walking out to the street to have a smoke.

So you want to have a Summit every two years, so that the "brightest" can say to their grandchildren "I was on TV with Cate Blanchett and Hugh Jackman"?

Just talk

Sorry John, it still is all a dream, a pipe dream. Just talk. Rudd is the consummate talker. The do nothing man. Makes everyone feel good though.

 Just like the "sorry" fiasco. Lots of back slapping and clapping and feel good talk. Still, no action. Has saying" sorry" made one iota of  difference to the lives of aborigines in Australia today. Hmmm? No!

Just a token gesture, from Rudd. I think he will go down in history as being a do nothing Prime Minister, a bit like Malcolm Fraser.

Rudd is too much of a diplomat (trying not to step on any toes) to make an impact. We really need a fearless go getter as a leader.( You are right Scott.) Rudd's a dud! 

 And, please don't get me started on dopey Garrett and the plastic bag saga. Not to mention Rudd's new mantra of "best possible price for petrol". What happened to lowest price, eh?

Typical politician. No different to the rest.

Empty pews and still the crime rate is falling.

Jenny, don't believe everything you read in the papers or hear from the pulpit.

Metropolitan North Police Region Assistant Commissioner Peter Barron said today he welcomed the release of the Queensland Police Service’s (QPS) Annual Report and Statistical Review which showed an overall crime rate reduction of nine percent for the region.

“We have seen the crime rate continue to fall with offences against the person down by eight percent, property crime by 10 percent and other offences by seven percent. This is good news for people in the Metropolitan North Region and reflects well on the efforts of police and the community,” Mr Barron said.

Also this in the West.

Police Minister John Kobelke said the latest police crime statistics showed that the policy of freeing more desk-bound officers for frontline duties was having a very real impact on crime.

“Burglaries and car theft in June were at their lowest recorded level since 1997 - a 10-year low,” Mr Kobelke said.

“What these key crime indicators show is that Police Commissioner Karl O’Callaghan’s Frontline First policy is working.

“In June there were 31 per cent fewer burglaries than the five-year average and a drop of 16 per cent on June 2006. There was also a drop in burglaries of more than eight per cent from May to June 2007.

“The total burglaries recorded for June was the lowest monthly total since these figures were recorded in this form from July 1997.”

The Minister said car theft had dramatically dropped 28 per cent in June compared to June last year. Further, the June 2007 figure was more than 30 per cent lower than the five-year average.

He said the number of reported car thefts had fallen by 16 per cent from May to June this year, making June the lowest monthly figure since this dataset began in July 1997.

The scale of the fall was significant – 16 vehicles being stolen a day in June 2007 compared to 58 vehicles a day in March 1998.

And from the Australian Year book.

There was a fall in the number of victims of crime recorded by police between 2005 and 2006. The largest declines were in attempted murder (down 11%) and motor vehicle theft (down 7%). (Page 408)

Also in the ABS Australian Year book.

On religion, 36% of Australians are Catholic, 19% Anglican, and 19% other Christian denominations. Almost 31% either have no religion or did not respond adequately to the 2006 Census question on religion. (Page 457)

Empty pews might lead to a drop in crime rates.

There are older Catholics concerned at the empty pews they observe in many churches and the few younger Catholics who appear to practice their faith. The 'corrosive message of the secular society and the uncertain - lowest common denominator - focus of much 'Catholic' education have wrought havoc with Catholic practice.

My point is that the number of people who attend church has absolutely no correlation with a nation's morality.

Crime rate falling John?

Well John, for the benefit of those who think there is no sickness in this society and that the crime rate is falling, maybe the report in the SMH provides an opposite picture.

Namely that there has been a doubling of alcohol related assault over the past ten years, from around ten thousand to twenty thousand. Nice.

But maybe as you say we should not believe what we read.

However, I for one quite accept that there is an increasing level of alcohol abuse in our society with all the associated problems, including crime and domestic violence. An increasingly drunk and violent society is to me a sick society.

Further I think the Rudd Government accepts the seriousness of this issue, otherwise why would it bother focuing on ways to tackle the problem, especially amongst the young?

If kids were brought up with a decent set of values and some self respect they might not be losing their way in this fashion. I believe the church played in the past a key role in tteaching kids to follow the right path. Parents could do well to think about that.  That is not to say the church has all the answers but I am darned sure it gave us better than what we have now.  Nor is it saying the church did not at times abuse its trust because it did.

If increasing crime and what kids are subjected to on film, on TV, through computer games and websites are not evidence of a sickness in western society I don't know what is. The language in prime time alone is quite sickening. No wonder kids think it is OK to be foul mouthed as so many of them are these days. Foul mouthed kids are not kids who respect either themselves or others.

A friend came by here yesterday and he is not one who would be easily shocked, but even he thought it disgusting some of the explicit stuff that is shown on Pay TV sites in prime time, in movie breaks. Pure pornography.

Love is the way.

Jenny, I think you are right to be concerned by alcohol and drug related crime. In Cairns a lot of crime is done by children, often aboriginal children.

I think that the loss of culture and aboriginal belief systems have left many of these young people floundering. Their parents are often absent and they are left to raise themselves. The loss of a belief system is also causing harm to white children.

I have six grandchildren. Three were brought up in a strict catholic tradition attending church every Sunday. The other three have been brought up being told that religion is hypocritical even to the extent they were not allowed to participate in Easter events at school. The children brought up in the catholic tradition seem to be coping well, the children brought up without any belief system have had a few problems. Hopefully they are on track now, but life has been harder for them.

I have felt that changing our culture by dropping religion and not replacing it with any belief system is experimenting with the lives of my grandchildren. As a grandparent I had no control over it.

Although I have rejected the religion I was born into, I was raised with a religious background and I tried to pass that on to my children. Later in life I found it hard to accept religion that was static and was constantly wanting to challenge science. Now I have respect for the Interfaith movement .

Interfaith says that we are one humanity with many religions and spiritual traditions. I find it difficult to choose one over the other. I want to be inclusive, I feel if I choose one man's religion I must reject the other man's religion, therefore I want to believe all religions have a function they provide a mythology on which to base our culture. They give us our sense of right and wrong. They act as a compass for us to live our lifes.

I believe most religions have failed to move into the modern era - they have failed to change or adapt. Our children still need a compass but we have failed to provide a belief system for them. Most religions are stuck with medieval bureaucracies that prevent change.

What the world needs now is a belief system that is global, inclusive, and takes in moral issues such as climate change, population, shared resources. One that does not reject others. A hard ask I know, but if there is a God I am sure there is a way. We must learn to love one another just like most of the religions say. 

I won't argue with that John

John, I won't argue with any of that. I too respect all other faiths though I have some real problems with the direction some adherents are taking Islam. Of course there have been some pretty crazy Christian cults and sects too and I see them as just as problematic, though they are not into violence against their own in the way the Islamists are. 

I too have found that the children I know who were brought up with some religious faith have coped better, while those who were not have not done so well when faced with life's challenges. Our generation was given a chance to choose, but many parents today deny that to their own children. The aboriginal elders are very aware of how their children are now lost in many ways, for similar reasons. Take something away that was essentially good and put nothing in its place does not make a lot fo sense to me. I think we fail our children when we do that.

I don't think it is our Christian religion (or for that matter other religions) that has failed. The basic tenets are still fine. I think it is we who have failed by turning away from it and creating a spiritual vacuum for our kids, and our society is paying the price of that.

Anyway, I think you know what I mean from what you yourself have written. Cheers. I wonder what happened to that other old navy bloke around here, Ernest William? I used to enjoy exchanges with him so I hope he is OK.

The happiest days of our lives

Jenny, I’m delighted that you had such a rewarding experience at school. My story, however, is a little different, and has coloured my views on the merits of being “brought up with some religious faith”.

I went to school at the age of 5, and stayed at the same place until I was 17. It was a church (Anglican) school: assembly at the start of each day consisted of at least one hymn, at least one bible reading, and at least two prayers. The majority of girls (yes, like PLC Goulburn, it was a girls’ only school) attended church each Sunday with their parents. So, in your terms, Jenny, it should have been a place that should have inculcated its students with true Christian principles.

My assessment of it is somewhat different. My memories? Mixed: many inspiring teachers, a few (a very few) friends.

What happened – why don’t I have your rose-coloured spectacles, Jenny? Well, for a start, I was different. Through junior school I was the youngest in the class, not sporty, bespectacled and wearing an eye-patch. Even worse, my mother taught at the school, but worst of all I was too bright for my own good. I was physically and verbally bullied a fair bit of the time; my usual form of retaliation when driven beyond my limit was to bite the offender.

By what we would now call Year 6, however, I had discovered that I had a vicious tongue: sarcasm and ridicule were useful weapons that I continued to deploy into my senior years. For most of those senior years, therefore, the bullies tended to leave me alone, and I did start to develop a small network of friends – mostly girls who, like me, were on the outer for various reasons.

The nadir was in (now) Year 9, when at the age of 13 going on 14 I spent two-thirds of the school year (two school terms in those days) in the boarding house when my parents were overseas. For the first term I was placed in a “privileged” dorm, with four other “really nice” girls. Almost every night of that term I was humiliated by my room-mates in subtle ways that are only known to adolescent girls – until I snapped, and made an (obviously) ineffectual attempt at suicide.

Oh, I forgot to mention this: all students in the boarding house attended eucharist every Sunday morning, and evensong every second Sunday evening. Yep, it was a good Christian school…

Things equally, if not more, appalling, it seems, are still happening even at good Christian schools in this fair land of ours. 

So forgive me, Jenny, if I don’t share your optimism about the merits of being brought up with “some religious faith”.

A pity Fiona

Fiona, it is a pity that you had such a miserable time but I would blame the culture of that school as clearly it did not practise what it was supposedly attempting to teach in being a Christian school, and it did not protect its students.

Our Christian school did and so fifty years after leaving every girl in my class affirmed that it had given her a set of values that had stood her in good stead througout her life, based on a Christian education. None of the girls went on to have unhappy lives to this day.

We were lucky in that we had very strong headmistresses. I am sure there was probably some bullying but I never in seven years there from the age of ten witnessed a single incident.

As it was the end of the war there were children in the school who had lost their fathers, and some were boarding from the age of five.  Half of my class of ten year olds were boarders, some with their war veteran fathers and mothers away setting up homes on soldier settler blocks. Yet all these years on, they speak of happy school days at that school.

Frankly I doubt I would have survived my childhood had is not been for that school. And thinking back the only bullying I ever experienced was in fact in my initial three years at a state primary school. Those three years I look back on as being very miserable. Not ot mention my very first day, when I found myself abandoned in the playground. I sat down under a big pepper tree (still there I note) and cried. No one came looking for this lost kindergarten kid. An older child finally found me and took charge of me. Despite that rocky start, I landed on my feet at PLC.  

I feel quite sad for anyone who did not enjoy their school days.

More and more police needed

John, one would expect crime rates to fall as number of police increase. I would think the constant demand for hundreds of more police to be on the streets to try and stem the crime rate, domestic violence and child abuse in our society speaks volumes in itself about our society. If the crime rate is falling of its own accord, then you do not need more and more police.

Parents are in many cases at fault. To allow young teens to be out on the streets binge drinking is asking for trouble. And it is no excuse to say they did not know what their kids were doing. It is their responsibility to know, and to control them. Those kids would be far better off in Sunday school.

Oh and credit me with some intelligence. I do not believe everything I read in the paper, nor necessarily agree with everything emanating from the pulpit.

And I do not agree with your point about there being no correlation between a nation's morality and attendance at church. I still maintain that the decline in religious observance in this country has not led to a better society, quite the opposite in fact.

I have no doubt we will continue to need more and more police, no doubt at all.

Justin, I don't think my ego ever gets in my way. I have long ago realised that I have nothing to prove to anyone. That is why I never feel the need to respond to certain individuals around here, no matter what comments they might direct to me. I only respond to those whose opinions and values I respect, of which you are one, even though we may not necessarily agree. But yes I do agree, teachers need all the support and help they can get, irrespective of their beliefs. I too was fortunate in having teachers whose gifts to me lasted all my life.

And forget the sweet and precious bit. Sounds far too wishy washy. They don't come much stronger or tougher than this old girl - life lessons learned in the school of hard knocks if you like. Coat of armour me lad, not sugar.


Jenny, "I would question whether those who have no children by definition have a sad life"

You have misunderstood me sweet and precious.

I simply feel sorry for "those" for they have missed out on wonderful experiences. I'm sure if one lived without a mother or a father they could still have a childhood without sadness.

But that does not mean one cannot feel sadness for "those" missing out on having both a loving mum and a loving dad. For that would be something to make a child's life creamier, more compleat. That's all.

Sometimes when we read stuff we allow the "ego" to smudge things a bit.

And yes we do have some not very bad teachers; probably quite a few. That is why I stated:

"Let's give them all the help they need."  wouldn't you agree?

But my earlier post was in fact about one good teacher giving me something to take with me in life's journey. Something for Evan to consider

Finally it's OK by me if you have just one God. That's the beautiful thing about the human mind - we can choose. But what I find curious is why do you spend all that energy defending something that requires no defence? And in doing so get things a little bit smudged?

Oops. Must be time for another stunt

"Dissention has emerged in the ranks at the 2020 summit with some delegates angry their ideas are falling on deaf ears, or not being heard at all."

Surprise, surprise...

Must be time for another stunt, then, pretty soon. What will it be, I wonder?

Something spectacular and really soppy for ANZAC Day?

Well, it's the 90th anniversary of the battle of Villers-Bretonneaux on Friday.

Quick trip to France to be pictured standing next to the Australian War Memorial there, looking "deeply moved"?


Maybe stop in at China on the way back to see if we can halt those arms shipments to Mugabe? Call on the "special relationship" I've fostered there?

Nope. Has failure written all over it, that.

Perhaps just an expression of "profound concern" to the Zimbabwean consul general, or something.

Nope. Just drop it.

Woodstock concludes 'The Summer of Rudd'

This has definitely been the "Summer of Rudd" and the 20.20 happening has been our version of Woodstock.

Surfing the television networks for sound-bights and images, I was particularly struck by how the whole thing looks like one of those weekend management retreats in Bowral where the boss turns up wearing a sports jacket, loafers, no tie, mouths feel-good platitudes about 'working together', and then there's a compulsory team-building exercise after dinner on the first night.

The sound-bight which caused most laughter in my household was of the thirty-something guy 'facilitating' a discussion-group working on rewriting the Constitution or something.

He had a strange haircut with shaved bits on one side and long strands on the other, wore baggy corduroys, the glint of an earing or stud shone from one ear-lobe, and he was holding a big felt-tip pen. He stood in front of a white-board coverd with fresh butchers paper.

"Right, everyone," he said, the palm of his left hand held out defensively toward the other group members, his eyes darting nervously left and right. "Can I say confidently that nobody here would oppose Australia becoming a republic?"

The other sure sign of impending doom was Cate Blanchett at a rostrum insisting desparately, and utterly without conviction:

"This is going to work!"

Amongst the really good, "new" ideas so far:

  • a treaty with Aborigines
  • a Republic
  • some kind of measure of 'social progress'
  • increasing arts funding
  • cleaning up the environment, and
  • "Make death a better experience"

I'm sure the others will be as equally original.

But surely this fact alone captures the sheer essence of what the Summer of Rudd's all been about:

"One of the delegates says he is 19. The room bursts out into a round of applause."

The same ecstatic, exultant hysteria which characterised the Sorry Day victory celebrations, everyone brimming with inchoate enthusiasm - but without knowing about what, if anything, in particular.

Provide the facts

Jenny Hume, rather than insulting everyone who doesn't take your word for it, please prove that there is "the sickness" you speak of. You'll find the facts show that there is no youth crime crisis, and if there is no "sickness" why would we be needing everyone to drag their kids into your church to have your clerics indoctrinate them?

Common Threads

Jenny: "If you cannot see any good in Christian teachings then that is your problem. Islam and what it might teach is an entirely different issue."

Evan: "If you don't think it is child minding tell me the last time something you learned at high school changed your life (other than getting you into Uni)."

Evan, I can think of many "somthings" that I learnt at school; these becoming  the seed crystals (planted by caring teachers) that fostered curiosity and exploration within my intrinsic and social world.

I can remember my sixth class teacher introducing our class to  Buddha and his teachings about change, suffering and desire. I can still (vividly) remember him today and that lesson, which was not lost on at least one student.

That got me thinking for up until that day I only knew about Jesus; yet as I became interested and explored those other religions I soon found they all, in their own ways, contain the common threads of humanity.

The threads that bind our social structure and permeate our psychology and philosophy, our art and song. They are all in their own way beautiful and complementary.

The problem with religion is not so much religion in itself. rather the manner in which it is taught.

The Christian god, I was taught is a "jealous" god; we learn to both fear and love at the same time. Islam is similar in this respect. Yet if we take the time to explore the corridors and alleyways of the various religions we will find those common threads of humanity; whether it be Hindu, Islam, Christian, Buddhism, Baha'i, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, Dreamtime or whatever, they are interwoven with beautiful stories, poetry and song.

The individual can (freely) believe what they wish but we all do ourselves a great disservice if we avoid spending some time wandering about the corridorrs and alleyways of other religons and belief systems

I still remember that teacher with affection and  that seed crystal he planted in the mind of an innocent child became another invisible thread of humanity, not only forever connecting me with him, but the rest of humanity.

The problem with education it is not so much what we teach but how we teach. Somehow I suspect this was not lost on my sixth class teacher, for he chose not to indrocrinate, rather reveal or open his students up to the wonders of internal and external exploration.

That teacher gave a young and innocent albatross his first flying lesson, and it was wonderful. The journey to freedom.

A good and caring teacher can in his/her own way weave these invisible threads of humanity into a living tapesty of delight.

Let's give them all the help they need.

PS It's Sunday so I must prepare for church; table 27 at our regular Sunday restaurant.  We will eat, share, laugh, and connect with staff and fellow patrons - just the way it should be and just the way god would want it - at least my God - who is not a jealous god. 

I feel sad for people who only have one god or no god, I suppose it's a bit like having only one child or no children at all.

Teaching how to manage the greed syndrome

From a SMH report on the 2020 talkfest:

Alarmed at escalating levels of household debt and widespread adult ignorance about even basic household budget planning, Australia's top financial thinkers want Australian students taught in schools before they adopt their parents' bad habits.

Maybe the top financial thinkers read WD. As I recall I recommended this a month or so ago. Or should I just claim the distinction of being another top financial thinker?

NAH. It is just good old plain common sense really.  

Another example of bad example being set by parents today for their children which I and clearly others see now needs addressing through the schools. 

There is a lot wrong in our society, even if others cannot see it.  Greed is the new God and now it is becoming necessary to have our kids taught how to properly manage the Greed Syndrome.

I find greed contemptible. It is now deemed one of the great sins in the world. And so it should be. That one child in the world should be living in luxury while another starves is a sin.

One can try and explain it away but the fact that the decline in church numbers over the past two decades has seen a commensurate decline in decent values in this country simply cannot be ignored.  People choose not to see it, because they don't want to. Yet the evidence is staring us all in the face.  

Justin:  "I feel sad for people who only have one god or no god, I suppose it's a bit like having only one child or no children at all."

I would question whether those who have no children by definition have a sad life, or because they only have one God in which they believe. One is more than enough for me and yes, I have wandered around the corridors of all the major religions - in fact more than just wandered.  I believe there is just one God.

 I agree totally with you in terms of what a good teacher can bring to one's life, irrespective of the subject, but conversely also how a bad teacher can do a lot of harm, be that teacher in the home, or in the school.

Open ourselves to other points of view.

For the fourth time on his first trip to America as pope, Benedict referred publicly to the suffering caused by priests who had abused children, an issue that has become the defining theme of his six-day visit.

“We can only move forward if we turn our gaze together in Christ,” he said. “In the light of faith we will then discover the wisdom and strength needed to open ourselves to points of view which may not necessarily conform to our own ideas or assumptions."

A extract from the Pope's address to the clergy in St Patrick's Cathederal, New York, yesterday.

Jenny, the Pope says we must be open to other points of view.

So if we were to to teach religion at school, which religion? Interfaith perhaps.

We must teach all points of view for the children to be able make up their own minds.

Religion has not been a pillar of moral virtue in society. It, like all organisations, is vulnerable to human failings.

We must teach our children love and respect for all. They will then discover the wisdom and strength needed to open them to points of view which may not necessarily conform to our own ideas or assumptions.

Church Could Help

It's possible that children could be taught more spiritiual values - no matter what the religion - even if the parents are religious or not. We are certainly in an era where consumerism is out of control, not that I have anything against the acquisition of material goods but it's now got to the point where people are being judged by their quality of posessions.

The size of their house, the type of car, LCD TV, latest games for kids, their clothes - in fact the fix is in on kids at an early age and they are seriously manipulated by the media.

You cannot expect this complete inbalance in values to have a happy outcome but politicians - never ones for long-term fixes (maybe Kev will be different) -  would rather spend more money on incarcerating people or hauling them into court for petty crimes or policing services as teens go haywire.

Evan Hadkins is right - pensions and benefits are extremely low compared to European standards or even the USA (except where their 3 year rule kicks in to throw people into sheer poverty). The GST just hasn't been factored in correctly. How they survive is a mystery.

Agreed Michael

Michael, you put it very well. But there are those who simply cannot see the sickness that now prevails, so they are unlikely to see the need for any change in how they might raise their kids.

Parents got rid of God and filled their kids' lives with gadgets. And they wonder why so many have lost their way, and will continue to lose their way.  

As they sow, so will many of them reap.  I would put my bets on the kid who had a religious upbringing as being the one who would have the best chance of developing the better life values. Christianity teaches love and respect for one's fellow man. A room full of clobber and gadgets showered on a kid can never compete. I see enough young people, both those raised in the church, and those who were not, and the difference in values amongst many of them is patent.  

Some here openly embrace atheism. If you want to see the values some of them hold, then look how they talk to each other, both here when not DNP'd and if not here, then on other sites.  Their comments reveal their morality and their values. Their lack of empathy and sympathy for the feelings of others, and those who struggle against extreme difficulties in life demonstrate to me a lack of basic human decency. When I read that sort of stuff I adopt a policy of never engaging with that person here or on any other site.  I am so grateful I was raised by a Christian family, and not by one where those values, underpinned by atheism,  prevailed.

I have yet to find that sort of stuff posted by anyone calling themselves a Christian.  And if a Christian did post that sort of stuff, then they would not in my opinion be much of a Christian, rather a hypocrite.

I would see the desire many parents now have (as demonstrated by the exodus from the public system to the private) to put their children into independant schools, many of which are church/religion based, as a desire not necessarily for a better education of their kids in maths, but as an acknowledgement that those schools focus on more than just their intellectual development. That trend speaks volumes. Parents are clearly starting to worry at what they see in society as a whole. The growing church attendance last Easter I see as a promising sign.

The day the church pews are full again will be the day we have a more caring and compassionate society.  Of that I am sure but you will never convince others of that. So be it.

Graffiti is a crime.

Unfortunately, Jenny, there is also a lack of respect for people and property among many of our youth today.

Graffiti, mainly committed by youth, is definitely on the rise. Unfortunately many of the perpetrators of these acts are not apprehended. And yes, last time I looked graffiti was a crime.

I'll give you an example of how bad graffiti has become, here in the West. A report to the council of the City Of Bayswater (March 2008) showed that incidence of graffiti had risen over a twelve month period. With the February 2008 figure of 436 representing an increase of 73.7 percent over the previous February which had 251 incidents. One council spent $300,000 in 12 months cleaning up the graffiti mess.

The sad thing about this is while councils are spending money on this senseless, selfish crime, less money is being spent on more important services that benefit all in the community.

Empty pews, empty lives

David Roffey writes: That's why just concentrating on skills and curriculum isn't commonsense. 

And I could not agree more. One can only look in despair at the direction many of our young people are heading in today. Binge drinking, brawling in the streets, crime gangs of very young children, lack of respect for teachers and other authority figures, the gimme everything mentality - it is not a pretty picture.

Until parents and teachers start taking their responsibilites more seriouly in terms of  instilling in the young a set of values and greater respect for society and for themselves then the sickness that is fast overtaking western society will get worse.

On an earlier thread we talked about morality and whether it was possible to have a moral society without religious belief underpinning it. I argued that the emptying of the churches and the eviction of religion and God from the lives of our young played a large role in the loss of direction many of our young seem to face. I firmly believe that the religious based education both in the home and in the schools a couple of decades ago led to a better society than one born of materialism and atheism.

Those who do not agree would do well to reflect on the behaviour of so many young people today, and think again.  But of course nothing is absolute. There are a lot of good kids out there, but it seems to me that there are a whole lot more these days whose behaviour leaves a lot to be desired and we have to ask ourselves why?

Most parents no longer take their kids to church, believing religion to be bad for them, yet are prepared to accept their kids being bombarded through all the available communication channels with the worst forms of violence, pornography, foul language, with sick websites, computer games and films. And through their indulgence of them have taught them that materialism is good. And then they ask: Where did we go wrong?

Well if they cannot see it, how can they expect their kids to? 

Why blame atheism? I am just protecting my belief.

"led to a better society than one born of materialism and atheism."

Jenny, you don't realise it, but you fired the first shot. 

Why put materialism and atheism in the same box? 

Iran's Ayatollahs would agree. But is it right?

Jenny, I am sure Iran's Ayatollahs would agree with you.

No, it's not

Jenny Hume: "... we have to ask ourselves why?"

Why, that is, there is [supposedly] "a whole lot more [young people] these days whose behaviour leaves a lot to be desired."

Is there?  Is there really a whole lot more?

Is youth crime really on the rise? Is any change really due to lower church attendance rates?

No, it's not.


Senator Amanda Vandstone, when she was Minister for Justice a decade ago, made a presentation to a conference Partnerships in Crime Prevention.

At this conference, convened jointly by the Australian Institute of Criminology and the National Campaign Against Violence and Crime, Senator Vandstone played the role of mythbuster:

Myths regarding Crime

Numerous myths surround crime and violence.

Myth I: Youth crime is on the increase.


  • Overall, youth crime rates are relatively stable.
  • Young people are as much victims as offenders.
  • Juvenile court appearances and formal diversions have remained fairly constant over the last 15 years.
  • Public perception of the high level of youth crime may be attributed to an increase in media interest and coverage.
  • Most youth grow up without contributing to crime statistics, either as victims or as offenders and where they do get involved in criminal activities they usually grow out of it.

I'm confident that nothing will have changed in this regard over the past 10 years. The idea that "our young people are heading in [a bad direction] today" is reflecting Myth I.

Cheap shot and meaningless John

John:  Cheap and meaningless shots like that serve no purpose and say nothing.

If you cannot see any good in Christian teachings then that is your problem. Islam and what it might teach is an entirely different issue. There are religions and there are religions. I happen to think Christanity has a lot to offer. But I know atheists cannot cope with that. Their problem.

The sort of values atheism spawns is there for all to see in Australian society today. And it is not pretty.  However I will not be going down the path we have travelled many times before on this site. There are those who simply do not wish to acknowledge the obvious, I guess for what that tells them. So be it.

Low Expectations

As I've heard various summit invitees on Radio National I have been decidedly underwhelmed.

(Declaration of personal interest: I have been on the dole.)  

At the moment the poorest people in our society - those on pensions and benefits - are taxed at near double the very well paid.  Centrelink, after about $100/wk, taxes recipients at the rate of 40-60%!  This is not greeted every day by howls of outrage from churches and other groups with a social justice agenda.  I can only ask: why not?   

I give this as an example of the kiind of things that I don't think will even be mentioned at this talk fest.

Another would be shutting down high schools.  If we are going to do childminding it should at least be enjoyable for the children.  If you don't think it is child minding tell me the last time something you learned at high school changed your life (other than getting you into Uni).

Robert Manne's book seems to be much along these lines.  The status quo is fine - we need some tweaking, but don't expect us to ask the poor and excluded about anything.  

I hope that the summit produces something wonderful.  I just wish I had more evidence on which to base this hope.

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