Scott Bridges

Vanity Online Brand Facilitation Node

Category: Lukewarm takes

Love it or leave

Last Friday, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull held a long press conference on the broad themes of terror, policing and relations with Australia’s Muslim community. While Turnbull was carefully navigating through his vocabulary to avoid mouthing the slogans so beloved of Tony Abbott, he nonetheless chose to play the “love it or leave” card. Albeit a very Turnbull version of it:

“If you find Australian values unpalatable,” he said, “then there’s a big wide world out there and people have got freedom of movement.”

In re-wrapping the tired Southern Cross bumper sticker meme in his flowery waffle, Turnbull actually helped to highlight one of the core contradictions at the heart of the current political debate around citizenship in this country. Earlier on the same day, Immigration and Border Protection Minister Peter Dutton stood next to Major General Andrew Bottrell to deliver one of his regular briefings on Australia’s militarised ‘Stop The Boats’ program.

“The Prime Minister has made, and I have made [clear] on countless occasions,” said Dutton, warming to a now-familiar theme, “we are not going to allow people to turn up again unannounced on boats.”

The contrast between Turnbull and Dutton’s statements raises an obvious question: why does one group of people (asylum seekers) have extremely limited freedom of movement, and the other group (Australia haters) have an apparent surplus?

The idea that people can simply pick a country of residence, let alone citizenship, as if perusing a restaurant menu, is absurd. Freedom of movement is relative, and largely a privilege enjoyed only by the privileged. Do you have the money, networks, literacy and cultural capital to navigate complicated bureaucracy, along with the “right” passport? Congratulations. Do you have a criminal record or an empty bank account, or did you lose the lottery of birth and get stuck with a passport that has you automatically red-flagged by immigration departments? Bad luck. Even the very privileged likely have a very narrow range of options for residence and possible citizenship outside Australia, so it’s questionable if those being inviting to “leave” could even do so if they wanted. It’s unlikely this troubles Malcolm Turnbull, though.

The “love it or leave” rhetoric long employed by Proud Aussies, and more lately our political (and religious) leaders, is, if taken at face value, simplistic and dumb. What exactly does loving or hating Australia entail? What precisely are “Australian values”? Perhaps a better challenge to those who would channel their grievances through violence is: “hey, look, don’t, it’s against the law and there are consequences.” Citizenship as a legal concept requires adherence to the law, not the love and embrace of a concept as nebulous as “Australia”. But this is a pretty boring message which is difficult to succinctly express on an Aussie flag tank top.

As is pretty obvious, “love it or leave” is not a face value threat issued to Australians who allegedly do not love it. Rather, it’s a dog-whistle slogan targeted at Australians who say they do and are concerned about those who might not. It’s political messaging through and through, and rather than uniting, it further entrenches an “us and them” divide between citizens. But good on Turnbull for for not saying “Team Australia”, hey? What a guy.

Print journalism online is not online journalism

After a reasonably off-grid long weekend I was keen to catch up on news when I sat down at my computer this morning. I’d heard some chatter yesterday about a new teacher training announcement by the government, so I hit up The Age to see what its recently relaunched online portal was offering on the topic.

I scrolled down to the Federal Politics section and clicked on a small link.

Federal Politics

The article was Support for teacher standards by Josephine Tovey and Amy McNeilage, and at 221 words it was a pretty sparse read.

Universities have thrown their support behind new federal government standards for teachers, which include assessing an applicant’s personal capacity and drive to enter the profession.

Under the plans announced on Monday, applicants could be screened for their suitability for teaching via methods that could include “interviews, demonstrated values and aptitude, and a written statement” in a similar way to students wanting to study medicine.

Students would also have to pass a new literacy and numeracy test before they can graduate from a teaching degree, to demonstrate their skills are equivalent to the top 30 per cent of the population.

School Education Minister Peter Garrett said the changes were aimed at ensuring every teacher had the “passion” and “personal capacity” to be the best teacher possible. The move is at odds with a plan recently announced in NSW for school leavers to have to achieve high results in their year 12 assessments to gain a place in a teaching degree.

Universities Australia welcomed the broader approach taken by the federal government.

“The plan announced today acknowledges the role of universities in selecting students based on a range of factors that go beyond final-year school results,” said Universities Australia’s chief executive Belinda Robinson.

“This is particularly important since fewer than 40 per cent of students enter teacher training straight from school.”

That was the whole article. Unless you count the poll and the invitation to follow something called “National Times” on Twitter.

Poll

Surely, I thought, there had to be more detail to the actual standards announcement than the small amount offered in the piece. Indeed, near the top of the page were two links to related articles.

Links

Perhaps, I thought, I’ll find more detail in those, so I clicked on the first link which took me to an article at the National Times website: The new Rs needed for teaching: reading, writing and a bucketload of rapport, by Josephine Tovey and Amy McNeilage. I found another 291 words but by the end of the article I felt no better informed about yesterday’s announcement. There was a nice poll, however, in which I could Have My Say.

Poll 2

I decided to go read the third article linked from the first but found no links in the second article to either the first or the third. So, I clicked back in my browser to the first article to click through to the third, Piccoli firm over teaching benchmark, again by Josephine Tovey and Amy McNeilage, at the Canberra Times website. This article offered a slight re-write of the scant detail provided in the first article.

Universities threw their support behind a Commonwealth government plan announced on Monday for new standards for teaching students which include an assessment of aptitude but do not set a minimum standard academic result.

Applicants could be screened for their suitability for teaching via methods which could include “interviews, demonstrated values and aptitude, and a written statement.”

At bottom of the page there was a “plans at a glance” table-of-sorts putting a bare minimum of flesh on the bones.

Plans

Plus, of course, another poll.

Poll 3

After reading three full news articles published underneath three different mastheads, I felt dissatisfied and uninformed about the details of the policy announcement. I was offered three opportunities to Have My Say but precious little information which I might use to inform My Say. What I saw was a news organisation in 2013 — 2013 — ticking off its online KPIs with a Twitter link and the yes/no journalistic equivalent of a Livejournal guestbook.

Sadly, I found my experience this morning completely unsurprising as this seems to be what constitutes most online journalism in this country: a confusing mess of newspaper copy cut-and-pasted into a CMS with no thought given to how online readers might want to consume it. Maybe the series of articles I read made a lot more sense when laid out and organised across a sheet of dead tree, all within the reader’s field of vision, but online it was a joke.

Why should I have to go to so much effort to navigate a thoughtless tangle of links to piece together an understanding of the story? Isn’t it the journalists’ job to do the work for me, organising all this information into a coherent structure that is logical, intuitive, informative and easy to read? Shouldn’t it be offered to me as a discrete and attractive media object, appropriate to the platform, that makes full use of the online environment?

Anyway, I ended up Googling around and found the government’s fact sheet on the announcement. While quite generalised and broad, and lacking detail, it informed me of various important aspects to the announcement I found in none of those news stories, such as changes to teacher practicum and assessment.

Practicum

Bring on that paywall, hey?

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