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Tag Archives: Education

Why Labor Lost

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of


The truth of the matter is that my Party is at times its own worst enemy. For the six years Labor has been in power it governed well in spite of the enormous inconvenience of minority governance. This is indisputable when you look closely at its economic record, the legalisation passed and reformist policy from within a minority framework.

Its problems though did not originate from everyday governance. In this sense, it has been no better or worse than any other government.

Rather its problems stemmed from personality conflict and the pursuit of power. Politics by its very nature is confrontational and uneasy with those with ego who pursue power for power’s sake or those who think they have some sort of ownership of righteousness.

Labor had two formidable intellects in Rudd and Gillard. In fact, combined they would total much of the opposition front bench’s intellectual capacity.

It is one thing to replace a leader but a different thing when the leader happens to be the Prime Minister who the voters perceive they have elected.

Hindsight is, of course, a wonderful thing so it is easy to say that Rudd should never have been replaced. That Rudd undermined the 2007 election campaign and continued to undermine Julia Gillard for most of her tenure. He never showed the grace in defeat that Turnbull displayed.

So we had two leaders of sagacious intellect. One a ubiquitous narcissist, who couldn’t listen and who couldn’t delegate. On the other hand, we had a woman of immense policy capacity (and history will judge her that way) but would be hard pressed to sell a Collingwood Guernsey to a rabid supporter.

Minority government has enormous, day to day difficulties without having one’s leadership frequently undermined. And we can speculate about a myriad of other possibilities but it won’t change the fact that ego destroyed any chance Labor had of winning the 2013 election.

This is the main reason why Labor lost. Not because they didn’t govern well. As Tanya Plibersek said 10/10 for governance and 0/10 for behaviour.

But because life is about perceptions, not what is, but what it appears to be. We painted a picture of irrational decision making, of dysfunction and murderous disloyalty. Rightly or wrongly that is the perception. In other words, we committed political suicide.


There are of course other factors that contributed to our downfall.

Despite the growing influence of the Fifth Estate the Main Stream Media still packs an enormous punch. In advertising, the success of one’s spend is measured by the resulting sales. The media can measure its influence in the Polls.

Labor was the victim of the most concerted gutter attack ever insinuated upon an Australian political party, from all sections of the media, although one, in particular, News Corp, has gone well beyond the realm of impartiality.

Labor was drowned in an avalanche of lies, repugnant bile, half-truths and omissions. The media lost its objectivity and news reporting. It became so biased that it no longer pretended to disguise it.

The MSM has forsaken truth, justice and respectability in its pursuit of the protection of privilege. They printed and told lies with such reprehensible consistency that a gullible and politically undiscerning Australian public never really challenged it.

As a famous businessman once said.’’ I spend a lot of money on advertising and I know for certain that half of it works’’ Clive Palmer has won a seat because he had the money to promote himself. He proved the power of persuasion with money.

The Fifth Estate (including me) attempted to counter these nefarious attacks but in my view, we are three years away from reaching full potential.

Having said that I plead some degree of ignorance, and I must say, I am absolutely astounded at how many people participate in social media and the voice it gives them.

However, in three years’ time, its ability to influence the younger generation will have risen exponentially. Added to that will be a declining older generation.


Tony Abbott successfully adopted an American Republican-style shock and awe approach in his pursuit of power. Mainstream media hailed him the most effective opposition leader in Australian political history.

This was solely based on his parties standing in the polls and said nothing about the manner in which he lied and distorted facts and science to bring about this standing.

Perhaps they should rethink the criteria they use.

On a daily basis and in the parliament he sought to abuse, disrupt proceedings and tell untruths that normal men would not.

His gutter style negativity set a new benchmark for the behaviour of future opposition leaders. Luckily though, he may be the only one of his characterless ilk, and future opposition leaders may be more affable.

However, the consistency of his negativity had an effect on an electorate in a state of comatose. From the time the election date was announced he portrayed himself as a different person. An indifferent public was fooled by this chameleon disguise. He was and still is by his own admission a liar.

David Marr used these words, to sum up, the character of this would be Prime Minister.

“An aggressive populist with a sharp tongue; a political animal with lots of charm; a born protégé with ambitions to lead; a big brain but no intellectual; a bluff guy who proved a more than competent minister; a politician with little idea of what he might do if he ever got to the top; and a man profoundly wary of change.”

“He’s a worker. No doubt about that. But the point of it all is power. Without power, it’s been a waste of time.”

How one appraisers the reasons for Labor’s loss might differ from individual to individual and there will undoubtedly be many thousands of words written on the subject. For me, it can be rather succinctly summed up in a sentence or two.

A political party, union of workers, sporting team or board of directors is only as good as the total sum of its parts. A good leader facilitates, emboldens and inspires the team, but a leader with self-interested ambition can destroy it all.

This is the first in a series. Next week Labor reform.

People told me to read between the lines, but I didn’t see anything written there!

“Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says a Coalition policy to pay long-term unemployed young people who find a job up to $15,500 is “a sensible investment”.


Mr Abbott has released a policy, similar to one he took to the 2010 election, to pay a bonus to those under 30 years old who have been on unemployment benefits for more than a year and then find work.


If the employee stays in a job for 12 months, they would receive an initial $2,000 bonus; if they stay in the job for two years, a Coalition government would pay them another $4,500″ The ABC

As someone who taught Drama, I often find it necessary to teach kids about subtext. What’s implicit, but not actually said. “But if it’s not actually said, how do you know it’s there?”

Some want to know but that’s not always easy to answer without providing an example.

Fortunately, Tony Abbott is giving us heaps of examples over the past few weeks. His policy on the unemployed reeks of subtext.

“We’ll pay you lazy bastards a bonus if you get off your spotty backsides, find a job and keep it for twelve months,” says the subtext, “because we know that you’re just not trying.”

And, of course, when in spite of this generous incentive, some people still haven’t found work, it’ll be because they just aren’t trying. After all, didn’t we offer them a bonus. And, like performance pay for teachers, that should be all that’s needed.

Someone did suggest that it might be more effective to pay the bonus to employers to encourage them to actually take on workers, but there’s a problem with that – it might actually work! This is far better.

Of course, one could also ask where the money’s coming from, but that just seems petty. And it’s Labor that’s sent the country broke, we’re the ones committing to a surplus, but not for ten years. So what if the budget doesn’t balance in our first term.

Besides, we haven’t made many “promises”, we’ve stated our “aspirations”, we’ve only said we “intend”, we only say whatever the situation it’d be worse under Labor, we have “plans” and we support motherhood – look at our Parental Leave Scheme. And anyway, most of it we didn’t write down, and we told you that it’s only the written stuff that counts.

What have we written down? It’s all in our booklet. For example, we have a whole page on Health, including a whole paragraph on Mental Health, where we say we will work with people to make it better.

Ah, yes, subtext is a wonderful thing!

The government that doesn’t want to govern


On 1 October, the Affordable Health Care Act comes into force in the United States. It has split the US down the middle – by some polls, over half of the population hates the Act. Detractors call it “Obamacare” as if to identify it with a single person is to devalue the raft of policy and the nation-changing effects it will have. Republicans, quite simply, hate it outright.

I recently requested clarification from a right-wing, evangelical Christian blog as to why, if the Act is of so much benefit to the poor and downtrodden of America, the right oppose it.

I received in response a bullet list of seven reasons “Obamacare” is a disaster for America. Of these seven objections, one is a moral statement: the argument that some aspects of the law don’t suit all people, but will apply to all people. The argument was made that funding for abortions may be made available through the Act. This is highly arguable, at least in the law as enacted, but fair enough; this seems like a valid objection.

It is entirely legitimate to oppose legislation on the basis of disagreement with the moral outcomes. Two of the objections question the effectiveness of the legislation. Similar to the Australian Coalition flatly stating that Labor, even when in possession of a good idea, cannot turn it into effective action, opponents of the AHCA point to other countries with national healthcare systems and claim that they’re not perfect.

They argue that such systems will be open to abuse, rorting and fraud. You could argue that all systems are open to abuse, rorting and fraud and that this is a good reason to refine the legislation to progressively remove these opportunities; however, it’s not an entirely invalid objection.

And three of the objections boil down to the basic assertion: “We can’t afford it”. The policy will cost the US government, and thus the taxpayer. The US is already debt-ridden. The government ought to concentrate on paying down debt before engaging in further expenditure. Fair enough. That does seem a valid, and eerily familiar, objection. Except…

“We can’t afford it” has become a catch-cry of conservatives the world over. The Affordable Healthcare Act? Can’t afford it. National Broadband Network? Can’t afford it. Public servants? Can’t afford them. Social support and welfare? Can’t afford them.

Government is a case of competing priorities. All governments work within limitations of resources, in terms of finance and political goodwill and legislative time and personnel; every potential advance in society which government needs to enact comes at the expense of other needs. To evaluate whether “can’t afford it” is ever a valid objection to policy advances, let us take a step back and examine what it is that we have a government for.

The human species is gregarious by nature. Since the formation of the first agrarian communities, we have instituted some kind of authority structure. All governments throughout history have entailed a personage, or group of personages, to which the people voluntarily surrender power and authority. The people sacrifice their autonomy, their time, and their taxes, for the sake of the benefit of the whole.

For many centuries, the fundamental purpose of government was law and order, and peace/protection from invasion. In other words, government’s areas of responsibility went no further than setting the legislature and maintaining a standing army which, in addition to its function of protecting the people against hostility from outside, also enforced the law.

Some empires also dabbled in infrastructure. The ancient empire of Rome is famous for its network of roads; after the fall of the Roman empire, significant expenditure on roads would not be seen again in Europe until the 1800s. Rome also built aqueducts to service its wealthy citizens. The Roman empire was centuries ahead of its time, but in modern society, we expect governments to spend some resources on infrastructure. Roads, water, sewerage, power, telecommunications – these things that modern society relies upon are part of the bread and butter of modern government.

Governments of old, however progressive in their approach to infrastructure and law and defense, had no interest in some of the areas we currently consider to be expected parts of civilisation. Rome implemented a “corn dole” for citizens too poor to buy food; the Song dynasty in China (circa 1000 AD) managed a range of progressive welfare programs. Apart from a few stand-out examples such as these, however, social support was nonexistent.

Modern-day welfare came into being in the 19th and 20th centuries. We now consider a certain level of unemployment benefit, disability benefit, aged care benefit, etc. to be a reasonable imposition on society. Before the 1900s, the unemployed and the aged (and unmarried women) were the responsibility of their families, not of society as a whole.

It wasn’t until the 1700s that history saw the first public, secular hospitals being created. Prior to this, health care would have been taken care of by organisations other than government; primarily, in Europe, by the Church and the monasteries. Education is a similar story. Before the emergence of universal education for the populace – as early as the 1700s in some parts of Europe, but not widespread until the 19th century AD – education was reserved for the elite and provided by the churches.

It is important to note that for all of this time, the churches and other bodies responsible for providing these services – education, health care, welfare – were accepted and fundamental parts of society, and society contributed to them regularly and generously. Everybody gave alms to the churches. The monasteries were at the center of landholdings in their own rights and levied taxes upon their surrounds. In a way, these organisations were analogous to government – they received support from society as a whole, and in return, they provided certain necessary services.

In the modern world, the social bodies that would have been responsible for education and healthcare are declining or have died. Catholic schools and hospitals still exist, but not to the extent required to support our population. For the past 200 years governments have taken on these responsibilities, as the world gave way to secular sympathies, and governments took on these responsibilities as key determinants of national progress and success. A healthy, educated populace was the key to national prosperity.

Which brings us to the present. In 2013 we have conservative groups and political parties wanting the government to get out of the way while the market takes care of these things. On infrastructure – for example, the NBN – let it be driven by market forces. Environmental action, likewise: rather than a carbon tax operated by the government, a “direct action” policy will find the emissions abatements efforts that already exist and support them, rather than mandating change from the outside.

We have Republicans and Liberals wanting the government to get out of the business of mandating healthcare because it ought to be driven by market forces. We have governments of all persuasions pursuing privatisation and outsourcing of previously fundamental responsibilities in the name of efficiency and cost-effectiveness. And we have governments preferring to return the community its taxes in the form of tax cuts (to individuals; to business) and infrastructure spending. All of this comes with a wave of the hand and a “we can’t afford [whatever]”.

But can the government really abrogate its responsibilities in these areas? Without other bodies or structures to take on these responsibilities, it’s not ethical to stop providing them. So can the free market be relied upon to do this?

Money to pay for education, fire services, health, broadband, has to come from somewhere. The social structures – primarily church – which previously might have supported these things no longer have the resources or the popular support to be able to take up the slack. Charities around the country are crying out for support and berating the government for not providing enough basic resources/support; something has to give. In this environment, the idea of “small government” doesn’t make sense.

The government has to be big enough to do the things that the monasteries aren’t around to do anymore.

The Republican right in the US and the Lib-Nats in Australia run on a platform of “individual empowerment”. With the exception of a few big-ticket items, where they have specific, active policies – policies towards boat people come to mind – the Coalition’s ideology is to get out of the way, reduce government’s interference in society, reduce the tax burden on individuals and corporations, and let the free market have its way. It believes that everyone will benefit if there are lower taxes and more money moving.

Let’s put aside for a moment the fact that trickle-down economics doesn’t work. Even in some fictional world where successful humans were altruistic enough to plough their profits back into providing more employment and more productivity, rather than squirreling away the proceeds as profit, we still need these other functions to happen.

And these other functions – hospitals, schools, heavy rail, telecommunications infrastructure – don’t happen at the behest of successful capitalists. They happen because the community needs them and the community as a whole will pay for them.

Individualism is what you have when you don’t have strong governments. Individual empowerment is what you get when the strong ride roughshod over the weak.

Now we seem to be on the verge of voting in a Coalition government which will be forced to cut back on all sorts of areas of service provision and expenditure if it is to meet its overriding goal of bringing the budget back to surplus.

A government whose budget figures and estimates we’ve not been allowed to see, which is promising to repeal several sources of revenue and increase expenditure in several areas, whilst not increasing taxes. Something has to give. It seems certain that “We can’t afford it” will come into force after the election in a big way.

“We can’t afford that” is never a valid excuse. That’s what government is for: to find a way to be able to afford the basic things we need our government for. If that involves raising taxes in an equitable manner, then that’s what you do – it’s exactly why we pay taxes in the first place.

If it involves an imposition on businesses to achieve an end that the community desires – for example, a carbon tax – then that is why we have a government. The whole purpose of government is to place impositions on the strong to benefit the weak and to regulate the individual to offer benefits to the whole.

A government that doesn’t want to do these things is not governing.

A government that doesn’t want to provide these things is a government that doesn’t want to govern.

Abbott v Rudd in the Education Debate

TONY ABBOTT: Leigh, I think the education debate, the school education debate shouldn’t be about funding, it should be about quality, and that’s what we’re on about. We’re on about higher-quality schools. We want to see better teachers, we want to see better teaching, we want to see more parental engagement, more community engagement.

7-30, August 15th 2013

Perhaps, it’s just that I’ve grown too cynical, but whenever politicians make statements like that I interpret them as code for, “We can cut education and it won’t make any difference, because it’s the teacher that makes all the difference.”

And yes, there’s no denying that a great teacher is better than an average teacher, and that an average teacher is better than a bad one. It’s just that frequently the person making the statement seems to then conclude that resources make no difference whatsoever, while arguing that any cuts to private schools would be devastating. While some people have the idea that technology is just for surfing the net or babysitting kids, the reality is that the best education isn’t some teacher holding students spellbound with sheer charisma, while he or she fills their empty heads with everything they’ll ever need to know. Students DO need access to technology at least some of the time. But more than that, they need rooms that don’t leak, heaters that work and spaces that suit the particular learning activity.

Of course, one never hears the same argument when talking about areas like Health or Defence. “It’s the quality of the doctor that counts, I don’t see why the hospital needs all these expensive machines. When I was born, the doctor managed with just a set of forceps and a stethoscope, so why can’t modern doctors do the same?”

And we’ll certainly never hear that it’s the quality of the soldier that counts, so why spend money upgrading the equipment or the weapons? David managed with just a slingshot and he was fighting Goliath.

But that’s what happens in education. Teachers are frequently asked to manage with just a slingshot. Goliath, by the way, was a Philistine. Of course, when it comes to education, he’s not the only one.

Comparing Government to a Family Budget

Image by

Image by

Consider the following scenario:

A family of children are turning up to school hungry, and without books or pens. Teachers are concerned. The parents are called in to the school. When they arrive, they are well-dressed and articulate. They understand the purpose of the meeting and have brought their eldest child who is now a well-paid lawyer. The meeting begins.

The father explains that they are currently unable to afford to feed their children adequately, and have explained to the children that they’ll need to get part time jobs or do without. The father explains that neither he nor the mother have paid employment, and that they’re money comes from the share market, which as we all know has been down since the global financial crisis. When it’s suggested that perhaps he could sell some shares, he bristles:

“These shares provide my income! If I sell them every time things go wrong, I’ll end up with nothing!”

Someone has noticed that they have arrived in an expensive car, perhaps they could sell that and drive something less costly. No, the car is leased, it would cost too much to get out of the lease.

Could the lawyer sibling perhaps help out? The mother chimes in and says that by coming here this child has already made a large contribution. The lawyer sibling also points out that she has worked hard for her money.

Perhaps, they could borrow some money, suggests the welfare officer. Outrageous. The father thumps the table. “WE WILL NOT GO INTO DEBT!”

This, of course, is a great relief to the principal of the school. “I’m pleased to hear that at least you aren’t like those irresponsible parents I had in here last week. They’d put their groceries on the credit card, just so the family could eat that week.”

It was concluded that the only solution to this was for the children to continue to survive on scraps until the economy picked up.

* * *

Ok, which part of that story is far-fetched?

Yes, that’s right. The bit about selling the shares because they provide future income. What, you think I’m wrong? Well, just consider how governments behave, have another look at the story, and provide me with a concrete example of any government saying, “No this is not negotiable, even if we have to raise taxes, we’ll find a way to make this work, because health/education/the environment is far too important to just give up.”

Yep, you’re right. The rare times it’s happened, like Medicare or the national disability insurance scheme always seems to be a Labor Government. And, of course, we now have the arguments about whether or not we can afford Gonski, but sometimes we need to actually make an argument that there are certain things that we can’t afford to neglect. Education, of course, being one. And yes, I’m sure that we’ll soon be hearing from the LNP that throwing money education isn’t the answer. Or that a leaky roof never stopped anyone from learning. Complaining about a private school’s second boat shed is just the politics of the politics of envy and class warfare.

Education needs a major overhaul. Money won’t solve all the problems, but, if we can stop schools worried about the basic necessities long enough to actually think about how to improve what they do, it’ll at least provide a good start .

Strangely, unlike Government, some families DO go into debt to ensure that their children receive a good education. And they don’t say that they can’t afford it. They see it as a way of ensuring future prosperity.


Mr Abbott Stark Raving Naked in Collins Street!

Peter Costello, May 24th 2013: “Unless Tony Abbot gets caught stark raving naked in Collins Street, I think it’s over and even then he might win.”

Tony Abbott, Budget Reply Speech: ”We won’t back a so-called national education system that some states don’t support, especially as this government has a history of spending more while schools’ performance actually goes backwards.”

This was Tony Abbott’s response to Gonski in his Budget Reply Speech. Part of the difficulty with looking at education is that nearly everyone agrees that the system could be improved, so that it’s easy to say that anything that’s actually being done is a failure. It’s easy to suggest that we’re going backwards, but the data is nearly always ambiguous.

Someone I spoke to – a person in their seventies – assured me that when he went to school everyone could read and write, and that spelling was taught much more effectively than now, leading to everyone being able to spell. The fact that he himself was a poor speller seemed to be completely irrelevant to the discussion.

The subtext of what Mr Abbott and Mr Pyne have been saying is quite terrifying for anyone in education. Whenever I hear things about it being the quality of the teacher that’s the most important thing, I shudder. Of course, an excellent teacher can overcome enormous obstacles and still have success, but a well-resourced excellent teacher will have even greater success. No-one suggests that a clever CEO doesn’t need to have access to technology, or that air-conditioning is just a needless expense for the company.

Perhaps I’m wrong. Perhaps this suggestion that increased spending doesn’t actually improve the quality of teaching and learning isn’t code for: “Let’s ignore Gonski and keep the current model.” I certainly hope so. When Liberals say that education isn’t about money and cut funding, I notice that it’s never private schools that have their funding cut. That’s class warfare.

(The mining industry can spend millions saying that they shouldn’t pay any more tax, that’s free speech, but when Wayne Swan says that they aren’t paying enough tax, that’s class warfare. Or to put it another way, when a country starts sending missiles into another country that’s ok, but if the second country says that they’ll fight back, they’re the ones starting a war.)

Of course, the media has been telling us about Mr Positive, but when it comes to education, Mr Abbott has told us what he won’t back. When does he plan to tell us what he will back? Closer to the election has been the refrain from the LNP for the past three years, but how much closer can you get?


“When I hear the word culture, I reach for my pun . . . “

Christopher Pyne (image from

Christopher Pyne (image from

“… opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne appeared to re-open the so-called ”history wars” which raged during the Howard years, by attacking the school curriculum for putting Aboriginal and multicultural commemoration days on the same level as Anzac Day.The national curriculum would be reviewed under a Coalition government, he said. ”The Coalition believes that, on balance, Australia’s history is a cause for celebration,” he said.

”It is because of our history that we are a confident and positive nation. We must not allow a confidence-sapping ‘black armband’ view of our history to take hold.

‘That history, while inclusive of indigenous history, must highlight the pivotal role of the political and legal institutions from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.”

In the new curriculum Anzac Day is studied in year 3 as one of a number of days of national significance. The Gallipoli campaign is studied in year 9.

Mr Pyne criticised the fact that Anzac Day is ”locked in with NAIDOC Week, Reconciliation Day and Harmony Day” in the national curriculum.”

From the Sydney Morning Herald

Ok, the document below isn’t official, but it gives you a taste of what we’ll see under the Coalition.

Draft History Curriculum for Christopher Pyne.

Year 3

Term 1: The foolish foreigners who failed to discover Australia

Term 2: The great and brave British explorer Captain Cook discovers Australia

Term 3: The first Australians – convicts and soldiers.

Term 4: Early attempts to civilise the Aborigines by soldiers

Year 4

Term 1: Gallipoli – the ANZAC tradition is born

Term 2: The first soldier to fall

Term 3: Simpson

Term 4: His donkey

Year 5

Term 1: The retreat from Gallipoli

Term 2: The importance of Anzac biscuits

Term 3: How Australian soldiers gained the reputation of being the bravest ever

Term 4: Anzac Day is the holiest day of the year.

Year 6

Term 1: Our great British heritage

Term 2: Why the monarchy rules

Term 3: Learning to recite Kings and Queens of England

Term 4: Great people born in England apart from kings and queens and Tony Abbott

Year 7 – Australia’s Golden Years

Term 1: Howard’s election

Term 2: Howard restores belief in Anzac Day

Term 3: Howard saves Australia from invasion by republicans

Term 4: Howard increasing number of Anzac marchers by invading Afghanistan and Iraq

Year 8

Term 1: Howard creates mining boom

Term 2: Howard’s back to basics in indigenous affairs – let’s use soldiers again.

Term 3: Why the Magna Carta is just an example of the barons’ union bullying a king

Term 4: How ASIO protects us and why we should never question their actions

Year 9

Term 1: How the descendants of convicts formed the Labor Party

Term 2: Why Anzac Day is still important

Term 3: The Gold Rush – how Peter Costello quickly sold of our gold reserves

Term 4: Free Speech – Why we changed the name of Labour Day to honour Andrew Bolt

Year 10 – Other Wars of the 20th Century

Term 1: World War Two – how we stopped the boats

Term 2: Korea – how we stopped the spread of communism

Term 3: Vietnam – how the hippy student movement tried to destroy Anzac Day

Term 4: Culture Wars – how traitors tried to make us hate Australia and turn us into a republic.

Going, Going . . . Gonski!

Christpoher Pyne (image by

Will Christpoher Pyne kill off Gonski? (image by


Tonight, we’ll be talking to the Opposition Education Spokesman, Mr Christopher Whine. Good evening, Mr Whine.


Good evening.


So, is the Coalition going to commit to implementing the Gonski Report?


Well, we’re not in Government, so we’re not the ones you should be asking.


Well, let’s for the sake of argument imagine you become the Government in September. Will you commit to implementing the Gonski Report?


We have to wait and see if there’s any money left after all Labor’s spending, but I suspect that a lot of the things we’d like to implement will be just too expensive given the enormous black hole that Labor will leave us.


So what is your education policy then?


We’ll release it closer to the next election.


How close to the next election? It’s only five months away.


About two weeks from the election date.


Couldn’t it be argued that releasing a policy two weeks before the election doesn’t leave enough time to analyse it?


No, two weeks AFTER the election. People will have plenty of time to analyse it.


So you won’t be releasing your education policy until after the next election? That seems a bit odd …


Why should education be any different? It’s not as though people don’t know our broad position on things.


Which is?


We think that rather than throwing money at things, we should all tighten our belts and do the things that can improve our education system without costing too much. This is not a bottomless pit and people just need to make do.


So you’ll be cutting funding to the wealthier private schools?


No, that’s the sort of class warfare that Labor indulges in.


So, why shouldn’t they have to have cuts as well as the public system?


Because they need the money. Otherwise they’d have to raise their fees and less people could afford to go there.


So what’s your plan to help the poorer schools?


When we are, we’ll have loads of policies. Like improving teacher quality.


And how will you do that?


By telling teachers the best way to teach. Which is standing out the front of the class telling them things in an interesting way. We’ll also make it easier to remove underperforming teachers. And by rewarding the good teachers. At the moment we have the absurd situation where the best teachers are paid the same as the worst. Everyone knows a really good teacher when they see one.


And how will you determine which teachers receive performance pay?


I just told you – by looking at them. Everyone knows a good teacher when they see one.


Aren’t you afraid that performance pay might disrupt the teamwork and the sharing that’s an essential part of a good school?


No, I expect it’ll make all teachers try harder.


So how will you know who are the best teachers?


They’ll be the ones getting the performance pay.


Then wouldn’t it be easier to raise the salaries of all teachers?


No, then we’d be rewarding the underperforming ones as well.


But I thought you said you’d get rid of the underperforming teachers …


Yes, but that’s just the really bad ones, not the ones who just aren’t as good as the really good teachers which we’ve identified through a totally fair process.


Any other broad concepts for education?


Well, after we’ve sold Medibank Private, then we’ll look at selling the school system.


Selling the school system?


Yes everyone agrees that private schools are the best so it makes sense to privatise the whole system.


Well that’s worked well with Public Transport …


Yes, now if something goes wrong, the State Government can just blame the private operator. And look at how much money energy companies have saved on basic maintenance since they were privatised.


But has it improved the system?


Sorry, I don’t understand the question.


That’s all we have time for. Good night, and thank you.


Always a pleasure.


Christopher Pyne gets it wrong again

Media release today from the Hon Peter Garrett MP (Minister for School Education; Minister for Early Childhood and Youth). Worth repeating.

Christopher Pyne has shown once again that he has no idea about how the school funding system works or what our plans are – and he has no interest in finding out.

His latest claims show a complete lack of understanding about the National Plan for School improvement and follow a succession of ridiculous positions on the important issue of school funding:

  • He dismissed the Gonski Report within 20 minutes of it being released.
  • He said he would repeal any legislation we introduced before he had even seen it.
  • He has consistently said he will keep a broken funding model that will see schools across Australia lose up to $5.4 billion in coming years.
  • He continues to pretend the Opposition would index schools at 6 per cent when he knows the current indexation rate is 3.9 per cent and is estimated to fall to 3 per cent from 2014.
  • He claims the Coalition cares about teacher quality when his real plans are to slash $425 million from our Teacher Quality National Partnership.

He has also confirmed he doesn’t even think it is his job to come up with a better way to fund schools, even though the most comprehensive independent review in 40 years found conclusively a new model is needed.

How does he expect anyone to take him seriously on education when he doesn’t even think it’s his job to come up with a plan to fix a broken school funding system?

The National Plan for School Improvement includes a new fairer school funding model. We want every child’s education to be supported by a new nationally consistent Schooling Resource Standard.

This would include a base amount per student and additional ‘loadings’ to address school and student disadvantage. These loadings would support Indigenous students, students with a disability, students with limited English language skills and schools in regional and remote areas – exactly what was recommended in the Gonski Review.

We have always recognised the important role of education authorities, including government, Catholic and independent schools, and the need for them to retain some flexibility to address local need. The Gonski Review also supported the role of system redistribution noting that it would need to be more publicly transparent.

This approach is exactly what we are negotiating with the states, territories and non-government education authorities. It represents the biggest change to school funding in 40 years.

Mr Pyne clearly opposes both transparency and needs-based funding and has said that he will not sign up to the idea of Australian schools being amongst the best in the world.

We are prepared to make significant additional investment but we also expect the states to pay their fair share. We can’t do this if some states continue to cut funding to their own education budgets.

That’s why we’ve asked states to commit to at least 3 per cent indexation and not cut further funding.

If Mr Pyne had spent more time reading the Gonski Review and less time dismissing it, he would know what we are proposing is consistent with the core recommendations of the review.

Mr Pyne’s latest claims do nothing but confirm that the Opposition simply don’t have a plan for the future of our schools – and are clearly not bothering to develop one.

The Coalition’s only plan for schools it to slash funding, sack one in seven teachers and squeeze more kids into every classroom.

Cutting funding from education is what Liberals do. Only Labor can be trusted to deliver the best results for schools across Australia.

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