Williams' Word | September 18

DICK SMITH v POLLIES

This strange postal vote on same-sex marriage shows quite clearly that there is something really astray with our elected decision makers, who are trying to manipulate the democratic system to force a decision on what THEY want, not what might be good for our country.

It seems we can go to war because of a decision by one person – the prime minister – alone, but in the simple question of ‘marriage’ they want to manipulate the system to save them from making a decision. Somebody should tell them it’s alright to vote ‘no’.

Apart from this silly postal vote, there seems to be a reluctance among our current politicians to even consider long-term planning on the really big issues. I know it’s easy to criticise but there seems to be no consideration of the important things in the long-term future, none at all, and this is clearly illustrated by the reaction to Dick Smith’s plea to reduce our rate of immigration. His call for action has been rejected out of hand by the big decision makers ‘because immigration creates jobs’ but Mr Smith is surely correct when he says this is only a short-term answer to a much bigger problem. A steady, high level of immigration does nothing to improve Australia’s ability to compete industrially or economically on the world stage. Indeed, it is quite the reverse.

LONG TERM PLANNING

It is obvious that far too many of our elected decision makers went to expensive schools where the emphasis was mainly on money matters, but science, ethics and logic were, apparently, not considered important.

So many of these leaders don’t even want to understand climate change, can’t see anything wrong with coal-fired power stations or that continuing our high rate of immigration makes it impossible for Australia to counter the greenhouse gas problem.

These pollies will argue that high immigration means more jobs but the jobs created are just to cater for the housing and transport needs of the immigrants, it is not about increasing our national productivity. Indeed, it is obvious that if Australians want to compete with the rest of the world we need to tighten our belts and become far more cost-effective as a nation.

JOB CREATION

Australian retailers will have even more competition soon with the big corporation Amazon ready to start operating here within the next few weeks. Our shoppers will be buying more products made overseas and the only Australian workers to benefit will be those who deliver the goods from other countries.

It makes even more ridiculous the pollies’ claim that immigration benefits job creation in Australia. All it does is increase the need for accommodation in Sydney and Melbourne and the cost of homes will continue to increase, making the cost of employing Australians even more difficult for the business sector in their competition with overseas manufacturers.

Australians are no smarter than people who live elsewhere, so what is the solution? We can’t compete in any form of manufacturing because of our high cost of labour and getting our goods to the northern market but, if we could keep our prices down to a reasonable level, maybe we could capitalise on ‘out of season’ food production. Maybe we could utilise our very limited productive land better by producing food for the Northern Hemisphere, rather than building houses on that limited productive land.

But this constant stream of new arrivals won’t be living in country areas where these foods are produced. They’ll live in the ever expanding metropolises of Sydney and Melbourne. Increasing population growth in those areas is exactly what we don’t need – but we do need decision makers who have far greater vision of the career paths for young Australians other than delivering goods posted from foreign countries.

SMART LITTLIES

Your ancient scribe visited a kindergarten class attended by a great-grandchild recently. The room was wonderfully decorated with examples of the children’s work. 

Children today are a lot smarter than those of past generations because most are subject to the stimulation of special TV programs especially created for them and the really lucky ones go to a good pre-school. By the time they are ready for primary school these children have been given an interest in the world around them and have learned to communicate with others, littlies and teachers, and are well advanced in their communication skills.

The teachers at the preschools are upset about their paltry pay packets, and rightly so because the work they do is so skilled and so important.

Many educators believe that science should be taught from an early age. A teacher I know was appointed as a full-time science teacher at her public school. She said it was a marvellous experience and often sparked interest from children who were not academically gifted.

It could surely be argued that money spent on pre-school and early education is more value than the costs of keeping older teenagers at high school until the age of 18. This achieves little for many teenagers (who might achieve more through on-the-job training) but they are kept at school merely to keep the public from being reminded about the high level of unemployment among teenagers.

The visit to that kindergarten showed a huge contrast with the slates and slate pencils my generation used in kindergarten many decades ago. That was my memory of kindergarten during the big depression, that and the many children who attended school hungry and even asked if they could have the crusts of the sandwich I was eating. It’s worth thinking about.

  • Ray Williams has been a Post columnist since retiring from the newsroom in 1993.
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