Tuesday, April 23, 2013

ANZAC Biscuits

My lightbulb moment happened when I collected the post.  Six glossy pages about ANZAC Day from Rowan Ramsay - the Liberal Member for the seat of Grey.  He sends something similar each year - to re-enforce his personal commitment to the British colonial view of our history.  At least he hasn't yet erected a billboard.

It's a six page glossy brochure with "must have" information - like how to make an ANZAC biscuit and the history of "The Dawn Service".  It will have cost a pretty penny - but nothing is too good for the people of Grey.

Not for him the alternative view of our history.  Like many Liberals Rowan chooses to emphasise our nation's colonial roots rather than those of our Aboriginal heritage.  And an unnatural and extreme Liberal focus on ANZAC Day is all part of that little charade.

It's surprising really - given that Grey has such a large population of indigenous Australian's.  Perhaps they already know how to make ANZAC biscuits.

There are important things happening on the other side of politics that far outweigh these feeble attempts by the conservatives to re-activate the history wars and to distract us.

In my view - nothing is more important for the nation - than the education of our children - and that is why Gonski is special.  The Gonski Review was the most comprehensive investigation of the way schools are funded in Australia in almost 40 years.

David Gonski found Australia is investing far too little in education and in particular in public schools.

As a consequence, too many students are missing out on the resources they need and there are growing gaps in the achievements of students from different backgrounds.

Now I know that many Liberals don't get it - which is why they prefer to glorify failed battles from 100 years ago - but if you want a real future for your kids and for the nation then you should support the Gonski recommendations.

A big first step was taken today with Liberal Premier Barry O'Farrell getting on board.  Congratulations NSW.

And recently I had a mate tell me a story about how he tests school leavers for apprenticeships.  One of his maths tests is to calculate the noggin length between two wall studs - each of 35mm width and spaced on 600mm centres.  Simple mental arithmetic produces 565mm - but that was unable to be calculated by most in a recent test of 5 kids.

And that Virginia is a practical example of why Gonski is so important.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

There was a time

There was a time when I thought that we would end up as the *clever country*.

Back in the 1970's and 1980's there was a heap of innovation and creativity going on across many of our enterprises. My experience is with civil engineering but I know of lots of other industries that were "going for it" at top speed.

The thing that drove much of this was information technology. This was the dawn of the IT arena and many of us could see that being creative with software would reap enormous benefit across our enterprises and for the nation generally.

And fortunately we had access to all the computing hardware that we needed - most of these brand names are now long gone. Does anyone else remember Data General, Prime, Cromemco and Osborne?

Many of my colleagues and I invested untold hours in software systems that were used to design, document, construct and manage large infrastructure projects both here in Australia and overseas. Roads, bridges, housing subdivisions, ports and even entire towns were on the list. The productivity gains of our systems enabled efficiency across many of these areas.

We all thought there was no stopping us and that this would certainly lead to the *clever country*. How naive we were?

But in the early 1990's here in Australia it all stopped - suddenly. We didn't realise what was going on at the time but it appeared as though the nation had entered a time warp where many projects just disappeared into the Tardis.

Of course it was the Tricontinental and State Bank and related disasters in Victoria and South Australia and elsewhere that disappeared them. And aside from all the financial hardship it caused, I reckon it also killed off much creativity and innovation.

Because as we recovered from those disasters, everyone started looking at how to minimise risk - and that led the nation to start its multi decade long fascination with housing.

So the opportunity to become the *clever country* was lost back there in the 1990's - and now we just buy houses from each other and dig up minerals and send them to China.

And old blokes like me who still work with software get weird glances when we are sitting in cafes staring at our laptops - because these days apparently no-one else does that. Most people think a job is something that involves a shovel or a ute or a noisy power tool of some sort.

I have lost count of the number of times that someone berates me because they think I am playing games or watching porn or checking the tatts numbers or some other endeavour that they disapprove of. No-one thinks that anyone in AU could possibly make a living using an actual computer.

And to think that I was naive enough to imagine that we could ever become the *clever country*.

I think I will join Opus Dei and get the brothers to regularly remind me of my stupidity.