Ideas@TheCentre – The Centre for Independent Studies


Ideas@TheCentre brings you ammunition for conversations around the table.  3 short articles from CIS researchers emailed every Friday on the issues of the week.

Routes to virus risk

Salvatore Babones

20 February 2020 | IDEAS@THECENTRE

It’s unprecedented for a public health crisis to disrupt the global economy, but China’s coronavirus epidemic is doing just that.

With the lunar new year holidays now over, China’s economy should be humming, but many factories remain shut, container ships are going unloaded, and international air travel has come to a virtual standstill. That means trouble for every country that trades with China, including Australia, as outlined in our latest paper Australia’s Export Exposure to China’s Coronavirus Epidemic.

There are three main routes through which the coronavirus epidemic has the potential to disrupt the economies of China’s trading partners, even if the public health crisis itself remains confined to China.

First, everyone who exports to China will be affected by the general slowdown of the Chinese economy due to coronavirus. In Australia, commodities exports like iron ore, coal, gold, natural gas, meats, wheat, and milk products are all likely to suffer from reduced Chinese demand. But although individual exporters may face serious losses, the minerals and agriculture industries as a whole are well-placed to ride out a temporary crisis. After all, 1.4 billion people in China still need heat and food, even during an epidemic.

Second, many countries are exposed to the disruption of China-centred production networks. Although a few Australian companies do export parts to China for assembly into final products, countries like Japan, South Korea, and the United States will be proportionately much more affected by production delays. Australia may be highly dependent on China as an export market, but it is not deeply integrated into the Chinese economy.

Third, some countries will be especially hard hit by restrictions on travel to and from China. This is where Australia will feel the most pain. Australia’s services exports to China in areas like education and tourism are much smaller than its commodities exports, but they are likely to suffer much higher percentage losses. Chinese student numbers at Australian educational institutions are likely to fall by two-third in the first half of 2020, while Chinese tourism has ceased altogether.

Assuming that the epidemic is over by the end of April, Australia’s coronavirus-related losses in export revenues are likely to range between $8 billion and $12 billion, with roughly half of that amount concentrated in education and tourism. The big miners may lose big dollars, but they have even bigger reserves. Australia’s universities and tourism operators are much less well-prepared, and much more likely to come under stress from the coronavirus epidemic.

Reject division

Jacinta Nampijinpa Price, Simon Cowan

20 February 2020 | IDEAS@THECENTRE

Last week the Prime Minister delivered the latest (not) Closing the Gap report, which again shows how little progress has been made in the 12 years since the “Gap” targets and process started.

In many areas, although progress has actually been made in absolute terms, Indigenous outcomes have merely kept pace with improvements in non-Indigenous society.

It was interesting that the Closing the Gap report was delivered the same week the High Court took the rather radical step of recognising (or more accurately creating) a new category of person: an Indigenous non-citizen non-alien, who it seems has an undefined right to remain in Australia notwithstanding the operation of the Migration Act.

This shows the clear divisions at the heart of Indigenous policy in Australia.

The aim of Closing the Gap is to create unity between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. However it’s hard to think of an action more likely to be divisive than creating a vague legal entitlement enjoyed exclusively by a subset of people with Indigenous heritage, which operates completely outside our system of government.

There are a number of practical problems with this.

First, it is surprising that so soon after Indigenous activists were up in arms about the appropriateness of government inquiring into whether a person is or is not Indigenous, so many would be cheering a decision that has at its heart the need to prove indigeneity to government.

It has other problems as well, however this did not stop the court determining that, as if by osmosis, a person who claims to be Aboriginal or has a single Aboriginal ancestor somewhere in the family tree has a deep spiritual connection to Australia as a land mass.

Clearly, the approach that has governed Indigenous affairs for a number of years, focusing on symbolic gestures and separatist thinking behind the Voice to Parliament and this recent High Court judgment, is not working.

These decisions and policies are supposedly aimed at upholding the rights of Indigenous Australians and improving their lives.

So far all that has transpired is a struggle for power within Indigenous communities, further complications, and further division of the nation along racial lines.

As can be seen in the Closing the Gap statement, it has not translated to positive outcomes for marginalised Aboriginal Australians in remote communities. There has been no shortage of money, but there is no evidence that this money has been spent effectively.

This is an edited extract of an opinion piece published in the Canberra Times as Closing the gap requires us to reject separatism

Not learning to teach

Mitchell Thomas

20 February 2020 | IDEAS@THECENTRE

As students returned to school recently, a new crop of graduate teachers was well-equipped to talk to them about the politics of diversity and the deconstruction of traditional education.

Sociology, diversity in education and debates over education funding have taken precedence over the teaching of literacy, numeracy and basic classroom management skills for new teachers.

At UTS, cultural competence is the chief goal of Beyond Culture: Diversity in Context. The subject analyses different features of culture like multiculturalism, indigeneity and disability which it claims are vital to the practice of teaching.

Critical Studies in Education and Practice at Charles Sturt University critiques traditional education methods through the prism of sexuality, ethics, citizenship and social sustainability. These are all put forward as necessary ways to modernise education.

Similarly, Teachers as Educational Innovators and Agents of Change at the University of Queensland tells students they need to bring a technological edge to their role as innovators of change. The outline states that this is a vital part of being “a future educational innovator and agent of change in classrooms and schools”.

These are just some of the baseline requirements universities have deemed essential for teacher education degrees across the country.

Before the 1990s, teachers were educated in specialist institutions before they were absorbed by the university sector.

Salisbury Teachers College – now part of the University of South Australia – outlined the necessities of teaching in the student handbook of 1968. The only time social institutions are mentioned is in the context of class management and child interaction.

In the course outline of 1960, Newcastle Teachers College summarised the importance of good social development of kids, child pedagogy and perception. It also looks at how to avoid straining the attention of young children for too long.

The modern belief that technology, cultural diversity, learning needs or even globalisation has changed the nature of teaching is fundamentally misguided.

The only thing that has changed is Australian universities and the decision to minimise the importance of teaching methods that work. This has reduced the quality of teaching degrees and with it the quality of teachers themselves.

Mitchell Thomas undertook a research internship in the Education Program at the Centre for Independent Studies.