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Tag Archives: Gonski

Ten things more reckless than funding Gonski

Paul Keating was so right about Malcolm Turnbull, wasn’t he? “A bit like a big red bunger on cracker night. You light him up, there’s a bit of a fizz but then nothing, nothing”

After all the glasses-twirling hype and the selfie-induced-train-hopping; nothing is exactly what we are getting from an undemocratically elected, Liberal Party appointed Prime Minister who is quickly learning that he can’t please the people and his party. However, he has clearly chosen who he aims to please. Malcolm Turnbull has clearly chosen to please the conservative right wing of his party and not the people of Australia and certainly not our children!

In his interview on 3AW with Neil Mitchell, Turnbull described Labor’s commitment to fund Gonski as, “Reckless.” Malcolm Turnbull believes that the fair and equitable education of ALL little Australians is “Reckless.” Malcolm Turnbull believes that investing in our children, the very people who will shape this country for our future, is ‘Reckless.”

Malcolm Turnbull believes that your child does not deserve a fair go!

Any leader who undermines the very essence of our shared Australian value of – “The Fair Go” is reckless. It is reckless toward us as individuals and it is reckless toward us as a collective. Turnbull’s rejection of Gonski funding is not just reckless, it is irresponsible and regressive.

To play on a phrase Julia Gillard famously used … If Malcolm Turnbull wants to know what Reckless looks like, he just needs a mirror. That’s what he needs.

The Abbott-Turnbull Govt has been the most reckless Government of my lifetime. That is why we need to talk about the:

Ten Things More Reckless than Funding Gonski:

1. Not Giving a Gonski

Education changes people’s lives.  The Gonski Reforms are an opportunity for fairness and equality in education.  It is an opportunity to provide equal access to pathways of future success for all of our children. The Gonski reforms will pull some sectors of our society out of generational disadvantage. The Gonski reforms enable our country to be competitive and improving our economy. Giving a Gonski is giving our children, your children, a chance to be competitive in the jobs of the future. Committing to Gonski could mean enabling the pathway for a future Prime Minister. Refusing to commit to Gonski is keeping the door shut to a Prime Minister that could have been.

The Prime Minister of Australia willingly choosing to uphold disadvantage over fairness and equality for all is beyond reckless, it is downright destructive.

2. The Job Seekers can Starve for Six Months Policy

This little gem drummed up by the ‘let’s stigmatise poor people’ rabble of the Abbott-Turnbull Government, decided that in the era of high unemployment created by decisions by their own party, that young people who could not find a job are not entitled to social security payments. Deciding that young unemployed people should have no money for basics such as food, clothing, shelter, hygiene products or medicine is very reckless indeed. (Labor, Greens and some cross-benchers opposed this and a new policy is in progress for jobseekers to starve for one month instead.) 

3. Trashing Labor’s FTTP NBN 

I’m just going to leave this here because I’d rather watch Jason Clare explain how reckless Turnbull has been with the NBN, rather than write about it.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwatQqj3Hvs&w=560&h=315]

4. The Trade Union Royal Commission

Wasting millions and millions and millions of dollars on a political witch hunt, presided over by a judge with a history that spans decades of  very close ties to the Liberal Party of Australia, is one of the most reckless acts against the working class this country has ever seen. The reckless attack on workers to bring back a reckless star chamber style ABCC is abhorrent. No Mother or Father ever wants the young man in this video to be his or her child! Shame. Shame. Shame.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=og-GzJwprbw&w=560&h=315]

5. Attacking the Most Sick and Vulnerable in Our Society

The cuts to health and the continuous push towards a user pays system are reckless to the extreme. The situation the Abbott-Turnbull Government is pushing for, is where your wealth decides whether you are in pain, undiagnosed with a serious or terminal illness, or possibly even die.  This type of class division of access to health will lead to a broken country.  No human life is less valuable than another life based on the amount of money someone has in the bank.    

6. Being a Fake Friend

Both John Howard in 2005 and Tony Abbott in 2014 said that the Liberal Government was the best friend the workers have ever had. Pretending to be a friend to the worker, is not just reckless, it is deceitful. A Government who makes it easier to employ foreign workers instead of Australian workers is not a best friend to the worker. A Government who does that is made up of a pack of self-righteous, out of touch lazy gits and by taking a generous wage, are the real leaners on society. MP’s are not elected by the people to do backroom deals to push Australians out of work.  How reckless is it to make changes to employment rules that result in Australians being replaced with foreign workers and then laugh about it.  Really? How reckless is that to everything the people in this country value?

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aN65QxIzbtY&w=560&h=315]

7. Attacks on low paid workers and their families

The push from the Abbott-Turnbull Government to make life more difficult for families by cutting family payments and attacking penalty rates is indeed reckless. Some parents rely on weekend shift work to help the family get through the week. Sometimes this is the only work mum or dad can get to work in with their primary duty of caring for children. To attack the penalty rates of some of the poorest people in the country in conjunction with cuts to family payments and abolishing the School Kids Bonus is yet another step closer to the Abbott-Turnbull led class divide trotted out by the Liberals and Nationals time and time again. Class divide is indeed one of the most reckless things a Government can do.

8. The Government’s policy of Secrets and Lies

The approach and treatment of Asylum Seekers under the Abbott-Turnbull regime is abhorrent, shameful, disgusting and damaging.  The Abbott-Turnbull Government’s commitment to the secrecy provisions of their policy is beyond reckless. I do not believe a word exists for how damaging this extreme practice is. The treatment of Asylum Seekers is in the name of all Australians, not just in the Government’s name. Concerned citizens and advocacy groups have the right to investigate the treatment of people seeking asylum in our name. Asylum seekers have the absolute right to advocacy, medical treatment and legal representation. The cloak and dagger approach has only lasted so long. As reported yesterday, Border Force admitted that at least 23 boats have been turned back and this is a regular occurrence. To say the boats have stopped is a bald-faced lie. With the Government casting its invisibility cloak over people seeking asylum, the public have no idea if people are still drowning or the number of deaths at sea. As Harry Potter Fans will appreciate, the Government has the invisibility cloak and with Dutton’s face as the stone and Turnbull’s twirling glasses as the wand, the Government really could be the Masters of Death.

9. Income Management – Basic and Healthy Welfare Cards

The Cashless Welfare card is the symbolic mechanism that brings the Abbott-Turnbull Government’s agenda of stigmatisation of the poor to life. This draconian, punitive measure ensures that those who are unemployed are branded as such at the checkout. The Government harps on about how they understand innovation, but then deny the unemployed the ability to purchase cheap goods off buy and sell sites on Facebook and at the local market. The cashless welfare card denies an unemployed mother the ability to give their school child that $3.00 in an envelope for the school excursion they just remembered about that morning. Income management only serves to degrade the unemployed as incompetent and not able to manage their own meagre budgets. It is a punitive and degrading measure, which takes away the liberty and freedom of those who are on welfare. Income management increases barriers to employment for jobseekers and that is indeed reckless to the individual and to our society as a whole.

10. Not allowing a free vote in Parliament on Marriage Equality

One of the roles of the Prime Minister and Government is to provide leadership of tough issues. This often means doing what is right for minority groups, regardless of popular opinion.  I was deeply perturbed at the very vocal Abbott-esque backflip by Turnbull in question time on Thursday.  The new Malcolm appears not only to be reckless, but now completely unhinged.

Terri Butler: Given it is clear that members of the Prime Minister’s own party will not respect the $160 million plebiscite on marriage equality; will the Prime Minister immediately allow the free vote that he used to argue for on the private member’s bill that is currently before the parliament?

Malcolm Turnbull: I am not sure what it is about the honourable member’s approach to democracy that she so despises the views of the people that sent her here.

Parliament did not conduct a plebiscite to determine if we should or should not have sexual harassment laws introduced. They did not conduct a plebiscite to pass the Racial Discrimination Act 1975, contrary to what the popular belief at the time would have been. The Government of the day saw legal entrenched discrimination and had the guts to redress it.

By standing by a plebiscite, Malcolm Turnbull is valuing the opinion of bigots and homophobes who have recently photoshopped rainbow nooses around a woman’s neck in an anti-marriage equality advertisement. That is not valuing democracy. That is upholding bigotry and allowing bigots to have a voice against those they seek to oppress.  As leaders, the Government has a moral obligation to view this debate from a legal standpoint of discrimination based on the choice of sexual preference and redress this discrimination immediately.

It is reckless for a Government to deny people who love each other the right to marry, based on their sexual preference.

Conclusion

If Malcolm Turnbull wants to know what reckless really is, here are just ten of the many reckless things the Abbott-Turnbull Government has done in the short space of two years and four months.  Investing in Gonski is not reckless, it is responsible and visionary, two things the current Government lacks.  To fight this Government’s recklessness, remember always to put the Liberal/National or LNP last on your ballot paper and Give a Gonski today.

 

Previously published on Polyfeministix

An open letter to Andrew Laming

Andrew Laming (Image from theguardian.com)

Andrew Laming (Image from theguardian.com)

Following Kaye Lee’s article, “To my local member” where she provided an exposé of the number of questionable statements by Lucy Wicks (Federal Member for Robertson), AIMN reader Bill Mavropoulos finds that much of Andrew Laming’s (Federal Member for Bowman) recent statements on a range of issues also need to be further examined. Bill writes as follows:

Dear Mr Andrew Laming,

I write to you regarding your recent video presentation on the guardian website published on 26 June 2014. The presentation attempts to explain the Coalition government’s most recent Federal Budget. To avoid doubt the URL for this presentation is as follows:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2014/jun/26/andrew-laming-budget-whiteboard-video?CMP=soc_567

This seems to be an attempt to counter Anthony Albanese’s video published 14 May 2014 as follows:

http://www.theguardian.com/world/video/2014/may/14/albo-explains-the-budget-video

The number of misleading statements, omissions and inaccuracies littered throughout your presentation was startling. I felt that it was incumbent on someone from the Australian public to deal with the more glaringly omissions, misleading statements and falsehoods.

Saving $550 from the Carbon Tax and Mining Tax repeal

When the Carbon Tax was introduced, it had a number of tax concessions attached to it that negated its economic effect on the majority of the Australian population.

Furthermore, Labor’s official policy was to move from a fixed price on Carbon to a floating Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) from 1 July 2014. The cost of this scheme on an average household if it is removed from that date is actually estimated at $134 annually compared to this policy (see the ABC Fact Check here). The current law is there because you refuse to have a sensible policy to combat climate change.

The statement in your presentation is a blatant misrepresentation of the difference between the Coalition’s policy and that of the previous government.

In your presentation you mention that the Mining Tax will contribute to this $550 saving per household. This is not just misleading and deceptive, it is a blatant lie. In fact consequential amendments that are buried at the back of the MRRT repeal law will remove the schoolkids bonus, small business tax concessions and concessions for superannuation for low income taxpayers.

This means that, taking these measures together, the net effect of removing these measures will leave an average household worse off rather than better off (as you assert). This takes into consideration the large majority of mining companies are foreign owned. Thus repealing the Mining Tax puts money back in Gina and Co’s pockets (because they get out of paying this tax) by taking it out of ordinary Australian’s pockets, by removing these tax concessions aimed at poor and middle Australia.

This part of your presentation was personally the most offensive.

$50 Billion infrastructure investment

This investment was outlined and explained by Anthony Albanese in his video (linked above). Albanese explained clearly in his well-made and factually correct presentation the make-up of all previously proposed infrastructure spending by Labor. He then went on to explain how the Coalition removed and reallocated large amounts of rail infrastructure to fund big ticket road projects that look good during an election campaign but don’t actually address systemic problems in transport infrastructure.

Transport infrastructure accessibility disproportionately impacts younger and lower income families who generally live further away from large metropolitan centers. The rail infrastructure is less adequately developed the further out from these centers you go. Households in this position are reliant on only one mode of transport. This does two things:

  1. Makes these people reliant on motor vehicles that are subject to increasing cost pressures from the increase in fuel excise you are imposing, increased registration costs that the States have been forced to impose because of cuts you have made to their funding and general increased costs of fuel and maintenance, and
  2. Devalues the property prices of homes in these areas in comparison to areas that are closer to an urban center and also have more than one mode of transport accessible.

What this does Andrew Laming, is create a significant social risk in these places. The measure entrenches inequality by effectively creating ghettos with little or no social mobility because these people will pay a disproportionate amount on transport cost while being subject to a reduced increase in the value of their main asset, their home.

Loan for Apprentices was originally just government grant

The loan to apprentices you mentioned actually replaces a cut of a tool grant of $5,500. The Budget itself anticipates savings of $914.6 million from cutting the tool grant measure. However, despite the measure being linked to the $20,000 loan scheme you did not mention it in your presentation.

This $20,000 loan scheme you spruiked is estimated by that same Budget to cost $439 million. This means the net economic loss to Apprentices from these measures is in the order of $457.6 million.

That you had the gall to smile and tell apprentices they will be better off in your presentation while ripping close to half a billion dollars away from them is frankly appalling.

Hospital Funding indexation

The claim that hospital funding is boosted by certain percentages over the next four years again is not the full story, Andrew Laming. It does not outline the fact that due to changes to funding arrangements the government in its Budget estimates it will save $1.8 Billion of funding from Public hospitals in terms of how the increases are calculated. (Let alone the other cuts to health that are not mentioned)

In short you do not outline that although hospital funding will still go up, it will not go up by as much as originally slated due to a cut to the rates of funding originally envisaged.

Education Funding

The Coalition is increasing education funding by partially adopting the Labor Party’s Gonski funding model. However you say nothing about the Coalition government’s refusal to fund this model fully beyond the forward estimate period.

Further to this, due to changes to indexation and deregulation the costs of obtaining a higher education degree will actually skyrocket. This is coupled with changes to the allocation of the funding that essentially stymie the benefits flowing from Gonski entirely.

$7 Co-Payment and Medical Research Future Fund

The statement that this measure supports the Healthcare system in your presentation is ludicrous. Firstly, introduction of the co-payment will clearly necessitate additional administrative costs borne by doctors that will ultimately need to be passed on to patients. In the shorter term this means increased health care costs for the same or worse level of service.

Further to this any savings generated by Health measures in the Budget are to be allocated to a dedicated medical research fund not into the Medicare system that pays for these health services. Therefore in the medium term the Healthcare system is being deprived of the benefits of this additional funding to alleviate the difference between revenue collected for health and the relevant expenditure.

In the long term, investment in the specialised Medical Research Fund has been criticised by experts. The nature of research and development is very complex. Often completely different areas of research result in the creation of medical applications. These other areas of research are being cut by your budget (think CSIRO). The money collected may therefore not be used as effectively as it otherwise would have been by say, allocating it to a broader range of research activities through established funding mechanisms.

This ‘oversight’ is perhaps as a direct result of the Coalition not having a Science Minister who understands that by creating silos of funding for research you may actually be undermining the long term sustainability of the system.

Full income replacement – Having a child

The statement that the full income of a parent will be replaced when they have a child is outrageously incorrect. I do however love the comment you made along the lines of ‘everyone is happy’ because their full wage gets replaced. Note that; the latest statement in relation to this policy is that the maximum payment to a parent over six months will be capped at $50,000.

Furthermore, this payment is not asset or income tested and so because it replaces income up to this cap it acts to effectively redistributes economic benefit from lower income earners to higher income earners.

I believe from watching this part of your video that you either have a dangerous lack of understanding in relation to how this measure works or are trying to deliberately mislead the public.

Pensions indexed, no changes till after next election

This statement was perhaps the most blatantly misleading one of your entire video. Firstly, from 1 July pension supplements are being removed, this is a well-documented fact. Also, due to the long term nature of receiving pension benefits it is cold comfort that the age and indexation decreases will start in a few years rather than now. This is clearly political as you are banking on people forgetting these changes are in the system by the time the next election rolls around.

The fact that you are legislating changes now to decrease the rate of indexation of pensions and raising the pension age to 70 is not mentioned in any detail at all.

This measure will reduce the absolute dollar value of a pension that citizens will receive when compared to the current arrangements. The fact that indexation effects will compound year on year is another nasty fact you have overlooked.

ABC – Savings can be found without effecting programing

This statement is unhinged and completely contrary to reality. Mark Scott the head of the ABC himself has stated that programs will be cut and staff will be laid off in direct contradiction of your assertion.

Please see his comments ‘here’. Saying something doesn’t make it true Andrew, especially when based on absolutely no evidence.

Conclusion

Please be mindful that the video contained a number of other unsubstantiated, misleading, false and generally ludicrous assertions. It was impossible to address them all in this letter without it running to several more pages.

I note that in response to my protests regarding this Budget Andrew you felt the need to message me on Facebook to say, and I quote:

“Sincerely glad you don’t live in my community”.

This gave me a bit more insight into your mind. It is clear you don’t see me or people like me as, an ordinary Australians, or as being part of the community you are elected to represent. I am unsure whether this is due to the level of our income, our ethnicity or simply the fact that you live in a particular part of Queensland and I live in Victoria.

What this suggests about you Andrew, as a parliamentarian, can best be summarised by my response to you via email as follows:

“I [sic] thought your suggestion that I am not part of “your community” was hurtful and suggests that you are not an elected representative of Australia (my community)”.

Andrew Laming show more respect for the Australian public. I warned you on Facebook that should you attempt to mislead the Australian public regarding the Budget again that I would hold you to account, admittedly in more colourful language than used in this letter. Consider this me fulfilling my promises; at least one of us does that.

Regards,

Vasilios (Bill) Mavropoulos

Tax Specialist

You might also like to read:

Under the shade of a Barcaldine gum tree

An Open Letter to Bill Shorten

Letter to all Coalition MPs

An Open Letter to Frances Abbott

What’s there to crow about?

Image by imgur.com

Image by imgur.com

Tony Abbott is gleefully crowing about “100+ days without a boat”. What Mr Abbott seems oblivious to is that he has closed yet another door on people fleeing persecution and human rights abuses in places like Myanmar and Sri Lanka. The Taliban just fired rockets at the Electoral Office in Afghanistan so the upcoming election doesn’t look like it will make everything tickety poo over there either. Things don’t seem to be getting any better in Syria though the government haven’t done any mass gassings lately, not in the open anyway.

And it isn’t as if we have increased our humanitarian intake or processed any of the people already being illegally held in detention. This has cost us a fortune, subjected our navy to allegations of abuse, seen us internationally condemned, caused enormous mental and physical harm to vulnerable people, and Australian guards are now implicated in the death of a man who was under their protection. Yet this is supposed to be a success?

Tony’s team are also pushing very hard for the repeal of the carbon tax but it is becoming harder and harder to drown out the chorus of condemnation for such an act from world leaders, the UN, climate change bodies, scientists, economists and the citizens of the world. He accused the executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Christiana Figueres, of “talking through her hat”, and said he doesn’t want to “clutter up” the G20 agenda with talk about climate change. Can you imagine how that was received?

Blatantly sacking scientists and advisory bodies to appoint climate change deniers to every position might allow you to fool people in Australia in the very short term. It will not change the science. This headless chicken (Prince Charles) flat earth (Barak Obama) denial is wasting precious time and shows us globally as unwilling to do our bit – something Australians have always been respected for in the past.

The Senate inquiry into the Direct Action Plan has released its findings and they are damning. If this process is to have any credibility, the Coalition must drop this idea and agree to move to an ETS with higher targets for emission reduction and renewable energy. It is what every expert recommends, especially the economists.

Greg Hunt must be the only Minister for the Environment who would be bragging about approving billions of dollars of new coal mining and port expansion which will unquestionably lead to the degradation of one of the world’s greatest natural wonders. He has also advocated the removal of marine park legislation to allow for commercial fishing, removal of world heritage listing to allow for logging, and the building of dams in our ecologically sensitive pristine North. With an Environment Minister like that, who needs natural disasters?

And then there is the mining tax. On the 7:30 report, Abbott claimed that the mining and carbon taxes were partly to blame for BHP Billiton’s decision to delay the expansion of its huge Olympic Dam mine despite the fact that Marius Kloppers said it had nothing to do with the mining tax which doesn’t even apply to the copper, uranium or gold extracted from the site.

Mining profits worldwide have slumped by half since 2011 as the mining boom comes off its highs according to a report by PriceWaterhouseCoopers which says that higher costs, more writedowns and fluctuating commodity prices have hit the fortunes of the top 40 mining companies including BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.

PwC Australia’s head of energy and mining, Jock O’Callaghan, says the possible repeal of the mining tax in Australia is unlikely to have much impact on Australia’s appeal to investors. Not surprisingly, the government has failed to take note of this advice.

Mr O’Callaghan says he expects more mines to close, including in Australia. “Certainly if we see a further downturn in commodity prices that is going to put more pressure on marginal mines,” he said. “There is no denying that and again that is not just an Australian phenomena.”

As Ross Gittins explains,

“For the income earned by an industry to generate jobs in Australia, it has to be spent in Australia. And our mining industry is about 80 per cent foreign-owned. For our economy and our workers to benefit adequately from the exploitation of our natural endowment by mainly foreign companies, our government has to ensure it gets a fair whack of the economic rents those foreigners generate.

Because Labor so foolishly allowed the big three foreign miners to redesign the tax, they chose to get all their deductions up-front. Once those deductions are used up, the tax will become a big earner. Long before then, however, Tony Abbott will have rewarded the Liberal Party’s foreign donors by abolishing the tax.

This will be an act of major fiscal vandalism, of little or no benefit to the economy and at great cost to job creation.”

Mining currently employs about 2.4% of our workforce but this is set to drop as they move into the less labour-intensive production phase. As we saw during the GFC, they are not altruistic benefactors and have little loyalty to their employees. According to Richard Denniss

“When commodity prices fell during the global financial crisis the first thing the mining industry did was sack thousands of their workers. Indeed, according to Treasury, if all industries had been as quick to punt their employees as the mining industry the unemployment rate would have hit 19 per cent rather than its peak of 5.9 per cent.”

Penny Wong described Abbott’s rhetoric regarding the mining tax as “one of the most dishonest, self-interested fear campaigns that we have seen in Australian politics” and I can only agree.

After saying there was no difference between Liberal and Labor on education, we have seen billions cut with a backing away from the bulk of the Gonski funding, the abolition of trades training centres, and cuts to the before and after school care program despite childcare being identified as far more important in improving productivity and workforce participation than paid parental leave.

We have also seen the Coalition attempt to repeal Section 18c of the Racial Discrimination Act in a bizarre attempt to “protect the rights of bigots”. Countless journalists have said they have not felt constrained in any way by this section of the act and do not see the need for its repeal. This is purely and simply a pander to Andrew Bolt and Rupert Murdoch. Promoting hatred under the name of free speech is a truly cynical exercise which has left many Australians feeling very uneasy about what is happening to our country.

According to the Coalition, our debt and deficit are a real problem and spending must be reined in. While listening to a relentless barrage softening us up for the cuts that are to come, we watch Tony Abbott spend money hand over fist on his Paid Parental Leave scheme, orange life rafts, unmanned drones, planes both for the Air Force and himself, grants to polluters, gambling on the foreign exchange market, tax concessions for the wealthy, subsidies to profitable mining companies, marriage guidance counselling vouchers, and gifts to pollie pedal sponsors.

We are also going to sell everything we own and spend billions to build roads.  Public transport and high speed rail will receive no funding.  I am sure the fact that cars rely on fossil fuels hasn’t entered into the decision making.

With the rollout of the NBN in limbo, Malcolm Turnbull has admitted that he cannot keep his pre-election promises. His inferior offering will take much longer and cost much more than he led us to believe and will be outdated before it is even completed.

Abbott’s rush to sign free trade agreements which include ISDS clauses with all and sundry (No. 87 on the IPA’s wish list), has put our nation at sovereign risk where we will risk being sued if we introduce laws to protect our health and environment. It will almost certainly lead to a huge increase in the cost of medicine as pharmaceutical companies block the release of generic medicines, and a host of other repercussions that we can only anticipate with dread.

We have the Social Services Minister, Kevin Andrews, winding back gambling reforms and disbanding the oversight of charitable bodies. We have the Environment Minister disbanding climate change advisory bodies and removing environmental protection laws. We have the Health Minister disbanding bodies like the Australian National Preventative Health Agency, the Advisory Panel on Positive Ageing, the Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia, and attacking Medicare with offices closed on Saturdays and co-payments likely. We have the Assistant Health Minister blocking a healthy eating website and the Assistant Education Minister asking childcare workers to give back their pay rise. In fact, I cannot think of one act or one piece of proposed legislation that has been in the best interest of the people of Australia.

With cuts to foreign aid, indigenous affairs, charities, and asylum seeker advocacy groups, it is increasingly obvious that the vulnerable can expect no protection or assistance from this government. They have made their agenda patently clear. Buy a ticket on the Good Ship Rinehart and lift with the rising tide, or be left to drown as the wealthy stand on the shoulders of the poor to board the corporate gravy train.

 

The Ides of March

Image courtesy of theaustralian.com.au

Image courtesy of theaustralian.com.au

On the 15th of March 44BC Julius Caesar was murdered, in an act reminiscent of the ritual slaughter of a sheep made to the god Jupiter during the Ides of March.

In 2014 on the Ides of March, Tasmania and South Australia are up for a state election. As is expected by the renowned Australian tradition for voting governments out, rather than voting them in, and by most indicators both the progressive Labor governments are set to be sacrificial Pharmakos.

The trouble with this strange form of political punishment is that it often hurts the citizen voter far more than the purged politicians.  As has been evidenced recently in NSW, QLD and federally, the triumphant conservative governments that have been beneficiaries of this disengaged democracy are rarely interested in what voters need, and more interested in what their corporate backers want.

Getting upset at the nightly news, or posting your ire on social media does not a good democracy make.  Progressive parties like the ALP and the Greens were built on mass movements that banded diverse people together in a fight for a better life, or to build a better balance between our industries and our environment.  As such, for these parties to function at their best requires community involvement.  Failing to get involved with, and then voting out such an elected government is like distaining to train your dog and then getting upset when it soils the carpet.

The conservative Liberal party, and their National party enablers, on the other hand is a party for the corporate and wealthy elite.  They do not need mass support, only your vote come election time.

Of course getting involved in politics is not very Australian, and many voters do not want to be interested.  Australians never had to fight for its democratic freedoms, and so are fairly blaze and ignorant about how it all works.  The result is that voters come to polls every three to four years, having put little thought into what they actually want from their government, complaining about missing out on their Saturday morning and muttering “I just don’t know who to vote for”.

Tasmania and South Australia are faced with a choice to re-elect incumbent progressive governments that they may have genuine grievances with, or bringing in libertarian conservative governments. There would seem to be little choice between the two.  However there are very large differences that a cursory look at the state and federal Liberal parties will clearly illustrate.

For those seeking to convince fellow voters, or those who may themselves be unsure, to assist you I have made a small list below of the kind of thing you can expect under a conservative government.  This list is by no means comprehensive and I am sure that most readers will be able to find far more to add:

In Queensland, the Liberal National government . . .

Cancelled the building of a new Children’s hospital, and will instead be changing it into a five-star hospital “hotel” where family members will be responsible for tending to patients around the clock.

Established a Commission of Audit to rationalize massive cuts to services, health, education, and support a program of extensive privatization.

Refused to sign up to education reform and Gonski co-funding.

Lost thousands of jobs, with unemployment up to 6.1% and rising.

Closed public schools and then sold the land to private developers.

Approved an electricity price rise of 22.6%.

Approved dredging onto the Great Barrier Reef.

Campbell Newman gave himself a pay rise, so that he is now paid the same as the President of the United States.

Established draconian “Anti-bikie” VLAD laws in an attempt to undermine social clubs associated with unionized workers in the building industry.  An industry that Campbell Newman has family ties and personal interests in.

Passed laws that allow police to enter a home without a warrant, arrest and fine a host of party $12,000 if three of his or her guests are intoxicated or use “indecent” language.

Changed Workcover laws to prevent injured workers from claiming health costs associated with an injury at work.

Sold social housing for a profit while increasing costs to the average family to the tune of $600 a year through direct and indirect taxation.

In Victoria, the Liberal Coalition government . . .

Changed protest laws so that the government can decide what a legitimate protest is, and force people to move with threat of arrest or an immediate fine of $500.

Is building a road tunnel, instead of additional and much needed public transport, that will result in huge increases in traffic congestion.

Cut $290 million from TAFE training in 2013, and is planning to cut millions more.

Cut $616 million from health funding, leading to the longest waiting lists for surgery ever – with some 55,000 people waiting months for treatment in 2013.

Courted the vote of disgraced MP Geoff Shaw by assisting him to repeal 2008 law that decriminalized abortion.

Has seen massive increases to wait times at hospital emergency rooms.

Has closed down over 2,000 beds in Victorian hospitals.

Has seen tolls, water, gas and electricity, and property rates increase at a faster rate than anywhere else in the country.

Is continuing to cut Ambulance services and is now attempting to replace trained paramedics with partly trained volunteers.

Unemployment is up to 6.4%, the worst since 2002.

In Western Australia the Liberal National Coalition . . .

Instituted a mindless Shark cull, despite being told it was a bad idea by scientists and fishermen – killing dolphins, seals, sealions, etc and attracting international derision.

Increased electricity prices 45% higher than CPI.

Cut hundreds of support staff from public schools and introduced further funding cuts to public schools.

Established an economic audit to justify cuts and privatization.

Continue to cut health funding and services.

Refused to sign up to education reform and Gonski co-funding.

Cancelled promised public transport improvements and expansions.

Continuing increases in unemployment, jumping from 4.6 to 5.1% in January 2014.

Oversaw an increase in state debt from $3.6 Billion in 2008 to over $18 Billion in 2013, all while overseeing a massive mining boom.

In NSW, the Liberal Coalition government . . .

Made massive cuts to emergency services, leading to closure of Fire Stations and longer wait times for emergency care.

Introduced laws to stop wage increases for public sector workers (including police, fire services and nurses).

Obeyed mining lobby groups and cancelled funding to environmental lawyers, and forbade any state agencies from “providing legal advice to activists and lobby groups”.

Has changed laws, at the behest of big miners like Rio Tinto, giving preference to the ‘economic benefits of coal mines over environmental and social impacts’.

Has opened up national parks to casual hunters and shooters, now wants to roll back marine parks to allow open season on fish reserves.

Sold public owned assets including electricity utilities, ferry services, and ports, leading to higher prices for consumers and huge cuts to services.

Nationally, the Federal Liberal-National government . . .

Has stated it will be pushing for the states to privatize more of their utilities, water, public transport, ports, and services – despite a recent reports from around the world that privatization has been a complete failure.

Established a Commission of Audit to rationalize massive cuts to services, health, education, and support a program of extensive privatization.

Is currently attempting to sell Medibank Private, a government corporation that actually makes money for tax payers, by hiring $2000-a-day spin doctors.

Tried to force SPC management to cut workers wages by up to 40% and cancel all conditions in return for any federal funding assistance.

Cancelled Gonski and education reform, and now Christopher Pyne currently has 2 men reviewing a curriculum that took 6 years and over 20,000 submissions to develop in order to reintroduce a more Christian education.

Has cancelled future Trades Training Centres across the nation.

Is signing up to the Trans-pacific partnership, which will give corporations the right to sue Australian state or federal governments if any changes to health, environment or any law impinge on their profits.

Apparently cancelled climate change, and tried to shut down the Clean Energy Finance corp, which is making $200 million per year for the tax payer, while contributing “more than 50 per cent of the emissions abatement that’s required for the bipartisan 2020 target”

Cancelled Equal access fibre-to-the-home NBN, and now cities, suburbs, regional centres and the bush are going to miss out on the economic and social benefits of broadband infrastructure.

Has broken 25 promises in 150 days; after spending 3 years hounding PM Gillard for breaking 1.

In conclusion

In Rome the death of Caesar saw the end of the Roman Republic and the rise of the non-democratic Roman Empire.  This Ides of March sees similar creeping imperial forces on the warpath against the foundations of Australian democracy.  If Liberal-National parties are elected in the upcoming state elections the voters will suffer similar fates to those listed above.

It has fallen to the voters in Tasmania and South Australia to not simply ‘punish’ the Labor governments; but rather consider the very real difference between a progressive parliament or a regressive conservative one.

You get out of government what you put in.  Just ask any lobbyist.

More robust public debate brings more transparent and effective government.

More community involvement and regular petitions brings better policy development.

More awareness of the impact of public policy brings better economic growth and social progress.

Unlike their Liberal opponents, progressive Labor governments will listen to their electorates.

Don’t vote away your freedoms.  Let them know what you want – and get them to do it.

It Goes to the Character of the Man

Tony Abbott Boxing.

Photo: The Courier Mail

Has Australia ever elected a Prime Minister so devoid of character? So lacking in the qualities of leadership? So deficient in empathy of social conscience? So ignorant of technology and science? So oblivious of the needs of women and same gender people? So out of touch with a modern pluralist society? And worst of all an unmitigated liar.

A Christian man who once had a calling to the Priesthood but now sees lying as a political truth. A Prime Minister who believes that truth is anything you persuade people to believe.

For the entirety of his time as Opposition Leader, Tony Abbott was proclaimed by the media (Murdoch in particular) as the most effective ever. I have never understood this. For three years his sole intention was to bring down a government. He lied continuously while at the same time creating shock and awe throughout the community. His negativity became legendary. Hardly a day passed without his accusing the government of telling the most awful fibs while at the same time perpetuating his own. On a daily basis he used sexism, misogyny, bullying, confusion, saturation, populism, diversion, racism, character assassination, panic mongering and even the re writing of history if it suited him.

And the media said he was effective. Well if they mean by that, that he was negatively effective then perhaps I have to concede he was. On the other hand if they mean he was effectively presenting himself as an alternative prime minister then I would have to disagree entirely. As opposition leader he did nothing to advance the country and the result of six years in opposition has not produced one major worthwhile policy. In fact he has become the Prime Minister for undoing. Not doing.

During his tenure as opposition leader when I was often in conflict with those of the opposite persuasion about the character of Tony Abbot, I would often ask his supporters to list five characteristics they thought he had that would make him a worthy leader. In five tries I never received a reply.

You see character as a combination of traits that etch the outlines of a life, governing moral choices and infusing personal and professional conduct. It’s an elusive thing, easily cloaked or submerged by the theatrics of a presidential campaign, but unexpected moments can sometimes reveal the fibres from which it is woven.

Abbott has none of these. He is and always has been a gutter politician of the worst kind. A repeat offender. He is a man who has failed to articulate a narrative for Australia’s future. Someone of such little virtue that he places the occupation of the lodge higher than the service of his people.

He is a man of loyalty to institutions. To the church and the monarchy. To people of wealth and influence. He lacks reformist zeal for the common good. He is, however, intent on undoing the good that others have done. His purpose in life seems to be (as was Howard’s) the maintenance of authority. A self righteous man who shows little aptitude for diplomacy.

All in all a man with a litany of lies and nonsensical ill-founded statements behind him. Of discriminatory declarations against women. Of disrespect for the conventions of Parliament. A man of slogans. A Luddite of technology. A denier of science. A right to rule elitist with no altruistic values.

It is indeed sad that the Australian public has entrusted the country’s future to a man of such little virtue.

Commentators of the political world have said that he has not yet switched from Opposition Leader to Prime Minister. How appallingly and ignorantly naive of them. Here we have a man with the deepest of neo conservative values. Values of rusted on negativity. Of Tea Party mentality surrounded by acolytes of little intellectual capacity. An inarticulate street fighter who would rather have a fight than a feed. Do they honestly expect him to overnight become a person of dignity and trust? A leader with aplomb, self-confidence and composure. Someone cool with grace and style. His only thought the common good of his fellow citizens.

Sorry we are talking about Tony the pugilist. It’s not going to happen. He is what he is. A liar. Just ask him. He said he is.

Watching him on Monday during question time empathised this point. The personality of the pugilist was wanting to escape the confines of Prime Ministerial nicety but was trapped inside. You can see it in his interviews. The same stress of being locked into conformist comportment. Trying to be dignified when in reality you want to smack someone in the face.

The most damming indictment he made against Labor when in office was that they were dysfunctional and that they lied. They broke a core promise.

Now he stands accused of the same thing which only goes to show that he has little judgment and little character.

He came to power after six years of negative behaviour and no policy development.

As Ross Gittens puts it.

‘’It’s as if Tony Abbott believes returning the Liberals to power will, of itself, solve most of our problems. Everything was fine when we last had a Liberal government, so restore the Libs and everything will be fine again.’’

Abbott’s Brilliant Moves, as told to me by the media!

Image courtesy of theaustralian.com.au

Image courtesy of theaustralian.com.au

Yesterday, a reporter on Sky News was reporting that the Opposition was wrong-footed in Question Time and that they just kept trying to hammer the point about whether any school would be worse off.

Just let that sink in for a while. Don’t start complaining about Bill Shorten or the Opposition just yet. The Opposition was wrong-footed because the Government does an apparent back-flip? And this is because the Opposition keep asking about the actual detail of this back-flip?

Strange way of looking at things. That’s like saying the police have been completely confused by a criminal’s confession, because they still keep asking questions about the crime.

Make no mistake – the apparent back-flip from Abbott and Pyne promises nothing. It simply adds the funding for the states and territories who didn’t sign up, and promises to keep total funding the same. Something which they had actually been doing for the past week. It was just that nobody believed them any more.

As far as ensuring that the states distribute it as the Gonski report was recommending, well they’ve got rid of the “command and control” aspects of the funding. In other words, the states can slash their own spending on education if they choose to.

So it’s the classic pea and sell trick. We think we know where the pea is, but it’s actually in the hand, so whatever shell we pick, we’re wrong.

But instead of an analysis of exactly what their “backflip” means, we have various media outlets, attacking the Opposition for still asking questions about what it means in terms of individual schools.

“The announcement, however, left Labor with nothing but the questions it had written before the change in the wind, and apparently too little time to change tack.

Shorten and his colleagues forged ahead with demands for guarantees that no school would be worse off.”

Tony Wright “Shorten’s lack of agility leads to low trousers” The Sydney Morning Herald

Well, attacking Labor leaders has been popular over the past few years – even from within the party – but it does seem strange to be focusing on them at a time like this. The Coalition are the Government of Australia. They will be making the decisions, and it’s these decisions which will affect the lives of the people. An analysis of what the Opposition’s doing seems a bit like a navel-gazing exercise at the moment. Certainly, comparing Shorten’s day yesterday with Fraser’s decision to call an election, only to find that Hayden had been replaced by Hawke is a bit like comparing Aung San Suu Kyi’s house arrest with the decision by Freddy’s parents to ground him for the weekend. 

As for calls for a double dissolution, as I’ve pointed out on this site previously, it’s not actually possible yet. And certainly, in spite of one reader’s passionate demand = “Tell Bill and the rest of the ALP to pull their fricken fingers out of their asses and call a dbl dissolution NOW!” – it’ll be Abbott who calls it, not the Opposition. He certainly isn’t likely to call it, if he thinks that he might lose.

There are still plenty of questions about the Government’s alleged change of mind. Let’s hope that the MSM keeps asking them and not just sites like this.

(BTW –  compare today’s Age/Sydney Morning Herald editorial with my blog of a few days ago. Should I sue them for plagiarism?)

The Education Union is spreading shocking misinformation; ask Christopher Pyne

Hands up all those who don't believe what Christopher Pyne says (image from asopa.typepad.com)

Hands up all those who don’t believe what Christopher Pyne says (image from asopa.typepad.com)

From Lateline November 25th, 2013

STEVE CANNANE: So what do you believe? Is there an equity problem or not?

CHRISTOPHER PYNE: I don’t believe there is an equity problem in Australia. I think we are very generous to our students in public and non-government schools as a wealthy country like Australia should be.

From The Pyne Online August 21st, 2013:

AEUS (sic) DISHONEST CAMPAIGN

The Australian Education Union (AEU) has this week been caught out distributing blatantly dishonest claims on school funding in South Australia.

At primary schools in South Australia, the AEU has distributed misleading campaign material entitled ‘A message from local principals and teachers’. This ‘message’ is actually from the AEU and is authorised by its Federal Secretary in Melbourne.

The AEU’s dishonest ‘message’ claims that the Coalition would deliver only one third of total funding agreed to in the South Australian school funding agreement.

This is false.

Tony Abbott and the Coalition have confirmed that they will commit the same amount of federal school funding as the Government over the forward estimates. Every single school in Australia will receive, dollar for dollar, the same federal funding over the next four years whether there is a Liberal or Labor Government after September 7.”

From Yesterday’s (December 1st 2013) The Pyne Online:

“It appears everyone in the Labor Party is willing to admit $1.2 billion was cut from school funding for Western Australia, the Northern Territory and Queensland before the election except for the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten.

“Questioned today on Meet the Press, Shadow Minister for School Education, Kate Ellis confirmed the $1.2 billion was removed from the Budget, leaving three jurisdictions with no additional funding for 2014.

“This was an unforgivable act of sabotage on the part of Mr Shorten and Labor, but why can’t Bill Shorten admit he allowed it to happen?

“Mr Shorten also hid the fact that both Victoria and Tasmania had not signed bilateral agreements with the Commonwealth and systemic Catholic schools had not sign up either, despite Labor’s claims at the time.

“The Coalition has been working hard to fix Labor’s mess, putting in more funding than Labor, with $230 million going to the states that have not signed up guaranteeing funding certainty for 2014.

“We will then be in a position to work with the states and territories over the first half of next year to bring in a new national, fair and equitable funding model for Australia, fixing the Shorten”

That’s where it stops. I haven’t cut anything out.

I presume that his next word would have been “Shambles”, and I’m tempted to ask why – apart from his tabloid-like obsession with alliteration – is the alleged shambles Shorten’s? I mean, even if you accept that Education funding was a shambles, Shorten had only been Education Minister from June. Three months is hardly enough time to create a shambles, but Chrissy Pyne himself is evidence that against that argument.

Ok, everyone out there,for anyone who’d like to make some money: if you send me $10, I will send every single one of you back $20. Of course, by every single one of you I just mean that I’ll send out twice as much money. To someone. Probably most of it to my wife, but some to my friends. But that doesn’t mean that I was trying to mislead you when I said “every single one of you” because that means the total amount of funds, right?

Put like that, the Liberals’ position is more ludicrous than the possibility of Barnaby Joyce being our Deputy Prime Minister, which thankfully is… um. Warren somebody.

The other argument that somehow $1.2 billion is “missing” because it was removed from the Budget is such a ridiculous proposition that it’s almost as blatant as the actual Liberal lie that “every single school” just means the same as total funding.

To explain this in simple terms: If you were, for example, planning a wedding, and you invite ten guests at $50 a head (I know, cheap wedding!), and it got to the day that the RSVP’s were due and only six people had replied, most people would ring the other four and ask them what their plans were. In terms of Gonski, this more or less what Labor did. Now, if two said they were coming and two said, “Your partner was rude to me last week, so stick your invitation!”, I suspect that you’d feel that it was reasonable to reduce your budget from the $500 to $400 with the idea that if they make up, you’ll put it back later. This is, more or less, what the Labor Government did.

And given the whole thing was going on “the credit card” anyway, the money isn’t missing at all!

No, it’s not really going on the credit card, but some of the Gonski money would have to be borrowed. And borrowing is not really the problem that the Liberals and Paul Sheehan make it out to be. Debt – where it increases one’s future earning capacity = isn’t a problem. Take, for example, a negative gearing or a HECS debt. And for a Federal Government, ensuring that its citizens are better educated and, therefore, capable of more skillful and higher paying jobs is better than sending some to the revenue drain of unemployment.

Some are quick to be concerned about saddling future generations with the repayment of debt, using Greece as the cautionary tale, and, yes, naturally one should take on debt prudently. However, the idea that we can just put off spending on infrastructure and education ignores the fact that we are, in fact, saddling future generations with the necessity of paying more to do the things we should have done ten years ago. While Abbott was making political points about rising electricity prices being because of the Carbon Tax, it was easy to overlook that the bulk of the rises were because of a previous lack of spending on the aging infrastructure.

In a blog a few months ago, I wrote that it was interesting that whenever it’s suggested that maybe some of the richer private schools could get less, we hear screams of “class warfare” and we’re told how some parents on low incomes struggle to send their kids to these schools, but when anyone tries to increase the money to the Government sector, the same people assure us that money doesn’t really improve educational outcomes. (I particularly liked someone who suggested that there’d been 44% increase in Education spending for no demonstrable improvement. Sounds impressive, until you consider that at three quarters of that would be a result of inflation.)

In the end, I don’t know what’s more worrying. Is it that the Liberals are lying to the Australian people when they talk about things like $1.2 billion has “gone missing” from the Education Budget? Or is it that their understanding of economics is so simplistic that they actually believe some of the things that they’re saying?

(For those of you who feel like an interesting read on the economic situation, I recommend “End This Depression Now!” by Paul Klugman.

Humpty Dumpty was apparently right!

“We are going to keep the promise that we made, not the promise that some people thought we made or the promise that some people would like us to make, we are going to keep the promise that we actually made,” Mr Abbott told the Ten Network on Sunday.

 1st December, 2013

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.’

‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.

From Through The Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

‘At the same time in the last election campaign, five days before polling day, Julia Gillard made the fateful declaration: “There will be no carbon tax under the government I lead”.

She said one thing before the election to win votes – and did the opposite after the election to stay in the Lodge.’

Abbott’s September 2nd, 2013 Address to the Press Club

Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says if the Coalition wins government, it will honour Labor’s funding commitments across the four years of the budget forward estimates.

Previously, he had promised only to guarantee any deals Labor struck for the first year.

Mr Abbott says the decision will help schools plan for the future.

“As far as school funding is concerned, Kevin Rudd and I are on a unity ticket,” Mr Abbott announced this morning.

“There is no difference between Kevin Rudd and myself when it comes to school funding.”

However, the Opposition says it will scrap elements of the plan that it says centralise power in Canberra.

Just yesterday, Opposition Education spokesman Christopher Pyne told ABC News 24 the Coalition would only honour the deal for one year.

“What we will do is give schools certainty for 2014 then undo the damage that the Government has done, by negotiation with the states and the territories [for a] new model for 2015,” he said.

ABC News August 2nd, 2013

So it’s clear then. Saying that there is no difference between Kevin Rudd and himself on this issue was the same as saying committing not to change the arrangements that Labor had in place. And as for honoring Labor’s funding commitments, well, they’re going to spend the same amount of money – just on different schools – but they amount of money committed is the same.

It’s sort of like karma. It all evens out in the end. And money doesn’t improve educational outcomes. Do kids learn better when teachers get a pay rise? No, so all that money spent paying teachers is just wasted. They should all do it for free.

The Gonski reforms would have just spent money repairing class rooms and giving kids access to the sort of facilities that private schools have and this would have been inequitable, because what’s a kid whose parents are poor need with an education?

This is difficult for some people to understand, because the Gonski Report was very complex – even the Education Minister thinks so. In fact it’s so complex that he hasn’t even been able to read it yet. Although, it is believed that privately he has admitted to seeing the big picture, but he didn’t like it, so he’s going to go scrap it, and rely on John Howard’s instinct the way the Government is doing on climate change.

Still Mr Pyne has been suffering some stress lately, due to a fire at his home where the library was burned to the ground. Both books were destroyed.

And, to make matters worse, he hadn’t even finished colouring one of them.

Old photo which shows that Abbott and Murdoch’s relationship goes way back.

ventriloquist doll

Photo: ventriloquist central

A Pyne Statement, Indeed!

Photo: Sydney Morning Herald

Photo: Sydney Morning Herald

Dear Christopher,

I have gone over your press release and made some changes.

“PRESS RELEASE FROM THE OFFICE OF THE RE-EDUCATION MINISTER, MR CHRISTOPHER WHYNE:

We intend to honour our promise to maintain the arrangements as we promised before the election, but only for the first year because that’s enough to say that we did keep the funding arrangements. All your talking about is how long we kept them for, which is really just nitpicking!

Change this to: “We intend to honour our commitments in full. However, we will be looking to improve the funding model for 2015 and beyond, and no-one should have a problem with that.”

I know some people will try and accuse us of breaking a promise, but when we made the promise, we worked on the assumption that Labor had laid out a very clear plan and that they’d left plenty of money. Imagine my surprise when I found that this plan was far too complicated for me to understand. Now I know some of you will say that as we were suggesting that they were incompetent, so we should have expected the plan to be a mess, but that’s a bit unfair, because even though we said that, we didn’t mean it all the time. Anyway, it seems that they were wasting a lot of money fixing up classrooms in areas where the kids aren’t worth educating, but we’re prepared to cut our losses there. These are the sort of adult decisions that are hard, but necessary.  They were pretending to be adults, but we’re the adults, and we’re in charge now, so “Electricity Bill” this is your fault. 

Change this to: “The Labor plan was a shambles and unimplentable. We will try to keep the essential features, but it would be wrong to expect us to be bound by what, after all, was a Labor plan.”

Who is this Gonski anyway? As I said before the election, sounds more like a Conski to me. I know that he wrote some sort of report, but no-one’s had time to read it to me. We’re all very busy with the business of Government. And “business” starts with “busy” so you can see we don’t have time for reading old reports. Really, have any of you read it? Exactly. Really, we don’t need a report to tell us that a good teacher can inspire his or her class even if there is a leaky roof or no heating. Kids today are too soft. It’s about time that the cane was introduced. 

Change this to: “There are many interesting features in the Gonski report, and we’ll be responding to them in good time, but the most important thing is ensuring that students have a good teacher, because a good teacher can teach anywhere.”

Frankly, if parents really cared about the education of their children, they’d put them in a private school, so I don’t see why they complain when public schools don’t have the same facilities. It’s just class warfare. I went to a private school and look how I turned out. 

Change this to: “Education is one of our priorities, and our model will be better. We’ll give the same amount of money, but we won’t have the same central command policies. We’ll allow the states to distribute the money to those who need it the most.”

Thanks,

Peta.

P.S. Actually, I’ll just get someone in my office to re-write for you. We’ll send you a copy. Whatever you do, don’t answer any questions on it.

What do we do now?

tony

So it’s over; the Coalition has triumphed in the contest of ideas and will (eventually, one hopes) form a government.

Tony Abbott has been described as the most effective opposition leader in a generation. This may or may not be accurate, but it cannot be argued that he has achieved his goals with a combination of balls-to-the-wall confrontation and maintaining a small target on his weakest points. The question now becomes what kind of a Prime Minister he will make, and what his collection of Howard-era ministers will do now they’ve reached power in the 21st century.

The first thing we need to understand is that what the Coalition government will do, now it’s in power, is not what they said they would do while they were in opposition.

To some in the electorate, this may come as a surprise. They may actually think the Coalition fully intends to do the things they talked about during the campaign. But things promised during the campaign were not real; they were props, to support Tony Abbott’s approach to the job of opposition. They continued on from the years preceding the election, from the very moment of Abbott’s elevation to the position of Leader of the Opposition.

“The job of an opposition is to oppose”, and that’s what the Coalition did – regardless of whether they agreed with the policies on offer or not.

Prior to Tony Abbott, worthy policies had a chance of bipartisan support. Abbott himself in years gone by argued for the imposition of a carbon tax; Malcolm Turnbull was ready to sign on to support Labor’s policy in this area.

It was on this very matter that Abbott was able to replace Turnbull as the leader, and he never looked back. Even in those areas where there is “bipartisan support”, it is conditional; according to Tony Abbott, the Coalition wouldn’t be doing its job if it didn’t find aspects to criticise in even the best policy.

The Coalition’s stated intention since 2010 has been to oppose the government on any and all fronts. Opposing requires you to have an alternative solution to point to. It doesn’t have to be fully fleshed, or even achievable; nobody will look at it too closely whilst it’s just an alternative. But you can’t oppose a successful or important piece of policy or legislation without pointing people to an alternative; it shows that the thing you’re opposing is not inevitable.

So the Coalition threw its weight behind a bunch of pointless, useless or impractical ideas – not as real policies, but as props for its position of opposition. NBN-lite, Direct Action, the easy bits of Gonski; these helped it to point to Labor’s NBN, the carbon price, and the full package of Gonski and say “we don’t agree with these, and we don’t need them.” Despite the fact that experts universally panned the alternatives on offer, showed that they were impractical and expensive and simply couldn’t do what the Coalition was claiming, the opposition stuck to its guns knowing that the electorate didn’t care about details and didn’t care about feasibility. Pandering to a voter’s fears is eighty percent of the job, but the other twenty percent is to quiet that little part of their subconscious that says “what do we do instead”?

But now the time of opposition is over, and Tony Abbott and the Coalition have made a rod for their own back. They’ve sworn not to do deals. They’ve sworn to stick to their guns and get their promises delivered. They’ve sworn to be a no-nonsense government that says what it means and does what it says. And now it’s achieved government saying all of these impractical and counterproductive things that it is going to be required to do.

There are always get-out-of-jail clauses; every incoming Coalition government goes down the same path. The “budget position is so much worse than we knew that we can’t do the things we promised” route. Will the Australian people stand for it this time? For the first time, there was a PEFO, as thorough a retelling of the budget standing as possible, to ensure there are no surprises for an incoming government. Despite this, the amazing invisible Joe Hockey has been reported as saying that the Coalition would need an independent, external audit of the finances before they knew the true budget standing, so it seems obvious that they’re going to try this well-travelled road again.

And if the “not enough money” issue isn’t going to serve – for instance, in repealing taxes that you’ve sworn black and blue are losing money, or replacing a nation-building effort with something cheaper and nastier – then you can delay. Thus, the NBN will undergo “three separate reviews and a forensic audit” before the Coalition will even know what to do with it. Who wants to bet that these won’t take up most of the Coalition’s first term of government and be ready with propositions by the time the next election comes around? (Labor took a very similar approach to a series of policy areas in 2007, so it’s certainly not without precedent).

But eventually a government has to be judged on what it did, not what it said it would do. Sometimes, the promises that a government has made to get elected can come back to bite them. Thus Labor’s rounds of tax cuts, promised at the 2007 election in answer to the Coalition’s same promises, had to be delivered in subsequent years as the budget situation worsened and they became progressively more unaffordable. Those tax cuts may even have contributed to Labor’s more recent budget woes and its need to find new sources of revenue. Kevin Rudd, in those days, was desperate to keep all of his promises, just as Tony Abbott is now. Julia Gillard found out the hard way the results of being publically excoriated over reneging on a promise (even though Gillard’s was a matter of semantics rather than intent). So will Tony Abbott back off his promises on NBN, on direct action, on PPL, on returning to budget surplus?

Those with memories of past conservative governments fear what this one might do when the promising is over and the sharp teeth of conservative policy are revealed. In any number of areas, in the last days of the election campaign, Tony Abbott and his senior staff were careful to put caveats on their promises. Undertakings which had previously been unequivocal – promises in blood, you might say – became subject to conditions. If the Direct Action plan on climate change fails to reach agreed emissions targets, the Coalition will renege rather than spend more money. The boats will be turned around – presuming it is safe to do so, which it never will be. (And incidentally, we won’t hear about it one way or another, because boats arriving is a politically damaging sight.) The NBN will be killed, with the exception of contracts already signed, because you can’t break contracts.

The big test for the Coalition is still to come. Will it stick to its guns? Will it attempt to implement damaging and ineffective policies that it doesn’t believe in itself? Will it revert on policy to ideas that are more useful, that might actually work, at the expense of going back on their word? And if so, what tricks will they pull to prove that what they said before the election was not a lie, but simply a position that had to be changed as circumstances changed?

And will the Australian people remember how well that particular approach worked for Julia Gillard?

Comparing Government to a Family Budget

Image by kidspot.com.au

Image by kidspot.com.au

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.

 

Why I don’t make predictions . . . and why I never will

I really shouldn't make predictions (image from dreamstime.com)

I really shouldn’t make predictions (image from dreamstime.com)

In the Fortune Teller’s Tent

Madame Claire: Good afternoon, if you cross my palm with silver, I’ll tell you your future.

Unnamed Politician: No thanks, I’m . . . ah . . . keeping my money till I find out whether you’re the real thing.

Madame Claire: But didn’t your good friend Peter send you after my accurate reading of him?

Politician: Ah . . . yes, but I . . . ah . . .  don’t trust Peter – this could be some sort of trick.

Madame Claire: Very well, how about if I give you this initial reading and after that, if you need my services, you’ll just pay me twice as much the way you intend to do with outsourcing and the public service.

Politician: Ah… You’ll have to do better than that, you could have predicted that from looking at what the State Liberals do.

Madame Claire: The first thing you want to know is who will win the election.

Politician: Obviously. So . . . ah, do I?

Madame Claire: That depends on what you mean by “win”.

Politician: Look, it’s ah . . . a perfectly simply thing.

Madame Claire: Well, who won the last election?

Politician: Er . . . We did, but Labor stayed in power because they bribed the independents with trinkets and promises of faster internet.

Madame Claire: Well, I see very few winners out of the next election.

Politician: I . . . ah, don’t follow.

Madame Claire: I see a man with a big hat who is smiling. Or is it sneering.

Politician: That’d be Katter.

Madame Claire: The media want to know where he’ll be directing his votes.

Politician: His vote.

Madame Claire: No, his votes. And he is saying that he’ll be meeting with a big man named Clive in the next few days.

Politician: Clive Palmer?

Madame Claire: I don’t know. I only have glimpses. The future is a mist. Nothing is certain. It can all be re-written differently.

Politician: Ah . . . sort of like News Limited does for us.

Madame Claire: Not exactly. It’s more like your Real Solutions document. A trained eye can see something, but only through a veil . . . And certain words and phrases keep blocking me from seeing the whole picture.

Politician: What are they?

Madame Claire: “Labor’s fault”, “bigger than we thought”, “aspiration, not a promise”. And the letters N D I and S keep confusing things. Do these letters mean anything to you?

Politician: Not a thing.

Madame Claire: Ah I’m getting something else Gone . . . Gone . . . Ski?

Politician: Gone skiing?

Madame Claire: No, Gonski, that’s it. A man named Gonski is threatening you.

Politician: No, we’ve dealt with that. We’ve told everyone that the system is just fine. Apart from the private schools not getting enough federal money. But you haven’t answered the important question – do we win?

Madame Claire: Who’s “we”? And what does it mean to “win”?

Politician: Do I become Prime Minister?

Madame Claire: I’m sorry, but you’ll have wait until after the election when I can charge consultancy rates.

SHE BEGINS TO EXIT.

Politician: Wait, I need to know. Those votes Katter was talking about . . . were they the Lower House or the Senate?

Madame Claire: Why should I tell you, when you refused to cross my palm with silver?

Politician: I don’t have any. Labor cornered the market on silver when they offered Peter Slipper the Speaker’s Chair, but perhaps I could offer you a job somewhere.

Madame Claire: Such as?

Politician: What do you want? Media Watch Presenter? Tim Flannery’s job? Head of the FUTURE fund?

Madame Claire: Aren’t you overlooking something?

Politician: What?

Madame Claire: You aren’t Prime Minister yet . . .

 

Going, Going . . . Gonski!

Christpoher Pyne (image by news.com.au)

Will Christpoher Pyne kill off Gonski? (image by news.com.au)

INTERVIEWER

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

MR WHINE

Good evening.

INTERVIEWER

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

MR WHINE

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

INTERVIEWER

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

MR WHINE

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.

INTERVIEWER

So what is your education policy then?

MR WHINE

We’ll release it closer to the next election.

INTERVIEWER

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

MR WHINE

About two weeks from the election date.

INTERVIEWER

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

MR WHINE

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

INTERVIEWER

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

MR WHINE

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

INTERVIEWER

Which is?

MR WHINE

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.

INTERVIEWER

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

MR WHINE

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

INTERVIEWER

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

MR WHINE

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

INTERVIEWER

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

MR WHINE

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

INTERVIEWER

And how will you do that?

MR WHINE

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.

INTERVIEWER

And how will you determine which teachers receive performance pay?

MR WHINE

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

INTERVIEWER

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

MR WHINE

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

INTERVIEWER

So how will you know who are the best teachers?

MR WHINE

They’ll be the ones getting the performance pay.

INTERVIEWER

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

MR WHINE

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

INTERVIEWER

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

MR WHINE

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.

INTERVIEWER

Any other broad concepts for education?

MR WHINE

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

INTERVIEWER

Selling the school system?

MR WHINE

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

INTERVIEWER

Well that’s worked well with Public Transport …

MR WHINE

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.

INTERVIEWER

But has it improved the system?

MR WHINE

Sorry, I don’t understand the question.

INTERVIEWER

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

MR WHINE

Always a pleasure.

 

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