Friday, August 10, 2018

Today by Paddy Manning

Bubble tea test: 25 million
Australia passed a demographic milestone this week

Statistically speaking, the 25-millionth Australian was most likely a female Chinese student, we learnt this week. At the University of New South Wales’ main campus in Sydney, the number of students with a Chinese background doing degrees like business is such that, occasionally, when the lecturer also speaks the language, classes can spontaneously burst into Mandarin. The most popular hangout for students with a Chinese background is not the old Roundhouse student bar but the bubble tea cafe near the IGA. Passing the 25-million milestone is meaningless in itself, of course, but a 19-year-old architecture student from Fujian province, who does not want to be named or photographed, wants to get one thing clear: “It’s not because of Chinese people. The world’s population is growing, it’s not just Australia.”

The architecture student speaks fluent Mandarin and good English, having spent her final years of school at Burwood Girls High School. At first, the isolation was painful. “When I was in high school here, I feel like Australian people kind of wanted to make friends with their own kind, and our international students kind of pack together, and it’s not because of language, it’s because they don’t want to talk to us most of the time.” But Australia was her first choice of country in which to undertake tertiary study. “America is quite dangerous,” she says. “They have guns.” Canada was too far from China.

In a week when discussion of race issues has flared, and when in Newcastle a student from Pakistan was bashed with a knuckleduster, it is encouraging to hear that she has not experienced racism herself, although she tells me that her friends have. While she does not get homesick – there are plenty of Chinese people here – she has no intention of staying on when she graduates.

The prime minister himself was here at UNSW on Tuesday, talking about the contribution that international education makes “to our nation, our region” and in particular he highlighted “its vital importance to our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership with China”. Asia commentator Michael Sainsbury described Turnbull’s speech as “gushing”, an attempt to mend relations in the wake of last year’s dire warning in Singapore of the “nature and magnitude of the threat” from China, subject of The Monthly’s August cover essay by former Turnbull adviser and journalist John Garnaut. In an op-ed this morning, former prime minister Kevin Rudd wrote that Turnbull’s “grovelling mea culpa to Beijing in his speech … may well make matters worse.”

Robin Au, 24, was born and raised in Hong Kong and graduated with a mechatronics engineering degree from UNSW. He now works in one of the university’s makerspaces. He has spent years studying, volunteering and working on campus but faces deportation in the next six months, when his two-year graduate visa expires, if he is not successful in applying for permanent residency or a temporary skills shortage visa; the latter is more difficult because Australia’s list of skill shortage areas does not include mechatronics. Au’s preference would be to stay on in Australia, and he is worried about China’s authoritarian drift. “There are not a lot of countries that can forcefully say no to China; even America’s struggling now. It’s kind of like a dwindling of hope, because in Hong Kong they’re starting a lot of censorship. They say we have our own government … yes we do, but it’s chosen through candidates that are approved by China. So you can pick from the three bad apples that have already been chosen for you.” Au has not had firsthand experience of Chinese attempts to sway or influence the student body: “I have not experienced it firsthand, but in all honesty, from what I’ve heard, I would not be surprised. It’s just like Russia meddling with America – it’s just the natural course of things.”

since this morning

An investigation into federal Labor backbencher Emma Husar has found she subjected staff to unreasonable management, including disciplinary methods, but cleared her of lewd behaviour. It also found that the leaking of some of the complaints against her was reprehensible.

The Australian reports [$] Labor governments in Victoria and Queensland have withheld support for Malcolm Turnbull’s proposed National Energy Guarantee, escalating their demands for key changes to the policy and declaring it “needs more work”.

Malcolm Turnbull said he is aware of a police investigation into a domestic violence allegation against decorated veteran Ben Roberts-Smith, Fairfax Media reports, but the prime minister declined to comment, declaring only that Australia has “zero tolerance” for violence against women.


Documents and emails obtained by the ABC’s Four Corners through freedom of information laws appear to show Adani and the Queensland government knew the risk of pollution to the Great Barrier Reef from overflowing water storages ahead of Cyclone Debbie in 2017.

Fairfax Media reports that unions have urged members to opt out of My Health Record, arguing that employer doctors – used for pre-employment health checks or insurance purposes – could get access to and pass on a worker’s entire medical history under the new system.

NAB CEO Andrew Thorburn believes the bank was not guilty of criminal acts in its wealth and superannuation arms, after a punishing day at the Hayne royal commission, according [$] to the AFR.

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The cruel complexities of women’s lives propel this Amy Adams-led thriller

Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is also the author of three books, including a recently updated unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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