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Maxim Report: Terrorism, Australia, Children

Real Issues No. 275 - Terrorism, Australia, Children
Maxim Institute - real issues - No. 275
18 October 2007
www.maxim.org.nz

Terror's threat
Howard's way for Australia?
Worryingly anxious children

IN THE NEWS
NCEA put to the test
Law Commission's

TERROR'S THREAT

The arrest of seventeen people in police raids on alleged 'training camps'
has caused a media storm involving 'activists,' 'weapons training camps,'
'napalm,' 'firearms charges,' the Terrorism Suppression Act and general
muddle, as we all try to work out what exactly the facts are, and what on
earth is going on in the depths of the bush.

Whether or not the 'activists' in this particular case were a real threat,
over-enthusiastic survivalists, or harmless youth workers doing their
knitting, the threat could all too easily be real. It seems a good time to
think again about the roots and bulwarks of the common good, to remember
those things which hold us together in the midst of threat, danger and
disagreement.

Human society is made up of people held together by social glue, and by
commonly accepted rules about how we will live together. Most obviously
these rules are contained in the rule of law to which we all ought to
submit, but also in other voices whose authority we recognise. In a healthy
society, we allow and encourage standing grounds for disagreement and
dissent: trade unions, lobby groups, churches, associations and even
families, can serve as places from which to uphold values, speak our piece,
and talk to the wider society about what is on our mind. This is how a
healthy democracy works; it allows safety valves for the expression of
dissent and frustration, and for a process of public dialogue and moral
persuasion on the basis of a commonly understood social ethic.

It is this understanding of freedom, order and democratic government which
is attacked by the threat of terror. Abandoning the way we do things, and
the accepted ways of expressing legitimate dissent in favour of violence is
thus not only a threat to freedom, but to the very existence of ordered
society itself. Whether or not there was a real threat this time, we are
reminded that the safety and security of our whole society depends not only
on the Police, but also on the rest of us. We must work together to build
and to foster a healthy body politic, with the strong social bonds we
cannot afford to neglect.

HOWARD'S WAY FOR AUSTRALIA?

John Howard has at last announced that the Australian federal election will
be on 24 November. On this day, Australians must decide whether to return
Howard's Coalition Government to office. Howard, who has been Prime
Minister since 1996, faces opposition from a resurgent Australian Labor
Party (ALP), and its leader, Kevin Rudd, promises to bring 'new leadership'
to Australia. The closer Australia gets to the election, the more that the
age-old philosophical divide between the two main parties emerges, with one
party offering hands-on 'national leadership' and the other more
flexibility and freedom to the people.

Kevin Rudd's response to the announcement of the election was to claim that
the current Government was out of touch on issues like climate change,
healthcare and labour laws which allow employers to negotiate more flexible
contracts with workers. He is pledging that under him the federal
government would expand its role, with various national strategies and
programmes. Howard, by contrast, proposes to lead the country in a way
which gives incentives for people to work and prosper while also promising
leadership that will foster the national good. Howard, and Treasurer Peter
Costello, have announced a wide-ranging set of tax cuts, which would
deliver around A$20 (NZ$24) per week to a person on average earnings from 1
July 2008.

While the ALP is ahead in the polls by as much as eighteen points, Howard
has history on his side. Even Rudd has conceded that to win this election
means his party will 'have to make history.' The ALP has only won twice
from opposition since World War II and it is generally unusual for
incumbent governments to lose when the economy is in good shape, although
sometimes voters simply tire of a government.

In New Zealand, with debate revived during the last month about the role of
government in delivering public services such as education and healthcare,
the differences are also becoming more apparent between the National Party,
aspiring to become the Government, and the incumbent Labour-led Government.
For voters in both countries the sharper differentiation shows precisely
the presuppositions which lie behind the rhetoric of each party: either a
stronger hand for government, with either Labour Party, but perhaps at the
expense of the freedom to prosper on one's own terms, which is being
offered by the Coalition and the National Party. But in Australia-no matter
how one looks at it-both Howard and Rudd will need to work hard to convince
voters that theirs is the best way forward.

WORRYINGLY ANXIOUS CHILDREN

A report released this week in the UK highlights some alarming trends in
schools and communities. Community Soundings, a report from the Primary
Review, has found a consensus across various communities and schools that
children's behaviour, their anxiety about the future and parents' lack of
responsibility for their children need attention.

The Primary Review is a broad project, based at the University of
Cambridge, established to consider primary education and related social
factors. It aims to assess various factors within primary schools,
including education and curriculum, culture, society and the global
context, values and principles, parenting and children's lives outside of
school. Community Soundings is the first part of this review. The
information contained in the report comes from interviews in nine different
regions of England, with a total of 757 people, including parents,
teachers, local authorities, police, heads of schools and primary-aged
children.

According to the report, children are struggling to adapt to a changing
culture, and have a high degree of anxiety about social factors such as
gangs, weapons and street violence, and international events such as
climate change and global inequality. They also fear for their personal
safety outside of school. The teachers interviewed were concerned about the
pervasive and often inappropriate influence of media and technology on
children and increasing marital breakdown and family instability. Teachers
and community representatives were also concerned about parents failing to
teach basic principles of good behaviour or mutual respect for others. Many
teachers also felt children were growing up socially isolated, both within
their families and across generations.

With increasing social disconnection it is hardly surprising that children
are feeling fearful and isolated. The increasing importance of television
must contribute to this directly by communicating to children a picture of
threats in the world and indirectly by its presence as a substitute for
family relationships. Parents need to consider their levels of involvement
with their children, alongside the impact of letting children have
unfettered use of technology. The anxiety children feel about the world
around them should remind us that we are responsible for the way our
society develops. While it would be easy to become pessimistic about the
report's findings, the best response is to learn from them and act early.

Read Community Soundings
http://www.primaryreview.org.uk/Downloads/Int_Reps/1.Com_Sdg/Primary_Review_Community_Soundings_report_final.pdf


IN THE NEWS

NCEA PUT TO THE TEST

The New Zealand Council for Education Research released a report yesterday,
showing that while 89 percent of school principals and 60 percent of
teachers support NCEA, there are 'high levels of uncertainty among
parents.' Taking the pulse of NCEA, which analyses data gathered in late
2006, suggests that parents and teachers who are unhappy with NCEA are more
likely to be unhappy with other aspects of the school as well, such as a
lack of support for a teacher, or insufficient communication between a
parent and the school. Rosemary Hipkins, author of the report, suggests
that NCEA is being used as a 'lightning rod' for a broader dissatisfaction
about secondary school education, and in fact there was 'very little
desire' amongst those interviewed to return to the previous education
system.

Read Taking the pulse of NCEA
http://www.nzcer.org.nz/pdfs/15782.pdf

LAW COMMISSION'S NEW WORK PROGRAMME

The Law Commission has released its work programme for next year. As well
as completing existing work, the Commission will begin new projects,
including reviews of the Misuse of Drugs Act, the assault provisions of the
Crimes Act and 'the law relating to private schools.' The Commission will
also look at reforms to criminal procedure and 'reducing the level and
impact of organised crime in New Zealand.'

The Law Commission is an independent body 'which reviews areas of the law
that need updating, reforming or developing,' and makes recommendations to
Parliament. In the process, it provides opportunities for interested people
to make submissions on its work. The Commission deals with important issues
that affect many New Zealanders. Members of the public should take
advantage of opportunities to make submissions when they arise.

Find out more about the Law Commission, its projects and opportunities to
make submissions
http://www.lawcom.govt.nz

TALKING POINT

'Order without liberty and liberty without order are equally destructive.'

Theodore Roosevelt

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ends

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