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Tag Archives: Gonski reforms

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

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The Minister for Social Services rescinded gambling reform laws and labelled anyone who used the services of his department as bludgers and leaners.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.

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The erosion of our democratic system

Unless you own a newspaper or a mining company, or are happy to turn a blind eye to the erosion of our democratic values then it would be difficult to get an argument from you that the Abbott Government continues to go from bad to worse.

But one of worse characteristics of this government, and one that receives little attention, is its determination to silence any dissent. It is this silencing of dissent and the erosion of our democratic values that prompted ‘Joe W’ to write this letter to The AIMN:

I’m sick of being called anti-democratic, or a ‘sore loser’ (among other insults) over the election result and told to swallow this government’s lies whole. My response to this incorrect assertion and attempt to silence me is as follows: My complaint is not over the election result, rather how the election was won and that the Abbott Coalition is using this result as justification for the erosion of our democratic system. Here are a few examples off the top of my head from the few short months under the Abbottocracy:

1. Disbanding of expert governmental panels that give government best scientific and economic advice from which to enact policy, which is a way of not being held to account for their decision in the public forum e.g. Climate Council.

2. The disbanding of committees representing the people and front line workers of industries and peak bodies giving voice to policy debate – across the board – silencing the voice of the people in their respective fields e.g. law reform committee, alcohol and other drugs council.

3. The aggressive and threatening rhetoric directed towards the workers of Australian public agencies and expert committees, backed up by severe cuts and summary disbandment and sackings. Clearly designed to silence any dissent, even where it may be in the best interest of the Australian people, adhere to scientific reason and well-founded economic rationale e.g. latest example being the marine park authority.

4. The stacking of governmental panels with members with clear bias or conflict of interest, thus ensuring predetermined outcomes of the governments design. This is not democracy, it is exercise in the sanitation of dictatorship e.g. a panel of review into renewables headed by a fervent opponent of wind generated energy, yet another review into education dismissing the findings of Gonski and headed by an avowed critic of our open and secular curriculum, the head of the audit of budget being a representative of big business with a myriad of vested interest in privatization and corporate expansion.

5. Attacks upon the press, not just the unfounded accusations and threats leveled against the ABC but also mainstream commercial media, who are often derided into silence.

6. The attacks upon unions, which like it or not, represent the interests of Australian workers and their families – many whom have lost their jobs since the Coalition came to power e.g. setting up a royal commission against unions, bringing back tough Howard era restrictions and sanctions against union activities and members.

7. Increase costs to FOIs, increasing barriers for the press and individual citizens to be able to gain information on governmental action.

8. The increasingly secretive process of negotiations towards the TPP – signing over our nation’s sovereign rights to the interests of multinational corporations with no proper Senate oversight or representation in these negotiations for representatives for the interests of the Australian people.

9. Massive cuts to legal aid services. Equality before the law being a basic principal of democracy and expert representation essential to the rule of impartiality.

10. The undermining of international law and institutions designed to protect our freedoms, support peaceful, cohesive and productive relations, and to give forum to international negotiation and efforts towards constructive and sustainable objectives e.g. snubbing international climate change forum, dissing international conventions and siding with the perpetrators of the most blatant breaches against liberty.

11. Refusing to make government papers available to opposition parties (representative of the people) an act of refusal not once seen by the previous government, despite the numerous requests and attacks of Australia’s most aggressive opposition.

12. The labeling of any dissent or questioning as unpatriotic and insinuation of alignment with an ‘enemy’. The usage of the rhetoric of war in a time of peace as means of shutting down inquiry. The vilification of peoples, groups and attacks upon the right to protest and public assembly. The framing of discussion in terms of us and them and manipulation towards siding citizens against a common enemy. Fear mongering and the fanning of the flames of hate. The examples here being too numerous to mention but clearly designed to create a climate of fear over threats to our way of life and orchestrating a divisiveness preventing a reasoned examination of issues facing our nation.

Democracy encompasses more than one vote per person every 3 years. The points listed above clearly demonstrate the aggressive silencing of the people and an erosion of the institutions of democracy designed to give a voice to represent the interests of all Australian citizens.

 

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