When Tony Abbott chose his Ministers one can only wonder at his motivation.
The Minister for Immigration morphed into Border Security, tasked with stopping those who would seek safe haven in our country.
The Minister for Communications was appointed to destroy the NBN.
The Minister for Health, an ex-policeman, after no consultation with the health industry or treasury, set about dismantling universal health care. He also ripped up the National Hospitals Agreement with no consultation with the States.
The Minister for Social Services rescinded gambling reform laws and labelled anyone who used the services of his department as bludgers and leaners.
The Minister for the Environment went on a rampage getting rid of carbon pricing, winding back safeguards and rights of appeal, delisting and endangering world heritage sites, while approving mining, development, and deforestation at an obscene rate.
The Minister for Industry put the final nail in the coffin for car manufacturing and has overseen the death of the renewable energy industry.
The Minister for Trade and Investment signed FTAs which have cost the budget billions in tariff revenue, allowed foreign companies to bring in their own workers, and put our sovereignty over health and environmental laws at risk.
The Treasurer and Finance Minister have destroyed business and consumer confidence by their constant refrain of a “debt and deficit disaster” which they have greatly added to by producing a budget that was so blatantly unfair and poorly researched and targeted that it had no chance of being passed.
But perhaps the cruellest appointment of all was putting Christopher Pyne in charge of education.
On pages 40 and 41 of the Real Solutions pamphlet the Coalition made the following promises:
- We will continue current levels of funding for schools, indexed to deal with real increases in costs and we will ensure that money is targeted based on the social and economic status of the community.
That unity ticket only lasted as long as it took to finalise the election results after which we were subjected to the greatest load of doublespeak resulting in the Coalition cutting funding for years 5 and 6 of the Gonski reforms, reneging on the signed deals with the states, and abandoning their co-funding and accountability obligations.
- We will ensure the continuation of the current arrangements of university funding.
Obviously this was a non-core promise.
- We will review and restructure government research funding to make sure each dollar is spent as effectively as possible.
Apparently, the most effective way research dollars can be spent is in stopping spending them so Hockey’s bottom line looks healthier.
As reported in the Canberra Times,
“Universities are pleading with the Abbott government to abandon its threat to axe funding for major programs supporting 30,000 researchers if the Senate refuses to support the deregulation of university fees.
Peak body Universities Australia warns in its budget submission that researchers on the verge of major breakthroughs in health, climate science and manufacturing will move overseas if funding for the Future Fellowships scheme and National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Scheme (NCRIS) expires.
Education Minister Christopher Pyne has repeatedly said that continued funding for both programs – which have been described as the “backbone of research in Australia” – is contingent on the government’s higher education reforms passing the Senate.
“If Labor, the Greens and crossbenchers block the reform package in the Senate, there will be no source of ongoing funding for these two vital research investments, meaning job losses and irreparable damage to our high-quality research capacity.”
What sort of a myopic dilettante is this man? In an arrogant display of petulance he threatens that if he doesn’t get his way he will refuse to use our money to invest in the innovation and research that will contribute to our future.
“NCRIS has led to major breakthroughs on vaccinations, 3D imaging, drugs to treat heart failure and the production of a new type of steel that produces 70 per cent fewer greenhouse gases than regular steel.
The facilities it supports include the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS), based at the University of Tasmania, which conducts long-term ocean monitoring, including of temperature rises linked to climate change.
The Future Fellowships scheme supports 150 leading mid-career researchers, allowing them to continue their work in Australia.
“Without further investment by government in this scheme, many researchers, often midway through their projects and on the cusp of important breakthroughs, will move overseas where other governments are seeking to attract the world’s best,” Universities Australia says in its submission.
Universities are lobbying for $200 million a year in funding. Let’s put that in perspective.
How can we find $244 million for religious school chaplains but we can’t afford university funding?
Exploration by coal and energy companies is subsidised by Australian taxpayers by as much as $4 billion every year in the form of direct spending and tax breaks – 20 times what the universities are asking for.
According to the Australian Strategic Policy Institute Defence Budget Brief 2014-15, the cost of defence is over $80 million per day. Three days defence spending would fund university research for over a year.
The amount being spent on submarines and fighter jets represents about 200 years’ worth of research funding and is going to foreign economies. The two jets we have already paid for and not received would more than cover one year’s research at a cost of just under $US130 million each. We have 70 more on order and have been warned the costs will rise.
Which do you think will bring the greatest return on money invested, or the greatest productivity gains, or the greatest protection against disease and the ravages of climate change, or the greatest advancement for humanity?
While cutting the contribution to universities, the government’s intention to extend financial assistance to people studying diplomas or undertaking degrees at private colleges like the one Frances Abbott attends will cost $820 million.
According to a report by the Productivity Commission early last year, the government spends $3.8 million per private school on average – $8,546 per private school student.
Government schools teach the great majority of poor, disabled (76.6%) and Indigenous (84.7%) students, as well as those who do not speak English as a first language. However, in spite of the additional costs and burdens associated with teaching disadvantaged students, government spending per public school student increased by about 2.4 per cent a year between 2007/08 and 2011/12. In the same five-year period, government spending per private school student increased by about 3.4 per cent a year.
Interestingly, a University of Queensland study of NAPLAN results recently debunked conventional wisdom that having a child in a private school leads to better academic results. Furthermore, there is a disadvantage in sending a child to a private school if they go on to university, as more drop out in their first year.
Tutoring towards exam results does not serve a student well if they have not been encouraged to love learning and given the skills and resources to research. Creativity and innovation should be nurtured rather than stifled by directed learning.
The government are continually asking, with a sneer, well tell us what you would do.
Why don’t we give that $820 million offered to private colleges to the universities instead.
Why don’t we stop funding private schools and introduce a Private School Rebate similar to the Private Health Insurance Rebate. Allow people to claim up to a maximum of, say, $7000 per child at a private school as a tax deduction (adjust that depending what year they are in).
Fee statements would have to be produced and the size of the deduction would be on a means tested sliding scale which cuts out when combined income exceeds $180,000.
Considering our government champions personal choice and responsibility, price signals and market forces, lower taxes and user pays, this should appeal to them.
But I won’t hold my breath.