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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Scapegoating Migrants

We have massive problems in our cities with failing and inadequate infrastructure.
Our relatively slowly expanding population, which is almost entirely driven by net migration not natural increase, is placing ever increasing demands on our public facilities and services. In response to the perceived panic generated by former Prime Minister Rudd's push for a big Australia, his successor, Julia Gillard, has ditched the concept in favour of a 'sustainable' Australia. She says we are going to have a sensible debate about how many people we want living in our country. Bulldust! The longed for rational discussion on serious issues in the lead up to this federal election has been torpedoed by spin and alarmist sloganism.

Cheryl Kernot put it this way, "everything seems to be coming more and more trivialised than ever and I think that the 30 day election campaign is becoming a waste of time and a waste of money and an expensive game between journalists, the media and two big parties." The ABC's Mark Colvin asked this question at the beginning of a recent interview with former NSW Premier Bob Carr: He said, "Are the main parties having a real debate about sustainable population or are they both more focused on finding ways to garner the anti-immigration vote?" (For the record, Mr Carr supports Julia Gillard on this issue.)

So what do we have? Ms Gillard appoints a sustainability minster, and dribbles on about some pie in the sky plan for an offshore processing centre in East Timor while Mr Abbott and his pals in the Coalition can't stop babbling on about how they are going to stop the boats. (Even though they haven't actually told us how) Both parties are talking about reducing migration targets, they just have different numbers to throw in our faces. Who are they talking to? Who is afraid of Australia being overrun at worst, or overburdened at least, by migrants? There is a very strong connection being made between migration and public infrastructure problems. The argument goes like this: we can't handle any more people in this country because there is already too much congestion on the roads, and overcrowding on public transport. Let me reduce it further: F#!* off we're full! Have you seen that bumper sticker? Makes me sick but that is what the current immigration/sustainable population debate has been reduced to.

Professor Peter McDonald is the director of the Australian Demographic and Social Research Institute at the ANU. He doesn't think migration should be or even can be fixed at any particular number because we are in a global labour market. He says migration is going to be highly volatile and we need a system which is foresighted and flexible. No other country in the world has a target for a population growth rate.

The transport and infrastructure problems we are experiencing are as a result of a failure of government planning but if you listen to the rubbish being spouted in this election campaign, it is blatantly obvious who is copping the blame. Migrants are being scapegoated and it's not right.

Sources:

http://www.abc.net.au/am/content/2010/s2963891.htm (Peter McDonald)

http://www.abc.net.au/pm/content/2010/s2969354.htm (Cheryl Kernot)

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Ignorance of Democracy

There will be a federal election on August 21 in Australia where voting is compulsory. The perennial debate surrounding the apparent contradiction between the concept of democracy and the mandatory call to 'have your say' never gets satisfactorily answered, but who cares. Where is the tidal wave of opposition to this imposition which forces people to vote when they either don't want to, or they do not give any thought to how they use their vote? Is this a decision which the citizens of Australia take seriously?

People might spend three weeks on the purchase of a new car. Perhaps months or even years on the huge choices involving the purchase of their first home. There are women, and men, who probably spend more time thinking about what they are going to wear on any given day than they have done in their whole adult life, considering who to elect as Prime Minister of the country. Generally speaking people do not invest time in the decision making process come election time. There are a number of reasons for this.

Some, as already mentioned, simply don't care. Some can't see the point, either because they see very little difference between the major parties or because they live in a safe seat. A seat which has always been held by a particular party is unlikely to change hands. They believe that after they vote, nothing will change, and more often than not they are right. Even at the national level. Changes in government rarely result in massive changes to the lives of ordinary Australian, and thank God for that. Change happens very slowly in Australia even when the need for change is universally recognised and urgent.

Even if we do care, and we do want to vote, most of us will not find the time needed to because it does not seem worth the effort. Investments are made readily when a good return on those investments is, at least a possibility. What difference will it really make if I spend an hour a day for the entire election campaign researching and ruminating on the issues?

What do we know about the policies of the parties and their representatives who woo our votes with the fervour of teenage boys chasing girls? What do we know? What can we know? If we want to make an informed choice and properly consider the issues, where do we find that information? Not from nightly 'tabloid' news programs which include the half hour of alleged real news. Not from sound bites on radio news bulletins. Not from propagandist advertisements on television, radio and in newspapers. Not from commentators like Alan Jones and Piers Ackerman who have made axe grinding an art form. Not from our politically savvy friends who spout the ideas of others in convincing monologues. The nature of this problem should be clear to the reader by now.

To get to the truth of political spin and sloganism you have to dig deep, and that requires an investment of time which most of us unwilling to make. It is imperative that we use the brains God gave us and make up our own minds.

Here are two suggestions: Firstly, watch full interviews with politicians on television programs like the ABC's 7:30 Report, or listen to them on the radio where again the ABC, on programs like AM and the World Today, offer some very enlightening content. This way you will hear what the politicians have to say in context, and how they respond to questioning. Secondly, research the issues on the world wide web. When in doubt, Google it! Make an informed choice Australia.

In my 24 years as an adult, an Australian citizen by birth, a proud Australian, I can recall very few decisions made by our government which have radically altered my life, and none at all that have messed it up. Life goes on, we vote for politicians because we have to but we want to believe their promises, we want to believe in the system. We cherish the concept of democracy but ignore the practice of it. I think we want to believe that our vote will make a difference. We cling to this hope even though it seems to fly in the face of reality. The absolute rubbish we are bombarded with nowadays is appalling in its superficiality. I need only offer one example: 'Turn back the Boats'. The fact that the arrival of illegal immigrants by boat to Australia is a major issue in this Federal election is a damning indictment on the intelligence of our democracy. It's embarrassing!

Do Australian's take their right to vote seriously? Generally, no, they don't. What about you? Use your freedom wisely.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Too Many Choices

I went to buy some milk from a supermarket in Manoa Valley, Hawaii when I lived there back in the day. There were more varieties of milk than I had ever seen or even heard of but I could not find 'ordinary' milk like I was able to buy at supermarkets in Australia. With so many different varieties of milk on offer, I felt confused. Many of those varieties are now available in Australia. If you want some milk you can choose from fresh, concentrated, long life (UHT) or powdered. If it's fresh milk you want you have the following options;regular full fat, reduced fat, low fat, skim, modified milk, ultrafiltration milk, lactose reduced, lactose free, buttermilk, fortified milk, or the kids favourite, flavoured milk. Am I boring you yet? I won't go on but it is good to have all these choices right?

Sometimes when I go to buy my regular brand of toothpaste it takes ages to find it amongst the plethora of competitors. Colgate is arguably the number one brand and they alone make over 30 different types of toothpaste, in different sized tubes and dispensers. How they differ from each other may be marginal but it is good to have so many to choose from, don't you think?

Even the humble chocolate bar presents confounding and conflicting alternatives. Once upon a time you could just ask for a Kit-Kat. Then we had the Chunky single finger version introduced which was followed by different flavour varieties. Thankfully, or sadly depending on your point of view, in Australia we have limited choices; dark chocolate, peppermint, caramel, cookies and cream. In Japan they have gone to extremes by offering around 40 different flavours. Worldwide there are over 80 varieties of Kit-Kat available for the pleasure of the chocolate loving consumer. Wonderful, isn't it?

Does all this choice enrich our lives or simply complicate them? With fewer options I would need less time to decide but I might get bored without the chance to try something new. With less to choose from I might miss out if I don't like anything in the range but does that really matter? If Nestle didn't offer me a Kit-Kat that I liked I could simply visit the Cadbury section and see how they might be able to satisfy me. Would it be so terrible if there were only two or three different types of chocolate to choose from instead of hundreds?

I know you think I'm a killjoy. The shine of life would be tarnished by limited choices, wouldn't it? Variety, they say, is the spice of life. Is that true, or does variety merely foster envy and greed? Does it spoil us and make it harder for us to find satisfaction? Does our experience of the exotic, cripple our appreciation for the ordinary? Are we actually becoming insatiable?

The answer is yes to the latter three questions but it probably would not be of any real consequence or concern if I was only talking about food. However, life is a series of choices. Some are important, some are trivial but almost all are necessary. I think life would be much simpler and easier if we had less choice. If there were only one or two types of toothpaste for example, I could like it or lump it but I wouldn't have to spend so much time searching and deciding.

The biggest choice any of us will ever have to make only presents two alternatives. A very clear cut decision between two options. Choose life with Jesus Christ or life without him. Considering the unimaginable benefits of life with Christ, this choice could not be more straightforward. No confusion. No disappointment. It's simple. Choose today.


Does having so many options to choose from enhance our lives?
Yes
No
It depends.
  
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Friday, July 9, 2010

Little Things

Good Charlotte had a hit song called Little Things which was about the trials and tribulations of high school students. The chorus talks about the little things that always hang around, and try to bring us down. They just won't go away, and the little things have made them who they are today. All the things that have happened to them, testing them, angering them, and bothering them during their lives have helped shaped their characters.

How we react to and deal with people and circumstances in our lives is largely determined by what has happened to us in the past.

In a perfect world, the kind God intended us to live in, we would have been raised in a loving environment by parents who loved God and considered child rearing both a joy and a privilege. Their job was to disciple their children and impart to them the Godly wisdom which they themselves had accumulated from a lifetime of service to God and others.

In the real world, many people have no such Godly influence in their lives. Their parents have still passed on their values but they often aren't even close to God's standards. So sin and its vile consequences are perpetuated through the generations.

Praise God this cancer in our society can be cured. The cycle of sin can be broken when we repent of our sins and give our lives to Christ. Then the healing can begin and all the little things which come along to test and trouble us, will become reasons for us to praise and thank God, and things which he can use to mould us into the image of his Son, the Saviour, Jesus Christ.