51% of University students sexually harassed!

It’s a good line isn’t it? Certainly got everyone’s attention. Here’s the stat;

Around half of all university students (51%) were sexually harassed on at least one occasion in 2016, and 6.9% of students were sexually assaulted on at least one occasion in 2015 or 2016. A significant proportion of the sexual harassment experienced by students in 2015 and 2016 occurred in university settings. For the purposes of the National Survey, incidents which occurred in ‘university settings’ included sexual assault and sexual harassment that occurred:

• on the university campus

• while travelling to or from university

• at an off-campus event organised by or endorsed by the university, and

• at university employment.

Experiences of technology-based harassment were included where some or all of the perpetrators were students, teachers or other people associated with the university…..

When incidents of sexual harassment which occurred while travelling to or from university are excluded, the Commission found that 21% of students were sexually harassed in a university setting in 2016.

So, 21% of students experienced some form of sexual harassment on campus, or in a ‘university setting’. I’m not prepared to consider public transport a ‘university setting’. After all, you don’t have to pay for it with massively inflated dollars twenty years down the track.

Still, 21% is quite a high rate but then it apparently includes being harassed over ‘technology’. Does this mean a vaguely smutty/insulting remark in response to something (equally offensive) that you’ve posted on Facebook is sexual harassment? If that’s the case then I think 21% is remarkably low.

No matter. 51% is a great statistic. Especially on Twitter.

Things got pretty…

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Here are some numbers.

The survey polled around 30 000 students, yielding a standard error of around +/-0.4%. 30 000 students could therefore be considered a representative sample.

Annabel Crabb is a well known and respected Australian journalist. She has 437K followers.

When the ABC does it too….

Screen Shot 2017-07-20 at 8.55.39 AM.pngEvery year or so Life Matters *discusses* preschool education for Australians. Yesterday we were treated to the wisdom of two experts, one of whom runs a preschool in Newcastle, and the other, an early childhood education researcher at Victoria University.

Australia sits near the bottom of relevant countries when it comes to GDP spending on pre-primary school aged children.

Industry experts say the number of years spent in early childhood education and care is a strong predictor of the level of performance reached at later stages, both in and out of school.

Naturally we were treated to frightening statistics. Well, one anyway. Did you know that children who attended preschool did twice as well in high school science? And did you also know that there’s almost no point in sending kids to preschool for just one day a week, they need to attend much more than that!

Let’s start with the claim that kids who go do preschool turn out better human beings. Here’s the thing, preschool costs money. Poor kids are less likely to go to preschool. Poor kids also do worse in high school generally. This obvious confounder was not even mentioned. Same goes for women in the workforce. Kids with working Mums tend to grow up and work themselves. Mum-key see, mum-key do.

Certainly, some studies show that children from highly disadvantaged backgrounds who attend preschool do better at school than their peers who don’t, but this is probably because they’re getting access to an enriching environment instead of sitting front of the TV. Spending the day in jail in an underground Nepalese coal mine would most likely improve their performance, compared to staying at home.

No matter, though, that’s just research. BORING! We all know that preschool education is awesome for all kids! In fact, some countries have now decided to do away with parenting altogether and turn the whole thing into a profession that the state pays for. It worked with dentistry!

The message from Life Matters was unashamedly biased – Australia should provide access to preschool for all three and four year olds. It helps them with their literacy and numeracy when they reach school, and teaches them how to cope in a large group.

I could go on about the multiple ways this is bullshit, but I won’t. It is, after all, a shameless puff piece engaging in the worst kind of cherry-picking to appeal to its demographic – working, predominantly middle class women who want free, full time childcare. It’s telling that for all the talk of ‘preschool as education’, the head of the Newcastle centre still referred to it as ‘childcare’.

So here’s the other side of the story; children with an enriching home environment can and do thrive when they hit school. Moreover, many children find the noise, chaos and violence of a preschool setting troubling and exhausting. Have you ever been to a preschool? It’s like someone airdropped a shipping container of methamphetamine into the meercat enclosure. However, as with daycare, stressing the shit out of small children isn’t destined to get a whole lot of government sympathy and attention.

And this is because it’s the economy, stupid. There is no longer an option for anyone to stay at home with the kids, unless you’re part of the minuscule elite. Mum or Dad must now work. Grandparents who are well enough to look after children are actually in Tuscany/Rome/Portugal at the moment. And who can afford to rent a place in the same neighbourhood as a baby boomer anyway? What everyone could do with is a spot of free childcare. And so this is the line Life Matters is pushing.

I’m not anti-preschool. My kid went to preschool, for two years, before (public) school. In the first year (at age three) my kid attended one day a week. This was all we could afford. The following year we were a little better off financially, and started going two days a week. The kid did not cope at all and was a complete wreck. We quickly pulled it back to one day a week. Of course, I’m not suggesting our experience is generalisable – unlike the radio program that entreated listeners to call in with ‘their experiences’. Did you go to preschool? How has it worked out for you? Very scientific.

But seeing as you ask….I went to preschool – it was a community run playgroup thing. We didn’t have ‘early childhood educators’ – we had a bunch of Mums in track-pants not contributing to the tax base while we tried hard to set one another on fire. It was excellent. My later high school performance can be best summed up as abominable.

Perhaps I wasn’t ‘ready’ for the classroom – didn’t have my literacy and numeracy nailed, compared to my peers. Well, this is just a comparative measure – pretty meaningless. Who cares if you can’t read when you’re six? Steiner kids don’t even start to read until someone really needs to know what’s in a packet of Cheezels. Doesn’t seem to do them much harm. Or those home-school weirdos. They seem to do rather well, actually. In fact, there are heaps of kids who do rather well outside the mainstream, homogenising school system.

Again, we’re in the mainstream school system, and it’s bloody great – our experience with the public school education system is that it’s creative, engaging and bloody good fun. It does not need to start any earlier than five though.


Revenge effects

Newsflash! Australian employers encouraged to ‘retire’ casual staff at twelve months!

I woke up this morning to the news that the Fair Work Commission had accepted Union demands to give casual workers permanent work;

“If the casual employment turns out to be long-term in nature, and to be of sufficient regularity … then we consider it to be fair and necessary for the employee to have access to a mechanism by which the casual employment may be converted to an appropriate form of permanent employment,” the full bench found.

Most of my colleagues are on casual contracts, many have been for years, including myself. I’ve done the same job, for the same money for five years. Each year is covered by two casual contracts, which are zero hours when I sign them.

So you’re thinking hey this is good right? I can now ask for permanent work?

Yeah I guess that’s true except three things;

Employers can refuse the request on reasonable grounds including that…. they could foresee their position would no longer exist in the next 12 months.

First, What stops an employer from simply saying ‘I don’t think your job will exist in twelve months’?

Second, there’s casual loading in casual pay, to compensate for being casual. It’s probably about 30% would be my guess. Does this mean a pay cut? Do casuals trade permanence for less money?

But perhaps the most problematic implication is this;  employers will be penalised for employing a casual for longer than twelve months. Surely this will encourage them to replace ‘old’ casuals with ‘new ones’ to prevent them from applying for permanent positions?


500 words Post prison world?

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Should prisons be a thing of the past? Couldn’t we just have prisoners in the community? Monitored by technology?

That’s what Mirko Bagaric from Swinburne argues, in this talk recorded as part of ABC’s Big Ideas program.

Bagaric made many, many sweeping statements. He’s Professor of Law and Director of the Evidence-based Sentencing and Criminal Justice Project at Swinburne University*.

Mostly his talk was characterised by post hoc ergo propter hoc statements. Apparently the income of prisoners many years after they leave prison is much lower than the average. Imagine how much more they’d earn if they hadn’t had their working lives interrupted by a stint in jail!

Having had a bit to do with prison, I can pretty confidently say that the idiosyncracies landed you in prison in the first place probably aren’t conducive to lifelong wealth. Clever criminals don’t generally go to jail.

Then there’s the argument that it costs heaps to keep these chappies in jail, which is does. But once you run the counterfactual – deduct cost of keeping them on the outside – Centrelink payments, accommodation supplements, healthcare etc.,. it’s starting to look rather a lot less pricey. For reference, it costs about $250 per day to keep someone in jail. Assuming Newstart plus a moderate amount of accommodation, plus the overheads of all those punitive ‘work for the dole’ and ‘work ready’ education schemes you’re probably looking at about $500 per week. It’s still cheaper on the outside, but we should be realistic about the difference.

Bagaric was justifying keeping people out of prison. Most of his arguments seemed to be oriented around the idea that most prisoners would be fully employed, healthy, well adjusted adults and parents if they were allowed to stay on the outside.. Think of the benefits to the family! Think of all those men who could be in their kids’ lives! Helping them with their maths homework and ferrying them to soccer!

Bagaric talked about drug users – as we all know, many prisoners are in prison for drug use. He positioned locking them up as self-evidently ridiculous. Cos everyone knows they’d be heaps better at home. Having a stepdad addicted to ice is a fucking fantastic addition to the family unit.

Bagaric made the terrifying claim that we should only ‘lock up’ people we’re really scared of – like murderers and rapists. I’m wondering how much exposure this chap has really had to violent offenders? Most murderers aren’t planning on actually murdering someone, they’re just administering a really stern telling off. My point is this – violent offenders are a fucking worry. Imagine if violent non murderers were ‘at home’. How many more opportunities would there be for them to beat someone to death?

Apparently, if we only lock up people we’re scared of that naturally excludes women. People aren’t scared of women because they’re not physically capable to being violent enough to cause real harm. Tell that to their kids. Women can and do kill their children, and they allow others to do so as well.

Bagaric also said women shouldn’t be locked up because of the impact on their family – they’re the primary carers of children and older people. Well, that’s not a prison problem, that’s an inadequate care problem. There simply isn’t sufficient state support for children who need alternative care. He argues that sending one woman to prison often means the family home dissolves – which is something I strongly agree with. Prison is the road to homelessness, not just for women. As is well known, many people reoffend to get back into prison. At least it’s a roof.

Keeping women out of jail is a tantalising idea, but Bagaric doesn’t seem to play this out. When I was at high school we learned one of life’s important maxims; have a baby and they won’t send you to jail. If women with children can’t be sent to jail that’s a hell of a motivation to have a baby, pronto.

He also stated that many women end up in jail for not paying fines – especially indigenous women. I can’t help but think of Ms Dhu who died of neglect in a WA jail after being locked up for not paying a relatively small but completely unmanageable fine. This was one instance where I agreed with him.

Bagaric also stated that the prison population was rising quickly, due to successive governments’ populist ‘tough on crime’ approaches. There’s no mention of how much growth is attributed to population growth, and how much is attributed this ‘toughness’.

Bagaric made some other pretty broad statements about the philosophy of imprisonment. For instance, he argues that prisoners are exposed to physical and sexual violence in prison – words like; ‘they lose their bodily autonomy and this can have serious consequences for their sense of self worth’. This was positioned as an unintended consequence of imprisonment. However, I think most Australians probably see ‘loss of bodily autonomy’ as the bloody point. We are a brutal, ex penal colony.

‘Governments want to be seen to be tough on crime’. Well, there’s a reason this works – people perceive that they’re not tough enough on crime. Frankly, Bagaric needs to be cogniscient of the reality – he lives in a country that elected Pauline Hanson. Many, many people do not think being ‘tough on crime’ is just a populist trick. There’s a reason it’s called ‘populism’.


*It may well be that he didn’t have the scope to adequately justify some of his arguments, but in my view some of the statements were too polemic not to be. 


Housing is the new cholesterol

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 2.34.54 PMBaby boomers have both the majority of housing and cholesterol.

Frankly, I don’t know why we didn’t see the connection sooner. I don’t know about you, but I feel pretty silly. Jesus, this is like that time I shaved my tongue. Thanks, Facebook!

Remember when housing investment was good? And then it was not so good. Then it was bad. Cholesterol started off bad, then not bad, then good. It’s in eggs.

And eggs are good, right? They’re certainly yellow. And cholesterol is also probably, possibly, potentially yellow in its effects, seek* advice** from a professional***.

Who can see the pattern?

Things are Bad, Not So Bad, Debunked, Oh my God, you can see that agenda from space! I knew that bacon flavoured lip balm was good for me!

Don’t go looking for confounders, or multiplicative effects. No. Just look for things that are Bad, Good or Yellow.

Currently, New Zealand’s housing availability is Not Yellow. This is because there is an election looming.

Roughly the argument goes something like; high cholesterol is strongly correlated with home ownership. Follow the money sheeple!

But here’s where things get beyond the scope of finger puppets. There is more than one factor contributing to the housing shortage in NZ. It’s not just immigration, speculation or intergenerational fleecing.

In fact, it’s a whole bunch of RELATED factors, with multiplicative effects which reach a series of tipping points.

Too hard too hard! Can’t we just hate baby boomers? And immigrants? I have so much hate to give!

Screen Shot 2017-06-12 at 2.39.20 PMLet’s have a look at this news article. It appeared on my facebook feed. It’s about restricting NZ’s immigration but the comments section quickly degenerated into a conversation about home ownership.

Apparently, foreigners are buying all the houses, thus driving up prices for New Zealanders. Those fuckers! Swooping in with their haircuts and fancy teeth!

Thing is, of course, only 3% of houses are bought by non residents, and that’s in the frothiest market, Auckland. (The rate is no doubt lower in the rest of NZ, as the market for wobbly weatherboard methlabs in Bunnythorpe is surprisingly bearish).

It’s not immigrants speculating on housing, it’s New Zealand baby boomers. They are seeking capital gain. This is as self-evident as it is yellow. YELLOW!

Although the average rate of investor owned property in Auckland is around 40%, around 70% of ‘entry level’ housing in Auckland was purchased by investors.

This means that would-be first home buyers face the stiffest, frothiest market conditions. (I’m only talking about Auckland here because let’s face it, compared to Auckland everything else IS a meth-lab in Bunnythorpe. Also, Fun fact; 50% of the electoral seats are in Auckland).

So where else will Sue and Brian put their money? How will they grow their wealth in order to pay for the extravagant luxuries they’ve become accustomed to, like heating and meat that hasn’t got a picture of cat on the tin?

The NZ pension pays about 20 grand. Now I can live on rather a lot less than 20 grand, but that’s because I’m a completely impoverished Gen-Xer with a student loan almost entirely comprised of compounding interest (remember that, GenY? Student loans used to have compounding interest. dissolve that in your turmeric mylk, snowflake etc.,). I consider my life fairly comfortable, but I doubt there are many baby boomers who’re willing to climb into my cut-off sleeping bag.

Let’s talk about other reasons baby boomers invest in housing.

Many New Zealanders do not retire with heaps of cash. Their superannuation scheme is voluntary and there aren’t the tax breaks that exist in Australia to encourage saving. For many, their main source of capital is their house. They can use their small savings to buy another house, leveraged off their existing house. Interest rates are low, which means their mortgage is ‘cheap’ and it’s less tempting to keep their money in savings.

As noted above, investors comprise the majority of the lowest quartile of the market. They are effectively bidding one another up, and the resulting increases in rent are worn by tenants and the government (through the ever climbing accommodation supplement – indexed to market rents. NB; In Australia, when the government transfers money to wealthy property owners it’s called ‘middle class welfare’).

Yes, this housing situation is fragile – the bubble might burst, and those who with negative equity may lose both their rental property but also the family home. Not that it matters because they’ll still have some remaining equity and houses will be cheap as chips! However, no one really thinks this will happen – the market isn’t wobbly enough for it to fall over. There may be some corrections, but the reality is, as long as the government continues to pump warm bodies into the cities, she’ll be right.

Sure, Sue and Brian could take their modest savings and invest them in the sharemarket, (Mum and Dad investors), but they’re not comfortable doing that because they don’t know anything about it. The returns might be higher but they equate higher returns with greater risk. At least a house is a real thing. You can constantly reassess your vulnerability with a house. People will always need houses.

So let’s have a capital gains tax, right? Because that will make housing more affordable for lower and middle class families, right? Less liquidity in housing means more liquidity for alternative investment. The rest of the economy will benefit in more balanced growth! Huzzah!

Well, as far as I know the only tolerable capital gains tax model floated so far is one where investors must hold on to the property for 3-5 years to avoid the capital gains tax. That might knock a touch off the froth of the speculation, but it’d be three fifths of fuck all. Hanging onto a rental property for five years isn’t a problem for most baby boomers – they’re going to live to 150 years old.

While we’re here, let’s have a bit of a chat about immigration and infrastructure in Auckland. Underfunding infrastructure is underfunding infrastructure. It’s not a matter of demand outstripping supply – you can always build more infrastructure. In the old days governments used to even plan for it! On paper! Yeah you can limit the number of people moving into cities but….

Sprawl is the new MasterChef. It’s worth it just to wait until the pressure is at fever pitch then expand the outskirts of the city, delivering the maximum profit to landbankers. Land bankers don’t want infill housing or more infrastructure within existing city limits. Neither do homeowners – no-one wants a block of flats next door. Imagine what that’d do to the market value? No, no no, Murray! It’s much safer to return a tax free profit to investors. Because; voting demographics.

It’s worth noting that Australia has capital gains tax, compulsory super that is heavily supported with generous tax incentives and is discussing ways to limit negative gearing BUT its housing market remains far too frothy for almost everyone under the age of 60 to enter in the city.

This polarised, simplified ‘debate’ is what’s known as class warfare/wedge politics.

That’s my contribution for today. Feel free to correct me.







500 words; Should poor people have fewer children?

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Sydney Morning Herald 22 May 17

Just when you think clickbait couldn’t get any more intergalactic, along comes a humdinger like this. And from the esteemed Bond University, no less. All the hair from 60 Minutes got a university!* Tune in next week for their pressing investigation into the link between MasterChef and why you’re a fat fucking loseroo.

This statement from Prof Jones was ostensibly about the number of children in unsatisfactory out of home care. I can tell, because halfway through the news story there is a video of an excavator scratching around in a Brisbane backyard for the remains of an unfortunate foster child.

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Not at all gratuitous

Readers, it couldn’t be more clear; More poor children means more excavation. It is simply not in the public interest to have to move all those plastic clam shell paddling pools. Just tipping them out alone would take weeks, and those things are usually really, really mucky at the bottom.

Consider these insights;

Prof Jones believes out-of-home care policies are failing children, with evidence showing young people who have been in care have poorer overall health and lower education than average.

“The fundamental reason for placing children in out-of-home care is because we believe they will be safer and they will have a better life than if they remained with their families,” he said.

“There’s not a lot of evidence to back up that hypothesis even though its that hypothesis that guides the decision to put children in out of home care.”

Yep, kids who are removed fare, ‘worse than the average’ in life.

So let’s talk about ‘the average’. The average kid has never been placed in out-of-home-care. You can’t compare ‘removed kids’ with ‘average kids’ because average kids probably aren’t being beaten, starved or made to watch reruns of MasterChef: Mystery Box Challenge! (it’s Diabetes).

As Prof Jones even says so himself – removed kids are often removed because of safety concerns.

The only meaningful comparison you could make is between kids who were removed versus those who would have been but weren’t.

Otherwise you’re comparing apples with excavators.

I can’t see the point in this article, other than just blatantly bashing poor people. I mean, there’s not even any real way that women (and let’s be clear, women are the target here) could be prevented from having more children without further diminishing the lives of said children. Furthering impoverishing the parents always hurts the children first.

What’s to be done? It’s all so hopeless! Government is failing these children!

Let’s look for solutions elsewhere! Let’s investigate International Best Practice. Let’s think Outside the Box. Let’s do away with Silo Thinking!

Perhaps we should be looking other examples where parents’ income is ‘decoupled’ from their children’s lifestyle, where children have the freedom to break with the cycle!

Witness the ebullient work ethic of Nepalese underground coal miners! Or the entrepreneurial vigour of the roaming street gangs of Kibera, Nigeria.

Perhaps, if Prof Jones is so concerned with women having children to ‘multiple partners’ we could investigate placing the onus on fathers. After all, if fathers don’t live with their children, surely we can impoverish them all we like!

This is what child support is supposed to be. Of course Centrelink will persecute you for non-payment whether you pay it or not. Might as well make the most of it!

I’d like to imagine this Professor is suggesting removing the conditions of poverty from children’s lives, but I’m pretty sure he might pronounce that as; ‘compulsory sterilisation’.

Scary stuff.


*Disclaimer – Bond University might be awesome – willing to be proven wrong on this but if this is the calibre of statements that come out of it then I’m pretty anxious. Also this Professor might be being shamelessly misquoted. The prima facie case makes me ANGRY though.

500 – tertiary education: predatory lending

I had the misfortune to encounter the end of an exam the other day. I was visiting a friend who works at a uni. There were tears. Many, copious tears. And I had cause to reflect once again on the fact that Australian universities are increasingly guilty pushing students through courses by lowering the standard required to pass.

This works until, at some point, the rubber hits the road. Eventually students run up against things that cannot be fudged, interpreted subjectively or constantly whittled away with concessions to ‘anxiety’ or ‘stress’ – (an industry in itself that universities propagate under the guise of ‘disability’ so as to keep as many students churning through the system).

Australian universities are racing one another to the bottom. It’s a slow, incremental race, but a general downward progression nonetheless. They are competing for student numbers. The more that pass, the more money they get.

Consider this graph;

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Stolen from The Conversation

In 1972 two percent of Australians held a Bachelor’s Degree or higher. By 2011 18.8% had one. Are Australians getting heaps smarter?

Well, yes, I suppose in some respects they are. And university became a lot more accessible during this period. However, I strongly suspect that it also got a lot easier.

Those in full time study are not counted as unemployed (yay!). They’re also acquiring a debt which will be paid back at a later date, just like a higher effective tax rate. It’s like being on the dole but with some expectation that you’ll pay it back.

On top of that universities are strongly influenced by user-pays – that is, you pay the money, you get the degree. The idea that lecturers might fail students is an anathema.

Everyone wants students. We see this most clearly in the shortfall between what universities say they require for admission and what they actually accept.

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Stolen from Fairfax

Of course, the race-to-the-bottom of undergraduate expectations gradually devalues all Australian degrees. Post-graduate degrees emerge as the new Bachelor’s degree, which again works in the Universities’ interest, as it’s yet more students, and more post grad funding.

My observations are fairly pedestrian, I suppose, until you encounter the real cost – the woefully underprepared post grad student, who gained entry on the basis of their Bachelor’s Degree, only to discover that, at some point, the rubber meets the road. They’ve paid the fees, it’s too late to pull out but they find themselves hopelessly outgunned by the course work. This, to me, is predatory lending. No wonder there are so many tears.

Post script;

I’ve noted before that undergrad is now providing the education that students would have attained at secondary school in the past. This way, of course they pay for it themselves. Why are secondary schools struggling to educate kids? It’s the old blame spiral – high schools blame primary schools for sending them underprepared students, primary schools blame parents for sending them children who are unable to learn. I this is probably to some extent true. It’s extremely difficult to get children interested in learning when they are emotionally stressed, tired and living on a diet of chicken salt and kibbles.