Tag: auspol

Dear  Pauline Hanson: Autistic children are not the flaw in our education system.

Dear Pauline Hanson: Autistic children are not the flaw in our education system.

Dear Pauline Hanson,

When I first heard you proposed that autistic (and other disabled) children be removed from mainstream classes, I was angry. You asked Australia to go back and review exactly what you said in context. So I did.

I’m no longer angry. I’m frustrated and disappointed.

You argue that teachers are too preoccupied with children who have special needs to adequately attend to the rest of their class–and you are correct. You are absolutely correct.

But this preoccupation isn’t due to children with autism or disabilities being present. And children with different abilities are not placed in “mainstream” classes to make them “feel included” or “less hurt”.

Allow me to explain.

  1. ALL children in the classroom have special needs.

    All of them. No exceptions. The way that we teach children is fundamentally flawed, it accounts for only the tiniest percentage of people who learn effectively in a traditional classroom environment.

    This environment is only just beginning to acknowledge students who learn best by methods outside of lecture and repetition. It is only just beginning to recognise that there are intelligences outside of being able to recite times tables.

    In a classroom the variation of ability is not as simple as disabled and non-disabled. No two kids are at exactly the same level in every aspect of their education, and teachers are charged with understanding each individual child to help develop their weaknesses and provide pathways to excel in their strengths.

    Teaching to a range of learner types, at very different stages of learning, is an enormous challenge. Especially in the primary system where one teacher is responsible for the general education of an entire class.

    Our system doesn’t allow for the attention that every child should get. It just doesn’t. Teachers are pretty marvellous beings, but even so, a single teacher can only be in so many places at once. The issue isn’t too many children with special needs, it’s too many children competing for the attention of one. It’s a classroom system that doesn’t cater for the different ways in which children learn.

  2. Autism is not always a negative in the classroom.

    Children with autism are often especially gifted in a particular area, “leaps and bounds” ahead of the others as you put it. They aren’t holding anyone back. Teachers could–and should!–encourage autistic (or any) children with a particular gift to work with their classmates who may be struggling in that area.

    Why? Learning to help others is a lesson in patience. It’s a lesson in truly understanding what you’re teaching. It’s a lesson in cooperation. It’s a lesson in communicating. Learning to work with others is knowledge you can’t just get off Google–and this is what we need to be preparing our kids for more and more. Information is great, but social and communication skills are far more important.

  3. Mixed-ability classrooms develop social skills and tolerance in all.

    School isn’t about learning facts anymore. It’s learning how to exist in the world, and how to be a good person. When you rob a classroom of its diversity, you create a false world where differences are abnormal. Children are then not socialised with those outside of what they know, and rather than viewing each other as peers they see aliens. People they don’t feel they can understand.

    The best way to teach children how diverse and wonderful humans can be is to have that representation in the classroom.

    For children with aspects of autism, socialising may not come naturally. Having examples of their peers on which to model and test their behaviour is one of the most effective interventions you can get. I act as “normally” as I do almost entirely due to my observation of others my age—an opportunity I would not have had if I were segregated out of a mainstream class.

  4. Autistic children are not all the same.

    Not even close. If you imagine the range of life and academic skills as a bar graph, the level of the bars for an average person doesn’t vary very much from skill to skill. They have strengths and weaknesses, but overall it’s pretty level.

    In a person diagnosed with autism, these bars are all over the place. Language abilities may be a huge tower, but mathematical skills is almost 0. Psychologists call it a ‘spiky profile’ of abilities. Autism is an intense variation in strengths and weaknesses. My social skills (very low in early childhood) might render me “disabled” but my language abilities (very high) say the opposite. What would happen to children like me in a special school? Would my gifts be forgotten in a room designed to rectify weaknesses?

    You can’t solve the issue of teacher attention by taking out all the kids who are classed “autistic”. You actually make it worse. What you have there is that same mix of different abilities as you find in a regular classroom… on steroids. A single teacher, however superhuman, will not be able to provide that group with the learning support they need.

  5. A child needing intensive teacher support should not be relying on the main classroom teacher for it.

    What you seem to be referring to are children who are so challenged by their autistic traits that they require extensive teacher support. That does indeed drain the teacher’s time.

    These children should have aides. Someone dedicated to providing the learning support they require so that it doesn’t impact the teacher’s ability to teach the rest of the class.

In short, segregating a subset of children from classrooms will not work. You simply recreate the same issue in two different classrooms. A teacher with no “disabled” children still needs to cater for an incredible range of intelligences and learning types. It robs children of their ability to learn from each other, actively and passively. It robs them of the chance to understand someone different to who they are.

The system is the fault, not the children in it. A system that expects teachers to effectively manage and balance their time between so many variables. A system that requires schools and parents to jump through fiery rings of paperwork just to provide one child with the support they need. A system that devalues the complex work our teachers do, while asking more and more of them every day.

Our schools need help. Our teachers need help. If we truly want to create an education system we’re proud of, we need to invest in it. Get aides beside those children who need them. Let our children learn from each other. Bring down classroom sizes and let our teachers bring out the best in all of their students. Let them teach rather than tying their hands with paperwork and ineffective testing standards.

This isn’t about avoiding the “hurt feelings” of children with autism. This is about ensuring that all our kids get a well-rounded education.

And we need to all be in it. Together.

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Did we just assume that icon’s gender?

Did we just assume that icon’s gender?

In a mind-boggling bid to reduce subconscious gender-bias in Victoria, lobby group Committee for Melbourne announced plans to pursue a 1:1 ratio of male and female icons at pedestrian crossings. A trial has been approved by VicRoads and the first lights have been changed in Melbourne already.  So far the costs of changing fittings have been absorbed by a local electrical company. Meaning, thankfully, the tax payer isn’t funding this madness.

Yes, I think it’s utterly mad. Not because I am against gender equality–far from it. In addition to being a rather pointless exercise that will likely have no effect on the public whatsoever, I feel that this is a step backward for gender equality.

Firstly, the icon presents as a woman because it wears a skirt. Forget for a moment that some poor person had to try (and failed) to design a skirt-wearing icon that didn’t look like it had broken legs. Just… try to forget that while your brain screams about how the leg shouldn’t be going that way–ohgod it looks painful! Forget it. Forget!

This isn’t some back-water conservative town–this is Melbourne, so why do we have to put a skirt on it to call the icon a woman?

Because that’s what we’ve always used to denote a woman?

Sure, but that doesn’t make it right to perpetuate the skirt-wearing female icon in a state that considers itself to be progressive, in 2017.

Women wear pants too, it’s one of the wonderful things about being liberated and equal to men. We probably already have a 1:1 ratio of male to female pedestrian crossing icons. Did anyone ask them? Did we just assume the gender of all those icons?

It’s a step backwards for complete gender equality, too. Adding a skirt to an icon represents nothing more than a clothing choice in a progressive society where gender barriers and bias are truly broken down.

There are more gender expressions than ‘male’ and ‘female’, there are more ways to physically represent those genders than there are stars in the sky–is every Victorian going to get their own pedestrian icon carefully designed to represent their gender?

I would argue that the addition of a skirt only adds more gender bias, not less. It reinforces the idea of a binary gender system in a very destructive way. It reinforces the concept of a woman as some skirt-wearing broken-legged being, a particular presentation of a woman that we have tried to get away from!

A pedestrian crossing icon is just that. If it means so much to reduce subconscious gender-bias by changing the street fixtures, take away the icon altogether. Make it a pair of genderless legs! It doesn’t actually matter.

What matters is that we approach equality for all, not just for the traditionally accepted models of gender.

Otherwise, what’s the point?

Photo: Twitter / Nine News

For we are young and free speech is illegal?

For we are young and free speech is illegal?

Free speech is being choked out of us by restrictive laws! You can’t say anything anymore! Torch the Racial Discrimination Sections 18c and 18d!

While it may be true that the social consequences of ‘you can’t say that!’ are getting trickier to navigate, the legal restrictions on ‘free speech’ in the Racial Discrimination Act (1975) are actually quite straight forward.

Senator Cory Bernardi is calling on Australians to ‘defend free speech’ with adjustments to RDA section 18c by removing the words ‘insult’ and ‘offend’ from the following:

Offensive behaviour because of race, colour or national or ethnic origin

             (1)  It is unlawful for a person to do an act, otherwise than in private, if:

                     (a)  the act is reasonably likely, in all the circumstances, to offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate another person or a group of people; and

                     (b)  the act is done because of the race, colour or national or ethnic origin of the other person or of some or all of the people in the group.

The practical effect of such a semantic switch would be akin to giving your toddler a brick to smash his toe with, rather than a mallet.

Bernardi claims that the law ‘should not concern itself with feelings’, and perhaps he has a point there–it’s tough enough to apply law to cold hard facts, why should someone’s feelings be considered also?

First of all, because the Racial Discrimination Act is designed to build a social structure that includes and welcomes everyone, regardless of race or ethnicity. Where groups are publicly made to feel less than others in community spaces, that destroys any sense of inclusion they may have had. Feelings are at the very core of this law.

Secondly, Bernardi has only picked ‘offend’ and ‘insult’ from the list of harms. ‘Humiliation’ is also a feeling, as is ‘intimidation’. To exclude all feelings from the practice of this law would take away any meaning. The only means by which racial vilification could be proved is by non-emotions based evidence: physical assault, statistics, and other symptoms that appear long after insults have bred into negative attitudes.

The truth is, removing two words does very little to change the way this law would work. Someone who is ‘insulted’ may no longer be able to claim this in court, but ‘insulted’ persons often feel ‘humiliated’, the practical applications of the law would not change at all.

Changing this law is an exercise in futile grandstanding, a politician who seeks to whip up support by claiming the political left is choking Australia’s right to free speech. Which would be all well and good, if he had any plan to do something substantial about it.

Note that this is also included:

Note:          Subsection (1) makes certain acts unlawful. Section 46P of the Australian Human Rights Commission Act 1986 allows people to make complaints to the Australian Human Rights Commission about unlawful acts. However, an unlawful act is not necessarily a criminal offence. Section 26 says that this Act does not make it an offence to do an act that is unlawful because of this Part, unless Part IV expressly says that the act is an offence.

These acts are unlawful but they are not considered criminal offenses. Charges are not brought by the state against the person, they are civil complaints that are handled by the Australian Human Rights Commission.

This is not the same as being prosecuted in criminal court.

So let’s have a good look at the RDA sections in question, 18c and 18d, and see just how restricted our free speech really is!

Section 18c (a) makes it pretty clear that it is unlawful to do anything (other than in private) that could upset someone if the reason for doing it rests on their being of a certain race/ethnicity/religion/etc.

That seems fair to me. I could agree with repealing this law if it meant that Australians were going to act on common sense and what their mothers taught them. It’s unfortunate that we need laws to teach us not to be dicks to each other. Be nice to each other, unless you’re in a private space.

(2)  For the purposes of subsection (1), an act is taken not to be done in private if it:

                     (a)  causes words, sounds, images or writing to be communicated to the public; or

                     (b)  is done in a public place; or

                     (c)  is done in the sight or hearing of people who are in a public place.

“public place ” includes any place to which the public have access as of right or by invitation, whether express or implied and whether or not a charge is made for admission to the place.

A public place can be considered as anywhere that you might reasonably have an ‘audience’, whether that’s via public media, social networks, or community spaces. Places where you are likely to be heard or seen by the persons you are speaking against, and where your actions can directly affect them.

This is especially important for journalists, politicians, and other prominent personalities who may have their words taken as fact.

The law is not telling you that you can’t have an opinion. The law isn’t telling you that you can’t voice your opinion to your mates. It clearly states that negative acts that are racially motivated are not accepted in community spaces and media.

While we’re on the subject of voicing opinions, there are some exceptions to 18c:

Section 18C does not render unlawful anything said or done reasonably and in good faith:

                     (a)  in the performance, exhibition or distribution of an artistic work;

Artistic work is ‘free speech’ at its best. Art is how we express the state of the social structure, art is how our society will be seen by generations after us. We understand history by Shakespeare, Picasso and Mozart–Australians of the future will experience our society in a similar way.

Art shows us a reflection of what is, and inspires us to change. That is why it’s more acceptable to enact discrimination via artistic means. Art is supposed to challenge us and make us feel, to be confronting.

(b)  in the course of any statement, publication, discussion or debate made or held for any genuine academic, artistic or scientific purpose or any other genuine purpose in the public interest;

If what you are saying is proven fact, you cannot be sued. Even if the fact is hurtful or humiliating, it is not unfair nor unjust to speak it in a public setting. This passage also provides immunity for discriminatory practices used in research on how and why people discriminate, and debates on society and discrimination.

This allows us to openly discuss what discrimination is, and what discriminating attitudes we might feel ourselves as we open our minds to understanding the subjects of those attitudes. Discrimination is a social issue, and not one we should run from.

If you are expressing a view that is unacceptable under 18c, but is for the purposes of learning or is proven fact, you are protected by 18d.

(c)  in making or publishing:

                              (i)  a fair and accurate report of any event or matter of public interest; or

                             (ii)  a fair comment on any event or matter of public interest if the comment is an expression of a genuine belief held by the person making the comment.

For those of you who were wondering where your right to an opinion went, here it is.

If you honestly, truly, believe in what you’re saying, you might be ignorant but you cannot be sued. This is why politicians like Pauline Hanson, who openly expresses her reservations about multicultural aspects of Australia, are not sued under 18c. She has an opinion that she wholly believes, has built a platform upon it, and though she offends and insults a lot of people over public media–she can’t be sued on ignorance alone.

The first part of (c) allows news outlets to report what occurred, without fear of litigation. If an attack occurred that was carried out by persons of a single race, so long as the account of the event is true and void of opinion-based speculation (unless written in an article stated as opinion) there are no grounds for litigation.

In summary:

Truth, common sense, and respect for others are the core values at the heart of The Racial Discrimination Act (1975) Sections 18c and 18d. The law and these amendments in no way infringe on anyone’s right to speak the truth, only restricting the unfounded fear-mongering hate rhetoric that injures others and damages Australia’s chances at an inclusive society.

If Bernardi wants to preserve ‘free speech’, he needs to do more than try and remove a few words. He needs to help Australia understand what free speech is, and what is appropriate according to the existing law. His changes won’t have any functional effect, just another distraction in Canberra.

Who really invested in jobs and growth? An economic comparison of Australian Prime Ministers.

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If you’re looking to make an informed vote based on economic strength this Saturday, here are some numbers worth looking at. The Australia Institute has released a paper analysing the economic performance of Australian governments from Menzies onward.

 
Independent and non-partisan research organisation The Australia Institute released a new research paper, ‘Jobs and growth… and a few hard numbers‘, illustrating the economic performance of Australian prime ministers across a broad range of economic indicators.
The Coalition’s constant reminder of Labor’s ability to take a government budget in clear surplus and turn it into deficit and debt (as Rudd did following Howard*) seems to have resonated with the Australian public. Polls show the Coalition leads public trust in economic matters, but how much of that is influenced by political spin, and who do the numbers support for ‘best economic management’?

Here are some highlights of the report.

* Note that while the Howard government passed a surplus to Rudd (that he famously destroyed and put the government into debt), the debt was accumulated in the roll out of Rudd’s stimulus packages during the global financial crisis.  And what is a budget surplus if not unallocated funds to cushion a country in unexpected economic crisis? That is precisely what Rudd did, and may have been the best economic management the country has seen—ever.
On innovation investment growth:
The investment of the Abbott/Turnbull governments for innovation is less than that of the Rudd and Gillard governments. The Coalition’s claim that they are the masterminds behind a more innovative Australia is branding at best. By dollars invested, the ALP was leading this as far back as Rudd.
 
On business investment growth:
Once again, the LNP under Abbott/Turnbull fails to put its money where its mouth is. For a party that claims to support ‘jobs and growth’ by investing in business, it’s a little worrying to see the lowest business investment numbers since the Whitlam government. Interestingly, the Gillard government comes out on top here, followed by Howard and his lauded surplus.

On GDP per capita growth:
Only the Rudd government performed worse than the Abbott/Turnbull duo in this category. Remembering that both governments have been victims of difficult economic times, you might be ready to shrug it off. The Gillard government’s result matches Abbott/Turnbull at 1.1% a year each—so where exactly does this idea that the ALP under Gillard was worse at economic management come from?

It’s nothing more than warping the interpretation of statistics to claim that Rudd ‘failed in economic management’ because the numbers reflect the initial hit of the GFC, and his spend-more response.

On jobs and wages growth:
Of particular interest to those of you who like to eat, and who need the money to invest in food to indulge in the luxury of eating: wages growth has suffered under the Abbott/Turnbull government.

Falling from 1.2% per year under Gillard to -0.6 per year under the Coalition. Personal income growth fell from 0.7% to 0.3% per year. This doesn’t look much like ‘jobs and growth’. This looks more like ‘underpaid and starving’.

Remember that in this time, while wages are falling, living expenses are still inflating. The average postage stamp costs $1 and public transport fares increase every January 1st. Wages should be growing to support those costs, not shrinking.

On household debt growth:
This is where it gets scary. This is where we see the sort of ‘growth’ Abbott/Turnbull have really shared with the Australian public.

The Gillard government saw the fall of household debt growth from 1.5% pts per year to 0.9% pts per year. Rudd had already drastically reduced that number from Howard’s 4.3% pts per year. In the short time of the Coalition’s rule, Gillard’s 0.9% has become 5.5% pts per year.
The Coalition, though allegedly committed to reducing government debts, seems to be doing so at the cost of households.
Record low wages and income growth coupled with record increase in household debt. Not really something you’d want to boast about. 

On allegedly reducing government debt:
So there’s some numerical support here. Some. Under Rudd, government debt growth hit a record 3.3% pts per year. As noted at the top of the article, a large chunk of that growth was in response to the global financial crisis, and a government that was determined to out-spend economic disaster.
It was Gillard who saw this come down to 2.3% pts per year, and Abbott/Turnbull have so far only succeeded in reducing this to 2.2% pts per year. Achievement, or the result of a trend started before they took power? Either way, to claim that the Coalition is better at managing finances than the ALP is like trying to claim that five twenty cent coins is better than a dollar coin.

On the GDP and economic growth:
If you look at the numbers as they’re typically presented (by average GDP growth per year), you’d be fooled into thinking that Rudd was a terrible economic manager. Abbott/Turnbull are too willing to boast their 2.60% growth against Rudd’s 2.17%, though they notably forget that Gillard tops the three recent governments with a growth of 2.75%. Essentially, GDP growth has stalled since the Coalition came into power, and that is not what they would have us believe.

To look at the numbers a different way, and the way they perhaps should be measured, is to compare those growth rates against the rest of the world–against the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development or OECD. This gives a picture of how each government performed against other countries during the same economic period.

That is, Rudd’s performance against other governments faced with the GFC, Howard’s performance in relatively stable times, etc. To compare governments directly with each other is somewhat unfair, as they each faced different situations in global economics.

This data, displayed by the percentage above the average GDP percentage growth across the OECD tells a vastly different story than a comparison of Australian governments to each other ever will.

Abbott/Turnbull sits just 0.62% above the average OECD GDP, behind Howard (honoured alleged economic mastermind) and his 0.85% above. Gillard shows in at 1.04% above (yes, performing better globally in her time in office than Abbott/Turnbull has in theirs), but is eclipsed by Rudd who saw 2.89% above the falling OECD GDP. Australia grew stronger economically while the world struggled not to grind to a halt.

Part of that? The Labor government under Rudd utilising the budget surplus (and then some) to keep the economy moving. The big ‘economic mis-management’ that Abbott/Turnbull love to trot out under the terms ‘government over-spending’ and ‘increased debt’. Did Rudd spend too much? Possibly. We will never really know what the minimum spend would have been to keep Australia rolling during the crisis.

What we do know, is that we saw growth in that period. The measures saw results.

Tl;dr:

Turnbull would have you believe that Australia is headed toward a stronger economy with more ‘jobs and growth’.
However, the numbers on prior performance indicate that the only ‘jobs’ we will see are going to be underpaid, and ‘growth’ is likely to be in household debt.
To claim that Turnbull and the Coalition are more equipped to handle Australia’s economy than the ALP is laughable at best, and certainly not supported by the data in this report.

How the #faketradie advert missed the millennial market

Normally, articles that claim there’s some special tactic to engaging millennials make me rather irritable. They’re all over business networks like LinkedIn, guru upon guru offering a magic formula of gimmicks and hashtags that is bound to bring in the next wave of decision makers.

I don’t believe the answer is that elusive, and yet, politicians especially are getting it so incredibly wrong.

Why is political advertising to millennials such a big deal?

As of March 31st 2016, roughly 2,879,760 Australians on the electoral roll were aged thirty or below. Out of the enrolled population of 15,468,329 that’s 18.62%. Almost a fifth of voters in this election are Generation Y or later. The ever-elusive millennial market.

With those sorts of numbers, this demographic may well decide the outcome. And unlike their more traditional parents and grandparents, they are less likely to vote for the party their family does.

Aren’t millennials politically apathetic?

It’s an unfortunate assumption. Millennials are largely swing voters, far more likely to change who they vote for based on past performance, policy, and media representation. This means that awareness of what the politician has done, and is planning to do, is incredibly important in helping millennials make their decision at the ballot box.

Right. So advertising is still important. Isn’t that what the Coalition’s advert was for?

I would assume first that it wasn’t targeted at millennials, or at least–I hope not. But even as we break it down in terms of what millennials look for when confronted with advertising campaigns, there are a number of things that still ring true no matter what generation you’re from.

Advertising in general has entered a stage where audiences are too skeptical and too analytical to accept adverts at face value. Overwhelming streams of advertising messages shoved under our noses every day mean we’ve learned to pick, choose, and decide for ourselves what rings true.

Millennials especially have grown up native to this environment. They’re ready to spot the flaw in your message.

Breaking it down: #FakeTradie is… well, fake.

Two things are truly starting to shine in advertising: humour and authenticity. Spots that entertain will be memorable and shared, while spots that are authentic will allow a connection to the audience by passing ‘authenticity’ filters that digital natives have created to help them deal with the onslaught of advertising messages.

The Coalition’s advert isn’t (supposed to be) funny. To resonate with millennial audiences especially, it must then be honest, straight-forward, only make claims that can be tested and proven, and the tone of the message must be one that is positive if it really wants to drive a call to action.

Millennials do not respond well to scare campaigns. Typical political adverts that seek to discredit the opposition are largely ignored the way their parents ignored them trying to get their siblings in trouble. You’ll say anything if you want someone else to look bad.

They’re also more likely to fact-check before forming an opinion. Not only that, where they find discrepancies in the claims, they will speak up. The internet has given digital natives a platform for revealing truths that shouldn’t be underestimated.

The largest issue with what has been dubbed the #FakeTradie advert is that from the set, to the script, to the appearance of a man claiming to be a tradesman outraged by Labor’s policies, nothing felt authentic enough for the message to come through.

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They used an actor though. That’s what actors do! They act!

Actually, that was an incorrect assumption. The alleged ‘actor’ is a metalworker in Sydney–a real tradesman! Unfortunately, he’s become the face of a campaign that tried so hard to be relatable it became a mockery of itself.

Builders across Australia were quick to point out the safety hazards visible on set, the lack of dirt on his clothes, and even the ceramic mug which ‘would be hard to get on a real building site’. All of these clues took away from the sense of the actor being a true tradie (even though he is!), and increasingly the impression was left of a government trying to put words in tradie’s mouths.

And the words were…

For anyone who wasn’t put off by the visuals in the advert, the script offered a whole new layer of fake. It was like watching an alien try to mimic human contact for the first time.

That Malcolm Turnbull and his party are largely made up of wealthy white Australians that attended private schools and wouldn’t know how to catch a real tram is no secret–the game is up! We know!

The Coalition’s attempts relating to, and ‘understanding middle class Australians’, have been nothing short of horrific. From catching public transport with a mob of cameras to prove how ‘normal’ he is, to claiming that children should be able to ask their parents for loans into the housing market, Turnbull has proven time and time again the disconnect between himself and the average Australian.

Which honestly wouldn’t be so terrible if he just accepted it, and stopped trying to force something he clearly isn’t.

If he stood up tomorrow and said, ‘Average Australians, I really have no idea what your life is like, so these advisors here are going to help me make decisions on what is best for you.’ I would applaud that. I would applaud a Prime Minister who stood up and admitted that he didn’t understand something but was making a move to try.

Admittedly… only if those said advisors were people who did understand what life is like down here.

Phrases like ‘stick with the current mob for a while’ are so bizarre and almost stereotypical to what foreigners believe Australians sound like that once again, the Coalition’s advert does little more than underline the vast disconnect between their lives and ours.

Those were not the words of an authentic tradie. The advert failed the authenticity filter, and earned itself a spot in #auspol ridicule, even gaining its own hashtag: #faketradie.

What could have been done better?

Aside from everything, and taking the Coalition’s policies out of the equation (this article is about millennials and political advertising, not a political view point. The Coalition is not the only party to get this wrong!), a few basic steps could have been taken to improve the authenticity of the advert.

Rather than putting scripted words into a perfect set, interviews ‘on the street’ with tradesmen at work would have gone down much better. Close up shot of a tradesman, still grubby, busy building site in the far view (far enough away that everyone is safe!). Voicing opinions in their own words, just as they would to their mates.

More clarity on the tradesman’s issues with the Labor party would definitely have improved the message, rather than vague phrases like ‘go to war’ that are designed to wind people up without explanation. Millennials especially want to know facts.

How is Labor going to war on our banks? How does the Liberal/National Party plan to do things differently?

Political advertising needs to shift, and fast, if it wants to capture new voters as they enroll.

Attack-based advertisments are (thank goodness) going to lose effectiveness as the younger generations systematically ignore or research the truth of them.

Political adverts will need to adapt the way that other advertising has adapted in response to regulations on false claims, by either entertaining the audience or by connecting in a meaningful and honest way.

Oh. And by advertising the actual policies with facts and figures, so we know what we’re voting for. That… would be rather nice, I think.

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Marriage equality plebiscite: expensive and expected to fail?

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‘This plebiscite is being set up to fail. We’re being played.’ article by Matt Akersten inspired the following comments.

How the plebiscite will be counted, and what determines a ‘win’ is incredibly important information. It will determine the type and level of campaigning needed.

Why campaigning? Isn’t this an issue of personal beliefs?

Well, yes. It is. No one wants to see campaigning on this issue, because it’s going to get ugly. It’s going to get personal. It’s most likely going to damage some of the most vulnerable citizens in Australia: those who already struggle with being accepted by the wider community.

Think if someone took a core aspect of yourself, and aggressively campaigned against your right to be that way.

This doesn’t just apply to votes against marriage equality, either. Voters for can be just as aggressive in their tactics, attacking religion (another closely held part of some people) as being wrong and influencing ‘wrong attitudes’. Whatever you believe on the issues of homosexuality or religion, I think we can all agree that no one deserves to be attacked in that way.

But it will happen, and depending on how the plebiscite is counted, it will need to happen. Why? Because the outcome will be decided by the vast majority: people who are absolutely indifferent to whether marriage equality is a thing or not. It doesn’t carry any weight in their lives, and they will vote in accordance with how they feel on the day.

Unless they are brought over to one side or another. It will be the voting equivalent of Hungry Hungry Hippos, with both sides trying to snap up as many indifferent voters as they can before the poll.

And like Hungry Hungry Hippos with my siblings, it is going to get extremely ugly.

What do you mean, ‘how it’s counted matters’?

Plebiscites can be counted in a number of different ways, and the rules will be decided by the governing party (if the Coalition retains government, the plebiscite will go ahead and they will make the rules).

It may follow the rules of a constitutional referendum, and if it does—the pro-marriage equality movement is dead in the water.

To succeed, a referendum is determined by the majority of citizens in an electorate, the majority of electorates in a state, and then a majority of states in the country.

That means that even if 40% of electorates in Victoria get a 95% ‘yes’ vote, because 60% were determined ‘no’, the state votes ‘no’.

But—if only Queensland and Victoria are determined as ‘no’ votes, the referendum can still pass as the majority of states in the country have voted ‘yes’. Referendums almost always fail.

Referendums are also legally binding, meaning the government -must- act on the outcome of the vote. Plebiscites are not, and are meant to serve as guidance for members of parliament in how they should proceed in the way that best reflects their electorate.

Situation: Risky.

How the plebiscite will be counted hasn’t been revealed yet. Either it hasn’t been decided, or the Coalition is staying tight-lipped for a reason. An outcome of ‘no’ could see marriage equality shelved for years or more, and we may see an outcome of ‘no’ simply due to the number of people who don’t really care, and don’t understand why anything needs to change.

A conscience vote in parliament is an equally risky move. It would allow MPs to vote based on what they feel to be right, whether that’s a personal belief or one based on what they feel their electorate wants (which you’d hope they consider at all times). It allows MPs to vote against party lines if they need to.

Whichever path we take, it will be a risk. It may prove expensive. Marriage equality is inevitable in the future, but at what rate Australia catches up to the rest of the world is unfortunately for the government to decide.

If you don’t care, just vote ‘yes’.

In the mean time, if you have a view and you know people who don’t care—share it with them. Encourage them to research and find their own position on the matter, because if the plebiscite goes ahead, their vote will have an impact.

And if they aren’t motivated to find their own opinion, ask them to vote yes. It won’t change their own lives, but it could make someone else’s life complete.

If it doesn’t matter to you, vote yes for someone it does matter to.

The horror! Labor wants children taught about complex gender topics

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Some pretty excellent promotional material for Labor and the Greens, in my opinion.

I actually thought this was satire at first.

Few thoughts. One, where else should kids learn about these ‘extreme’ identities? The internet? That’s going to end well. No kid was ever confused by information on the internet. Parents, yes—but if we can have someone who is trained in dealing with the tricky questions that children are going to ask of themselves in the most confusing period of their lives, I think that’s a pretty good support for parents to have.

Also, how exactly does any of this give schools the ability to ‘decide’ that parental consent isn’t required for -medical- things? That’s just out-and-out scare mongering.

‘Transgender boys can use girls’ toilets’ is an odd statement, when you think about it. Which identity are we talking about? The one they feel, or the one they were born with? Cause ‘transgender boys’ meaning someone who is male-to-female is actually a ‘transgender girl’ and it’s mis-gendering someone. But then if it’s meaning someone who is female-to-male using the girl’s toilets, the people who wrote this are probably perfectly okay with that.

Why does it matter, and why does it matter to me?

Because the concept of gender is a ridiculous social construct that traditionally defines two very separate expectations based on a single piece of anatomy. We don’t expect things from people based on the look of their ankles or the straightness of their nose—why should any other body part define what someone else expects from you?

Favourite colours, careers, toy preferences, interests, behaviours, and so much more are defined by ‘boy’ or ‘girl’. Blue or pink? Transgender and other gender identities challenge that concept, and the more they are accepted the more freedom those who do identify with their born gender will experience too. It won’t be weird for a young boy to love playing with a toy vacuum. Or for a grown man to cry when he’s upset.

Yes, it is confusing. It’s a deeply confusing subject that adults find difficult to comprehend—it was something we were sheltered from, something that we learned about when there was no longer someone there to guide us through comprehension.

You know. Like a school would do.

No one is setting out to ‘confuse’ or ‘befuddle’ children into an alternate gender identity. The goal is to ensure that all kids are aware of the multitude of options and people that are out there, to understand their own minds and bodies better, and to gain respect and understanding for those who are not the same as they are.

It’s about helping kids be comfortable with who they are (and they know themselves better than anyone), and with those around them. Education is key to growing respectful citizens for the future.

This pamphlet? In my opinion, absolute trash.