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Essential Reading

Chalk and cheese

racism kidsContrary to what we are so often told, the business of parenthood remains a relatively simple affair: a moment of passion followed nine months later by the bawling realisation that spur-of-the-moment trysts will be problematic from that point on, what with all the decades of distractions and responsibilities that come bundled with baby in his basinet. This tends to be the moment when instinct kicks in with a wallop. Hold the fruit of your loins for the first time and the thought that you will do everything and anything to make the new arrival's life as happy, successful and safe as humanly possible is inevitable if you have the makings of even a halfway decent mum or dad.

Yet according to today's Age, those desires as they pertain to education are nothing less than racism. White parents, we are told, spurn inner-city schools because they don't want their kids sharing classrooms with the children of refugees, other new arrivals, non-English speakers and those subscribing to strange foreign customs.

If you are an Age reporter, what other explanation need there be? Shallow, slanted and pointedly oblivious to other factors that might influence a white parent's choice of school -- or any parent's choice, for that matter -- the report does what The Age these days does best: pushes an ideological agenda to the exclusion of demonstrable motive and fact.

One of the schools afflicted by what The Age terms "white flight" is Mount Alexander College. Why would a parent be reluctant to enroll their child? Abselom Nega explains:

"The white parents don't send their kids to these schools because all they see is black kids," says Mr Nega, who sits on the board of the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission.

That Mr Nega would level such a charge is not surprising, as he seems to see the dark hand of racial bigotry in quite a few places. Then-Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews was a racist for noting the higher incidence of crime and other problems among new arrivals from Africa. Likewise infected with various degrees of intolerance are Victoria Police, high-rise public housing, employers and the education system, which he sees as not doing enough to keep African children at their desks. This last point, as expressed to the ABC, would have been worth mentioning in The Age's report, especially in regard to Mount Alexander College, which is mentioned and where only 39 students undertook VCE exams in 2015.

According to the VCE performance ranking of Victorian schools, Mount Alexander College's performance comes in at #282 out of 528 schools. Only 3.9% of its VCE candidates achieved 40-points or more, with the median score being 26.

This where the parental instinct kicks in, or should. Does a dutiful parent regard exposure to foreign cultures as the cornerstone of academic achievement, or should the desire to give a child every possible opportunity and advantage be the driving force?

According to The Age, wanting the best for kids, up to and including placing them at schools where progress toward VCE success is expected, rather than merely hoped for, is racism pure and simple.

Allowing that the youngsters who now staff Fairfax newsrooms are old enough and sufficiently interested in heterosexual reproduction to have children of their own, it would be interesting to know how many send them knowingly to schools with less-than-average performance.

At the link below, the full VCE ranking of Victoria's secondary schools.

-- roger franklin

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Our PM's incompetent elves

i f stoneThe late American journalist I.F. Stone (above) was an unashamed leftist and, quite likely, an agent of Soviet influence as well, but a source of valuable insight on some matters all the same. Take the way journalism is done, for instance, which he bemoaned as differing little from the relationship between cats and owners. The journalist gets fed a tidbit, a self-serving leak about this topic or that, and purrs with gratitude while going to press with the line his or her sponsor wishes to promote. If you want to get to the truth, Stone advised his bought-and-paid-for colleagues, don't be a supplicant; rather, dig through government documents while keeping a sharp eye for contradictions and inconsistencies. Somewhere in there is the truth, but it will not be found while waiting to be petted and flattered by politicians using the press for their own ends. Stone died in 1989 but events in Canberra and at a Sydney radio station over the past 72 hours suggest his advice to be as relevant on this side of the Pacific today as in the Washington of the Sixties, era of the Pentagon Papers.

Briefly, the Sydney Morning Herald's Jacqueline Maley wrote a column accusing the Prime Minister of "mansplaining", a term currently enjoying immense popularity among cossetted, upper-middle class, arts-degree'd feminists -- the sorts who take gross offence at a man's blue tie but utter not a peep about young girls being brainwashed and bullied into cover-all sacks by the male-enforcers and patriarchal norms of a misogynist creed. This picayune and highly selective outrage amongst the media set is easy to understand. Hailing, say, Julia Gillard's parliamentary rant about Tony Abbott's alleged sexism as a defining moment in the fight for equality gets you in thick and sweet with a source. As that same source is also gung-ho for the alleged glories of multiculturalism and ethnic-bloc votes, best not to mention anything, not ever, about flaws in the doctrine of cultural relativism, as such an indiscretion might ruffle the relationship.  But complaining at length about a man's tone of voice, that's perfectly OK, especially if he is in the wrong party. Mansplaining happens, if you don't know, when an XYer is subjectively perceived to be addressing his XX interlocutor as if she is a simpleton. Given that Maley is a representative specimen of the newsroom sisterhood, the real wonder is that we don't see and hear a lot more mansplaining.

After the column appeared, 2GB's Ben Fordham received a call from Malcolm Turnbull's office urging him, by the radio host's account, to drop a bucket on Maley for her "sexism". Here it is difficult not to laugh out loud. Turnbull's topic was negative gearing, but it was not the pros and cons of allowing property owners to write off losses on their investments -- a right accruing to every other area of investment, just by the way -- that sparked the synaptic connections between Maley's brain and pen. There is an election coming, so tagging the Prime Minister with the same misogynist label that worked so well, spawned such a useful and pervasive meme against Abbott, is a no-risk  idea for any lazy essayist. No need to investigate the merit or otherwise of negative gearing. No need to sift fact from fancy. No need to do any legwork. Just settle at the keyboard for an hour or so, muster the right buzzwords, dress subjective appraisal as universal truth and -- presto! -- another picture byline, another few inches of column space filled. It's great work if you can get it, work done and dusted until the next column requires its latest quota of patron-approved cliches to be wrangled into order and sequence.

This is part of the reason why it is worth following the link at the foot of this post, where you will find the audio of Fordham's reaction.

He notes, for starters, that Turnbull has consistently refused invitations to appear on 2GB, quite likely because its listenership is not of the PM's trendy stripe and he might well be informed by callers that he is not much liked by many in his party's conservative base. This is the same base which Liberal pollster Mark Textor dismissed upon the Turnbull ascension as being of no consequence. The latest polls suggest he was mistaken -- a thought that must by now also have occurred to the Fickle Fifty-Three who decided that, whatever few principles Turnbull believes in, they could believe in them as well if such a conversion might save their electoral necks.

Fordham's second and greater point is that seeking a proxy with a microphone and 800-watt transmitter to whine about Maley's "sexism" is itself a more potent indictment of the Turnbull style than any dubious, by-the-numbers complaint about the tone and emphasis of prime-ministerial diction. Not only does it accept as its premise that mansplaining is a valid criticism -- though not of the PM, according to his whispering office elves -- it also cedes the choice of battlefield and weapons to his opponent.

Follow the link below for the Fordham monologue. His criticisms of the Turnbullian operatives' ineptitude becomes more pointed, and much harder to refute, as the rant proceeds. What Izzy Stone might have made of Jacqueline Maley-style journalism is anyone's guess. What he would have said in praise of Fordham's acumen and independence of thought is much easier to imagine.

-- roger franklin

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The good oil (and otherwise)

wave generatorIf failed Liberal leader John Hewson and Ross Garnaut, prime specimen in the petting zoo of Labor-leaning economists, think something is a good idea, rest assured that whatever they recommend is almost certainly a notion to be spurned without a moment's further thought. When that duo's counsel is quoted beneath Peter Hartcher's byline in the Fairfax press, that is four good reasons, not two, to order in a truckload of salt. Drawing  guidance from the somewhat less-than-agile and innovative Saudis, here is Hartcher holding forth as to what Australia must do in order to avoid terminal decline.

The most carbon-dependent nation on earth, Saudi Arabia, this week announced a plan for a post-oil economy. "We have an addiction to oil," said the kingdom's de facto ruler, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. "This is dangerous. It has delayed development of other sectors."

The superpower of the oil world has decided that the most prized commodity of the 20th century is a big risk in the 21st. It's attempting a decisive break under a plan called Vision 2030.

The solution -- need it be said? -- is lots more wind turbines and solar farms and taxpayer-funded wave-power generators like the one pictured atop this post, which sits rusting and expensively useless on a Port Kembla beach. Apparently more of the same will kick our "fossil fuel addiction", which the Saudis, by no means exemplars of good management and astute national development, insist is their goal by 2030.

Sadly, Hartcher neglects to detail how Prince bin Salman aims to keep his nation's post-oil cupboard full and healthy, which is a pity as there is room for Australia to follow that lead as well. Apart from looking to live upon its investments when oil is no longer a big earner, the Saudi plan anticipates, perhaps a trifle optimistically, a tourism industry sustained by pilgrims jetting in to visit Mecca and other religious sites. At Chatham House, analyst Jane Kinninmont is somewhat more forthcoming, and a good deal more dubious, about the prospects for an Allah-led economy's viability.

So the solution is both simple and obvious: as green energy already elicits a near-religious response from its fans and advocates, the key will be to re-dedicate sites such as that Port Kembla junk pile as temples to Gaia and formally recognise Hewson, Garnaut and Tim Flannery as its tax-exempt priests. The only fly in that green ointment would be the cost of petrol, which might stop the faithful turning up for services -- just as higher-than-needs-be energy costs already crimp growth and industry.

Non-believers, meanwhile, will be able to sit at home and wonder why, when prices are at rock bottom, it is in Australia's interests to pay more for energy than its chief global suppliers are able to ask.

Academic, author, energy analyst and Saudi-watcher Michael Klare doesn't answer that question at the link below, but he does detail what is really going on with the oil market and where it is all likely to lead. Gaia has nothing to do with it.

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