Community highlights – debt, sport and politics

Even the most dedicated Conversation reader will miss the occasional comment. That’s why we put together Community Highlights posts – a list of comments that have caught our eye in the past week. Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments.

Post-budget analysis continued in articles and the community. Michelle Grattan wrote that the Government needed to get its “tin ear fixed” and pay more attention to the public.

In response, reader Ben Marshall argued that, at this point, change may be harder to achieve than that.

It would be a mistake to view the current Coalition government as a historical blip - a bunch of rogue neo-liberal libertarians who happen to have come together to form an extreme Right attack force by chance. They are part of a wave that has been breaking for some time…

We should not imagine that simply voting out the Coalition will return us magically and democratically to a more moderate Centrist position politically or economically. We have moved far beyond that to the Right politically, and to an extreme set of economic propositions that are, essentially, magical thinking.

On the same article, Peter Ormonde offered his take on Australian politics’ ideological history:

The “values” implicit and explicit in this budget are a long way distant from Australian tradition and conservative values. If you want to see Australian traditional conservatism have a look at Malcolm Fraser (the fella who let in all the Vietnamese boat people and did a lot of good internationally regarding South Africa for example. Or the patron saint of Australian conservatism - Bob Menzies - who in fact established large slabs of the “entitlements” these very products of those entitlements seek to tear down. … And governments that run on theories - Marx or Milton Friedman - always slam head on into the realities of modern society and democracy. Reality is always much more complex and messy than the theories allow.

We don’t do much ideology in Australian politics - it’s a very pragmatic business - or has been. Until now.

A student protester portrays Christopher Pyne as the grim reaper. Will changes to higher education kill equality? AAP

On an article about the impact higher education changes will have on women, a thread about debt and interest popped up.

Gavin Moodie got out his calculator and worked out the amount of debt someone studying your average degree would walk out with.

All bachelors of education and bachelors of nursing are around $6,044 per equivalent full time year depending on the mix of disciplines, the maximum fees currently allowed by the Australian Government. To that one should add interest that would be charged at the 10 year bond rate, which is currently around 3.65%. Interest compounds, of course. Assuming a student repays none of their debt or interest while studying, one may make these calculations…

While his initial sums ran afoul of a misplaced decimal point, he returned to correct the error.

With this correction a bachelor of education graduate’s debt would be the rather less amount of $24,464.07 for a full time student but somewhat higher for a part time student since they would incur interest over more years.

Moodie closed his post with speculation of things to come:

That would be without a university increasing its fees. The Australian Government announced cuts to its contributions, which would be $941 per year for education. So most universities may be expected to increase their fees to cover at least the cut to government subsidies. In addition, universities believe they are underfunded by at least 10% for teaching, which would be another $1,601 per year for education and $1,920 for nursing.

Following the mass shooting in Santa Barbara, California, Katherine Newman wrote an article about the private pain of the killer’s family. Rachael Sharman shared a story about this oft forgotten side of this kind of tragedy:

Many years ago I attended a forensic seminar where a speaker from New Scotland Yard outlined their methods in tracking down a serial killer who turned out to be a charming, manipulative and highly intelligent psychopath.

In this young man’s case, there were no clear warning signs, he came from a lovely middle-class family with no hint of childhood trauma or poor parenting, and in every other domain he was a highly successful citizen (completing a PhD from memory).

The speaker paused at one point to offer the observation that in this case “his parents were as much victims of his behaviour as anyone else.”

That comment has always stayed with me. We are too quick to judge.

Benjamin T. Jones’s proposed flag design.

In Arts + Culture, historian Benjamin T. Jones shared his design for a new Australian flag (above) and ran a Q&A on the process. He was asked about his colour choices and Australia’s relationship with sport.

Michael Bartlett

As a historian, how do you feel about the trend to replace historical colonial symbolism with colours based on sports affiliation? Is there a history behind the green and gold that we don’t know about, for instance?

Benjamin T. Jones

This comment about sports comes up a fair bit but I think people get it the wrong way round. It is not the case that these are our sports colours, therefore, they should be on our flag, as if sports was the most important thing in the world. Rather, our sports teams had to think what colours represent Australia. They chose green and yellow as they reflect the Golden Wattle and because they are distinctive against the red, white and blue of so many countries. Over the years they have become synonymous with the nation. Why fight it?

Did we miss anything you found interesting? Get in touch and let me know.

Cory Zanoni, community manager

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