We’re no brainwashers, say the brainwashers

by Tony Thomas

August 6, 2013

Yarraville Community Centre (YCC), in Melbourne’s inner west, has come up with various excuses for brainwashing its African and Vietnamese English-learners with Labor and Green electoral propaganda. The migrants were given loaded fact-sheets and quizzes about newly-restored PM Kevin Rudd and Greens leader Christine Milne.

YCC has now even forwarded me on August 1 a nice teaching document featuring Tony Abbott, his biography and his policies. YCC manager Christine McCall says this document was presented to the migrant students in the lesson following the lesson featuring the Rudd and Milne propaganda. The classes are run by teacher Michelle Ryan.

However, Ms Ryan’s Abbott document is quite different in style and format to the Rudd/Milne documents, and is impeccably sourced to Abbott’s own websites.

A possibility is that the Abbott document was cooked up after Quadrant Online’s expose on July 23 of the Rudd/Milne propaganda. At least three members of the migrant class – my original informant and two people she contacted – never saw the Abbott document.

Ms McCall forwarded me the Abbott document in the form of a pdf version. It was created by YCC at 2.32pm on August 1 from the original computer file, probably a Word document. I then asked her for the dates of creation and modification of the original file, mentioning that this data can be obtained in seconds from Word’s “File/Properties” menu.

Her emailed reply at 4.23pm was brusque:

“Hi Tony, have just finished back to back meetings and am off home. The reply from YCC management and follow up material I sent you yesterday covers YCC response to your emails. Chris.”

I was surprised that a manager of a large community centre would be “off home” at 4.23pm, leaving unanswered a series of press queries bearing on the reputation of her centre.

The centre’s Christine Milne document includes a catechism and tests about Milne policies such as,

She wants Australia to stop using coal, oil and petrol
She wants Australia to use wind farms, solar energy and renewable energy
By the year 2030 she wants 90 per cent of energy to be clean.
She went to jail for trying to save the Franklin River.
The Rudd document’s questions include such loaded ones as

What did Fair Work Australia do?
How much money did he give out during the Global Financial Crisis?
What did he give each secondary school student?
What kind of languages did he want Australians to learn?
Do you think he will be a good recycled prime minister? Why/Why not?

Extracts from an August 1 reply by “Management at YCC” (an odd de-personalisation) to my queries the previous day are:

1. “Management at YCC would like to make it very clear that at no time was the series of questions outlined in your email and in the Quadrant article entitled “A Lesson in Brainwashing” received by YCC.”

After I emailed the questions about 9am on July 22, I rang the YCC switchboard at 3pm to confirm receipt of the email. The switchboard operator located the email to Ms McCall and said she would forward it to her mailbox, adding that Ms McCall was returning from overseas that evening. I concede that glitches are never-the-less possible.

2. “The slogan, ‘A bit left of centre’ you refer to in your article…is a play on words as we are located in the western suburbs geographically left of the city centre.”

This is curious, as the YCC would be ‘a bit right of centre’ anyone living north of Melbourne. The genesis of the YCC’s slogan is explained here, sort of.

3. “From the ESL (English as a Second Language) Frameworks curriculum, students study an elective unit entitled The Australian Government VPAM544 and the material they were given was directly related to the ‘Learning Outcome 1.3 — identify the key players in federal, state and local Government’.”

This is spin. Victoria University’s ESL curriculum seeks from students a broad understanding of Australia’s three-tier government system, including electoral processes such as preferential voting, and ‘rights and responsibilities of residents and citizens’. One of nine subsets is ‘Identify the key players in federal, state and local government’ and another is ‘(Students should) locate a range of information provided in election material’.

There is no Victoria University guidance encouraging teachers to give students laudatory biographies of federal party leaders, plus teachers’ subjective views on each leader’s policies and accomplishments. My informant in the YCC class said the sheets handed out on Rudd and Milne were the only education materials about Australian government that she saw.

4. “It was explained to students in class that they would look at material covering the basic accomplishments of 3 political leaders and their basic personal information.”

My informant denies that the third political leader – Abbott – was mentioned in the class she attended

5. “Two of the leaders were covered during the lesson in question with Tony Abbott being covered in the following lesson.”

My informant went to the Footscray branch of YCC for the following lesson. That lesson had nothing to do with government or politics, and YCC did not contact her in any way about the alleged follow-up lesson involving Abbott.

6. “The information in the material that you refer to, and the subsequent material regarding Tony Abbott, was paraphrased from party websites.”

The Rudd and Milne material is unsourced and naively positive, and looks nothing like official party material. Rather, the documents look like the personal views of a teacher about the two Left parties. They appear tailored to solicit electoral support by the class for Greens leader Milne in particular, and for Rudd in respect of his fondness for Asian culture. The Abbott document, in contrast, is objectively sourced to Liberal websites, is footnoted ‘Aust Govt unit’, and avoids giving the teacher’s subjective views.

7. “VCC does not align, advocate for or support any political party at either Federal or State or Local Government level.”

This is a half-answer to my query, “Does YCC have any policy against party-political proselytising by its staff to their students/clients?”

Among questions acknowledged by Ms McCall, but which she has still declined to answer, are:

1. Was YCC management aware of the existence of the Rudd/Milne YCC documents? If not, is there sufficient supervision of YCC teaching practices by management?

2. Was it appropriate and ethical for Ms Ryan to distribute these documents to her clients (especially given the imminence of a federal election)?

3. Is use of the Rudd/Milne documents at YCC consistent with YCC’s quality-control obligations to government as a Registered Training Organisation?

4. Could you comment please on whether YCC supplied the Abbott document to all members of the class receiving the Rudd/Milne documents ?

5. Question I would like you to refer to the chair of the board of YCC :

Do you have any concern about the use of the Rudd/Milne documents at YCC?

6. Question I would like you to put to Ms Ryan: Did you hand out Greens electoral material at the previous State election, as alleged by then-Liberal candidate Ken Betts?

The Tony Abbott document – of uncertain date – is reproduced below:

Tony Abbott – Leader of the Opposition

Adapted from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tony_Abbott and http://www.tonyabbott.com.au

Tony Abbott was born in London, England on 4 November 1957 to an Australian mother and an English born Australian father. Tony’s family moved to Australia on the Assisted Passage Migration Scheme in 1960.

Abbott went to Jesuit primary and secondary schools. He attended Sydney University and got a Bachelor of Laws. He was also President of the Student Council.

He won an important prize for students called a Rhodes Scholarship. This was a scholarship to study for a Master of AXrts at Oxford University in England. He returned to Australia and told his family he wanted to join the priesthood.

During his student days he once saved a child who was swept out to sea. Another time, he helped save children from a burning house next to a pub where he was drinking. On each occasion he disappeared before he could be properly thanked…

(The rest continues as a summary from the wiki entry, but only positive material is selected. The considerable negative material on wiki about Abbott, such as his student political mayhem, is ignored by the teacher Michelle Ryan. Yet even her Rudd document has a couple of negative touches. My interpretation is that she is trying desperately to offset the Green Left bias she showed in her Milne/Rudd documents).

Achievements – adapted from tonyabbott.com.au

Tony expanded Work for the Dole. Since its introduction in 1997, more than 600,000 people have participated in Work for the Dole gaining experience and skills…

(The rest is cut and paste from Abbott’s website).

Questions:

When and where was Tony Abbott born?

When did his family move to Australia?

All the questions thereafter remain factual and neutral.

Full texts of the comprehension tracts:

Kevin Rudd

Kevin Rudd was born on 21 September 1957. He became the Prime Minister of Australia in June 2013. He was also prime minister from 2007 to 2010.

He was born in Queensland to Bert and Margaret Rudd. He was the youngest of four children and grew up on a dairy farm where his parents worked. When he was eleven, his father died and the family had to leave the farm. They became homeless. Keven was sent away to a tough, harsh Catholic boarding school where he was very sad. It was an unhappy time for him because everyone knew his family were poor. He joined the Labor Party at the age of 15.

Kevin studied hard and won prizes for public speaking. At university he studied Chinese language and history and he got a Chinese name Lu Kewen. He was happy that university became free in 1972 because he was from a poor family.

He married Therese Rein in 1981. He worked and lived overseas from 1981 to 1989 with his family in different cities including Stockholm and Beijing. They had three children, two sons and one daughter, Jessica. His daughter has recently had a baby Josephine, with her Chinese husband. Jessica lives in China.

When he came back to Australia he worked in the Queensland government and in his job he tried to make Australians learn Asian languages.

Policies

When he became prime minister in 2007 the first thing he did was apologise to the Stolen Generation who are the Aborigines who were taken away from their parents. He also promised to help fix the environment with a special plan to make factories pay for pollution, but then changed his mind and didn’t do it. He started Fair Work Australia which helped people get better pay and conditions in the work place.

In the Global Financial Crisis he kept Australia safe and gave out $900 grants to everyone. This kept people spending money which kept the shops and business going.

Rudd also organised for every secondary school child to have a computer.

He took the soldiers out of Iraq in 2009.

Kevin Rudd used to be against same sex marriage but he changed his mind. He now says it is ok for same sex couples to get married.

In 2010 He [sic] became the Foreign minister and flew all over the world talking to other prime ministers and presidents. He was called Kevin 747. Because he worked long hours he was also called Kevin 24/7.

1. Where was he born?

2. What were his parents’ names? What did they do?

3. How old was he when his father died?

4. Where did he live after his father died?

5. Did he like boarding school? Why not?

6. What did he study at university?

7. What was his Chinese name?

8. Where did he live between 1981 and 1989?

9. When did he marry? What is his wife’s name?

10. How many children does he have?

11. What is the stolen Generation?

12. Why did Rudd apologise?

13. What did Fair Work Australia do?

14. How much money did he give out during the Global Financial Crisis?

15. What did he give each secondary school student?

16. What kind of languages did he want Australians to learn?

17. Does he agree with same sex marriage?

18. Why was he called Kevin 24/7?

19. Why was he called Kevin 747?

20. Do you think he will be a good recycled prime minister? Why/Why not?

The Christine Milne document is here:

Christine Milne

Christine Milne is the leader of the Greens. She is the Greens Senator for Tasmania. She was born on May 14 1953 in Tasmania. She loved the land and playing in the countryside of Tasmania. Her family were dairy farmers. She grew up riding horses and milking cows. Later she was sent away to boarding school and she didn’t like it. She missed the countryside.

Christine Milne worked as a secondary school English and History teacher from 1975 to 1984. She became an activist. She was put in jail for trying to save the Franklin river in 1983. She thought jail was not too bad because she had already gone to boarding school.

She has fought hard to save the environment in Tasmania and the rest of Australia. She wants to stop pollution and she wants to use clean energy instead. In 1993 she became the leader of the Tasmanian Greens. She became the first woman to lead a political party in Tasmania.

She married Neville Milne in 1975 and they divorced in 1999. Her sons were born in 1984 and 1986.

Clean Energy is solar, wind farms and other energy that doesn’t make pollution. Clean energy also does not ‘run out’. Petrol, oil and coal all cause pollution and they also run out. One day we won’t have any left.

Her policies are:

Stop using coal, oil and petrol. Instead use clean energy.

Put more money into making solar energy and solar hot water systems.

Put $3 billion into clean energy every year for ten years

Make 90% of energy clean energy by 2030.

Have 100% Clean Energy in the future.

[Test]:

Christine Milne

She is ~~~ years old.

She is the Leader of the ~~~

She thinks we should put ~~~ into clean ~~~ for ~~~ years.

She wants Australia to stop using c~~~, o~~~ and p~~~

She wants Australia to use w~~~ f~~~, s~~ energy and renewable energy

By the year ~~~~ she wants ~~~ per cent of energy to be clean.

When she went to boarding school, she felt unhappy because ~~~~~~~

She went to jail for trying to save ~~~~~~~.

Draw a time line for her life.

Explain these pictures. What do they have to do with Christine Milne?

Answers (as provided by my informant):

This is a wind farm. It is clean energy.

This is a solar panel. Christine Milne want more clean energy. It does not make pollution and it is renewable. It doesn’t run out.

This is dairy farmers and milking cows.

This is Tasmania. She was born in Tasmania.

This is a teacher. Christine Milne was a teacher.

This is petrol pump. Christine Milne doesnt like the petrol.

This is coal. She doesn’t like coal. She wants Australia to stop using it.

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