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Using The Same Logic, Tony Abbott Was A Great Success!

Ok, consider this argument for a moment:

We’ve spent more money on jailing offenders in the past few years. We’ve increased police numbers at a significant cost. We’ve installed CCT cameras in various hotspots. And yet, the crime rate hasn’t gone significantly down. Clearly we’ve wasted our money and can stop this tough on crime nonsense and reduce police numbers because spending money clearly doesn’t solve the problem.

Sound logical?

Well, if you said no, you’d understand my frustration when people use exactly the same logic to argue that increased spending on schools hasn’t led to significant improvement. There are many reasons why I find this ridiculous.

The first is that the data isn’t showing that we’re “going backwards” as people like to suggest. This is partly caused by the nostalgia aspect of people’s memory of their own schooling. I’m constantly told by people that people could do diffential calculus by the end of Grade Four and that everyone could spell correctly when they went to school because they were taught phonics – or should that be “tort fonnix” – even though frequently the person telling me has trouble with spelling any words with more than one syllable, . But when you take a close look at the results from international tests, you don’t see the sort of slide that people like to suggest. Occasionally, there’ll be a slip in our ranking which may be caused by other countries actually improving rather than standards here slipping. Sometimes there may have been a slight fall in the actual performance from one year to the next, but it’s never been massive and, by itself, it’s too little to make sweeping conclusions. When recently politicians were bemoaning the fact that – on an annual test – we hadn’t made any improvement since 2015, I couldn’t help but wonder how the politician speaking would react if we pointed out that the Liberals haven’t actually made any improvements in reducing the deficit since last year’s Budget. I suspect we’d be told that it’s a long term thing and that it’ll take time.

The second is that looking at the overall picture may not show areas where increased funding is making a difference. For example, you can increase the overall education budget by millions and make very little . Rudd’s school halls wasn’t the disaster that it was painted, but it was highly unlikely to improve literacy and numeracy outcomes for students. It fulfilled a need that many schools had which was more to do with community than education. Similarly, there could be millions going into heated stalls for the polo ponies at the wealthy private school, but it’s the $10,000 that some poor school gets which enables it to start some program that has successful outcomes that may show up in its individual performance but be swamped in the global data.

And, finally, I have a particular frustration when people start talking about how technology hasn’t improved outcomes. As I’ve previously written, kids need to be using technology, not because it will necessarily improve test performances, but because technology is ubiquitous and they’ll be using it everywhere else for the rest of their lives. Yes, of course, it’s good for them to turn it off once in a while and schools should ensure that a range of activities are tech-free. But to argue that we don’t need to teach students about how to use the Internet for research, why Wikipedia is not the only source (unless you’re the Greatest Minister in the World) and allow them to take advantage of all of the advantages of the twenty-first century seems short-sighted. Yes, kids can distracted by technology but, if the work isn’t engaging or the teacher isn’t on the ball, then kids can distracted looking out the window. One of the greatest problems with technology in schools is that there hasn’t been enough support for teachers to learn how to use it effectively. It’s frequently rolled out by some enthusiast who can’t understand those luddites who don’t know how to create their own webpage, while the average teacher fumbles around with a few hours professional development here and there.

It was interesting to hear Simon Birmingham suggest that maybe, just maybe, there are some well-resourced private schools out there which may not need as much funding into the future. Usually the Liberals have maintained a policy which tells us that money doesn’t matter when it comes to education, but private schools need every cent that they’re given and even then, they should be getting more because what would happen if they all closed and the government suddenly had to pay to educate every child! To which, I’d reply what would happen if everyone stopped driving, how would the public transport system cope?

But applying things consistently has never been something that a politician is expected to do. I mean, we frequently have members of the Coalition telling us that a number of people voted for One Nation so therefore we should listen to what they have to say. I can’t remember the same logic ever being applied to The Greens. Actually, when I think about it, they don’t even apply the same logic to the Labor Party who received even more votes than the Liberal Party. (Look at first preference votes and, no, you can’t include the National Party, because as we were told many times by Tony Abbott circa 2010, a coalition is not a properly elected government!)

And Tony Abbott was a great success. He got to be PM and that surely is the aim of every politician. What did he achieve? Well, he’ll tell you he stopped the boats, so that puts him one up on Malcolm Turnbull. Even if you don’t believe that the boats are actually stopped, at least he’s got something that some people will believe. Malcolm, on the other hand, has a firm policy to hold a plebiscite on marriage equality but can’t manage to achieve it, so that’s the end of it as far as he’s concerned, because they took it to the election and were given a mandate for it so they can’t possibly just have a conscience vote. We need to ask the Australian people and then have a conscience vote, just like we did when John Howard changed the marriage act… Oh wait, we didn’t!

Yes, Malcolm has a mandate for everything that the Right want to do, but not a mandate for the superannuation changes or the backpacker tax. To paraphrase a well-known tourist slogan: “Malcolm, beautiful one day, jelly the next!”

Or would Scott Morrison’s “Where the bloody hell are you?” be more appropriate.


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  1. Clean livin

    Always astounded me when PM Abbott, in cutting $$$ for WA aborigines, informed us all that it was a way of life choice, therefore should not be funded yet the taxpayer.

    Never did say the same “way of life choice” in regards private schools.

  2. Matters Not

    surely is the aim of every politician.

    They seem to share the Prime Minister position around a bit these days. We’ve had Rudd, then Gillard, then Rudd again followed by Abbott who was bumped by Turnbull who didn’t last very long as well. Now we have the George Christensen led government, with the added twist he is able to lead from behind, without ever leaving the back bench.

    While on the horizon is Pauline Hanson who may bump George if his driving skills are found wanting.

  3. townsvilleblog

    Private schools should NOT be funded by government. The government provides schools for 63% of the total number of students, though this LNP govt spends more per private enterprise school than the schools that they have responsibility for. Meaning that 63% of public/government schools miss out on ‘their’ education while the LNP delivers a second swimming pool or a second gymnasium to wealthy private enterprise schools. Why? Because the tory ideology is that the 37% are ‘the chosen one’s’ with rich parents.

    If the wealthy do not like the schools that the government provide and see it as essential that their children be schooled with other wealthy people’s children so as they have business contacts when they leave school, that’s all well and good, provided that ‘they’ pay for it, not the taxpayer. This is having your cake and eating it too and has gone on for far too long. It has to stop for the benefit of the 63% of students whose education should be fully supported by the federal and state governments.

  4. kerri

    So spot on Rossleigh! And not long after the “money won’t help” mantra comes “teachers aren’t as good as they used to be” BS. Too much of right wing belief hinges on “back in my day” and other useless opinion.
    They are immune to facts and have no patience for actual history.
    One of the best things my two kids learnt in grade 5 was touch typing. They are both pretty hot at it because they’ve been doing it right for years. I still fumble along with two fingers. They can search anything and know how to sort the wheat from the chaff due to their exposure to the Internet. They can even find stuff the Uni lecturers didn’t know was online.
    When I was at uni the private school kids were hopeless at research.
    Too used to being spoon fed. Like this government, they were unable to source facts unless put in front of them.
    Teacher wallopping is such a sport for this mob! They never have a kind word to say for people whose dedication has to be huge given the pay and conditions.
    Good article!

  5. Deidre Zanker

    Great article.

  6. kerri

    Townsvilleblog I disagree with zero funding for private schools. The government needs to fairly distribute taxes on a per capita/child basis and keep a hand in the private schools regarding curriculum, but definitely fund at a lesser or diminished rate.
    Hubby and I were arguing this precise point last night.
    Religious schools however need zero funding especially if the argument goes that a Madrassa is using brainwashing to educate a foreign philosophy. Christian schools continue to force a belief in the fairy man in the sky so they are teaching children fairytales rather than fact.

  7. Matters Not

    was interesting to hear Simon Birmingham suggest that maybe, just maybe, there are some well-resourced private schools out there which may not need as much funding into the future.

    Yes. He recognised the elephant in the room. Funding for individual students varies a great deal. Here in Brisbane we have the private Brisbane Grammar School with a per capita spend of $23 000 plus per year while there is the public Brisbane State High School with per student spend of less than $11 000 per year. Both are GPS schools by the way.

    I should stress that Gonski had his hands tied with Rudd/Gillard Labor Government insisting that no school could receive less that their existing entitlement. No need to guess where Rudd sent his kids. And it wasn’t the public offering.

    A clear conflict of interest that was never disclosed. But I supposed if those Cabinet Ministers with that conflict of interest absented themselves, it would have left only a small number remaining.

  8. stephengb2014

    townsvilleblogSeptember 28, 2016 at 9:55 am
    Private schools should NOT be funded by government.

    Well said, exactly my feelings too.

    Kerri – you have a point but the fact is that taxes do not pay for government spending (thats a different story).
    So, I take the view that it is a choice, private or public, public is funded from the public purse and private is funded by the private purse, the choice is yours to make.

    By the way private does not mean better, that is bull, if public funds were not used for private education there would be more funds for public education.

  9. Jaquix

    I think Australia is the only country in the world that funds private schools. Unfortunately in Australia, the issue is muddied by the historic position of the many Roman Catholic schools – and this was alluded to in the Menzies show Howard recently did. In effect we have 2 classes of “private schools” – the very rich ones at the top, the ones Malcolm Turnbull went to, like Knox, Sydney and Malboure Grammar etc. They are very well resourced by longstanding Trusts or Foundations which provide an endless stream of income, apart from the huge fees parents are willing to pay. The next layer are those mainly religious schools. Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, Islamic, you name it. Being a secular country I see no reason why Australian taxpayers should be footing the bill for these religious bodies to inculcate their religious beliefs and customs, onto unsuspecting children. Remember that churches are tax-exempt, so already getting a generous benefit from the taxpayer. If parents want their children to receive this sort of education, they should be prepared to pay the fees. I heard Amanda Vanstone say on Q&A that if funding for private schools were stopped, the state system would be flooded with children as parents withdrew them from private schools. This is a typical Liberal mindset argument to continue the entrenched system of entitlement. She also trotted out the old “choice” argument.

  10. Matters Not

    The debate about the funding of private schools was lost years ago and there’s no political party that shows any appetite to rekindle. (That may change if there was a terrorist attack that could be traced to activities within an Islamic school – which are growing in number.)

    Instead of wasting energy going down that rabbit hole, we should be concentrating on evening out the dollars spent on each student. We should be concerned not with a parent’s right so much, but with a student’s right. How is it fair that one student can have the benefit of a $25 000 spend while another student receives less than half that amount?

    By the way government assistance to private schools is not confined to Australia but in Australia it’s reached obscene proportions.

  11. Terry2


    The argument trotted out by Amanda Vanstone is the same ‘floodgates’ argument used by conservatives to support subsidising private health insurance companies.

    The fundamental philosophical argument remains: should the Australian taxpayer be funding private education and private health insurance companies. My position, in principle, is that we should not.

  12. helvityni

    Nothing ever changes, one side might manage some improvements, the other side dismantles them. It’s our adversarial system of governing this country, we stand still or slip backwards.

    I’m desperately waiting for some positive news from our leaders…sigh

  13. Kyran

    “It was interesting to hear Simon Birmingham suggest that maybe, just maybe, there are some well-resourced private schools out there which may not need as much funding into the future.”

    No, he’s been pretty consistent on this.

    “Education Minister Simon Birmingham said the Government would stop funding the school, starting from April 8, because the money was not being spent only on education.”
    “We have very strong standards in place, which we expect of all schools in receipt of federal funding,” Mr Birmingham said.
    “Those standards require schools to operate on a not-for-profit basis, and to dedicate all funding received to the benefit, welfare and educational advancement of the students to ensure that they are independent in their operations.”

    There is only one school, to my knowledge, subjected to cuts so far. It was after a review of 6 schools, where questions had been raised about their use of government funds.



    All 6 were Muslim schools, and the ‘loser’ was the Malek Fahd school. Nah, nothing to see here. Move along. Oh, look over there, a plebiscite.
    Thank you Mr Brisbane. Take care

  14. Möbius Ecko

    Abbott said on radio yesterday that the latest polls don’t reflect the good job the government is doing. First spray of tea for the day.

    On the only thing I’ve ever agreed with Christensen, he openly undermined Turnbull today by stating that what the country needs are manufacturing and jobs, not (empty) statements on innovation etc. This was a direct dig at Turnbull and hits the PM directly on his grandiose rhetoric that’s as empty as an evacuated vacuum jar. Christensen obviously knows Turnbull is being attacked on social media as a waffler who uses lot’s of words but is devoid of any actions on those expansive words.

    Turnbull somehow thinks that just by uttering words on the domestic and world stage they automagically get done and thus are claimable as an achievement even though not an iota of energy has been expelled except for that of his larynx.

    You have to wonder why Turnbull is bending over backwards to the extremist of his party when they still undermine him and will get rid of him in no time if the polls continue the way they are. Because of his kowtowing he has achieved nothing but one back down after another, eschewed just about every past principle he held (false or not) and has blown whatever decent reputation he may have rightly or wrongly held. Instead of going down as an adequate PM at the most he will go down as one of the most ineffectual leaders this country has had.

    He should have gone his own way from the start and taken whatever consequences the party may have wrought upon him as a result. At the least he would have gone down as a leader who stood by his convictions. Now he’s doomed to be known as the leader who backed down on everything and had not an ounce of substance or courage in him.

  15. Steve Laing - makeourvoiceheard.com

    Thanks Rossleigh – you manage again to get the right level of sarcastic irony to always make for a well written article.

    It is clear that the LNP have no interest in education (for the masses), or health (for the masses), unless they are prepared to pay for it, whilst simultaneously happily using the same source of funds to top up the accounts of those of their own. Market forces? Government subsidies? Don’t be silly. They are just providing choice (but only for those who can afford it, of course).

    It is funny that Coalition politicians seem to be of the opinion that the only thing that motivates people is money. Job satisfaction? Nope. Job security? Nope. Job challenge! Nope. Cash. But only if you are already wealthy. If you are at the bottom end of the pay bracket, you need less money to motivate you to work harder or find a job. I’m guessing that there isn’t a psychologist amongst them, but largely lawyers used to charging per 5 minute slot.

    As for Manny Vanny – I must say, that of all the Libs, she manages to come across as genuine (even though it doesn’t take much scratching over the superficial to realise that her statements are generally based on opinions rather than evidence). I noticed on question time that whilst she specifically agreed at times with the other panelists, she never did with Penny Wong on any issue. This complete aversion to anything Labor (and by association, any member of the electorate who might support them) that appears to be completely endemic throughout the LNP is the reason why this country is fast going down the gurgler. Disunity is death, little Johnny keeps telling everyone – so why are the Coalition so intent on pursuing a divided society?

  16. Zathras

    Poor Tony – he was certainly on track to becoming Australia’s longest serving Prime Minister when he was brutally betrayed and cut down by members of his own Party (at least that’s what he must think).

  17. diannaart

    Terrific article Rossleigh.

    Following on from Jaquix observation: “I heard Amanda Vanstone say on Q&A that if funding for private schools were stopped, the state system would be flooded with children as parents withdrew them from private schools.” . Yeah, because parents are always ambivalent about sending their darlings to private schools.

    Another argument that is trotted out by those in favour of funding private schools, is that private schools are easing the ‘burden’ on public schools. There is no ‘easing of the burden’ if the government is funding private enterprise schools, particularly at the rate that has become expected by private schools, the money is from the same bucket as that used for public schools and now private schools are accustomed to the extra money. Which is interesting to note the same government refuses to increase Newstart to anything approaching a survivable level because people might become accustomed to it… but unemployed people are parasites and private school children are special. Right?

  18. amethyst3009

    In 2000, at a Queensland High School, we were informed that the Government had a plan – Independent (Private) schools and RESIDUAL SCHOOLS.

  19. wam

    spot on, Rossleigh and MN!!!
    In my town/city there are dozens of little church schools and 4 large xstian colleges.
    All rort the private school funding from the commonwealth Aboriginal funds and many have a ‘help’ fee structure often resulting in students paying less for their indoctrination than the public school fees in the primary school around the corner
    The two largest private schools were given ready made schools. One had dormitories, kitchen dining room, science lab, well stocked library, home ec and work shop facilities, large 25 hectare grounds and a swimming pool and, today a $5 million gift.wonder about the share holder(s)??? The other a primary school and a 3 story building located on a lage block of land.
    dear MN I am in total agreement that the Finland system is great but they are an insular country with little in common with Australia (perhaps in their treatment of Indigenous people). The university education may be free but the entry is not. Unlike our universities whose vicechancellors tumble over each other to collect thousands of barely literate and numerate students, all gathering debt, the Finns take the pick of the crop.
    One of our major problems stems from the fact that the majority(may be 90%) of students, in senior years, have teachers who have never matriculated, who may have never taken tertiary maths, physics or chemistry and receive a secondary year 12 certificate which is awarded to students whose ability ranges from less than grade 3 NAPLAN to the top of the tree.

  20. king1394

    Teachers are approved and accredited under Board of Studies rules and regulations, Wam, I don’t know what your final statement is based upon. ATAR levels for acceptance into University degrees in Education may change in relation to demand, but they are still substantial – ATAR is calculated on a bell curve, and only those who apply for one are included. Many teachers choose to graduate in another discipline and then take a Masters in Education on top. Tertiary maths, physics and chemistry are not important underpinnings for many subjects (which is not to say that a good general understanding of these subjects is not important). You are only approved to teach subjects in which you have expertise

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