The government is right – immigration helps us rather than harms us

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Robert Breunig, Professor of Economics and Director, Tax and Transfer Policy Institute, Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University

Opponents of Australia’s strong immigration program will be disappointed.

In announcing a cut in Australia’s migration ceiling from 190,000 to 160,000 per year, federal population minister Alan Tudge launched an all-out defence of immigration as a driver of economic prosperity.

It has not only boosted gross domestic product and budget revenue, as would be expected when with more people, but also also living standards – measured as GDP per person. Tudge explained:

This is often not sort of fully understood. Not only does population growth help with GDP growth overall, but it helps with GDP per capita growth too. It’s actually made all of us wealthier.

In fact, Treasury estimates that 20% of our per capita wealth generated over the last 40 years has been due to population factors. How does that come about? In part because when we bring in migrants, they come in younger than what the average Australian is. On average, a migrant comes in at the age of 26. The average age of an Australian is about 37. So it very much helps with our workforce participation, and that’s essentially a big driver of our GDP per capita growth.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison added:

I would also mention from a pensions point of view and social welfare point of view, achieving more of a balance in the working-age population means there’s more people in the working age to actually pay for the pensions and the welfare bill for those who aren’t able to be in the workforce and with an ageing population.

The lower ceiling announced on Wednesday will make little difference to Australia’s migrant intake. It is already close to 160,000, at about 162,000. Other changes will attempt to influence where migrants settle.

Two new regional visas for skilled workers will require them to live and work in less urban Australia (outside of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and the Gold Coast) for three years before being able to become a permanent resident. Of the 160,000 potential places, 23,000 will be set aside for these visa-holders. International students studying outside the big cities will get access to an extra year in Australia on a post-study work visa.

Immigration shouldn’t supress wages

Tudge’s acceptance that migration neither boosts unemployment nor cuts wages is consistent with most evidence from Australia and overseas.

New arrivals increase the supply of workers (such as teachers and house-builders), which might be expected to depress existing residents’ wages. But there are two countervailing forces.

First, migrants also increase the demand for goods and services (as the arrivals’ children get taught and their homes get built), which might be expected to boost preexisting residents’ wages.

Second, if migrants fill jobs that would otherwise go unfilled, they can boost the productivity, and hence the wages, of existing residents.

Most studies of migration shocks, such as the repatriation of more than a million French citizens to metropolitan France after the Algerian civil war, have found that the net effect is close to zero.

There is hardly any evidence that it does

An exception is work in the United States by George Borjas, who found that the boatlift of 125,000 mostly low-skilled immigrants from Cuba to Miami in 1980 did suppress the wages of low-skilled Miami workers, if not Miami workers overall. But this finding has been disputed.

In 2015 Nathan Deutscher, Hang Thi and I set out to replicate his work, using changes in the immigration rates of different skill groups to Australia to identify the effects of immigration on the earnings and employment prospects of particular groups of Australian workers.

Our data came from the Australian Census, the Surveys of Income and Housing, and the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey.

We isolated 40 distinct skill groups at a national level, identifying them with a combination of educational attainment and workforce experience and examined six outcomes – annual earnings, weekly earnings, wage rates, hours worked, labour market participation rate, and unemployment.

We explored 114 different possibilities, controlling for macroeconomic conditions and for the fact that immigrants to Australia are disproportionately highly skilled with higher wages.

In Australia, we found next to none

We found immigration had no overall impact on the wages of incumbent workers. If anything, the effect was slightly positive.

Some of our estimates showed immigration had a negative effect on some groups of incumbent workers, but the positive effects outnumbered negative effects by three to one. The vast majority of effects were zero.

The statistical basis for our finding of no overall effect was incredibly strong. It more than passed the standard tests.

Our research only looked at one, very limited, aspect of immigration. Immigrants can also bring cultural and demographic benefits. And until infrastructure catches up, they can increase congestion.

But immigration doesn’t seem to harm either jobs or wages, a point the Morrison government is right to acknowledge.


Read more: Solving the ‘population problem’ through policy


ref. The government is right – immigration helps us rather than harms us – http://theconversation.com/the-government-is-right-immigration-helps-us-rather-than-harms-us-113919

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Nine days and counting: what options does the UK have before the Brexit deadline?

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Philomena Murray, Professor, School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Melbourne

There is a song by the Melbourne band Little Heroes, called One Perfect Day, from back in 1982 (though it still attracts a cult following). In it, the lead singer asks his ex-girlfriend in England: tell me, is it still raining there in England, and did the government fall last night?

Well, it is still raining. And there is still talk of the government of Theresa May falling. We just observed a week of three parliamentary votes on Brexit, where the government was defeated in two of them.

In another extraordinary day yesterday, the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, invoked the “Erskine May” parliamentary rules of procedure. That means that an amendment “which is the same, in substance” as an issue that has already been voted on cannot be proposed again in parliament. The speaker said that a new proposal must be “not different in terms of wording, but different in terms of substance”. Unless there are significant changes to the substance of the government’s proposed Withdrawal Agreement, it cannot be sent back to the House for a third “meaningful” vote.

So, what might happen now, with nine days to go until the UK is supposed to leave the EU?


Read more: John Bercow’s Brexit bombshell – it was arrogant for the government not to see this coming


The UK could still leave without an agreement

If there is no parliamentary support for the Withdrawal Agreement, that does not mean the UK does not leave. The UK will leave on 29 March unless the UK government requests an extension to Article 50, which was activated by Theresa May two years ago on 29 March 2017. The Article says, among other things:

The Treaties shall cease to apply to the State in question from the date of entry into force of the withdrawal agreement or, failing that, two years after the notification referred to in paragraph 2, unless the European Council, in agreement with the Member State concerned, unanimously decides to extend this period.

If the UK leaves in a little over a week, it will no longer be in the EU and will no longer be party to hundreds of international treaties and thousands of pieces of legislation.

Proroguing the parliament is an option

What are the options in order to avoid crashing out this way? Could the British government somehow get the Withdrawal Agreement through parliament on a third attempt?

One step that Theresa May might be contemplating is taking the extraordinary measure of “proroguing” the parliament. Proroguing effectively means terminating the current session, without actually dissolving it, and having parliament reconvene in a new session. The government would then have the option – if the temporary suspension of the parliament goes smoothly – to re-send the Withdrawal Agreement for a meaningful vote to a newly-convened parliament.

This may not occur in time for the looming exit deadline, and May is unlikely to attempt to present the deal for a third time, unless the Speaker changes his position. So, May could be obliged to yet again set out for Brussels and some EU national capitals to shore up support for an extension of Article 50.


Read more: Brexit: views from around Europe on future relationship between UK and EU


So far, no request to extend Article 50

The EU has not yet received a formal request for an extension of Article 50, even though the House of Commons voted last week for such an extension and May has now indicated she will request one. Nathalie Loiseau, the French Minister for the EU, said, “No such request has been made”.

Perhaps giving a sense of the frustration in some EU capitals about the negotiations, Loiseau revealed she has called her cat Brexit because it is indecisive, as it “meows loudly to be let out each morning, but then refuses to go outside when she opens the door”.

The EU would no doubt request that an extension be fully justified – and there is little European appetite to reopen negotiations with Britain. The EU has been preparing for Brexit for some time.

It is conceivable that Theresa May could seek to justify a request that Article 50 be extended well beyond the 30 June 2019 date currently under discussion in the UK. But there are major problems with this, as the UK would need to take part in the European Parliament elections to take place in May this year. It could also be obliged to contribute to the new EU budget round, known as the Multiannual Financial Framework.


Read more: Why wait for the Brexit fog to clear? Australian, British and multinational businesses are moving on


The Brexit saga continues

Of course, the idea of voting more than once on a Brexit deal in Parliament raises again the call for a second referendum on EU membership by the people – a people’s vote.

Alternatively, the UK could remain in the EU and revoke Article 50. A recent court ruling that this does not require the consent of the other 27 EU states has emboldened those who are campaigning for a new referendum – although it is far from clear what questions would appear on the ballot paper.

The possibility of Theresa May resigning is never far from the minds of her detractors – whether the European Research Group in her own party, or the Labour party leadership under Jeremy Corbyn.

Meanwhile, the UK Trade Secretary Liam Fox has announced a trade deal that has just been initialled with Iceland and Norway. He stated that this was in addition to the agreement signed with Liechtenstein. At least Norway and Iceland are larger than Liechtenstein, a country of fewer than 38,000 people – famous for being the world’s largest exporter of false teeth.

These new trading partners are considerably smaller than the EU Single Market of over 500 million that the UK currently belongs to. They will certainly not fill the huge void left by Brexit.

Yet again, Theresa May’s government is no doubt hoping for just One Perfect Day, but it is not looking likely at the moment.

ref. Nine days and counting: what options does the UK have before the Brexit deadline? – http://theconversation.com/nine-days-and-counting-what-options-does-the-uk-have-before-the-brexit-deadline-113910

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Aboriginal Australia’s smash hit that went viral

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Myfany Turpin, Associate lecturer, University of Sydney

In a time before radio or even gramophones, songs were shared between Aboriginal groups at large social gatherings. Some songs were so popular they spread enormous distances.

One such song known as Wanji-wanji has travelled some thousands of kilometres. Incredibly, the lyrics have remained unchanged over this distance and the past 150 years it has been sung.

The song has been passed between dozens of language groups who sang the lyrics and the rhythm identically, but with varying melodies and under the guise of different names.

There are recordings of Wanji-wanji from Esperance on the south coast of Australia, to Port Augusta, throughout central Australia and the Pilbara, as far north as Broome, and as far east as Wilcannia. Wanji-wanji has some 30 verses, though usually only a selection of these is sung at any one time.

Map showing places where ‘Wanji-wanji’ has been recorded, and where it was sung in 2017/18 . Cartography by Brenda Thornley

The earliest written record of Wanji-wanji was made in 1913 at Eucla by ethnographer Daisy Bates who wrote that Tharnduriri, a 70 year old Aboriginal man, recalled it from his childhood at Uluru in the 1850s. Bates transcribed the song with the following refrain:

Warri wan-gan-ye

Koogunarri wanji-wanji

Warri wan-gan-ye

The Gurindji people of the Victoria River region in the Northern Territory continue to sing Wanji-wanji today, although they refer to it as “Laka”. The Gurindji learnt it from Yawulyurru Tjapangarti, a Pintupi songman. Despite the fact that the song wasn’t in their language, the Gurindji rendition of the refrain is almost identical to Bates’ notation 100 years and 2000 kilometres later:

Warriwan kanya

Kakanala wanji-wanji wanpanarra

Warriwan kanya

Where did Wanji-wanji come from? Language can provide some clues, but even in 1913, the singers at Eucla were unable to tell Daisy Bates what the songs meant, as it was said to have come via the Ashburton River some 2000 kilometres away. Of course performing songs you don’t understand the meaning of has a long tradition. Just think of the number of Australian children who have learnt Frère Jacques.

Although poetic flourishes and archaisms render much of Wanji-wanji unintelligible to the modern ear (just think of Auld Lang Syne), many verses contain what appear to be words from Wati languages and beyond, such as nyinanya “sitting”. This means the songs may have originated somewhere in the vast interior of Western Australia.

No meaning for the song is known as a whole. But some singers derive meanings from individual verses, such as the verse with jilka “prickle” which is said to refer to travelling across country that is full of prickles.

Some of the words and grammar are also found in Gurindji and related languages, which were spoken on the cattle stations across north-west Australia. Whether by chance or design, the song is pan-linguistic, a true hallmark of shared experiences and social connections.

Unlike traded objects, songs could travel in multiple directions at once as different groups learnt them and passed them on. Wanji-wanji may have radiated out in many directions rather than taken a single route.

Topsy Dodd Ngarnjal, Violet Wadrill and Jimmy Wavehill endorse their new Gurindji songs book.

Travelling entertainment

Aboriginal songs were often shared at gatherings known as “corroborees”, a word derived from the Sydney language word caribberie. Entertainment corroborees once played an important role in extending social networks, especially important in the arid regions of Australia. They can be likened to the pop songs of the era. Many Gurindji people now refer to them as “disco”.

It is easy to imagine how they could spread quickly – popular with the younger generations and freed from the restrictions of sacred songs, they could be performed anywhere and by anyone with talent. In contrast, sacred land-based songs are about Dreamings and links to country, and there are strict protocols determining who can sing them.

The advent of pastoral stations across Australia in the 19th century provided a new setting for transmitting songs, possibly taking them further than they had ever travelled before. At this time, Wanji-wanji made its way along the stock routes to Gurindji country in the Victoria River District in the Northern Territory.

The Gurindji are best known for walking off Wave Hill Station in 1966 in protest against mistreatment by station managers. Yet amidst the harsh conditions, an eclectic ceremonial life flourished. Constant travel between cattle stations by Aboriginal workers meant that Wave Hill Station became a crossroads of musical styles.


Read more: Friday essay: the untold story behind the 1966 Wave Hill Walk-Off


Wanji-wanji became a part of the vibrant ceremonial practices of Aboriginal station life in this region. Gurindji elder Ronnie Wavehill Jangala first learnt it as a young boy at Inverway Station. His prodigious talent was met with amazement on his return to Wave Hill Station:

Properly-la-ma ngurna karrinya kutij ngayu-ma. Ngayu put ‘em mi kutij middle-ta, properly-ma … that lot Gurindji they bin pirrart la me ngayu little boy nomo bin minyirri, minyirri-warra-murlung yunpawu nyila-ma-lu marnani karlayin-nginyi miyat. “Jangala yunpa go on”.

With some to-do, I got up there and stood up in front of everyone. They had me stand up there in the middle to sing … All the Gurindji were amazed at me: they’d never seen such a small boy sing without shame. All the mob from the west were egging me on, “Go on, Jangala!”

Ronnie Wavehill 1998. Recorded and translated by Erika Charola, CC BY211 KB (download)

Out on the stations, Aboriginal and sometimes non-Aboriginal people performed the songs as part of the evening’s entertainment. Patrick Smith “Jupiter” from Balgo recounts hearing Wanji-wanji sung by an aged white stockman in the 1990s. Patrick quipped that the white stockman had stolen a blackfella song, but his wife Marie humorously retorted that Patrick had stolen the stockman’s Slim Dusty so they were even.

Patrick Smith ‘Jupiter’ and Jack Gordon, Yawalyurru’s namesake, sing ‘Laka’ at Bililuna near Balgo in 2015. Tom Ennever

An Indigenous renaissance

Across Australia, there is an inspiring renaissance of traditional Aboriginal music underway, especially as old recordings are being rediscovered in the archives. New songs are now being (re)composed in these uniquely Indigenous styles.

Through Lou Bennett’s Sovereign Repatriation Project, Yorta Yorta songs are being reclaimed from archives and relearnt. Julurru, a travelling song is also being revived by Indigenous people in the Kimberley region.

This renaissance has relied on good recordings and archiving practices. Even where songs are still being performed, many Aboriginal groups are profoundly aware of the fragility of these genres, which now compete with a myriad of modern styles.

Thomas Monkey Yikapayi and Ronnie Wavehill Wirrpnga explain ‘Wanji-wanji’ lyrics and music to Myfany Turpin and Felicity Meakins in 2015. Brenda L Croft

The Gurindji have been keen to document their renditions of Wanji-wanji and other songs in the form of books and websites. Violet Wadrill, Gurindji elder, explains:

Nyawa-ma milimili-ma yuwani ngurnalu wajarra. Ngurnayinangulu karu pinarrik manana. Yuwarrarra ngulu marntaj milimili-la-ma kartiya-lu-ma.

We documented our public songs in a book. We want our children to get to know these songs. That’s why we’re happy they put our songs down on paper.


Note: the quote from Ronnie Wavehill reproduced above was recorded and translated in 1998 by Erika Charola. This article draws upon research compiled for a new book, Songs from the Stations.

ref. Aboriginal Australia’s smash hit that went viral – http://theconversation.com/aboriginal-australias-smash-hit-that-went-viral-112615

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

What is a doula and how do they help women giving birth?

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Meghan A. Bohren, Lecturer in Gender and Women’s Health, University of Melbourne

Women have traditionally been supported by a companion during childbirth, and there is good evidence this benefits both the woman and the baby.

The World Health Organisation recommends continuous support for women during childbirth. Yet across the world, initiatives promoting health facilities as the safest place to give birth have not necessarily respected this tradition.

But now we have new evidence on the ways women are supported during childbirth by a doula or other labour companion.

Our research has found labour companions (including doulas, partners, and family members) support women during childbirth by providing information, advocating for the woman’s needs, and providing practical and emotional support.

Importantly, our research also indicates pairing a woman with a doula from the same ethnic, linguistic or religious background as her may be an important way to improve equity and provide culturally responsive care.


Read more: So your birth didn’t go according to plan? Don’t blame yourself


What is doula care?

The word “doula” comes from a Greek word meaning “woman’s servant”.

Doulas are trained, non-medical professionals who provide continuous physical, emotional, and informational support to women before, during and after childbirth, to facilitate the best possible birth experience.

Research has shown doula care is beneficial for both women and babies. Peter Oslanec/Unsplash

Doulas typically meet with a woman (and sometimes her partner or family) during pregnancy to help her to prepare for childbirth, build rapport, manage expectations and provide evidence-based resources.

When a woman goes into labour, she alerts her doula. The doula supports the woman throughout labour and childbirth. This is typically at a birthing clinic or hospital (some doulas may also attend home births).

Four ways to support women during labour

Our Cochrane review, published this week, brings together data from 51 studies across 22 countries looking at support provided by labour companions, including doulas.

First, we found through providing information, labour companions bridge communication gaps between health workers, such as doctors and midwives, and the woman. They keep her informed about the process of childbirth and her progress through labour. They may also provide her with tips around effectively using non-pharmacological pain relief, such as meditation or relaxation.

Second, labour companions advocate for the woman, speaking up in support of her and her preferences.

Third, labour companions provide practical support, which could include encouraging the woman to move around, providing massage, and holding her hand.

And finally, labour companions offer emotional support, helping the woman to feel in control and confident by praising and reassuring her, and providing a continuous physical presence.

Improved outcomes for mums and babies

The benefits of continuous support during labour and birth were highlighted in an earlier Cochrane review, which analysed data from 26 studies across 17 countries involving more than 15,000 women.

Continuous support was provided by a woman’s partner, family member, or friend; hospital staff (student midwives); or a doula.

The review found continuous support could improve several health outcomes for both the woman and her baby. Women may be more likely to have a vaginal birth (without the need for caesarean, forceps or vacuum extraction).


Read more: Explainer: what are women’s options for giving birth?


In addition, women who receive continuous support may be less likely to use pain medications, may have shorter labours, and may be more likely to be satisfied with their birth experience.

The babies of women who receive continuous support may be less likely to have low five-minute Apgar scores, which assess babies’ health and well-being at birth and shortly afterwards.

Who can benefit from doula care?

Recent media has highlighted that doulas are fit for royals. Meghan Markle, the Duchess of Sussex, has hired a doula to support her during her current pregnancy.

Meghan Markle is using a birth doula. AAP

In Australia, doula care typically ranges from A$500-A$2,500, depending on the doula’s experience and the services they offer. This cost typically includes one to two visits during pregnancy, attendance at birth, and one visit after birth.

While the cost of doula care may sound prohibitive, our findings highlight that providing community-based doula care for migrant, refugee and other foreign-born women in high-income countries may be an important way to improve equity and culturally responsive care.

When migrant women receive care from community-based doulas (from the same ethnic, linguistic, and/or religious background as them), they may feel more confident and less like “outsiders” in their new communities.

In Sweden and the United States, research has shown that foreign-born women supported by community-based doulas were more satisfied with their birth experiences, and doulas themselves felt empowered.

Community-based doulas may also be particularly beneficial for Indigenous women, whose traditional birthing practices are strongly linked to their cultural identities. In Canada, the British Columbia Association of Aboriginal Friendship Centres provides scholarships to pregnant Indigenous women to hire a doula.


Read more: Death doulas can fill care gaps at the end of life


Doula services may be provided free of charge for low income people and families, as a way to improve equity. The Doula Project provides free doula services to low income women in New York City through volunteers.

Supporting women to have a labour companion or doula of her choice during childbirth is an effective way to improve health outcomes, and is an important component of respectful maternity care.

Labour companionship and doula support may increase equity directly through improved women’s empowerment and provision of culturally responsive care, and indirectly by reducing the over-medicalisation of childbirth.

Sarah Chapman, a knowledge broker at Cochrane UK, contributed to this article.

ref. What is a doula and how do they help women giving birth? – http://theconversation.com/what-is-a-doula-and-how-do-they-help-women-giving-birth-113562

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Curious Kids: what makes an echo?

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Noel Hanna, Leading Education Professional (Physics), UNSW

Curious Kids is a series for children. If you have a question you’d like an expert to answer, send it to curiouskids@theconversation.edu.au You might also like the podcast Imagine This, a co-production between ABC KIDS listen and The Conversation, based on Curious Kids.


What makes an echo? – Minnie, age 4.


That’s a tricky question. The simplest way to answer is to say that an echo is a sound that later comes back to where it came from.

Before we get into what makes an echo, we need to have a think about sound.

What is a sound?

What we call “sound” is really just the air in our ears moving back and forth.

The air can move fast or slow. We can hear air moving back and forth between 20 and 20,000 times per second. That’s really, really fast! (For the grownups reading right now, human hearing is from about 20 – 20,000 Hertz, which means repetitions per second).

But did you know that there are faster and slower air movements that can be heard by other animals, but not people?

Where does sound come from?

If we hear the air moving in our ears, where did that moving air come from?

A sound can come from anything that vibrates or moves back and forth.

It could start with the moving string of a guitar or the vocal folds in your voice box that move when you speak or sing.

Once the air starts to move, it travels in all directions until it finds something to stop it.


Read more: Curious Kids: Why are we ticklish?


Bounce back!

When sound travelling in air (we call this a sound wave) hits a hard flat surface, like a tiled bathroom wall, most of it bounces back. Maybe this is why people like to sing in the shower.

This is a drawing of how sound bounces back. gritsalak karalak/shutterstock

But to get a really good echo, that sounds the same as the original sound, we need a very big bathroom, or another very big, hard-walled place – like a valley or a canyon!

Here’s a video of a man playing trumpet in a canyon. The vibration of his lips makes the sound, which bounces back from the hard wall of rock on the other side of the valley:

For a sound to bounce back and make an echo, there has to be a lot of space between the sound source and the thing (wall or mountain) that it hits and bounces back.

Why? Because it takes time for the sound to come back as an echo. If there’s no big space, it won’t sound like an echo because the sound that comes back will get mixed up with the original sound.

Noticing changes in the sound can still be useful. Some animals like bats and dolphins, and even some children, can use this to tell where they are. This is called “echolocation”.

Here’s a BBC video about a child named Sam who uses echolocation to get around.

So if you don’t have a very large bathroom, you may want to try a bushwalk in a valley, or perhaps an underground carpark to find your echos.

If you know of any good echo spots, leave a comment below. I can start you off by telling you that there is a place called Echo Point at Katoomba in NSW.

Did you know?

The name “echo” comes from a Greek legend. In that story, a kind of mountain fairy named Echo was cursed by the god Zeus’ wife Hera so that she could only repeat what was said to her.

Some people believe that when a duck quacks, it does not echo but some scientists in the UK did an experiment and said that was not true.

Many scientists like to study sounds without echoes. For this, they design special rooms called “anechoic chambers”, that stop sound from bouncing back. The Acoustics Lab at the University of New South Wales even has an anechoic pipe. It is so long that any sound that goes in doesn’t come back out.


Read more: Curious Kids: Who made the alphabet song?



Hello, curious kids! Have you got a question you’d like an expert to answer? Ask an adult to send your question to curiouskids@theconversation.edu.au

CC BY-ND

Please tell us your name, age and which city you live in. We won’t be able to answer every question but we will do our best.

ref. Curious Kids: what makes an echo? – http://theconversation.com/curious-kids-what-makes-an-echo-109141

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Slimmed-down migration program has regional focus

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

The government has announced a reduced annual cap on migration of 160,000 for each of the next four years, as well as measures to stream a greater proportion of migrants to regional areas and boost the skilled component to these places.

The overhaul of the program comes after pressure from various quarters including conservative Liberals for immigration to be lowered, and the government talking up the need for “congestion busting”.

The government said cutting the migration cap by 15 per cent would reduce the maximum intake by a cumulative 120,000 over four years.

But the migration cap, although it is 30,000 lower than the present cap, in fact broadly reflects the actual current level of intake.

Last year permanent migration fell to its lowest level in a decade as a result of visa and other tightening.

Two new regional visas will be introduced for skilled workers, requiring them to live and work in regional areas for three years before being eligible to access permanent residency.

Skilled Employers Sponsored Regional and Skilled Work Regional visa holders will be given priority processing and will have access to a larger pool of eligible jobs.

Some 23,000 places will be set aside for regional skilled visas – this is a rise from 8,534 in 2017-18.

There will also be new tertiary scholarships for Australian and international students to study in the regions – these will be worth $15,000 and go to more than 1000 local and foreign students annually.

International students studying at regional universities will be given access to an extra year in Australia on a post-study work visa.

The government says the new migration program increases the focus on skills, with the number of Employer Sponsored places rising from 35,528 in 2017-18 to 39,000 in 2019-20. The family stream of the program hasn’t changed with 47,732 places available in 2019-20.

The program’s composition will be kept at about 70 per cent in the skilled stream and 30 per cent in the family stream.

Scott Morrison said the government’s plan “manages population growth by adopting well targeted, responsible, and sustainable immigration policies”.

Morrison said migrants “are an invaluable part of Australia’s economic and social fabric. Our economic strength is supported by a successful migration program that brings skilled people of working age”.

He warned against those who wanted to run scare campaigns as a result of the announcements, saying they would be taking Australians for mugs.

Better targeting the intake would address skills shortages and benefit the whole economy, he said. “It will take pressure off in those cities that are straining, while supporting the cities and towns that are keen to have stronger growth”.

Morrison said managing population growth was not just about the migration intake, but also about infrastructure, city and regional deals, congestion busting projects, removing traffic bottlenecks, funding essential services, and providing key skills to regional to rural areas.

“Our plan marks a turning point in the way population is treated across government, with a move to greater collaboration, transparency and longer term planning. It is a comprehensive plan that engages and partners with our states and territories and local governments.”

Morrison said he wanted Australians to “spend less time in traffic and more time with their families”.

“Meanwhile I know we have rural and regional communities that have plans and opportunities to grow their shires, who are looking for more people to come and settle in their districts to fill jobs, inject more life into their towns, and shore up the important education and health services for the future they rely on.”

ref. Slimmed-down migration program has regional focus – http://theconversation.com/slimmed-down-migration-program-has-regional-focus-113847

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

How to take care of your mental health after the Christchurch attacks

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Richard Bryant, Professor & Director of Traumatic Stress Clinic, UNSW

The world was saddened and distressed to learn of the shocking Christchurch mosque attacks on Friday, which claimed the lives of 50 people and injured nearly as many. Since then we’ve heard heartbreaking stories of the victims and their families as we try to piece together how this could have happened.

For those at the scene or who were directly affected, such an attack is likely to have enduring physiological impacts. This may include anxiety, disturbed sleep, nightmares, unwanted memories of the event repeatedly popping into their minds, and fear of future attacks.

For people in the community who hear about such events or witness them on television, the news may be distressing but these feelings will typically abate in the following days and weeks. However, some people who watch these events unfold may be more affected because they trigger memories of past traumatic experiences in their own lives.


Read more: The psychology of fear and hate, and what each of us can do to stop it


Does it matter if you watch?

The Christchurch gunman livestreamed his attack on Facebook. The feed, and subsequent videos, showed him moving through the mosque and shooting at victims indiscriminately. The videos were then shared and broadcast, despite calls from police, researchers, journalists and other commentators not to do so.

The mental health effects of broadcasting graphic images of terrorist attacks are often debated after terrorists attacks. Research from the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in New York suggests that the more people watch television footage of these events, particularly children, the more likely they are to experience psychological distress.

Seeing the events unfold from the assailant’s perspective, and particularly in real time, is more akin to being present at the scene as a witness than watching a secondhand account on a news report. This level of exposure increases the risk of viewers (such as drone operators) experiencing marked distress.

The more you watch, the greater the distress. Steinar Engeland

The Christchurch attacks may cause more psychological harm to particular populations, such as refugees from conflict zones. Exposure to war, persecution, detention and other traumatic events increases the risk of psychological difficulties. This leaves refugees more vulnerable to lasting effects of subsequent stressors, such as the Christchurch attacks.


Read more: Why news outlets should think twice about republishing the New Zealand mosque shooter’s livestream


What are the risks for witness and victims?

Of course, the people who are most likely to be affected in the long term are the immediate victims of the attacks, their family members and friends, worshippers at the mosques, and also the emergency service personnel who responded to the incidents.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a form of anxiety that comprises of intrusive memories of the traumatic event that are more like reliving the experience than thinking back to it. These memories are accompanied by extreme distress, which motivates people to avoid reminders of the event (such as news reports) or memories of the trauma.

People with PTSD also often experience general anxiety, such as poor sleep, anger outbursts, and poor concentration.


Read more: Acting out the nightmares of post-traumatic stress disorder


The risk of developing PTSD is greater when the trauma is interpersonal – in other words, when it’s caused by a person or group of people perpetrating violence or abuse against others. A hate crime such as the Christchurch attack is likely to have a particularly toxic psychological effect on the victims.

Despite this, prior studies of terrorist attacks suggest most people will adapt over time and resume good mental health. Around 10-20% of those affected are likely to develop PTSD.

Survivors and victims’ family and friends are also at risk of a newly recognised condition called prolonged grief disorder. This may be diagnosed when a person’s reaction to their grief, in the long term, impedes their ability to function. Of course it’s normal to experience acute grief, but this diagnosis would be applied if the grief doesn’t ease after around six months.

The likelihood of developing prolonged grief disorder is heightened by losing a loved one in traumatic circumstances. Likewise, experiencing grief can compound PTSD reactions.

How do you work through the trauma?

Past experience and research tells us the best way to deal with immediate distress is to turn to your own social support network and talk to people you trust about how you’re coping.

In the case of the recent attacks, mosques provide a natural social support network in which worshippers can meet, share and support each other.

First talk to your own social support networks. Jono Searle/AAP

If the distress doesn’t abate and persists for months, it’s time to seek professional help. For people with persistent stress or grief reactions, it may be beneficial to see a clinical psychologist who specialises in trauma-focused cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT).


Read more: Social supports build resilience and reduce distress after trauma


Clinical mental health guidelines recommend trauma-focused CBT for people with persistent stress reactions after trauma and also for prolonged grief. These interventions are usually relatively brief, requiring around ten sessions with a therapist.

But many people don’t receive adequate mental health care after traumatic events. This may be due to stigma about seeking help for mental health issues, not knowing how to get assistance, or being treated by people who don’t use evidence-based methods.

New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has announced additional support and funding for mental health services in Christchurch. Hopefully this will remove some of the barriers for survivors, family and friends to access quality mental health care.

ref. How to take care of your mental health after the Christchurch attacks – http://theconversation.com/how-to-take-care-of-your-mental-health-after-the-christchurch-attacks-113733

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

What parents need to know about the signs of child sexual abuse

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Larissa Christensen, Lecturer in Criminology & Justice | Co-leader of the Sexual Violence and Research Prevention Unit (SVRPU), University of the Sunshine Coast

Recent events, including the conviction and sentencing of George Pell for sexually abusing two children in the 1990s and the documentary airing allegations about Michael Jackson’s abuse of two young boys, have made prominent the topic of child sexual abuse. Many parents may be concerned about the safety of their child, and whether they are missing signs the child may be being groomed, or sexually abused.

Child sexual abuse is a global problem. Victimisation rates are estimated at 18% for girls and almost 8% for boys. But these rates don’t show the full picture as they only reflect cases that have been reported. Most cases of child sexual abuse are perpetrated by someone known to the child or related to the child.

Findings from the Royal Commission into child sexual abuse show victims can take up to 26 years to disclose sexual abuse. So, if the child isn’t disclosing their experience, what can a parent do? Here are some signs to look for to protect your child, as well as what to do if you suspect they are experiencing sexual abuse or are at risk of being abused.

Encourage open conversation

The best weapon any caregiver has for protecting their child is to proactively engage in open communication about personal safety with their child from a young age. Helping a child build their knowledge of personal safety is a form of primary prevention of child sexual abuse.

This might include parents teaching their children the correct names for their genitalia, creating a shared language around warning signs, and basic rules regarding personal safety. Having these open conversations early on will build the child’s knowledge and may encourage the child to be more open about uncomfortable experiences they may have.

Why children may not tell

There are many reasons why children might not disclose abuse immediately. These include feelings of self-blame, embarrassment, shame, powerlessness or fear of the perpetrator.

Some children may simply not know how to talk about the abuse. The likelihood of non-disclosure may be magnified when the perpetrator is a family member or known to the family. Here, the child might feel conflicted, as they want the abuse to stop but are concerned about the perpetrator’s well-being if they disclose, or fear the consequences of disclosure such as family separation or distress.


Read more: Incest: why is ‘worst of the worst’ abuse so often ignored?


Grooming dynamics also shed light on why children may not disclose. Grooming is where a perpetrator manipulates a child using psychological pressure, tangible incentives (such as toys and money) and attention.

Once abuse occurs, the child’s silence may be maintained by the perpetrator suggesting the child will not be believed about the abuse, using threats and blame (“you will ruin the family if you tell anyone”) and distorting the abuse (such as suggesting it is part of a “game”).

Research suggests children are more likely to disclose sexual abuse if they feel they have at least one trusted adult they can turn to, who will listen and believe them.

Male victims are less likely to disclose than female victims. This may be due to it seeming un-masculine to seek help, being viewed as homosexual (if the perpetrator is male), and confusion about the experience due to the visible physiological responses they may have – such as an erection.

The severity of the abuse has also been linked to disclosure. Research has found the more severe the abuse, the more likely the child is to disclose it. Researchers have suggested in these instances, the child’s fear of being abused again may override any perceived negative consequences associated with disclosing the abuse.

What are some of the warning signs of sexual abuse?

While children may not disclose sexual abuse, they may show possible indicators. This might include one or more of the following:

  • significant changes in behaviour (such as reverting to soiling or bed wetting, a decline in school performance)
  • sexual behaviour or knowledge about sex that is beyond the child’s age
  • sudden fears or fear of being with a specific person
  • unexplained change in emotional state
  • becoming unusually secretive
  • pain in the genital or anal area.

But be alert not alarmed – these are possible indicators, not tell-tale signs. Just because an older child wets the bed does not mean they are (or have been) the victim of sexual abuse.

While children show curiosity and a range of behaviours while growing up, the take home message is to be alert to changes in emotions and behaviour that seem out of the ordinary for your child.

What do I do if I suspect my child is being sexually abused?

If you are concerned about a child, you can ask questions such as: “is anything worrying you?”, “are you OK?” and “is there anything you would like me to do to support you?”.

A child’s disclosure of sexual abuse may be intentional or non-intentional, complete or incomplete, verbal or non-verbal. The child may draw a picture or use toys to re-enact the situation. Importantly, how you respond to the child can impact on their recovery from such trauma.

If a child discloses to you that they are being sexually abused, give the child your undivided attention. Believing the child is critical to the child’s psychological well-being. Allow the child to use their own words and to take their time. Assure the child that they have done the right thing by telling you.

Avoid quizzing the child as this may add unnecessary pressure, and could interfere with legal proceedings (which may be considered as directing the child’s disclosure). The important thing at this stage is to be a supportive listener and ensure the child is safe.

You can report the incident to police or child protection. These individuals are specifically trained professionals in questioning children. Even without a disclosure, you can report your concerns.


Read more: Programs to prevent child sexual abuse increase knowledge and skills but do they reduce risks?


ref. What parents need to know about the signs of child sexual abuse – http://theconversation.com/what-parents-need-to-know-about-the-signs-of-child-sexual-abuse-113559

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Autonomous transport will shape our cities’ future – best get on the right path early

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Peter Newman, Professor of Sustainability, Curtin University

A unique opportunity exists for infrastructure investment in Australia as transport as we know it faces disruption from autonomous vehicles.

Disruption is not a dirty word. Traditional transport models are being transformed for the better by savvy young upstarts: the taxi industry by Uber, for instance, and even bus services by on-demand provider Bridj in parts of Sydney.


Read more: Disruption ahead: personal mobility is breaking down old transport divides


How do we manage this rapidly evolving technology, and what is the role of local government?

Autonomous vehicles will soon be a familiar sight in bush and city landscapes. In New South Wales the transport minister, Andrew Constance, predicted in 2017 that public transport might not be needed in future, certainly with no drivers, because autonomous cars will handle everything.

Singapore’s driverless taxi, nuTonomy, in 2016. EPA/AAP

I don’t think this will happen. The car is a good servant, but a bad master in shaping our city, even autonomous ones.

What will a city of autonomous cars look like?

A fully car-based approach to autonomous vehicles would involve cars driving around suburbs day and night, searching for people to pick up on demand. These vehicles would move into corridors, main roads and freeways, travelling at high speeds with just a metre or so between them.


Read more: The winners and losers in the race for driverless cars


Increased road capacity, safety and the very real prospect of solar-powered cars are undeniable benefits.

But what kind of city would we have? We would see more urban sprawl, possibly worse congestion and a departure from walkable cities.

We would lose an opportunity to reclaim pleasing city grids and urban centres. These spaces, which our city planners intended for pedestrians, have often been devoured by cars but are now returning to their rightful place as meeting spaces.


Read more: Smart cities: does this mean more transport disruptions?


The case for trackless trams

Autonomous transit vehicles with a collective benefit to society offer us a chance to continue to reclaim these spaces by providing rapid shared mobility where it doesn’t exist today. This is why I like the trackless tram: it has the high quality of autonomous transport like light rail, but at a tenth of the cost.

Trackless trams give us the capacity to not only catch up on years of under-investment in transport infrastructure, but also fund ambitious urban regeneration projects that will shape our future cities. This is what is driving trackless tram studies in Townsville, Sydney’s inner west, Wyndham in Melbourne and Perth.


Read more: Why trackless trams are ready to replace light rail


It’s also possible to use trackless trams to create new opportunities on the edges of our cities, like the Western Sydney Aerotropolis. There, Liverpool City Council wants to maximise the benefits of the new airport through transport connectivity back to the city’s CBD. Dr Tim Williams, Australasia cities leader at ARUP, declared Liverpool to be the surprise star of Australia’s future city planning for this reason.

Liverpool’s CBD is less than 18km away from the new airport site now under construction, but it might as well be a world away given the narrow roads and rural lands that currently separate the two.

NSW Opposition Leader Michael Daley has committed A$10 million towards preliminary work on a rapid transit link between the airport and Liverpool should he become premier after the March 23 election.

And Liverpool Council is investing significant resources to find out what these upgrades should be. This is an opportunity to embrace autonomous vehicles like trackless trams to create a strong link between the new airport and aerotropolis.


Read more: Western Sydney Aerotropolis won’t build itself – a lot is riding on what governments do


The role of city councils

Historically, councils have often been the passive recipients of state and federal investments. But councils like Liverpool are recognising their role in championing infrastructure investment that will support high-quality future growth.

Adelaide’s driverless electric shuttle for the Tonsley Innovation District is part of a five-year trial of autonomous vehicle tech. David Mariuz/AAP

Councils are also identifying that they can control many of the mechanisms, particularly planning controls, that could be useful to minimise value leakage and maximise value capture for the common good.


Read more: Paying for infrastructure means using ‘land value capture’, but does it also mean more tax?


Developers are telling us that if we can give them up-front certainty on quality and timing of infrastructure and associated land development opportunities, then they can be willing partners in co-funding new transport connections like a trackless tram.

The challenge is to create partnerships with all levels of government, developers and the community, to focus the opportunities from current levels of infrastructure investment and enable bold rather than risk-averse approaches to the future.

New technology brings new challenges, but also new opportunities. For the sake of future generations, we need to get in before the window closes.


Read more: Utopia or nightmare? The answer lies in how we embrace self-driving, electric and shared vehicles


ref. Autonomous transport will shape our cities’ future – best get on the right path early – http://theconversation.com/autonomous-transport-will-shape-our-cities-future-best-get-on-the-right-path-early-113023

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media

Anxieties over livestreams can help us design better Facebook and YouTube content moderation

Source: The Conversation (Au and NZ) – By Andrew Quodling, PhD candidate researching governance of social media platforms, Queensland University of Technology

As families in Christchurch bury their loved ones following Friday’s terrorist attack, global attention now turns to preventing such a thing ever happening again.

In particular, the role social media played in broadcasting live footage and amplifying its reach is under the microscope. Facebook and YouTube face intense scrutiny.


Read more: Social media create a spectacle society that makes it easier for terrorists to achieve notoriety


New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinta Ardern has reportedly been in contact with Facebook executives to press the case that the footage should not available for viewing. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has called for a moratorium on amateur livestreaming services.

But beyond these immediate responses, this terrible incident presents an opportunity for longer term reform. It’s time for social media platforms to be more open about how livestreaming works, how it is moderated, and what should happen if or when the rules break down.

Increasing scrutiny

With the alleged perpetrator apparently flying under the radar prior to this incident in Christchurch, our collective focus is now turned to the online radicalisation of young men.

As part of that, online platforms face increased scrutiny and Facebook and Youtube have drawn criticism.

After dissemination of the original livestream occurred on Facebook, YouTube became a venue for the re-upload and propagation of the recorded footage.

Both platforms have made public statements about their efforts at moderation.

YouTube noted the challenges of dealing with an “unprecedented volume” of uploads.

Although it’s been reported less than 4000 people saw the initial stream on Facebook, Facebook said:

In the first 24 hours we removed 1.5 million videos of the attack globally, of which over 1.2 million were blocked at upload […]

Focusing chiefly on live-streaming is somewhat reductive. Although the shooter initially streamed his own footage, the greater challenge of controlling the video largely relates to two issues:

  1. the length of time it was available on Facebook’s platform before it was removed
  2. the moderation of “mirror” video publication by people who had chosen to download, edit, and re-upload the video for their own purposes.

These issues illustrate the weaknesses of existing content moderation policies and practices.

Not an easy task

Content moderation is a complex and unenviable responsibility. Platforms like Facebook and YouTube are expected to balance the virtues of free expression and newsworthiness with socio-cultural norms and personal desires, as well as the local regulatory regimes of the countries they operate in.

When platforms perform this responsibility poorly (or, utterly abdicate it) they pass on the task to others — like the New Zealand Internet Service Providers that blocked access to websites that were re-distributing the shooter’s footage.

People might reasonably expect platforms like Facebook and YouTube to have thorough controls over what is uploaded on their sites. However, the companies’ huge user bases mean they often must balance the application of automated, algorithmic systems for content moderation (like Microsoft’s PhotoDNA, and YouTube’s ContentID) with teams of human moderators.


Read more: A guide for parents and teachers: what to do if your teenager watches violent footage


We know from investigative reporting that the moderation teams at platforms like Facebook and YouTube are tasked with particularly challenging work. They seem to have a relatively high turnover of staff who are quickly burnt-out by severe workloads while moderating the worst content on the internet. They are supported with only meagre wages, and what could be viewed as inadequate mental healthcare.

And while some algorithmic systems can be effective at scale, they can also be subverted by competent users who understand aspects of their methodology. If you’ve ever found a video on YouTube where the colours are distorted, the audio playback is slightly out of sync, or the image is heavily zoomed and cropped, you’ve likely seen someone’s attempt to get around ContentID algorithms.

For online platforms, the response to terror attacks is further complicated by the difficult balance they must strike between their desire to protect users from gratuitous or appalling footage with their commitment to inform people seeking news through their platform.

We must also acknowledge the other ways livestreaming features in modern life. Livestreaming is a lucrative niche entertainment industry, with thousands of innocent users broadcasting hobbies with friends from board games to mukbang (social eating), to video games. Livestreaming is important for activists in authoritarian countries, allowing them to share eyewitness footage of crimes, and shift power relationships. A ban on livestreaming would prevent a lot of this activity.

We need a new approach

Facebook and YouTube’s challenges in addressing the issue of livestreamed hate crimes tells us something important. We need a more open, transparent approach to moderation. Platforms must talk openly about how this work is done, and be prepared to incorporate feedback from our governments and society more broadly.


Read more: Christchurch attacks are a stark warning of toxic political environment that allows hate to flourish


A good place to start is the Santa Clara principles, generated initially from a content moderation conference held in February 2018 and updated in May 2018. These offer a solid foundation for reform, stating:

  1. companies should publish the numbers of posts removed and accounts permanently or temporarily suspended due to violations of their content guidelines
  2. companies should provide notice to each user whose content is taken down or account is suspended about the reason for the removal or suspension
  3. companies should provide a meaningful opportunity for timely appeal of any content removal or account suspension.

A more socially responsible approach to platforms’ roles as moderators of public discourse necessitates a move away from the black-box secrecy platforms are accustomed to — and a move towards more thorough public discussions about content moderation.

In the end, greater transparency may facilitate a less reactive policy landscape, where both public policy and opinion have a greater understanding around the complexities of managing new and innovative communications technologies.

ref. Anxieties over livestreams can help us design better Facebook and YouTube content moderation – http://theconversation.com/anxieties-over-livestreams-can-help-us-design-better-facebook-and-youtube-content-moderation-113750

MIL OSI – Source: Evening Report Arts and Media