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Being in government isn’t a license to impose your privileged ideology

You may already be across this but for various reasons I’ve only just caught up. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull actually proposed that the states take on the entire responsibility for funding public schools, while Turnbull’s own government, proposing nary a cent to the project of educating children who don’t attend private schools, is happy to continue its excessive fiscal support of educational privilege.

Aside: It’s usually against my personal code of not wasting time with click bait to read, let alone link to Mamamia, however I like to think I’m big enough to overlook that code under exceptional circumstances so I did.

I cannot see any sense, decency, respect, care or concern for the country’s future in such a move. It is pure ideology. It comes a mere two weeks or so after the appointment of new Liberal Senator James Paterson, who declared that public school kids lack a work ethic found in private school kids, an interesting indictment seeing as he is himself the product of the public school system.

Oh wait. Paterson probably thinks he’s exceptional. Believing yourself to be exceptional is a core requirement for membership of the LNP. Please read: public school kids with the notable exception of James Paterson, don’t have a work ethic as strong as private school kids.

These arrogant, privileged twerps are in need of a damn good smack down and some serious re-education as to what the role of government actually is. It isn’t a license to impose an ideology of privilege. It is the responsibility to ensure as far as is possible equal access across society to core necessities such as education. To do otherwise is to bring a country to its knees. Intelligence and talent are not restricted to postcodes. Any nation that limits the potential of its young is a nation in its death throes. If you don’t believe me, please note that the majority of this government was educated in private schools. Need I say more?

This is class warfare. Federal de-funding of public schools while continuing funding of private schools is a divisive and dangerous proposition. It perpetuates the myth that having money (no matter how you got it or where you hide it) is morally sound; that money in and of itself has a moral value that supersedes the manner in which it is obtained.

Good government isn’t divisive and dangerous, and it isn’t focused on ideology. It’s capable of some semblance of economic literacy as well. Turnbull’s government is exceptionally agile with economic policy: it should be a star turn at Cirque du Soleil.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.


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  1. Kerry Wilson

    We have a debate about school funding every single time the liberals are elected. Its usually centred around how much private schools should be funded. Never has the debate sunk so low as to stop public school funding entirely. What on earth are the liberals values and do they actually have any? They certainly need to find some.

  2. Matters Not

    This is class warfare.

    So what’s new? While there are any number of ways at looking at (or constructing) the world, the concept of ‘class’ and how and why it operates (in a conflict sense) makes lots of ‘sense’.

    Malware is now promoting the line that the government has put so much extra money into ‘public’ education and yet the (comparative) international results have declined. And that’s true. (But only at a very superficial level). He fails to mention that the expenditure increase in public schools is way below the expenditure increase in private schools.

    An uncomfortable truth?

    Perhaps we need to blame elite private schools for pulling the averages down?

    Shit these superficial arguments are a clear demonstration of how our education system (outcomes) fails us.

  3. wam

    the rub is empty and his catholic buddies do not trust the states to support the church through the schools especially the myriad of tiny primary schools that grew like topsy under howard and in my town charge fees lower than public primaries(in my suburb 1 state school, 1 catholic, lutheran and a t-12 christian school).
    The sense is no funding for 8 state systems only federal schools federal curriculum federal teachers where private schools pay for themselves or run the federal curriculum and get the same as any school with religion out of school hours.

  4. PC

    This is what I hear whenever a LNP member opens their word hole.

    Investing in health and education generates zero return for the country, Wait! No worse.It’s a terrible investment. What good has a country ever got when it’s full of smart and healthy people.

    In fact, we should drastically escalate the prices on health and education. Let’s f*cking send a hard message to anyone, especially kids, who are thinking of learning or are in need of care.

    Besides, good education and health is just for those kids that come from super rich religious families. Because we all know that if you’re filthy rich then you’re guaranteed to give birth to geniuses while if you’re poor, then you give birth to idiots. Our genes know how much money is in our bank account and on the Cayman Islands. That’s not me talking, that’s cold hard science.

  5. Carol Taylor

    In addition it is the state school system which educates the vast majority of children with disabilities, these are the kids who Turnbull wanted to offload. The whole thing to me reeked of elitism, indicative of Turnbull’s silver spoon mentality.

  6. Steve Laing

    Moreover, studies show that once in university, private school students, once taken away from all the lovely support systems they’ve enjoyed, are much more likely to drop out than public school students. It seems like they don’t teach the little twerps resilience.

  7. Carol Taylor

    Steve, I completely agree. As a first year mature age law student, my criminal law lecturer made as aside to myself. Noting the size of his class, this lecturer remarked: see this class, by the end of this year over one third will be gone..and almost all of them will have come through the private education system. These young people are taught how to pass exams, but not how to study nor how to show initiative.

    Another class, one sweet young thing remarked to the lecturer: where are the study notes? The lecturer replied: in the book…

  8. Wayne Turner

    “declared that public school kids lack a work ethic found in private school kids” – AKA Liberal party speak for private school kids just make more privileged connections than public school kids. Connections that lead to “selfish”, “born to rule”,”ignorant” and “arrogant” views of the world.In which you then spend the rest of your life rorting tax payers and bludging off the rest of society.


  9. Wayne Turner

    “What good has a country ever got when it’s full of smart and healthy people.” – Better governments,and certainly no Liberal party governments like the current lot of Tony Turnbull and the arrogant arses.

  10. stephengb

    Kind of shows just how arragant these elites have become over the last thirty years of neoclassical economic, Free Market Fundamentalism.
    Even the so called workers party the Labor / Labour parties of Australia and UK still do not get it.

    Jeremy Corbyn does and so does Bernie Sanders (as well as the Canadian PM – I believe)

    I truly hope the Libs get a thrashing this election.

  11. Garth

    @PC… you have articulated the attitude correctly but made one major error in your terminology. The conservatives don’t see health and education as an ‘investment’, they see these essential public services as a cost. As long as they view everything through the terms of a balance sheet, they can never make good public policy for the good of the nation. Health and education are first and foremost the duty of our government to provide and when they are viewed as an investment in our common good we all benefit. The sad truth is they view even these most basic of human rights as something that is only worthy of those able to pay. It’s pathetic and I’m ashamed to share my country with these people. With the IPA making inroads into having people in the parliament, it’s a fight that is only just beginning.

  12. Bob Rafto

    By Ian Verrender
    Posted yesterday at 7:35am

    After last week’s antics, it’s now clear the grand plan to fix our structural deficit is through higher income taxes. The reason? Wage earners are soft targets, writes Ian Verrender.

    “Between 1915 and 1942, income taxes were levied at both the state and federal level, leading to complexity and inequitable taxation of income across states.”

    Oops. Better change that line quick smart.

    For that’s the explanation Treasury first lobbed onto the federal government website in its Brief History of Australia’s Tax System about a decade ago to explain just why the Commonwealth took full control of income tax during World War II.

    Suddenly that’s all changed. If Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull had his way, the states in future would be responsible for raising their own income taxes to fund vital services such as health and education.

    While there was no disputing the grand sweep of Turnbull’s idea and that it perfectly fit Coalition ideology, there were a whole series of questionable assumptions about the supposed benefits that would flow from this monumental change to our system of federalism. More on that later.

    Of more immediate concern is that it is now clear the grand plan to fix Australia’s structural deficit is not through tightening middle and upper class welfare or removing distorting tax incentives such as negative gearing.

    It is through higher income taxes. That’s the only way the states could plug the funding gap for health and education. Otherwise, there’d be no point making the change.

    Call it unfortunate timing. But given the upcoming budget is likely to include a cut in corporate tax rates, with the possibility of further corporate tax cuts into the future, wage and salary earners look to have been tasked with the mammoth job of budget repair.

    The reason? They are a soft target, as evidenced by the growth in their tax contributions in the past few years.

    According to data released by the Australian Tax Office a fortnight ago, not only are individuals the biggest net contributors to the federal coffers, the growth in tax receipts in the five years to 2014 has far outstripped the growth in tax from companies and superannuation funds.

    Wage earners coughed up $166 billion in 2013/14, up from $120 billion in 2009/10. Corporate tax, on the other hand, grew from around $57 billion to $67 billion in the same period.

    With the company tax cuts now on offer, and given the recent massive losses clocked up by the likes of Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton in the past few months, the corporate world’s contributions are set to substantially fall in the next few years, placing an even greater burden on government revenue.

    Those pushing for a cut to company argue that Australia has one of the highest rates in the world.

    At 30 per cent, we are well above the OECD average of 24.1 per cent and are among the highest in the OECD. America, incidentally, charges almost 40 per cent.

    But Australia is one of the few countries to have a system of dividend imputation, which effectively lowers the rate, particularly if most of a company’s shareholders are Australian. Local investors are delivered franking credits, meaning the more tax a company pays, the less the investor pays.

    While the Prime Minister’s grand vision on the federation has been dismissed by the state premiers, it has been a neat political victory at another level. No one is talking negative gearing, capital gains tax or superannuation rorts any longer.

    Even with record low interest rates, Australian taxpayers are claiming more than $4 billion annually in tax deductions from losses on mostly property loans, courtesy of negative gearing.

    That represents an enormous hit each year to tax receipts. Then there’s the opportunity cost. All that money should have been invested in productive enterprises, not loss making ventures.

    There’s nothing wrong with trying to improve the efficiency of the health and education systems. But reshuffling the income tax system won’t do it.
    The biggest impact, however, is on the cost of land and housing. Every business leader in the country complains about Australia’s exorbitant costs. Guess what? A large part of that relates to the cost of real estate, which in turn flows through to rents and wages.

    Winding back negative gearing tax breaks and the associated discounts on capital gains would be a vital first step to not simply improving housing affordability, but lowering the long term cost of doing business in this country.

    As for the supposed benefits of allowing the states to levy their own income tax, the underlying assumption is that it would make the states more accountable; that if they had to raise their own tax, they’d spend the money more wisely.

    Where is the evidence for this? Which state has been squandering its health budget? And if any have, why not fix the problem at the source rather than offer an academic solution with spurious benefits?

    The truth is that health costs are rising faster than inflation. Why? Because we have an ageing population, the cost of medical technology is soaring and the Australia US Free Trade Agreement signed a decade ago was a dud that left us at the mercy of US pharmaceutical giants. That, in turned, undermined the efficiency of our Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

    In his first budget, then treasurer Joe Hockey highlighted the fact that “during the past decade the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme has increased by 80 per cent.” He didn’t mention anything about profligacy at the state level.

    Anyone who has ever worked in or been a patient in our public health system will tell you that work rates, staff dedication and stress levels are high and that wages are low. If you want an easy, well paid career as a front line health worker, good luck with that.

    Among the arguments this week was that, if one state wants to offer a Rolls Royce health system and another wants a Trabant, then they should be allowed to do so.

    Really? Whatever happened to the principle that all Australians are entitled to the same level of health and schooling?

    And while the Prime Minister assured us a “mechanism” would be put in place to ensure the poorer states would not be left worse off, that could only mean one thing; an equalisation fund whereby richer states would subsidise poorer states, thereby undermining the entire idea of state taxation independence.

    Still, the academics loved the idea, for it would minimise the VFI, the dreaded Vertical Fiscal Imbalance; the supposed evil where the Commonwealth raises more than 80 per cent of the revenue and the states get to spend most of the money.

    Not sure about you, but the last time I looked that’s pretty much the way most modern corporations work. Head office is responsible for collecting the revenue while various departments are allocated budgets to which they have to adhere.

    There’s nothing wrong with trying to improve the efficiency of the health and education systems. But reshuffling the income tax system won’t do it. Just ask Treasury.

    Ian Verrender is the ABC’s business editor and writes a weekly column for The Drum.

  13. Lee

    “Moreover, studies show that once in university, private school students, once taken away from all the lovely support systems they’ve enjoyed, are much more likely to drop out than public school students. It seems like they don’t teach the little twerps resilience.”

    When I was at uni it was very easy to determine those who were straight out of a private school. They did not have the faintest idea where to start with research, they couldn’t write essays to save themselves and they did not pull their weight with team work. Some years later I met some teachers who had worked in both the public and private systems who confirmed that private school students are spoon fed so that the teachers keep their jobs by having a good pass rate.

  14. Kyran

    Soooo, wait a minute. Private schools good, public schools bad is the message we are meant to accept without question?

    On ‘Insiders’ last Sunday, there was some reference to a report that showed cuts in funding to education did not necessarily result in a reduction in outcomes. Henderson was using it as justification for the federal stance. I haven’t been able to source the report so can only comment by way of recollection. It did strike me at the time that the same report could be used to justify defunding private schools.

    Gonski is gone, cause we can’t afford it.

    The chaplaincy program stays (at exorbitant cost) and the ‘safe schools’ program (at a fraction of the cost) is gutted (until its demise in 2017).

    The funding of private schools is, oddly, a concept challenged by the federal government itself, if they are Muslim. Back in November, the new miniature for education wanted to defund six Islamic schools.

    Typical of this government, they tried for six and only got one.

    It has never been about policy. It is about ideology. Seems to me it’s as much about religious ideology as classism. Thank you Ms Wilson. Take care

  15. Lee

    I didn’t see the Insiders to know the context of the story, but cuts to education may have a negative effect. If children don’t get a good foundation in their early years, you can’t just throw money at them at university level. Many of those kids will drop out because they lack the necessary knowledge to get them through.

  16. Matthew Oborne

    the two private schools in my area are amazing to behold the money ploughed into both beggar belief when in contrast we have the public schools in the same area looking like they were built 50 years ago with nothing more than a few coats of paint, but the same tables I sat at when I was young, luckily they updated enough that the desks dont have holes for inkwells in them anymore but little beyond that.

    our area donated $20 000 to one of the local public schools with one of the 60 year olds claiming it hadnt changed much in his time.

    6 billion for two thirds of the school kids over 10 billion for the private school kids (one third)

    It teaches young kids money buys privilege having money makes you privileged and that society should treat you better for some obscure reason.

    evening out our school system is vital to a fairer system how we allowed the Liberals to entrench a system as starkly contrasted as this is beyond me.

    I walked into a private hospital once I broke my arm and didnt want to wait until monday paid $420 then and there and walked out with xrays and a cast, I wont say private hospitals have their uses I will say public hospitals should have been able to afford xray staff on weekends and most likely would have if we hadnt had a massive build up in private schools and hospitals under Howard.

    The public hospital out my way isnt very public, after hours it is run by a private company and if you had chest pains be prepared to pay over $300 to get checked out, just to get checked.

    Victor Harbor is exactly the same the nearest real hospital for them is over an hours drive away.

    We have a doctors surgery linked to that hospital where you can be refused service if you arent fully paid up.

    This is what city people will get to experience for themselves if we allow this to continue.

    We have complained for many years, without our city cousins adding their voices to ours it rarely gets noticed, but you will see sometimes a pile of hay bales with some writing sprayed on them as you pass through.

    The Libs are good at shafting people in small areas where the message wont get across, they are trialing the basics card in country areas where the story gets forgotten quickly.

    what we endure you will endure over time if we get another Liberal government.

    I would suggest rather than holding our ground people try to undo the imbalance Liberals install in areas that dont have big enough voices.

  17. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Whatever this LNP Government mismanages before it gets the axe itself on 2 July 2016, is where we start with the clean up from Day 1 of the new alternative government. Negotiations between the new political Allies should be happening now. Labor, the Greens, progressive micro parties and sane Independents must be in the full view for the public to hear what remedies and progressive improvements are intended once the LNP disease has been snuffed out.

    Jennifer Wilson has identified the intended wanton destruction inflicted by the LNP on public education. Now it is time to listen to the experts in Education, and I mean the Teachers and Principals (not the bogans in the Education bureaucracies), what the experts think need to be done for fair fiscal distribution of Education funding between the public/private divide.

    My view is that public schools are crying out for more teachers so to reduce the teacher/students ratio, which is a Win/Win for all considered because it means more of the teacher’s time for each student! Duh!

    When there is more time for each student, there is more attention to the student’s application to the work and attention to detail.

    I’d say James Patterson’s public school education experience is based on depleted public schooling which is hardly the fault of the school or the teachers or the diverse and often challenging students.

    Better and diverse classroom and after-school support services designed to support students undertake, complete and accomplish for themselves are absolutely necessary.

    That means ample public funding from the Federal Government, so that Public Education can bring ongoing generations of Australians to proud levels of knowledge, understanding and critical thinking.

    While I am in full support of Public Education, I don’t oppose some government funding to the poorer and moderate private schools which struggle to exist.

    But I do oppose more funding to the rich private schools that have already achieved the resources and infrastructure from previous exorbitant handouts.

  18. Alison White

    There is no such animal in Australia that can be accurately termed a ‘private school’ – all get public money without any significant accountability. In the UK the ‘public school’ system and the charter school (as opposed to the comprehensive system) are required to take in non fee paying students. There is no such compulsion in Australia. Back in 1981 when I was training to be a teacher we had a union delegate visit and talk on private school funding, I asked him where he sent his children – no prizes for guessing the answer. The only way we will ever get adequately funded State Schools is if every politician’s child is required to attend them by law.

  19. Möbius Ecko

    Steve Laing at 9:59 pm

    There are several studies, Australian, German and US from memory, that bear that out. All the money poured into private primary and secondary education does not translate into better tertiary school students. Publicly educated students on the whole do better in university than privately educated students, and that’s almost global, and for the reason you allude to. Yet even here the wealthy buy their way into and through tertiary education, often at the cost of those less well off. This is especially the case in the US. They either take the positions on offer through buying their way into university, or they shove less resourced students aside. They also spend more on private tuition, which is also the case at the primary and secondary level, despite supposedly having better school resources at their disposal.

  20. townsvilleblog

    One of the few mistakes the great man made was to fund private schools. The government should fund government schools and not private schools. Private school students have a parent or parents both working, or in the case of one parent working, the parent is on a huge wage compared to shop assistants or clerks. They pay fees of thousands of dollars that everyday families simply have not got the money to pay. On the subject of funding, I can’t get over the fact that 579 companies in Australia have not paid a cent in taxation since 2013 at least. If a floor were put under the company tax system of say 20% imagine the government revenue for infrastructure, education and public health. Of course as you are reading this you will know I have a grade 9 education, and was hoping for something more for my daughter but not to be I’m afraid, 2.5 million of us are living in poverty in Australia.

  21. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Well said townsvilleblog.

  22. Geoff Andrews

    The state Premiers missed a chance when the PM made his insulting, MT, insincere “offer” to allow the states to raise their own income tax for education. They should have said, “Since we provide the services that directly affect everyone: education, health, police, roads, environment etc, we should collect ALL income taxes and GST and we will give you what’s left over for defence, foreign affairs, customs & border farce and whatever else you actually do. The bemefits to you are that you’ll never have to keep putting things on the table one day before brushing them on to the floor the next. And because WE’VE raised the taxes, we’ll be super careful how we spend them just like you’ve been but YOU can now be as profligate as we’ve been. You can have ,say, royal commissions, plebiscites, dud fighters, offshore detention centres and …. by the way …are you still looking for that plane in the Indian ocean?”

  23. Florence nee Fedup

    There used to be a time when many thought state rights were important. Looking back, I believe they were right. States need to reassert themselves. They are sovereign governments, same as the federal.

    States are responsible for all services closests to the people.

  24. Florence nee Fedup

    Shorten at very impressive PC in WA has just said, “when Turnbull become PM, I thought my job would be harder”. Went onto say, he can’t work out where he is at the last few weeks.

    Extra long PC, being asked and answering important questions in full.

  25. Anzac Bikky

    The only reason public health is having a funding problem is that the switch for health SERVICE has been flicked over to health INDUSTRY by successive neo-con governments in their quest for PRIVATE profits!

  26. lawrencewinder

    The Institute of Public Affairs (aka The-Coots-With-Queer-Ideas-From-a-Parallel-Universe) is the ideological “brain” behind this mongrel ruling rabble. If their concept of “Free-Market” were applied to them, they’d lose their charity status and have to pay their own way for a change.

  27. Otto von Heidelberg

    Governments of late have lost the idea that they are elected to do Public Good (or at least be seen to be doing so).
    It’s all gone now. Gonski is Goneski together with a whole lot of other funding where it REALLY matters. GONESKI!
    Funding for Cambodia and Nauru, NO PROBLEM! Funding for submarines already obsolete the moment they are built and paid for, NO PROBLEM!. Getting Re-Elected, BIG PROBLEM if they think that musical chairs will work this time around.
    Oh I forgot, they are still in love with AbbotThology and implementing the same policies. So No Problem then! Donald Trump is definitely in agreement!

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