Motherly Love

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I’ve just read an astonishing piece of news. According to my local newspaper, “New research shows that 77% of Australian mums are putting their own desires on hold to chase those of their children.” This bizarre finding arises from exhaustive analysis by PureProfile, paid for by Go People.

One hopes that Go People will follow this up by funding another round of ground-breaking research into dads’ suppression of their desires for the sake of their children.

Then, if they have any money left, they could hire someone to work out why this might be so. For example – and I’m thinking aloud here, having no research funding to do a proper job – could it be that without the instinct to devote oneself to providing and caring for one’s children none of us would be here?

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Consumption Tax

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In Australia we have one of the lowest consumption taxes in the world: 10%. It’s a value-added tax (VAT) but, like New Zealand, we call it a goods and services tax (GST)

In principle such taxes are supposed to be levied on everything, at as low a rate as possible, so as to be non-distorting. But when it was introduced in 2000 it had been mauled in Parliament and many goods and services were exempted. I blame the Greens for the mauling, but that may not be wholly fair.

One consequence has been that special interest groups have been able to characterise it as a ‘luxury tax’ because it’s not applied to things like fresh and minimally processed food (eg milk and cheese). I have posted before about the absurd campaign to exempt feminine hygiene products: the phrase ‘tampon tax’ is unfortunately alliterative, lending itself to sloganeering.

Out of interest, I have kept all my receipts over the past 5 weeks, to see how much GST I’m actually paying. Excluding household utilities, I have spent $598.74, of which $19.65 was GST. This means an average rate of 3.4%. If I hadn’t bought a case of wine it would have been 2.0%.

Delicious Lucy Turnbull

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Emmanuel Macron came to Australia with a pretty meaty agenda. He has been described as the de facto Leader of the Free World, with some justification. The media covered his visit and his picture was on every front page, but the journalists chose to focus on the French President’s unusual use of the word ‘delicious’, applying it to the Australian Prime Minister’s wife Lucy.

Emmanuel Macron and Malcolm Turnbull in Australia, 2018

Perhaps it was a quaintly framed compliment, perhaps he mis-spoke. After all, he was doing us the courtesy of addressing us in our own language instead of relying on an interpreter. Whatever the case, allowing this one word to dominate the news trivialises an important occasion and demeans a man who deserves our respect.

A Farce or a Tragedy

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This is a follow-up to my last post, about selective schools and the need for an elite trained for leadership. I just read an article on populism by Yascha Mounk (Harvard lecturer on government) in the Guardian Weekly, and my attention was seized by the following passage:

What, George Washington asked in his Eighth Annual Address, could be more important than to pass civic values down to “the future guardians of the liberties of the country?”

“A people who mean to be their own Governors,” James Madison echoed a few years later, “must arm themselves with the power that knowledge gives.” His fears about what would happen to America if it neglected this crucial task sound oddly apposite today: “A popular Government, without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a Prologue to a Farce or a Tragedy; or, perhaps, both.”

Of course, it would be ideal to have the entire population ‘armed with the power that knowledge gives,’ not just a meritocratic class That lofty goal has eluded us so far, in America and elsewhere.

Yascha Mounk

George Washington

James Madison

 

Selective Schools

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This is a very short post. I just want to give you a link to this article in the Sydney Morning Herald. The author is Yan Zhai, a Year 12 student, pictured alongside. She writes with elegance and clarity, and persuasively I think.

I confess to being a fan of selective education. Comprehensive schools are wonderful and egalitarian, and I know that Finland has them and always tops the rankings in educational achievement. But we need an elite trained for leadership. That requires a superior moral as well as technical education.

Anyone disagree . . . ?

 

 

Doing Right by Sheep

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Australia exports about 2 million live sheep per year, 95% of them to the Middle East. Demand peaks before Eid-ul-Fitr, when devout Muslims slaughter animals in imitation of Abraham’s sacrifice of a lamb in place of his son Ishmael (Quran: Surah 37, verses 99–109) or Isaac (Bible: Genesis 22, verses 1–2). It’s a gruesome story, so don’t read it if you’re at all squeamish; in fact, don’t even look at the picture below.

Transporting live animals across large expanses of ocean is a gruesome business too. Every so often the Australian public is shown evidence of extreme cruelty to animals, whereupon government agencies and lobbyists express outrage and give assurances that rules will be tightened, enforcement will be strengthened and it will never happen again. And then it does.

The latest shock-horror story is about a shipload of sheep bound for the Middle East. We are told that more than 2,000 of them died of heatstroke and thirst.

I will not lapse into a diatribe against archaic, barbaric and horrific practices in the name of religion, which might attract accusations of antisemitism and islamophobia. I will simply draw a parallel between the export of live animals in appalling conditions, just so that they can be killed somewhere else, and the slave trade.

An interviewee from the livestock industry conceded that there was inevitable cruelty in the raising, transporting and slaughter of animals people like to eat, but pointed out that many Australian jobs depend on this economic activity. I imagine that slave traders were making similar statements 200 years ago.

Poor People Forced to Steal . . . ?

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There were two articles in the Advertiser this morning that made me especially stroppy. Here the headlines and opening paragraphs:

  • Families driven to steal fuel
    Desperate householders are resorting to drive-off fuel rip-offs [taking fuel at a self-service station and driving off without paying] to survive, the state’s peak welfare body says.
  • Parents tell fibs to save cash on family holidays
    Cash-strapped parents are lying about the age of their children and even sneaking them into their accommodation in a desperate bid to bring school holiday costs down. New analysis by travel website Wotif has examined the hacks parents confessed to.

I both cases the thieves and liars are said to be ‘desperate’. In the first, their very survival is said to depend on their dishonesty, and their poverty is evidenced by the relative prevalence of drive-offs in low-income suburbs.

Perhaps I’m old-fashioned, but in my world theft is theft, lying is lying and fraud is fraud. One’s financial circumstances are irrelevant. If you can’t afford to buy petrol, get a bike. If you can’t afford to go on a family holiday, stay at home.