26 Feb 2013

Going, Going, Gonski

By Ben Eltham
The Gonski debacle is just the latest example of Gillard squandering political capital in a key Labor policy area. Defeat at the next election has become a self-fulfilling prophecy, writes Ben Eltham

In his book Good and Bad Power, Geoff Mulgan describes working in the inner sanctum of Tony Blair's Labour government. On coming to office, Mulgan, as the director of the fashionable think-tank Demos, had played a major role in the development of many of the policies Blair took to government under the banner of "New Labour".

The heady days of 1997 were indeed intoxicating, but Mulgan found that the grand plans for the reform of Britain were quickly overtaken by the press of events. By the time he departed Blair's office as the head of policy, he tells us in one particularly interesting aside, Blair and his close advisors like Alistair Campbell were thinking no further than 24 hours ahead.

In an interview with the ABC about his book back in 2007, Mulgan told Geraldine Doogue that "truth has been a very important part of what makes governments legitimate, and when they lose their claims to honesty and truth, that does them a great deal of damage."

Blogger Peter Brent wrote today that many of Labor's problems stem back to a sustained erosion of its trust in the electorate. "This government has two big, related problems," he writes. One of them is an issue we've tackled many times here, the strange disconnect between the public's perception of the economy and the government's generally effective management of it. But Brent's other big problem would be recognisable to Mulgan: "the lack of authority, the perceived emptiness up there, the feeling that no one is really in charge, that decisions are being made for reasons other than a conviction that they are 'right'."

Whatever your views about the "mainstream media" and its penchant for obsessing over opinion polls and leadership speculation, it's not hard to identify this sentiment in the community. Nor is it too difficult to point to specific instances where Labor has squandered its political capital, by backflipping over key policy issues.

Labor's first serious attack of self-doubt came at the end of 2009, when negotiations with the Coalition over the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme broke down, and Tony Abbott replaced Malcolm Turnbull as leader. In retrospect, Labor missed a golden opportunity to go to a double dissolution election on the defining issue of climate change — an election most think it would have won.

Instead of regrouping, Rudd's decision to drop the CPRS turned out to be the beginning of the end of his prime ministership, ably assisted by the mining industry's $22 million campaign against the carbon tax and the usual Machiavellian manoeuvres by the right-wing factions in Labor's darker recesses.

Tearing down a sitting prime minister was a breathtaking gamble. It demonstrably failed, demolishing most of the public's trust in this Labor government. By the time Julia Gillard's decision to back flip on the carbon tax made her election campaign soundbite to Network Ten ("there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead") the most memorable line of her political career, Labor had managed to inflict more damage to its brand than Tony Abbott.

Now, after five bruising years in office, Labor is attempting to marshal its forces for a final tilt at a third term. It's discovering, as governments often do, that much of its political capital has already been spent, and that in reform terms it is later than anyone realised.

The Gonski schools funding reforms are perhaps the perfect example. Labor has long desired to reform schools funding to make it more equitable, and Julia Gillard has spoken often about her commitment to education as a key Labor value. Despite this, it is now 18 months since merchant banker David Gonski released his blueprint for reform.

While everyone recognises there is a need for consultation, and the funding formulas are fiendishly complex, the hard truth is that Labor has waited until the very end of its second term to address the issue. In fact, we're still waiting. Last night, Schools Minister Peter Garrett was on Lateline telling viewers that the government's response was "very, very close".

That delay means that Labor comes weakened to the critical negotiations with the states over schools reform. The difficulty of pursuing major reforms in the Australian federation is not a new problem, but the difficulty levels ramp up quickly when a weak federal government confronts a series of strong premiers. With an election set for September, Ted Baillieu, Barry O'Farrell and the other Liberal premiers are reasonably calculating that they will be in office long after Julia Gillard's government passes into history. This is only encouraging the well known tendency of state premiers to score points at Canberra's expense.

Thus, in recent weeks, we've seen the Victorian government fight and win a nasty battle with the feds over hospital funding. The background to the dispute lies in arcane calculations about the growth in Victoria's population, which led to a $107 million adjustment in the large increase the Commonwealth sent to Melbourne's hospital system. Victoria's Health Minister David Davis was successfully able to paint this as a funding cut (it was in fact a big increase), even while his own government was cutting $130 million from the system in "efficiency" measures. Predictably, it was the feds who eventually capitulated, with Health Minister Tanya Plibersek announcing she would restore the $107 million after all.

Emboldened by this victory, the Baillieu government has now abandoned talks to implement Gonski, and instead unveiled its own plan to increase funding to Victorian schools. The proposal is being painted by the Victorians as a serious plan, but it is also a very handy political weapon with which to beat up on Peter Garrett and his slow motion reform process.

The delay has also given the powerful independent and Catholic schools lobbies time to prepare a scorched earth campaign against a reform plan that will, by definition, move more government resources towards government schools (where the disadvantaged students are).

All in all, you wouldn't put too much faith in schools funding reform as a policy platform likely to drive Labor to victory at the next election. What was achievable in 2008 or 2010 looks increasingly impractical today.

It's instructive to remember how schools funding became so skewed towards private schools in the first place. When John Howard and his education minster David Kemp decided to radically alter the formula for the Commonwealth's funding for schools back at the turn of the millennium, they held no press conferences and released no white papers. They simply changed the formula. The education unions and a few of the Labor states protested, but they lacked traction. An amazingly unbalanced playing field was created with little public debate.

Labor doesn't have that option, as the debacle of the Victorian hospital funding shows. But now Julia Gillard is running into other problems. Can it bring the states to the table, to voluntarily reform their own schools systems? And where will it find the $6-7 billion a year in funding? All of these are a part of Labor's larger conundrum, which is that it lacks the strength to do what it needs to seem strong.

Increasingly seen as a lame duck government, federal Labor is beginning to inhabit a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Log in or register to post comments

Discuss this article

To control your subscriptions to discussions you participate in go to your Account Settings preferences and click the Subscriptions tab.

Enter your comments here

Posted Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 14:44

Agree that the issue, at its core, is the lack of perception of strong leadership. A track record of good economic management doesn't interest people when they feel that the government is floundering. The perception of Julia Gillard remains that she is not a leader who can articulate a vision and inspire people to follow her. The "Real Julia" certainly didn't help.

People dont follow good policy, they certainly don't follow expedient policy. They actually follow leaders.

Posted Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 15:25

Rat leaving a sinking ship? When those who support or are neutral start to turn to needlessly negative 'the problem with Labor' stories, rather than something fairer or shining a desperately needed light on the alternative, then it becomes self-fulfilling. Eltham, Mike Carlton etc.

The media is not a separate, honest broker now in a very poisoned landscape. What is put up and what is hidden is critical to decisions of the 5-10% of people who decide elections.

Here we even have a fresh new dog whistle about Gonski. Gillard was right to say that Abbott will not follow through on it (rather slash and burn public funding and funnel money to private schools) and surely the consignment to the dust bin is a bigger problem than the ALP delay in a time of very tight budgets. But again somehow failure on Gonski is solely an ALP problem.

Posted Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 15:48

A few points:

1."the lack of authority, the perceived emptiness up there, the feeling that no one is really in charge, that decisions are being made for reasons other than a conviction that they are ‘right’."
Well I'd sooner have this feeling than the one I had between 1996-2007 that the government was actively evil and actively choosing things that were 'wrong'.

2. "Tearing down a sitting prime minister was a breathtaking gamble. It demonstrably failed, demolishing most of the public’s trust in this Labor government." Most people who know anything about politics are eternally gratefuul to Gillard for getting rid of the worst PM since Howard (and the worse Labor PM since Federation).

3. "Labor doesn’t have that option, as the debacle of the Victorian hospital funding shows." The only debacle here was the media's inability to read the National health Reform Agreement and discover that the states are reponsible for the full funding of public hospitals over and above Federal funding. If NHRA funding is adjusted (by mechanisms set out in the NHRA and which states have signed up to) the states have to foot more of the bill. I see the Herald Sun is only now (today) pointing out that Bailleau and Davis were slashing elective surgery well before the funding adjustments were annouced. If the media can't do this basic bit of research and make the right call, then what use are they?

Posted Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 16:14

Nicko and Verum

It seems you want me to barack for the government team. For the record, reflexive support of the Labor Party (or Greens or the Coalition) is not and has never been my position. I think if you look at my writing over the last five years you'll see a lot of different political judgments taken, but none from a purely party-political line.

My argument in this article is that federal Labor has squandered its political capital and therefore it is probably too late to implement Gonski reforms. I argued that one of the reasons was that many citizens and political players regard it as a lame-duck government. I'm not going to refer to a poll here to explain why that is: in fact you don't need polls to make that judgment. In this article I argued that the really revealing demonstration of the government's weakness is the way it has allowed itself to be rolled by the Baillieu government.

Notice I didn't say that I thought the government would lose the September election. Merely that many people now expect them to. And that creates a logic of its own.

Posted Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 16:16

Thanks for your polemic, Ben. I'm learning a lot from the balanced commentary in response, too.

When you mention the government's lack of trust in the electorate, one might be tempted to read that as the government's distrust of its voters. I don't think that's what you really meant, but it makes sense as an explanation of the Labor Party's reluctance to stand for meaningful values (or to use anything deeper than cliches to describe what it stands for).

Tom Clark
Victoria University (Melbourne)

Posted Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 16:27

Hi Tom

It's a complex issue. I don't think you have to be writing from some mythical unbiased "view from nowhere" to realise that the way the Labor government handled the overnight replacement of the sitting Prime Minister was not, in the fullness of time, an action which increased the trust of the electorate in the current government.

Now it so happens that the policies of the Gillard government are largely those of the Rudd government. That's a point I've made before and no doubt will make again -- on the other hand, if we're going to talk about policy, then we will need to discuss the hows and whys of implementing it. Which is roughly what this piece is about.

I think that Labor Party does stand for meaningful values, by the way, and indeed have written as much in regards to a number of its policies.

Posted Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 16:27

Well written Ben. People might not like to admit it but Labor is dead in the water, that's the reality. I agree that the issue is trust - not strong leadership. Julia has demonstrated she has strong leadership, she toppled Rudd, brought in the Carbon Tax etc, it is just that people don't trust her. She was Rudds best mate then stabbed him in the back - that's just not cricket. If she had been critical of him then dispatched him that would be different. Then there was the Carbon Tax, the historical ARU rorts, supporting the Speaker, Thompson etc too many issues - plus she seems aloof with a few cards up her sleeve. Time for Labor to put up a good show, admit defeat in Sept (if it is a defeat), lick it wounds, put Smith in as leader and rebuild for the next one. A good purge of the Labor-Union cronyism, focus on the fundamentals - jobs, health, education and a united front bench will go a long way to re-storing trust in the electorate.

Posted Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 17:06

Bookies (who usually predict outcomes better than pollsters & journalists) indicate we have a dark and negative time ahead (for 2013-2019 say) similar to the Howard era. However, while most lost progressive causes like Gonski/education, human rights legislation, a republic, and what's been a (briefly) sovereign foreign policy will become of retrospective interest only to thesis writers, there's one issue for which both sides of politics have seemed aligned - at least in principle - and that's disability support changes. We need to motivate the Coalition to maintain the same commitments they have voiced - and also push an opposition ALP to continue its support for such work and expense. That's the sole issue for which we can hope and push and demand for continued action and spending.
PS: any bets on a Coalition government restoring knighthoods (like their Kiwi soul brothers) with some of the first going to Howard and Minchin for "keeping nationhood at bay" ?

Posted Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 17:17

Neat response too, Ben. I suspect the debate about 'meaningful values' deserves a better reply than this comment box, so I'll try to write something meaningful & not too boring about it in a longer form somewhere. In any case, it's the element activists have most often lamented as they've deserted the party since 2001.

Meanwhile, I totally agreeance those other points in terms of your reply.

Tom Clark
Victoria University (Melbourne)

Posted Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 17:21

I am not convinced that trust is the issue as I think that most voters don't trust any politician. And even supporters of Abbott are unlikely to say that they trust him. The question of leadership needs to be separated from management. This government has shown management capacity - ie able to sort out issues (some of them poorly), because they are the right thing to do.

Leadership is about convincing people that where you are taking them is worthwhile. Julia (and the ALP) are talking about good management and good policy, but no-one is listening. Your right Ben, they have used up their political capital. Peter Beattie demonstrated that if you were a strong enough leader, even when you had been found out repeatedly, you could still win an election.

Posted Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 17:27

Ben, I agree with most of what you say. But there's more to say about the deeper structural problem of Labor, which was summed up by Gillard's speech to the AWU conference. She denied that Labor is a progressive or social democratic party but, rather, is a labour party. We have to see this as a revealing and accurate description. Labor has always been dominated by labourist ideology and so has never really tried (except in the brief partial but failed attempts by Chifley and Whitlam) to shift the debate and the political spectrum to the left and so to dominate the ideological conflict. Thus Labor has never been a truly reformist party in the sense of equality and economic democracy but has contented itself with a few piecemeal reforms that have left Australia with the meanest welfare state of the advanced countries, the worst public infrastructure, and one of the most unequal (and now declining) school systems. Labor has always been mainly interested in higher wages and shorter hours for the employed workforce. The unemployed, welfare recipients, kids, the homeless, indigenous people, have always been third best in prioritisation. Obeisance to the big end of town has always been a major factor by the careerists who have dominated the Party, looking for their next, better-paying, career after politics. Labourism is not a whole-society ideology. Contrast Australia with the much more SD countries of the Nordic region, where there has long been a social democratic majority (shared by parties of centre-left and centre-right) that have achieved fairer, more dynamic, and more efficient societies that don't depend on periodical resource booms but on high quality education, skills, infrastructure, social investment, and welfare for all. And don't take my word for it. Even the Economist believes it now! Christopher Lloyd.

Posted Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 17:31

Well Ben I am much more optimistic. Firstly thank goodness our PM Julia Gillard is not someone who wilts and this will be demonstrated when the LNP state leaders attempt yet again to gang up against good and important policy as they did during the NDIS negotiations. Public reaction was quick and sharp making the state leaders they had seriously misjudged their community.Their behaviour probably instigated and certainly supported all the way by Abbott and his motley crew could backfire badly for Federal LNP because a majority of Australians support Gonski, NDIS, NBN, mining tax, carbon price, reasonable paid parental leave, increase for pensioners. The list goes on and on and on. Again there are many who perceive this government to be very effective. The barrage of negativity from the msm and Coalition hasn't worked on everyone. Its all noise. The most important poll is election day and I believe the Murdochs and Ginas of this world will fail to overthrow our democratically elected government. Its time everyone got behind what's good for this country and rejected self-interest.

Posted Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 21:00

Didn't mean you were just barracking for Labor, Ben, as such. You are worth reading, but in good part because you don't just parrot the same old Labor are horrible and fail' line. You can look beyond just cut and pasting LNP press releases, where a lot can't.

But this sort of story is in effect barracking for Abbott and the LNP now. I presume you don't want to do that. You seem to value Gonski and realise Abbott will can the report and recommendations, so why act towards that happening?

The political landscape isn't nice and flat and calm. Very skewed, where apparently an Abbott can compete on trust and is assumed to be someone who will deliver on big things and such like. Very bizarre.

He doesn't have a major trust problem only because there is deafening silence on the glaringly obvious. Any discussion of trust or lack of follow through from the ALP is now in itself a dog whistle and only contributes to the silence.

Chris Curtis
Posted Tuesday, February 26, 2013 - 22:25

Let’s look at the Baillieu government’s “own plan”.

The Baillieu government already funds its own schools on the Gonski system – mostly per capita payments (which the Gonski panel calls a school resource standard) and extra payments for disadvantage (which the Gonski panel calls loadings).

The Baillieu government now wants disabled students get the same funding in both government and private schools, just as the Gonski panel recommended (and, incidentally, just as I recommended in my submission to the review).

The Baillieu government now wants funding for disadvantaged students to follow them to private schools too, just as the Gonski panel recommended (and, incidentally, just as I recommended in my submission to the review).

The Baillieu government now wants extra funding for schools with concentrated disadvantage, just as the Gonski panel recommended (and, incidentally, just as I recommended in my submission to the review).

It’s more a plagiarised plan than an “own plan”, but it has served its purpose in deceiving every journalist whom I have read on it.

Let’s look at the “scorched earth campaign”. As has hardly been reported in any printed news article that I have read, the current SES funding model is so bad for private schools that almost half of them are compensated for its inadequacies. This is because it funds them on the basis of the wealth of the students’ neighbours rather than the resources of the school. As the Gonksi proposal is to keep the SES model, it is only to be expected that there will be large numbers of losing schools, thus bringing the “no losers” guarantee into pay again. Naturally enough the private schools want to emphasise this fault in order to increase the pressure on the government to keep its promise, which it will do.

There are 13 weird features of the Gonski “debate” that hardly get a mention;
1) that that the Howard SES model is so bad for private schools that almost half of them have to get compensation so as not to lose under it;
2) that this compensation puts them where they would have been if the SES model had never been introduced (i.e., on Labor’s education resources index model);
3) that the Labor model was thus more generous to private schools than the Coalition model;
4) that the SES model takes no account of school fees or other school income but is based on the income of the people who live near the students who go to the school;
5) that it thus gives more money to high-fee private schools that take well-off students from poor areas than it does to low-fee private schools that take poor students from well-off areas (the reason compensation is needed);
6) that Gonski report recommends keeping the Howard SES model (albeit using smaller areas);
7) that the main reason the Gonski report produces a list of losers (more than 3,000 schools) is that it follows the Howard SES model;
8) that other reasons for the long list of losers are the non-inclusion of loadings, which had not been calculated (obvious when you see that almost all the losing government school in this state are in rural or disadvantaged areas) and the fact that the Gonski system allocates money per student whereas the states have generally allocated teachers, meaning that salary differentials between a highly experienced staff and an inexperienced staff can be quite substantial;
9) that the Coalition is being hypocritical in opposing the Gonski report when that report endorses the Coalition’s SES model;
10) that the Coalition is shooting itself in the foot in opposing the Gonski model because the Gonksi model would change the proportions of state and federal funding in such a way that a future Coalition government could no longer be accused of putting 70 per cent of federal school funds into private schools;
11) that the public education lobby is being hypocritical in supporting the Gonski SES model when it opposed the Howard SES model;
12) that the public education lobby, including the federal AEU, failed to make a submission setting out a precise funding system during the review process or even supporting the working conditions of teachers;
13) that the Baillieu government is being hypocritical in that it opposes the Gonski report but funds its own schools on the Gonski system, introduced by Labor in 2005.

If we want a socially integrated school system, which evidence says performs better overall than a socially segregated one, we need a funding system that supports inclusiveness; i.e., one that gives more support to low-fee schools than to high-fee schools, irrespective of the socio-economic status of the students in the school. We cannot solve the equity problem by continuing the SES model. We need to return to the ERI model.

O. Puhleez
Posted Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 00:28

Gillard is a wooden and hopeless communicator, who talks constantly in platitudes. But a while back she came out with a beautiful line, something like "I get my advice on climate science from the CSIRO. Mr Abbott gets his from Alan Jones."

Apart from the strong difference in redistributive inclination between the two parties, Gillard is being attacked constantly in the Murdoch press for saying "there will be no carbon tax under the government I lead." What she should have said at the time was "I will introduce effective atmospheric carbon reduction by taxation at the earliest opportunity." And stuck to it.

Under the baleful influence of the right-wing shonks and operators in the ALP, the main policy has been to appease Murdoch's hostile readership as far as possible and have 'pragmatism' all the way. What the ALP has demonstrated in both foreign and domestic policy over its years in government has been that there is nothing quite so pragmatic as having principles and sticking to them.

Principle works.

Posted Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 00:41

If Chris Curtis is even half right its what I remember of Canberra - the discourse often has no relevance to what is happening on the ground.

If they had any integrity they would be thinking about stuff they could leave in place with Greens help. Send some funding to needy schools before Sept. Cancel most of the J 35 joint fighters on order. Do the right thing for East Timor over Greater Sunshine gas field - speak out about West Papua, make some noise about Tibet, don't lie about issues related to Assange (Eric Holder started investigation in 2010 and announced it on TV), don't cut funding for single parents, introduce a corporate super profits tax - go down fighting.

On the political hindsight side of things - you can't sack a leader and then not have a narrative to explain it. And why didn't some one go up to Rudd and say you can't rule the party like Howard ruled - I know there are practical reasons for this but not even one person amongst their ranks raised this to his face, not a good sign.

Posted Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 08:48

Interesting viewpoints. Great.

The greatest threat to our democracy at this point in time is for extremism in its various forms to take hold. We have to recognise it and guard against it. Ignorance and complacency are unacceptable.

When one has a problem with mice sending in the rats is not a solution.

We simply can not afford another term of regressive extreme conservatism. This transcends party politics. Who wants the likes of Rupert Murdoch, Gina Rinehart and Mark Scott just to name a few calling the shots? Well, that is what’s happening right now. It makes me shudder when I imagine the totally discredited sycophantic remnants of the failed Howard regime in charge again. Are we doomed to make the same mistakes again?
There are signs that even moderate fence-sitting journalists like Ben Eltham (New Matilda), Bernard Keane (Crikey) and now Michelle Grattan (Conversation's new recruit) are missing the vital signs.
Wake up people before it’s too late!

Posted Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 09:59

Chris - what a joke - you mention "disadvantaged students in private schools"??!!! Have a think just for a little while...it won't hurt I promise...if a parent has the spare income for sending a child to a private school, I would assert he/she is NOT disadvantaged!! Duh! Disadvantage to me anyway, means you do not have the resources for meeting all your/family's needs (rent, transport, health, insurances, food clothing, bills), let alone advancing your interests, pursuing goals, improving life (fancy education, holidays, extracurricular activities, hobbies, sport, interests) etc. Education is purported to be a mechanism for improving social status...even though statistics show that each new generation is more likely to remain in the same socio-economic group as their parents.

Your reasoning demonstrates a belief that private schools and the people rich enough to send their children there are some sort of "poor little rich kids." Boo hoo, if you cannot send your child to a private school, then facts are facts, you have to send them to a public school. Private schools SHOULD miss out and end up with less. There's a "user pays" mentality these days which usually even further disadvantages poorer people (doctors, allied health, dentists, counsellors etc) and with welfare payments there's a dominant attitude that someone like myself who has been even more disadvantaged by being shifted to Newstart from Parenting Payment...that I should "pull my own weight" and "stop being a burden on society"...

So there's this whole little secret belief and unexamined/challenged assumption that it's OK for our wealthy ADVANTAGED strata to get money for an education that they can afford from THEIR own resources - so why are't THEY expected to "pull their own weight" etc???????

If people challenged this secret assumption/belief and people were not allowed to "burden" the public purse with public money that is paying to advantage their children/add to social stratification in Australian society/give status over others...we could end up with a better public education system where parents felt NO NEED to opt in to private education. At this stage public education is a poor-value/quality product...it should have public resources to change this...the resources SHOULD be taken away from private schools. If you want to pay to advantage your own children - it should be done with your own money NOT with public money - my taxes pay for someone else's kids to go to a private school meanwhile my kids get a second rate service...especially missing out on the special programs that one needs in relation to autism (where the common and favourite excuse from the education dept is "we don't have enough resources for autism programs").

Access to education needs to be normalised in terms of quality, opportunity, outcome. The kids from higher socio-economic strata will maintain their status without the funding...this follows statistics. The public system needs strengthening and reform. It is politics itself which ruins "reform" - we just have to look at climate change, mining taxes, and pokies policies to see this. The impotence of the attempts at change are due to politicking, vested interest groups, the opposition and weak consultation with community and professional groups. Not so much one pol party's "fault". The whole system needs changing away from this system where the game is just about key people/groups/interests. Democracy is not meant to operate the way it is at the moment...this needs to change!!

Posted Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 10:10

What I am trying to say is, what is happening to the societal values and standards in our country when, on the one hand dominant groups don't even blink an eyelid at taking $130 a fortnight from MY income as a single parent struggling to make ends meet on life NECESSITIES, - but collectively the nation switches to this different paradigm/mentality about taking money from RICH schools, RICH families, ADVANTAGED sectors of our society???????????

What the fuck is going on?!!!!!!!!!!!

This attitude legitimises, validates, empowers and enables socially destructive, divisive, stratifying structures, mechanism and beliefs in our society. This is an unexamined, unchallenged system of nation thinking which idolises and elevates certain lifestyles, roles, values etc above others...and this is a straight out attack on working class values, families, vocations, skills, talents and life interests/goals. Dangle that carrot of "a better life" of scrambling out of the shame and filth of a life in the gutter...as if we all have the chance to be extremely wealthy and have life turn out just how we imagine/dream...anyone thought about the practicalities and realistic possibility of this happening for EVERY single Australian family?!! No? This attitude instils shame and subordination on some sectors of our society - education funding to private schools and wealthy people furthers these disgusting, damaging, socially divisive and conflict-triggering social structures.

Posted Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 11:14

By the time of the election (14 September 2013) the Labor Government in various forms (the popularly elected Rudd Government, the Gillard Government installed by a US-approved, foreign mining company-backed and pro-Zionist-led Coup, and the Gillard Minority Government) will have had about 6 years to act on all kinds of matters of deep concern to decent Labor voters e.g. (1) war, (2) climate change, (3( social equity, (4) Indigenous Australians, (5) health, (6) Educational Apartheid and much, much more.

Labor has utterly failed and should be kicked out this year simply on the sensible basis of "punish the incompetent incumbent":

(1) war - Australia is still enthusiastically in Afghanistan under pro-war, pro-Zionist, US lackey, ware criminal Labor (5..6 million Afghan deaths from violence or from war-imposed deprivation, half of them CHILDREN; see "Afghan Holocaust Afghan Genocide": https://sites.google.com/site/afghanholocaustafghangenocide/ );

(2) climate change, - Australia's Domestic plus Exported Greenhouse Gas (GHG) pollution has soared under Labor (see "2011 climate change course": https://sites.google.com/site/300orgsite/2011-climate-change-course ) ;

(3) social equity- massive inequity for single mothers, state school children, aborigines etc under Labor ;

(4) Indigenous Australians - 9,000 Indigenous Australians die avoidably every year under Labor , the worst avoidable death rate in the world ;

(5) health 66,000 Australians die preventably every year under Labor (see Gideon Polya, "Why PM Julia Gillard Must Go: 66,000 Preventable Australian Deaths Annually": http://www.countercurrents.org/polya210212.htm ).

(6) Educational Apartheid - most Australian children are disproportionately excluded from good education and opportunities under Labor; 30% of children enter High School with deficient English skills, 80% of NT Aboriginal children fail to meet basic literacy and numeracy skills (see "Educational Apartheid": https://sites.google.com/site/educationalapartheid/ ).

Decent people will vote 1 Green and put Labor last until to reverts to decent values, and decides to stop lying and to act in the national interest.

Peace is the only way but Silence kills and Silence is complicity.

Posted Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 12:00

DrGideonPolya posted Wednesday, 27 February 13 at 11:14AM

Great spiel. Sorry to say, another one who misses the vital point.
Question: Do you want to go back to extreme regressive conservative rule dictated by the puppeteers Murdoch, Rinehart and their ilk? That is effectively what is being advocated.

I suggest using common sense is the way to go. Wishful thinking and living in fairyland does not help.

Posted Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 14:29

Hardy misses the critical point that decent voters in deciding who to put last after voting 1 Green have to choose between the Liberal- National Party Coalition (the Libs) and the Clayton's Liberals, the Australian Labor Party (aka the Alternative Liberal Party, Another Liberal Party, the Australian Labor Party, the Australian Laboral Party) which is just as bad as the Libs on the short list of serious matters 1-6 above and arguably WORSE on refugees, economic management, research policy, education policy and loyalty to Australia.

Like many traditional Labor voters I have agonized over this and come to the conclusion that the Laborals are worse than the Liberals because the Liberals at least haven't actually betrayed decent Labor voters and decent Labor values.

NT Indigenous Australians came to the same conclusion and dumped Labor in the recent elections.

Student leaders in the UK protesting a 3-fold hike in tuition fees came to a similar strategic conclusion - that they would only support UK Labour if it reverted to decent values.

It seems that voters in the Western suburbs of Sydney have come to the same conclusion.

There is no reason for Muslim Australian voters waste their vote on a pro-war, pro-Zionist, US lackey , war criminal, Islamophobic, anti-Arab anti-Semitic, extreme right wing Labor Party that has been complicit in the US-led, Zionist-backed Muslim Holocaust and Muslim Genocide (12 million Muslim deaths from violence or from violently-imposed deprivation since 1990; half of them CHILDREN; see "Muslim Holocaust, Muslim Genocide": https://sites.google.com/site/muslimholocaustmuslimgenocide/ ).

Decent people would not vote for paedophiles -and properly informed, would certainly not vote for Lib-Lab mass paedocides.

Anti-war, pro-human rights, anti-racist Jewish Australian voters cannot in conscience vote for a pro-war, pro-Zionist, human rights-abusing Australian Labor Party that defames and endangers anti-racist Jews by falsely conflating them with the crimes of democracy-bv-genocide Apartheid Israel and ignoring war crimes and treason of Zionist Jews like Ben Zygier who spy against Australia on behalf of Apartheid Israel and commit war crimes in pursuit of the ongoing Palestinian Genocide (for discussion of Labor's anti-Jewish anti-Semitism; see "Australian Labor's New anti-Semitism. Oz Labor threatens anti-racist Jews": http://www.aljazeera-news.net/focus/politics/17530-new-anti-semitism.html ).

Racism war, bullying, inequity are par for the course for the Libs, and up to 1990 decent anti-war Labor policies ensured that at least about 50% of the Australian population were properly anti-war. I have never voted for the Libs on this very issue . From 1990 onwards the circa 80% of Australians voting Lib-Lab all became complicit in the Iraqi Genocide (see "Genocide in Iraq. The Case Against UN Security Council And Member States": http://www.countercurrents.org/polya080213.htm ) and thence after 2001 in the Afghan Genocide. The Libs don't know any better but right-wing Labor has utterly betrayed Humanity, Australia and decent anti-war Labor voters.

Peace is the only way but Silence kills and Silence is complicity.

Posted Wednesday, February 27, 2013 - 15:00

I can sense the feeling of betrayal that seems to cloud your vision. Understandably so. I am getting your point. For an alternative angle to the whole dilemma and as a healing exercise try some articles on www.independentaustralia.net.
It will certainly not give all the answers you might be looking for but could be helpful as a circuit breaker in the interim. Entrenched views established over time are a bummer to shift, I know. It ain't easy.
Sounds good:
"Peace is the only way but Silence kills and Silence is complicity.
Soothing. Speaking up is essential for sure but has to be based on reality and the art of the achievable. Good luck! Cheers.

Posted Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 01:06

I hear what you're saying Ben but what hope did/does the Labor party have when:
a. they were/are not given favourable coverage by any MSM outlet.
b. the MSM was/is demonstrably anti-Gillard.
c. the MSM was/is demonstrably pro-Abbott
d. the MSM refused/refuses to critically question the LNP
e. the MSM allowed/allows Abbott to refuse to answer policy questions.

Surely with the above affecting you, what chance do you have to get onto the front foot? Sure, there have been mistakes, but these have been magnified by the MSM and added to a loaded case against Labor.
When will the MSM start informing the public about about what life would be like post September if there is an Abbott government?

Posted Thursday, February 28, 2013 - 14:59

Are you basically opining that it is too late for the Gonski Recommendations to be implemented, and for the ALP to be re-elected? If you are, then I request that you return to giving your readers clarity on Policy specifics and hope from Policy solutions. Ta!

Posted Friday, March 1, 2013 - 13:07

Rather than a "Lame-Duck" Government it is a Circus.

What Labor value is there in attacking single parents?.

Don't these young women have enough of life's challenges to contend without being put onto dog food by the likes of Maklin and the soulless sisterhood ?.

Chris Curtis
Posted Sunday, March 3, 2013 - 18:40


The wealth of the parents of children in private schools is not the issue. If it becomes the issue for private schools, it will become the issue for public schools too. The issue is the interest the state has in the education of every child as every child is a citizen.

There is nothing secret about the “assumption that it’s OK for our wealthy ADVANTAGED strata to get money for an education that they can afford from THEIR own resources”. It’s the assumption on which the whole government education system operates (and the public hospital system and the public transport system). You can be a multi-millionaire, and you will get a free education for your children at your government school, you will get free treatment in a public hospital and you will get heavily subsidised travel on a train, tram of bus.

The key question here is: do you fund students at private schools on the basis of the schools’ income (fees, etc) – as government schools are currently funded – or on the basis of the income of the parents of the children at those schools. If you take the second path, which the SES model pretends to do and which the Gonski Report recommends a refined SES model would actually do, you open the way for fees to be charged in public schools on the basis of the income of the parents using them, a suggestion already made by Brian Caldwell, and then you really do dismantle the public education system. You are far better to limit public assistance to private schools on the basis of their fees and thus encourage them to be more socially inclusive. The SES model pushes private school fees up, makes them more exclusive and thus pushes public schools down the SES ladder.

Having advocates for public education supporting the Howard government’s model is weird.

The current SES model is absurd as it pays schools on the basis of the wealth of the other people who live in the street where their students come from and it requires almost half of the private schools to receive compensation.

To say that schools that get more than the SES system would give them are overfunded is to accept the SES model in the first place as a fair method of distributing funds. As it is not a fair method in the first place, nothing can be concluded about overfunding from any difference between what a school gets and what it would have got had it got its SES amount. The funding guaranteed schools get what they would have got had the Labor government’s fairer, more rational education resources index still been in place. In other words, they are not overfunded at all: they are compensated for the underfunding that the SES model imposes because it takes no account of school fees. This is one of the great ironies of the “debate”: the Coalition brought in a funding model that is so bad for private schools that it underfunds half of them, and yet it poses as their defender; Labor had a model that funded them more fairly and which continues to apply to half of them because of the flaws in the SES model, and yet it is portrayed as the threat to them. I believe that the ERI in some form should be restored. Then the money would stay the same, but it would no longer misleadingly be called overfunding.

As for your personal circumstances, I am opposed to the attack on single parents by the federal government, and have said so in several blog posts and unpublished letters to the editor and