Quizzically Musing

Watching the madness

Posts Tagged ‘New Zealand

Back to how it was?

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Flying between Australia and New Zealand was once a bit like a domestic route.  When I first arrived in Australia from New Zealand, I didn’t even have a passport.  It wasn’t needed.

Today I ran across this article in The Age discussing progress on plans to return to the “old days”, or something similar.  Seems this has been on someone’s drawing board since 2009.  I hadn’t heard anything about it before today, but perhaps I just missed it, despite the fact both countries are close to my heart.

It would be nice to dash across the ditch with much cheaper airfares: the suggestion is 30% cheaper.  It seems the problem is not enough domestic gates at our airports.  It is all a bit confusing.  It appears not all of the airline industry agrees with the proposal.  Our change in Prime Minister seems to have impacted the plans as well.

I think it would be good for the tourism industries of both countries if it could be achieved, but of course a lack of physical gates to depart and arrive would be a bit of a problem.

I’m surprised there hasn’t been more coverage of this proposal. Or did I just miss the reports?

Written by Robyn Dunphy

January 9, 2011 at 9:47 pm

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Education – is it a public good?

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Violent protests … a flare is thrown at police Photo: AP

There are many reports everywhere of the protests in London by people against higher fees for education.  I remember when I started my degree here in Audstralia, tertiary education was still free.  Midway through my degree fees and the Higher Education Contribution Scheme (HECS) were brought in.  It is now HECS-HELP.

I remember as a child growing up in New Zealand, students were bonded for a given number of years after completing their degree.   For those unfamiliar with the concept, an example would be a medical student required to work, to use the education, locally for a given number of years, for the country which provided the education for that individual to become a doctor.  Many countries still have bonding.   This is actually my preferred solution to the question of  how much should students themselves contribute to their education. 

I remember attending my economics classes and discussing public goods: what was a public good, what wasn’t.

I am a firm believer that education is something we all benefit from, whether we receive it directly or not.  There is, of course, no question that the individual receiving the education also benefits personally.  There is, therefore, a valid argument that some form of contribution from the individual is appropriate.  Bonding serves that purpose yet still enables those from all socio-economic demographics to further their education.

You are ill, you need a doctor.  Whether you went to university or not, you need medical care.  You need dental care.  The car accident you had last week: you need legal representation.  You go to have a prescription filled, you expect the pharmacist to be adequately qualified. 

Yes, I agree, a degree in macrame perhaps is not so useful to the population at large and some of the “subjects” we read are being offered in American universities simply stuns me.  Perhaps I am merely old-fashioned.  So setting such things aside, for they detract from the central debate, is education a public good?

Here in Australia many students now leave university with a debt to the government.  Thankfully, it is interest free.  Repayments start at an indexed threshold.  Discounts are available for paying extra.

The above newspaper report indicates the UK are proposing quite a hike: The basic level of fees will now climb to £6000 ($9680), with an upper limit of £9000. The current cap is £3290.

Still not as expensive as the USA, but not an inconsiderable cost to a family trying to educate their children.

Every single one of us benefits from education.  Education is something we all need to be provided, whether we, individually, are the recipients or not.

Education must not become something that is only available to the rich.  If it does, such nations will become, over the years, nations no different to those third world countries where education is a luxury, not a right.   Fields of expertise, including science, will stagnate, constrained by lack of fresh ideas, fresh approaches, fresh blood.  All of us will suffer.

Eduction is not a luxury, it is a right.  It is a public good.  It should be available to all those, rich or poor, who have the intellectual ability and the desire to become a doctor, dentist, lawyer, geologist, pharmacist: the list goes on.  We all, every one of us, receive the benefits of education therefore we all should contribute. 

Education must not become available only to the rich.  Our societies will be the worse if such becomes the norm:  look at those countries where it IS the norm to see our possible future.

Edit December 12: Related to this I have been participating in two different discussions about education being compulsory in relation to those students who do not want to be at school at all.  That is a question for another day.  This entry relates only to the question of access to education.

Written by Robyn Dunphy

December 11, 2010 at 9:37 am

Darker skinned Hobbits

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I remember reading The Hobbit as part of the English curriculum in primary school.  In, funnily enough, New Zealand where Peter Jackson has developed his own middle earth.

As this article reminds us:

In The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien described three races of Hobbits inhabiting the Middle Earth fantasy world which is the setting for the movies, including harfoots, who “were browner of skin” than the others.

Yet here we have a casting person stating, sans instruction, all those seeking movie extra stardom should be of “light skin tones”.   Three cheers for Peter Jackson, the casting agent has been fired.

Seems Tolkien was more tolerant than the casting agent in question. 

Had Tolkien written a book with only blonde haired, blue eyed Hobbits and Peter Jackson was being true to the novel, I would not have a problem.  After all, filming “Roots” with caucasians in the lead roles would have been a little silly.  There is a need to be true to the story being told.

Had Tolkien not described his Hobbit’s complexions at all, then the casting agent would really have been drawing a long bow, for without a specific description who could claim to know what was in the writer’s mind at the time?  Would have been very unlikely – Tolkien describes to the nth degree, which is why I found The Hobbit far too slow to ever enjoy.  Perhaps I should try it again.

Written by Robyn Dunphy

November 30, 2010 at 10:21 pm

Be careful where you give birth!

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This article is not a concern for me or my family personally.  We are not going to have any more children and all the children we do have, have citizenship of one country or another.  Interestingly, my daughter is entitled to New Zealand citizenship by descent, but not my son – New Zealand’s laws changed between their births!

I wasn’t quite sure whether to put this entry here or on my other site – it really is a bit of both.  While my personal site concentrates on my own personal visa battle, I have commented several times that we need to change the way we handle the question of immigration, partner visas in particular because that is currently the area I know most about, although I know a reasonable amount about protection visas as well!

The article linked to above caught my eye because in the cases discussed we are not talking specifically about people marrying across borders (although indirectly we are) or refugees: we are talking about quite simply happy couples having much loved children.  Children, who because of different laws in different countries around the world, end up stateless.

…Mark Manly, head of the statelessness unit at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said that gaps between national citizenship laws have put high-flying professionals around the globe in the same boat as migrants and refugees when it comes to getting passports for their kids.

“Far more people live outside their country of nationality than before, and there are more children born to parents of different countries,” he said. “We have a lot of situations where the children are not acquiring any nationality at all.”

One child in the article has a Chinese mother, Canadian father, was born in Belgium and after considerable stress for the parents, has now been granted Irish citizenship based on his grandfather’s nationality.  The father is quoted in the article, “When people think of refugees and stateless people they don’t think of Western, educated professionals with an office job.”

There is an international covenant that covers this sort of problem, the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, however it only has 37 signatory countries.  We have a long way to go.

This article supports what I have said before: the world is now a much more mobile place.  The various countries need to deal with this appropriately.

The article doesn’t address Australia specifically, but a quick look at the DIAC web site shows that clearly it could be a problem for foreigners residing here too, if they happen to come from a country where it is difficult or impossible to obtain citizenship by descent for their children.

Australian citizen by birth

Whether you are an Australian citizen by birth depends on the date of your birth.

Most children born in Australia before 20 August 1986 are Australian citizens by birth unless one parent was entitled to diplomatic privileges or was a consular officer of another country.

Children born after that date are only Australian citizens if at least one parent was an Australian citizen or permanent resident at the time of their birth.

Children born in Australia to parents who are not Australian citizens or permanent residents, automatically acquire Australian citizenship on their 10th birthday if they have lived most of their life in Australia.

Australia is having an each way bet – let’s hope if you give birth to a stateless child in Australia, you don’t want to travel for the first 10 years of that child’s life!  I need to cross-check the requirements of the Hague Convention, as I am sure it mentions statelessness too.  So many conventions, so little time!

What about if you go overseas and have a child?  Well, the waters get a bit mukier:

Child born overseas to an Australian citizen

Commonly, if you were born overseas after 26 January 1949 to an Australian citizen parent, you may be eligible to apply for Australian citizenship by descent.

If your parent became an Australian citizen by descent, he or she must have been present in Australia for periods totalling two years at some time in their life.

If you were born outside Australia or New Guinea before 26 January 1949 you may also be eligible for Australian citizenship by descent if at least one of your parents became an Australian citizen on 26 January 1949.

Good grief – do they literally mean ON 26 January 1949 and no other date?  Amazing.  What does “may be eligible” actually mean?

So it seems that while Australians are not specifically mentioned in The Age article, yes, there could be difficulties. 

I dare not venture into the topic of Australian Citizenship by adoption, I have a feeling that would be way too complicated for today!

Written by Robyn Dunphy

November 28, 2010 at 8:47 am

New Zealand mine disaster – Greymouth

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Pike River coalmine disaster. Photo: Reuters

Very sad day.

I will keep it short – many others will write much.  This disaster happened in the town in which I was born therefore I have a personal connection.

We seem to have had way too many mine disasters in the last few months, globally.  If I am not mistaken, New Zealand has suffered the greatest loss of life of those.

My thoughts are with the families and all others involved directy and indirectly in this sad event.

Written by Robyn Dunphy

November 24, 2010 at 5:50 pm

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