Government Launches $2M Program To Promote Science In Schools

August 30, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Australian News, Science 

The federal government will spend $2 million attempting to turn Australia’s high school students into science nerds.

This is the opening paragraph of ninemsn’s article on the Australian Government’s new $2 million initiative to improve the participation of year 9 and 10 high school students in science, named STELR – The Science and Technology Education Leveraging Relevance program.

Although the journalist was probably attempting to be funny, his or her choice of phrase to “turn high school students into science nerds” perfectly sums up the anti-intellectual attitudes towards scientific pursuits in Australian society, and exposes the heart of the problem: image conscious high school students who want to be cool do not want to be labelled as “science nerds”, hence choose not to study science in years 11 and 12, and do not pursue scientific careers.

I praise the Government’s initiative as a very positive step. $2 million is far too little, but any step forward is a good one. I also praise the decision to target the year 9 and 10 age group as this age group is still young enough to be impressionable, are very conscience about their self image, yet are starting to consider their future after high school. If this program succeeds, it will allow sufficient time for these students to choose science electives for years 11 and 12.

I wish to suggest some further ways to enhance this initiative:

  • Extra pay for teachers who hold masters degrees and doctorates

When I was in high school, some science teachers had science degrees, but many didn’t.  Even those who did made few efforts to update their knowledge. I can’t blame them completely – there was no incentive or recognition for those teachers who went beyond the bare minimum required to do their job.

  • Advertising and promotional material featuring handsome/beautiful scientists

Yes, they exist and I have met them. In fact, a female scientist I know who works in the pharmaceuticals industry has graced the covers of a woman’s fashion magazine.

The old and tired stereotypical nerd with horn-rimmed glasses and a speech impediment promoted on TV and in movies must be destroyed once and for all.

  • The right slogan

Science must be promoted as an empowering field that gives a person understanding and control over the world – to save the world, or to make it better.

What are your thoughts?

ASIC To Replace ASX As Supervisor of Australian Financial Markets

Someone asked me what I thought about the government’s decision to give our official corporate regulator, the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC), responsibility for supervising real-time trading on Australian markets, as announced by Treasurer Wayne Swan.

That means that ASIC would be responsible for investigating and uncovering insider trading, market manipulation and other fraudulent practices that occur on financial markets.

This responsibility was previously assigned to the market operator, the Australian Securities Exchange (ASX). Since the ASX demutualised and became a publicly listed company in 1998, it has been argued that there is now a conflict of interest between its duty to supervise the markets and its duty to maximise profits for its shareholders. That was the government’s reasoning for ordering the transfer of powers.

My answer is that I agree that there is a conflict of interest, but I do not believe ASIC is competent enough to carry out its new duty. ASIC is under resourced, inefficient and has a culture of apathy and incompetence. In addition, they lack the ASX’s technological know-how. The government did not mention how much extra funding they were going to allocate, if any.

I want to hear more about plans for extra funding and a cultural purge before I would have any degree of confidence in the new arrangements.

Emissions Trading Scheme Set To Increase Food And Grocery Prices By 7%

August 17, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Australian News, Australian Politics 

The Food and Grocery Council, together with large Australian retailers have warned that the proposed Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) will result in more expensive food and groceries, with food price increasing at the checkout by up to 7%.

What this means to you is that if this mangled, complicated and utterly useless ETS legislation is passed, food prices WILL increase by 7%, as farmers, wholesalers and retailers will have a solid excuse to justify their profiteering.

Such price increases occurred when the 10% GST was introduced in the year 2000, and you may remember when a cyclone hit a banana-producing region of Queensland, ALL banana prices went up by up to ten times – 1000% for almost a year, even though other banana producing regions were unaffected and we could have easily allowed cheap imports from New Zealand.

I am conservative when it comes to my belief in human nature. Most people will pretend to believe in something whilst they believe it is socially beneficial [cool] or financially beneficial to do so. People are happy to make token gestures like sticking a ‘go green’  bumper sticker to their car or have a fun day out at a protest rally with friends, but when it comes to pulling money out of one’s wallet, people show their true selves. We are seeing increased voices in the media questioning the basis of evidence for catastrophic predictions of climate doom.

The proposed ETS legislation, that has been the subject or negotiation (horse-trading) between the major political parties and independents is complicated and full of exception clauses for all industries with powerful political lobbies.

Its phasing in has been drawn out over a number of years to try and stem public outrage. I question whether this legislation will result in a single molecule of CO2 from being generated. If there are any savings, the CO2 emission growth of our crucial trading partner China will cover them within a week.

If talks over this legislation collapse and resulting an election. I know who’ll be getting my vote – the party that promises to rip up this worthless piece of paper.

Oh yes – the disclaimer – I will take a complete U-turn on my position once I see:

  • Falsifiable scientific evidence proving that human CO2 emissions have a significant and detrimental impact on climate – i.e. an experiment that makes a clear prediction that can be tested.
  • Evidence that any plan to mitigate this will be effective and based on sound science.

Desperate NSW Government’s Latest Money-Raiser: Privatising Prisons

August 9, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: NSW News, Sydney News 

Our desperate, cash-strapped and clueless NSW State Labor government have come up with another great money-raiser: selling off prisons, to be run by private companies. NSW prison guards went on a day-long strike to protest plans to privatise Parklea prison.

I can think of no better way to increase corruption in our prison system, reduce the quality of care and completely eliminate any transparency. Privately run prisons are a disaster in the USA and they will be a disaster here.

Any private operator will have one objective – to make a profit at all costs. One can expect rehabilitation and training programs to be scaled down, if not scrapped altogether. Also, prisoners will likely be used as slave labour to undercut local businesses who have to pay their employees a proper wage. Furthermore. cases of abuse (of prisoners or guards) are likely to be covered up with a reduced public ability to investigate.

My message to our incompetent state government – learn to use money to add long-term value to our economy and infrastructure, not liquidate public assets for crappy short-term band-aid solutions.

Acquittal of Female Stripper for Male Rape Demonstrates Discrimination Against Men

August 9, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Australian Law Reform, Australian News 

Last week, female stripper Linda Naggs was acquitted of raping a man by shoving a sex toy into his anus, during a performance at a buck’s night. This article is not about whether that particular act should be considered rape, but the double standard applied by the law to the accused, depending on whether they are a man or a woman.

I am 100% certain that if Ms Naggs were male, and the participant were female, Ms Naggs would now be in the slammer getting ready to be the participant in another inmate’s act.

Most members of the public who commented on this case (see the article linked above) have also expressed outrage at the verdict. This article analyses the case and discusses other instances of sex discrimination in law.

Read more

Here’s Trouble Brief Blogs for 2009-08-07

August 7, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Twitter Posts 

Another Example of the Herald’s Poor Middle-East Journalism

In today’s Sydney Morning Herald, there was an article on two Arab families who were evicted for squatting in two properties in Jerusalem, after a court ruled that they were not the owners.

The Herald article, written by middle-east correspondent Jason Koutsoukis, completely ignored the evidence and judge’s reasoning for this judgement, instead preferring to use cheap emotive descriptions to portray the Arabs as victims of ‘Club-wielding’ Israeli police and noting that there were ’19 minors’, as well as quoting other peoples’ smears and criticism of Israel.

For a mainstream newspaper, this shows a complete lack of journalistic standards and readers deserve better.

Regrettably, when it comes to Israel, this is the norm for the mainstream media, and this explains why ordinary people, who have not gone out of their way to research Middle-East history, can easily be manipulated to be hostile to Israel – the only Western, democratic state in the region and a historic ally of Australia.

Kyle Sandilands Should Not Be Sacked Just For His Comments

August 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Australian News, Music 

By now, everyone has heard about Kyle and Jackie-O’s segment on 104.1 2-Day FM where a 14-year old girl was hooked up to a lie detector and admitted that her first sexual experience was when she was raped as a 12 year-old. She had been brought to the studio by her mother, who would have received free tickets to Pink’s Australian concert.

Quite rightly, there has been a huge uproar amongst the Australian public, over the treatment of the young girl, the decision of the mother to bring her along, the nature of the contest and the comments made by Kyle Sandilands in response to the young girl’s admission.

The above hyperlink links to a newspaper article containing a transcript of that portion of the segment, including the response from Kyle and Jackie-O.

In my opinion, blame should be apportioned in the above order, starting with the mother. What sort of mother would sell out her own daughter in exchange for concert tickets?

Disciplinary action may be appropriate against those who approved the airing of this segment. The management of the station should have imposed clear guidelines on the sort of topics and people who who are allowed to be on this show. I would suggest that for sexual topics, contestants must be over 18, and all parties must consent.

There have been many calls for Kyle Sandliands to be sacked. I do not agree.

He and Jackie were caught by surprise by the young girl’s statment and did not know what to say. Kyle nervously made the comment “Right. (Pause.) And is that the only experience you’ve had? “

I do think that Kyle is untalented (or rather, his sole talent is speaking in a crude and offensive way), and ask why he is in the position he is in, but that is another matter.

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