Remember when they had vision

It seems Prime Minister Anthony Albanese does. In Brisbane this week he…

Secret Agreements: The Australian-Israel Defence Memorandum of Understanding

While the Australian government continues to pirouette with shallow constancy on the…

Government heat map ‘wake up call’ to stop…

Climate Media Centre Advocacy groups have welcomed the release of the Federal Government’s…

Compulsory income management doing more harm than good:…

Charles Darwin University Media Release Compulsory income management (CIM) in the Northern Territory…

Flicker of Hope: Biden’s Throwaway Lines on Assange

Walking stiffly, largely distracted, and struggling to focus on the bare essentials,…

Seizing a Future Made in Australia

Climate Council Media Release THE CLIMATE COUNCIL celebrates today's announcement that the Future…

The Meanjin essay: The Voice and Australia's democracy…

With Stephen Charles AO KC The dire state of truth in Australia’s civic…

Haunted by waters

By James Moore We were young when we lived near the Rio Grande…


Welcome Back Kotter And Simon Birmingham’s Faulty Logic

OK, when I’m welcoming back Kotter, I’m not refering to that 70’s show which gave John Travolta his start and had more bad jokes than Turnbull’s ministry. Instead, I’m talking about John Kotter. If any of you have studied Business Management in the past few years, you’ve probably come across Kotter’s idea about how to manage change. He suggests an 8-step process:

1.Establishing a Sense of Urgency
2.Creating the Guiding Coalition
3.Developing a Vision and Strategy
4.Communicating the Change Vision
5.Empowering Employees for Broad-Based Action
6.Generating Short-Term Wins
7.Consolidating Gains and Producing More Change
8.Anchoring New Approaches in the Culture

And if any of you have noticed how the Liberals have approached government, you’ll realise that they’ve borrowed fairly heavily from John Kotter. Or at least, the first point or two. When it comes to creating their guiding coalition, it’s invariably been full of helpful fellow travellers like Maurice Newman or Amanda Vanstone, but that’s still consistent with Kotter’s ideas. However, when it comes to points three to eight, they’ve been sadly lacking.

The latest brouhaha over the “blowout” in loans for the higher education sector is classic Kotter. “If nothing is done,” we’re being told, “then student loans are a time bomb!” According to The Australian, the Parliamentary Budget Office is warning “the nominal value of the Higher Education Loan Program would reach $185.2bn by 2026, deepening the nation’s net debt at a time when political leaders could not say when the budget would return to surplus.”

And while it also tells us that about $52 billion possibly wouldn’t be recovered because students would “struggle to repay” their HELP debts, it’s more concerned about the figure of 185.2bn

Shock! Horror! Armageddon!

Well, this is undoubtedly Labor’s fault, so what should we do? I know, let’s deregulate university fees and restrict entry.

Now, there’s so much wrong with this that someone with more time on their hands could probably write a book. Ok, I can see that it’s a concern that $52 billion may not be paid back, because people will struggle to earn enough. But on hearing this, my first question is why on earth do they expect that people will struggle to pay it back? Is it just because of the de-regulation pushing up the cost of a degree by an astronomical amount, or are the government expecting wages to go backwards?

But I’d like to put the $52 billion aside for one moment and concentrate on the way this whole story is being framed. We’re being sold the idea that $185 billion is deepening the government’s debt, even though it’s a debt that the students owe the government. Or to put it another way, this is like saying that the National Bank will be in deep trouble in two year’s time because the value of their loans will have increased by fifty percent. The reality is that – unless there are large number of bad debts – then an increase in its loans would be considered an increase in its assets. (I’m not an accountant, so maybe I’m wrong. Maybe a bank is better off when it only has four loans outstanding to the value of $728-35, but I don’t see any of the majors pursuing that strategy…)

By all means, let’s try to ensure that courses are well chosen and relevant, but the idea that it’s a problem for the government when students go into debt to gain a qualification that should increase their earning power and, hopefully, the amount of tax they pay, seems to me a rather strange way to look at it.

Still, Education Minister, Simon Birmingham has had some weird ideas lately. He’s been telling us that the Gonski funding is unnecessary because a number of schools who had their funding reduced actually had an improvement in the NAPLAN results, therefore money doesn’t matter. (Perhaps he should tell Mr Turnbull who – when announcing his “cunning plan” – suggested that the Federal goverment would still need to fund private schools because they may be neglected under his proposal to palm government schools off to the states. Now that we know that money doesn’t matter, then they can all slash their budgets because, well, aren’t all the good teachers there, anyway, so they don’t need any government funding at all…)

Of course, using Birminham’s logic one could argue because Tom got better without going to the doctor, then there’s no need for anyone to visit the doctor and it’s just a waste of money…

Mm, actually I think that was the logic behind their Medicare co-payment idea!

Whatever, there are any number of reasons why a school receiving less funding may have had an improvement in NAPLAN. For a start, there may have been a change in administration because the school was floundering and losing numbers and the new principal manages to improve the pedagogy. It may have something to do with a change in demographics. Without examining each individual school, it’d be impossible to draw any definite conclusions.

Unless you’re Education Minister. In that case, you can make a rash generalisation on the grounds that some schools somewhere did better. Of he didn’t talk about any of the schools that got extra funding and did better, because that didn’t suit his point.

No, we were meant to understand that we can forget all about that Gonski funding because the money was never there. They went to the money cupboard and couldn’t find any marked “Gonski funding”. There was only a big bag labelled “Defence”. And another bag labelled, “This Should Have Been Spent On Defence”. But there was nothing with a label saying “NDIS” or “Money for the HELP scheme”, so we’ve got a real problem in ten years time.

Meanwhile, we need to make sure that people don’t go onto higher education and that instead, they go down to Holden or Toyota and get a job in the factory… No, wait, perhaps Kodak… Oh, well, they just need to live within their means on Newstart and make sure that they show up for job interviews because I read in today’s paper that nearly a quarter of people on Newstart had their payments suspended, so we need to make sure that they’re not swindling the taxpayer by doing nothing. It’s much better if they go to job interviews every day, in between building skills like digging holes or picking up rubbish on Work-for-the-Dole schemes.

I know. I just had an excellent idea. We can form a company for each person who’s now unemployed and this company can bring in ten people on 457 visas to pick fruit or clean houses, and the unemployed person can get 25% of the wages each worker earns and then they won’t be a burden on the taxpayer and we’ll have plenty of cheap labour. Or that only appropriate to that if you’ve already got a bucketload of money and own a business already?

Anyway, we’ve got to try something… I mean, after reading the Murdoch Misdirection Magazine, I have a real sense of urgency. $182 billion owed to the government in a mere ten years from now!

It makes climate change pale into insignificance … Or is that just the Great Barrier Reef that’s paling into insignificance?


Login here Register here
  1. JeffJL

    As Leigh Sales pointed out the level of the HECS debt is based on the LNP policies being put in place, not the current ones.

    Labours fault.

  2. keerti

    The reef has already paled into insignifigance which has lead to a daring plan by the queensland “government” to demolish it as it is taking up space. Successive ships filled with coal that nobody wants will be used to push the dead reef out of the way. This will help demolish some of the unnecessary towns along the coast which have previously been protected from sunamis. As their only use was to attract tourists the land can now be used for digging holes for sale…..

  3. kerri

    And this nonsense about Unis lowering their ATAR cutoff points to let more kids (obviously substandard and probably from those hopeless state schools) enter their courses??? So what the hell do they think will happen if Unis are able to set their own fee structure??
    Pyne assures us they will drop their fees to attract better talent when they have already dropped their ATARs to attract more fee paying students.
    Logic is not important to these ideologically driven and intellectually challenged cuckoos!

  4. Mark

    The first thing that Jumped Up Johnny did when he got into power in 96 was to bump up the cost of university degrees. Fortunately for me, I had already started studying by that time and therefore my costs were fixed at the pre-Liberal increases.

    The Liberals have a tendency of wanting everyone who isnt stinking rich to be dumb.

  5. Kaye Lee

    In 1994, Simon Birmingham was just another happy-go-lucky kid trying to make it big at the University of Adelaide. An on-campus Liberal, Birmingham threw his hat into the ring for the position of President of the student association, running with a ticket called ‘Re-generation’!

    And what did the future Education Minister stand for? “Standing up to the Federal Government’s assault on students & education,” according to his promotional material.

    “Fighting AGAINST…Funding & staffing cutbacks,” his campaign promised.

    “I’d like to ensure that we can take the fight up to any government, be that Liberal or Labor, state or federal and indeed make sure that we can lobby the upper house of both parliament quite effectively,” he noted in his interview with the student paper.

    As A Student, Simon Birmingham Vowed To Fight Cuts To Education Funding

    Shades of Hockey and Pyne.

  6. Rossleigh

    Ah, Kaye Lee, you too have obviously taken to heart Milan Kundera’s wonderful quote from “The Book of Laughter And Forgetting”:

    “The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting”

  7. Kaye Lee


    That’s why politics is driving me insane. I keep going, hang on, didn’t you say _____ before?

    For every public dollar put towards the cost of higher education, a man repays $6 through higher taxes and reduced unemployment benefits. By contrast, the man himself – who benefits personally from higher earnings and higher chances of employment – gets back only $3.20 for every dollar he pays for the cost of his education.

    A woman in Australia repays $4.40 for every public dollar spent on her education while her private return is $2.50 per dollar.

    At the same time, tertiary students in Australia already contribute far more towards the cost of their education – and receive far less individual benefit – than students across the OECD. Students in Australia contribute 55 per cent of the direct cost of their tertiary education (ie. tuition fees), compared to 30 per cent across the OECD, according to the data.

  8. Kyran

    They have even stuffed up #1. Instead of “Establishing a Sense of Urgency” they merely established a sense of chaos, exacerbated by their incompetence.
    That the impending financial Armageddon is nothing more than a fiction, created from ‘cherry picking’ abstract points from reports is hardly a surprise.
    You could hardly be surprised if the same minister ‘cherry pick’s’ educational outcomes and financial inputs to make a point that is easily dismissed on the slightest scrutiny.

    Indeed, Ms Lee. That’s why politics is driving me insane. Thank you Mr Brisbane. Take care

  9. johnlward010

    Who would invest in this country?
    Building Australian Submarines, means we also develop powerful national research and development capabilities as the basis for all industries; such corporate skills and knowledge the value of which, is virtually incalculable to the growth of our maritime capability.

    The way to look at these sorts of industrial developments, is not jobs, jobs, jobs.
    But like building a bank of nation skills and knowledge that become the tap roots for our defence and economic strength. Universities that provide advanced research and development are the foundation on which we build our capabilities.

    Buying critical hardware or technologies from someone else is false economy, we would be buying obsolete equipment and no lasting capacity or corporate knowledge of our own.
    If we are again endangered by a nation, such as Japan. Having strong intrinsic, capacities may be the only thing that saves our nation. There is no reason why we should drop our defence industries when we are supposedly at peace.
    For exzmple, this is why we had the car industry thrust upon us by the CIA and the five eyes intelligence community in 1948. President Roosevelt had clearly demonstrated that the U.S. industry, rapidly switched over to defence production in just a week, when ordered to, by the Executive arm of Government. Thereby bringing all the science, intellectual power and treasure of the nation to bear on the defence task.

    If in your minds eye you invert the pyramid, you will clearly see jobs have their origin in exceptional university engineering, physics, electronics, mathematics and human research capacities. Through long-established and excellent TAFE skill development systems, as the jobs; the cultural and community needs, will grow as a knowledge-based society matures.

    When investors are seeking out prospects for success, and regaining the productive edge they look for the high skill high wage context as described in the tree of knowledge holistic approach. These usually are the investors who take the long-term view. These are the investors who are looking for future industries and societies wanting creative futures rather than polluting industries of the past.

    We must accept the national change from a low skill low wage to a high tech, high skill, high wage leading edge community. Driven by education and welcome new ideas as possibilities to be grasped with both hands. Long term thinking, beats short term thinking, every time!

    When you can imagine the tree of knowledge, you will understand it is a living, interdependent thing. Its vitality comes from the constant flow of the energy from our collective brains, (looking a little droopy of late). It is not a machine or a structure. Not an institution to be viewed as capable of being split into separate components from the whole.

    It is a community of thinking talented people, it is what they carry around in their heads and their ability to work together that is the driving force. This force cannot be owned by a corporation. The knowledge, skills and talents are often hired by the week or month, these represent the corporate elan , purpose and memory they can be switched off by careless, and or arrogant leadership. If things go right folks will present a 95%+ effort out of pride, If you, as the leader threaten a good team in any corporation, the people will do about 60% of what they are capable of because they have been disrespected.

    I offer this example from my experience; for instance, when a Swedish Submarine Design and Construct company named, KOCKUMS, won the contract to build the then new Collins Class submarines in Australia.
    Kockums scouts, first looked for the logical manufacturing base. The priority was to research into which cities were teaching advanced electronics (the vital component of submarine warfare), in the Universities and the Technical College systems in Sydney, Newcastle, Melbourne and Adelaide.
    Melbourne, the company decided, was their best option.

    Kim Beasley as Minister for Defence found that strategic decision-making; obliged the ALP Government, to select Adelaide to shore up its electoral fortunes; a near fatal political intervention.
    Benefitted the ALP, but handicapped the ship building industry.
    Ultimately, we accumulated the corporate skills and knowledge required in our universities and industries to finally have the ‘corporate’ intrinsic capacities in South Australia as an industry advantage. That advantage now imperilled by the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) and the H. R. Nicholls Society pushing the “short term cheap option” to buy ships and boats off the shelf.

    When we go down this path, we will trash the not inconsiderable, unique body of knowledge and ship building skills we have amassed, at considerable effort and cost. The real ’bottom line’ will be the cost in blood and treasure during war, when we must finally stand up, and defend ourselves, with no “great and powerful friend”. The lesson here is vital. University education is not so much an opportunity for individuals to establish high paying careers, or for socially disadvantaged serfs to gain scholarships to lift themselves out of a poverty trap.
    No! The value of university education is a nation building necessity, which advances the skills knowledge and talents of the best of our students to ensure the capacity of our country to grow and prosper.

    We will do this by expanding our imaginings in every cultural, educational, scientific, environmental and industrial endeavour. Remember, Einstein told us “Imagination is everything”. We should improve on, our wealth creating imaginative and inventive capabilities, for example; WiFi and Ultrasound, Vaccines and Cochlea Hearing aids.

    The LNP has a weak history order in ’leadership behaviour’. In the 1950s, the CSIRO was researching and building Computers until Menzies ordered it to “seed clouds to make rain” instead. This LNP Government has the same disrespect for Science and Higher Education.
    Gough Whitlam is right. Free Education is the price we must pay to advance our National Interest, in every field. Government should fund individual Graduates and then reward Universities for the quality and numbers of students they graduate. Not the Number they sign up.

    We should abolish discrimination on the basis of postcodes. . Instead the best and brightest should be invited to register on the basis of the last two years of work improvement of high school; and their intrinsic motivation.
    We don’t have the luxury of time to indulge the sophistry coming out of the treasury benches.
    If we buy submarines and ships off the shelf we could lose the coming war, or at least have our import and export capability at the mercy of our competitors. We have driven the car industry offshore and allowed the oil refining capacity we would need in our defence capacity. Are the leaders in Canberra working for our potential Enemies?

    Looking down the IPA wishlist that has been about 80% successfully adopted by the LNP. I have selected the policy agenda applicable to the Whyalla steel works which makes Australia’s Rails as in ‘Railways’ what if they, the LNP/IPA, had put these policies into play?

    Remove anti-dumping laws
    Cease subsidising the car industry.
    End all corporate welfare and subsidies by closing the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education.

    Force government agencies to put all of their spending online in a searchable database.

    Deregulate the parallel importation of books.

    Remove all remaining tariff and non-tariff barriers to international trade

    Return income taxing powers to the states

    Abolish the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission

    End all hidden protectionist measures, such as preferences for local manufacturers in government tendering.

    Pogo said it, “We have met the enemy, and he is us”!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 2 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here

Return to home page