Thursday, January 07, 2010


In his latest offering, conservative Australian cartoonist ZEG is scornful about Kevvy writing a children's book

Indian student numbers plummet

As the African "refugees" whom Australia has kindly taken in show their gratitude by half-destroying a major Australian industry. The coverup is tight but all indications are that most attacks on Indian students are the work of African gangs. Letting tens of thousands of Africans into Australia may be seen as virtuous but it cannot be seen as wise. African populations everywhere have egregiously high rates of crime, usually crimes of violence

THE number of Indians applying for visas to study in Australia has fallen by almost half, heightening fears for the nation's $17 billion international education industry. The news come as India seethes over the recent murder of an Indian national, Nitin Garg, in Melbourne.

The Immigration Department figures, for the period from July to October 31 last year, show a 46 per cent drop in student visa applications from India compared with the same period in 2008. The decline follows a year in which reports of attacks on Indians and unscrupulous practices by some colleges and migration agents have battered Australia's reputation as a study destination.

The figures also show overall offshore student visa applications have dropped by 26 per cent. Applications from Nepal plummeted 85 per cent, from 5696 to 845, and those from Korea, Brazil and the United States each fell by about 20 per cent. However, applications from China increased slightly, by 0.2 per cent, and those from Vietnam rose 19 per cent.

The chief executive of Universities Australia, Glenn Withers, said the number of Indians applying to study at universities had dropped by about 20 per cent on the previous year. He said a reduction in Indian students would be likely to have a greater impact on vocational colleges, where a greater proportion of Indians enrolled. But Dr Withers said there were anecdotal reports that negative publicity had caused some middle-class Indian parents to turn to universities in countries such as Britain and Canada.

He said part of the problem was that Indians had started studying in Australia in large numbers only recently, so there were few alumni to counter bad press with stories of their own experiences.

Dr Withers said he was more concerned that interest from China may be softening, possibly because of warnings published by the Chinese Government about the quality of some colleges.

Andrew Smith, the chief executive of the Australian Council for Private Education and Training, which represents private colleges, said he was expecting a ''significant'' decline in enrolments this year from several countries, including India and China. He said reputational damage, the strength of the dollar and a tightening of the visa application process had all contributed to the drop, which could threaten the viability of colleges and lead to job losses.

Research commissioned by the council predicted a 5 per cent drop in international enrolments could lead to 6000 job losses.


Australia's private schools become less affordable

Even though there are lot of them. The reason is higher demand -- once again the old law of supply and demand dictates price. And why the higher demand? Because many government schools have got so bad -- mainly due to negligible discipline -- that parents are driven to the private sector in desperation

TOP private schools have become less affordable over the past decade, despite taxpayer subsidies and claims from John Howard when he introduced the current funding system that fee increases would taper off. The yearly fees in the top schools of about $11,500 in 1999 were about 28 per cent of the average yearly wage, whereas this year's fees of about $23,500 at these schools are about 36 per cent of the average salary.

The decline in affordability comes despite private schools securing billions in taxpayers' money under the Socioeconomic Status funding model that has been extended until 2012 by the federal Labor government. When it unveiled the SES model in 1999, the Howard government boasted it was about giving parents of all incomes a "choice" in schooling. "In some cases, it will mean that fees won't go up at the same rate that would otherwise be the case," the then prime minister said at the time.

However, looking at the typical fees payable for the upper echelon of schools, this is clearly not the case. To use the Kings School in Sydney as an example, a parent in 1999 would pay $11,595, or 28.4 per cent of the average wage of $40,820. This year, that parent would be paying $23,442, or 36 per cent of the average wage of $64,896.

The Rudd government decision to extend the SES funding model until 2012 gave non-government schools an estimated $28 billion. It was made despite protests from public education unions.

The Australian yesterday reported that private schools were putting up their fees for this year by an average of 6 per cent.

The reaction to the hikes has been muted so far, with parents groups and the Independent Education Union noting that the education component of the consumer price index had risen by 5.6 per cent in the past year. IEU federal secretary Chris Watt said teachers' wages were rising at about 4.5 per cent a year and it was possible that schools were facing reduced fee payments and donations from alumni amid the global financial crisis. "If the increase was of the order of 10 per cent, we would say it's outrageous, but it's not that much more than the base wage increase plus extra costs," he said.

Tony Abbott yesterday defended the public subsidisation of elite private schools and said they had the right to increase fees. "In the end, these are private institutions and it's up to them to decide what their fees should be," the Opposition Leader said.

Mr Abbott also defended the SES funding model. "Every Australian child is entitled to government assistance towards his or her education," he said. "Whether people choose to utilise that assistance by going to a public school or whether they choose to go to a private school and receive a reduced level of support, but nevertheless a substantial level of support, that's up to the parents of the child."


Government produces housing shortages and the consequent high housing prices

By Harry Triguboff, founder and managing director of the Meriton Group

I READ with interest The Australian's editorial ("Giving them shelter is but the first step to a solution", January 4) on the growing crisis of homelessness in Australia and could not agree more with your conclusion that this is not a problem that can be solved by simply pouring in money or building more homes. And yet, as you correctly observe, there is clearly a shortage of affordable and appropriate housing.

While the private sector is no panacea to the ongoing problems of homelessness, there is no question that if we were allowed to get on and build it would have a terrific and immediate impact on the numbers of homes available for Australians to own and rent and would help ease the situation for those who are presently squeezed out of housing, particularly in the large capital cities. Yet local government continues to do its best to ensure we cannot build the housing stock for which there is clear demand.

The simple fact is that we must produce more dwellings. Not only for the homeless and not only for young people. And not only for our growing population (up to 35 million by 2050, we are told). We must produce more dwellings and greater incomes so that our best young people will not continue to leave the country. And we must produce more dwellings to encourage the best type of migrant to come here.

From my perspective as one who has tried to provide affordable and appropriate housing for the better part of half a century, I have to say things have never been harder. Last year we managed to build about 1000 apartments in Sydney and southeast Queensland, which is about the same number as we built 25 years ago in Sydney alone. We would have built five times as many if we could have got approvals, but the approval process across Australia is now completely broken. In order to produce enough dwellings, and for them to be affordable and appropriate, three things must happen:

First, more dwellings must be built in established areas where resources are already in place to support populations. This will require rezonings. In Sydney, in particular, we cannot afford, economically or environmentally, to continue to build houses further and further out on the fringe.

Second, once appropriate zonings are in place, councils should stop being the consent authority and much more development should be "as of right". The development process has become too politicised. Councillors are convinced that if they approve developments they will lose votes. Of course we have too many councils and our culture is anti-development. The big picture sees that people would rather leave the country than attempt to have sufficient land zoned for apartments.

And once land is rezoned, it should be left to the market to dictate what is appropriate housing, because the market can respond much more quickly to changes in people's desire for a particular type of housing, and their ability to afford it, than any form of regulation. Housing size is a classic case. We read that our houses are too big (I actually don't think that they are once apartments are taken into the mix because apartments are certainly getting smaller) and it is clear that codes set many years ago are irrelevant by the time approvals are granted.

What is the point of approving apartments or houses in areas where nobody wants to buy them, or at sizes where nobody can afford them, and banks will not lend to purchasers to buy them? Nobody dictates to Holden how many Commodores and how many Barinas it should produce, and nor should anyone tell private developers too much about unit mix and apartment sizes. If we get it wrong, nobody will buy our stock and we will get the message much quicker than from any well-meaning councillor or town planner.

Finally, the Reserve Bank must come to the party and drop interest rates. Talking about what will happen to buyers when interest rates go up is nonsense. Our interest rates are already 3 per cent higher than in other parts of the developed world, so it would be lunacy for the RBA to raise interest rates higher. We should not be afraid of inflation or prices rising too much. Our population is getting poorer not richer. And we would be poorer still if it were not for the stream of cheap imports coming out of Asia. If the RBA drops rates, and the banks only add a small margin (which I think is what they do) then housing prices will inevitably go up. This is a good thing for everyone. The people will become wealthier. We won't have to depend on foreigners to fund our residential development. The problem in Australia is not inflation but lack of housing. By raising interest rates we will have fewer houses, not more. In America and Britain the problem was that there was an oversupply. We have had undersupply for many years.

Longer term, Australians must make more money. Our wages must keep on rising well above inflation; we must have higher full-time employment. We must get young people to start working when they are younger. Schools must prepare them for work with a renewed focus on vocational training and not merely on those who get 90 per cent results and go to university. Older people must be found employment. Perhaps the government should subsidise their wages. But all these measures take time. Only the RBA can have an immediate impact.

Historically, Australians made money on property values going up. Now we have decided that the super funds, which have a great deal of money, should invest in shares rather than in property. Of course shares go up sometimes, but the weakness of our share market is that it depends too much on what happens abroad. Whereas we can control our real estate, we cannot control to the same extent the share markets. Some money should stay in shares but most of it should be in property. If the government could find a way to channel the nation's superannuation into the development of residential property we would see a great number of homes built, and a safe investment for Australian retirees.

None of the above is rocket science: human beings have managed to produce affordable and appropriate housing in societies across the world and across time; only in Australia in the 21st century have we decided for some reason that it is all too hard.

Until we get the courage to change things we will continue to make life unnecessarily difficult for many Australians.


Secretive defence bureaucrats outed

The woman responsible should be fired. It does however raise an interesting question about what she was trying to hide

A FURIOUS Defence Minister has been forced to countermand potentially unconstitutional orders from bureaucrats banning staff from involvement in parliamentary committees without his clearance. John Faulkner said yesterday action would be taken to improve the Defence Department's understanding of parliamentary procedures. Senator Faulkner won an unmatched reputation as a champion of open government and accountability with his work on Senate committees, including the inquiry into the children overboard affair.

He was embarrassed last month when Defence assistant secretary Karen Creet issued an internal department memo, or DEFGRAM, briefing staff "of the correct procedures to be followed in their dealings with parliamentary committees". "The minister must approve all Defence involvement in, or support to, parliamentary committees," she stated. "Under no circumstances should material be provided to parliamentary committees or inquiries without clearance from the minister."

The DEFGRAM was leapt on by opposition defence spokesman David Johnson, who warned that it ignored "the inquiry powers granted to the commonwealth houses under section 49 of the constitution". He described its contents as "a potential improper interference with the free exercise by a committee of its authority".

Russell Trood, the chairman of the committee investigating the handling of allegations of sexual misconduct against three sailors from HMAS Success, expressed concerns about the impact of the memo on the inquiry.

Clerk of the Senate Rosemary Laing offered a scathing assessment of the DEFGRAM in response to a request from Senator Johnston for advice on its contents. "At best, the directive is a misrepresentation of the government guidelines for official witnesses before parliamentary committees," she wrote. "At worst, it represents a potential improper interference with the free exercise by a committee of its authority, and therefore a possible contempt."

Senator Faulkner told The Australian yesterday he had ordered the withdrawal of the instructions "as soon as it came to my attention".

Senator Trood said the committee would discuss the matter when parliament resumes.



Anonymous said...

Anyone working in Canberra knows this woman has form.

Anonymous said...

Indeed and adding to it as of 2011-too incompetent for words!!!