Tuesday, March 15, 2022

The Gonski ‘failure’: why did it happen and who is to blame for the ‘defrauding’ of public schools?

Gonski was just a well-connected businessman. He knew little about education. His ideas were accordingly just conventional dreams. "Spend more money" was the core of his profoundly unoriginal contribution

And he seems to have had no clear idea of how and why educational inequalities come about. That they are unfair and wicked seems to have been the depth of his thinking. No wonder his recommendations went nowhere

The commenter below is similarly uninteresting

When the Gonski review was released a decade ago, it was hailed as the answer to Australia’s educational woes – a roadmap to creating an equitable school funding system, and boosting the performance of Australian students on the global stage.

But rather than celebrating its success, its 10-year anniversary last month sparked critique of the failure of successive governments to implement the report’s recommendations.

Despite record levels of funding flowing to Australia’s schools, education results have suffered a 20-year decline on international benchmarks.

Meanwhile, a new analysis paints a bleak picture of a widening gap between advantaged and disadvantaged schools, with commonwealth and state funding for private schools increasing at nearly five times the rate of public school funding over the decade to 2019-20.

Education experts now warn that the vision enshrined in the review will only be realised if the commonwealth and states unite to end the “defrauding” of public schools and fully fund them to their needs-based benchmark.

Ahead of next year’s expiry of the current state-federal funding deal, the National School Reform Agreement, experts say there must be a coordinated effort to ensure Gonski’s vision is realised.

What did Gonski recommend?

In 2010, businessman David Gonski was engaged by the Rudd government to lead a review into Australia’s school funding, with the aim of reducing the impact of social disadvantage on educational outcomes, and ending inequities in the distribution of public money. The report was released in February 2012, during Julia Gillard’s prime ministership.

The reforms recommended that governments reduce payments to overfunded schools that didn’t need them and redirect funds on a needs-based model. Its key recommendation was the Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) – a base rate of funding per student with additional loading for disadvantage factors such as Indigenous heritage. The SRS would determine the required funding needed for each school. But a decade on, most public schools are yet to reach their full funding according to their SRS and more funding has gone to the less needy schools, with non-government schools well above their benchmark.

Gonski said the system would “ensure that differences in educational outcomes are not the result of differences in wealth, income, power or possessions” when he delivered his findings to government in 2011.

Why did it fail?

Trevor Cobbold, an economist and national convenor for public school advocacy group Save Our Schools, says the failure to achieve the review’s goals was a result of failures by the Gillard government and those that followed to implement the report’s recommendations.

“Gonski didn’t fail. It is governments that failed Gonski, and thereby failed disadvantaged students,” he says.

“You have to construct a system that recognises both the commonwealth and state roles, and Gonski did this by designing a nationally integrated model on a needs-basis.”

Tom Greenwell, a Canberra-based teacher and co-author of Waiting for Gonski – How Australia Failed its Schools, says a “huge problem” is that the “real work of additional funding has always been delayed beyond the forward estimates, to the next funding agreement”.


Queensland's Public Trustee system to be investigated after Four Corners report revealed high fees and financial mismanagement

It has long been known by many that you must never get involved with the Qld Trustee. They are bureaucratic sharks

The Queensland government has ordered two separate investigations into the state's Office of the Public Trustee, after a Four Corners report revealed exorbitant fees and dire financial mismanagement.

The program had to go to the Supreme Court to be able to report the cases

There are calls for a compensation scheme to be introduced

Public Trustees are supposed to protect the finances of people with cognitive deficits caused by such conditions as dementia, brain injury or intellectual disability.

Queensland Attorney-General Shannon Fentiman said she took the stories featured in Four Corners "very seriously" and described them as "difficult to watch" and "uncomfortable viewing". "Their experiences are unacceptable for any Queenslander," she said.

She announced an internal review of the Public Trustee's practices and policies and an extensive, independent external review into the three cases highlighted in the program.

Ms Fentiman said the moves were needed "so that Queenslanders can have confidence that every matter raised in that Four Corners story is being investigated".

Public Trustees have escaped media scrutiny because gag laws in most of the country stop 'clients' from talking publicly. Journalists can be fined or jailed for identifying them, even after they have died.

The ABC went to the Supreme Court in Queensland and Western Australia to lift the ban on identifying former clients of the Public Trustee offices. A team of forensic accountants helped Four Corners work through their financial documents, revealing mismanagement and extraordinary fees.

The Disability Royal Commission has told the ABC there will be hearings into the guardianship and trustee system later this year, saying that while the process serves some people, it has received submissions that "it may limit some people's decision making rights and can amount to, or lead to, violence, abuse, neglect or exploitation."

Christine Dalas, from the grassroots advocacy group Australian Association to Stop Guardianship and Administration Abuse, said state governments were turning a blind eye to the known problems.

"The main concern for me is the Public Trustee has an open cheque book. It's an open cheque book to your finances and there's no checks and balances," she said.

The Tasmanian government has been under pressure since a scathing independent review last year found that its Public Trustee office had misunderstood its legislative role for over 26 years by making decisions without consulting its vulnerable clients.

Before the Four Corners' program went to air and with prominent publicity about the ABC investigation, the chair of the Public Trustee of Tasmania, Mark Scanlon, resigned unexpectedly on Friday.

CEO of Your say Advocacy Tasmania Leanne Groombridge is calling for a compensation scheme for those who have had their finances mismanaged.

"People who have suffered at the hands of the Public Trustee, lost everything, left with a few hundred dollars after having things taken to the tip or sold off at auction, had cars disappear, their belongings, no inventories made — why should they have to battle to get some level of compensation?

"We want a system where people can actually get some form of compensation so that they can start trying to regain the lives that have been destroyed by the Public Trustee," she said.


Hundreds have gathered outside Queensland Parliament to protest vaccine mandates

Hundreds of people have gathered outside Queensland Parliament to protest “freedom over fear”.

Many of the protesters were rallying against Covid vaccine mandates which left them out of work after refusing to get the jab.

A former teacher who addressed the crowd said he had worked for Education Queensland – “the guys behind me” – for 23 years before he was fired.

“Hand-in-hand, that’s how our country will go forward,” he said.

A second protest marched from King George Square to Queensland Parliament. That protest was led by firefighters and One Nation leader Pauline Hanson who said she was walking with “me and my friends”.

Katter’s Australian Party leader Robbie Katter was also at the protest to rally for the end of mandates. “It’s a position we have had from the start – I think it’s important for people to get a voice and put their side of the argument forward,” Mr Katter said.

As the crowd marched through the streets of Brisbane’s CBD, people chanted “my body, my choice”, “end the segregation” and “freedom to work”.

Rogue Coalition backbencher George Christensen, who has come under fire for his anti-vaccination rhetoric, was among the crowd at Queensland Parliament. But Mr Christensen said “I’m more anti-mandate than anything else”.


DNA lab accused of corrupt conduct

Forensic science laboratories in Qld. have long been notorious for inaccuracy

The Queensland government’s forensic DNA laboratory has been accused of knowingly using flawed testing processes that may have let dangerous criminals walk free or led to wrongful convictions.

Leading forensic scientist ­Kirsty Wright has lodged an ­explosive complaint with the state’s Crime and Corruption Commission alleging lab experts engaged in systemic dishonest conduct that could have spanned more than a decade, impacting a huge number of cases.

Dr Wright called on the commission to launch a public inquiry, saying the lab had ignored serious concerns raised by internal and external scientists about the ­reliability of test results being presented to police and the courts.

“The CCC will identify ongoing deliberate attempts by DNA Analysis Unit staff to cover up the flawed testing processes and dishonest conduct,” her complaint alleges. “The CCC will also identify crimes in which the negligent processing by the DNA Analysis Unit of evidence has led to offenders being either not prosecuted at all or acquitted.”

Her calls for an inquiry were backed by prominent lawyers.

Dr Wright’s concerns about the Queensland Health Forensic and Scientific Services lab were raised after she agreed to review DNA evidence from the murder of Shandee Blackburn for investi­gative podcast series Shandee’s Story. She found the lab had failed to generate DNA profiles from crime scene evidence where it would normally be expected, such as from blood and skin samples.

Her complaint alleges the lab misled the courts and impeded the criminal investigation into the murder of Blackburn, 23, who was stabbed to death while walking home from work in Mackay, Queensland, in 2013.

Blackburn’s former boyfriend, John Peros, was acquitted of the murder by a jury in 2017, before Coroner David O’Connell found in 2020 that he did in fact kill her. He denies involvement.

Rather than it being an isolated case, Dr Wright now believes the lab has concealed systemic issues with its testing methods and procedures, putting the public at risk from serious and violent offenders who are not being identified and brought to justice.

Unreliable and inaccurate ­results were being provided to police, and misleading evidence and expert testimony was being given to courts, her complaint states. “These systemic issues would have affected many thousands of other criminal investi­gations and court proceedings,” Dr Wright said.

“There is evidence this conduct is continuing to the present day, ­potentially affecting criminal cases currently being heard before the courts, and overall compromising the integrity of Queensland’s criminal justice system.”

Dr Wright is a decorated forensic biologist who previously worked in the lab and went on to run the National Criminal Investigation DNA database.

She steered Queensland’s DNA response to the Bali bombings, and led efforts to identify Boxing Day tsunami victims. Her assistance in recovering and identifying the remains of murdered schoolboy Daniel Morcombe earned her a Queensland Police Commissioner’s Award.

She had shown her findings to, and taken advice from, senior scientific colleagues who agreed there was evidence in the official case documents of negligence and dishonesty, her complaint states.

“Only a powerfully equipped independent and external review will fully uncover these serious ­issues and prescribed remedies for repair,” she says.

“For these reasons I am ­requesting the CCC to open a public inquiry into the conduct of staff at the QHFSS DNA Analysis Unit as a matter of urgency. My motivations as a senior scientist to urge a public inquiry by the CCC to highlight and root out misconduct and restore public confidence are born from my growing concerns that the misconduct will continue compromising public safety.”

Queensland Council for Civil Liberties president Michael Cope said an independent inquiry was needed to ensure public confidence. “There’s enough in what The Australian has raised to justify an independent expert conducting an inquiry,” Mr Cope said.

Because of Australia’s very small forensics community, an ­expert should be sought from overseas, he said.

Former Queensland Law ­Society president Bill Potts said the CCC or an independent scientific body should investigate.

The wrongful conviction of Lindy Chamberlain over the death of her 10-week-old daughter, Azaria, led to a review of scientific and forensic facilities, he said. “There is precedent for this,” he said.

Dr Wright submitted the complaint confidentially more than five weeks ago, on February 1. The commission’s immense investi­gative powers include the ability to compel scientists, bureaucrats and others to give evidence in ­secret and public hearings.

The commission contacted Dr Wright on Thursday and she is ­expected to provide further information in coming days.


Five years on, Snowy 2.0 emerges as a $10 billion white elephant

A very costly alternative to coal. The original Snowy scheme was a boondoggle too

Five years ago on Tuesday, then prime minister Malcolm Turnbull announced, with great fanfare, the Snowy 2.0 pumped hydro project: “The Turnbull Government will start work on an electricity game-changer ... This plan will increase the generation of the Snowy Hydro scheme by 50 per cent, adding 2000 megawatts of renewable energy to the National Electricity Market (NEM).”

Senate Estimates papers confirm the announcement was cobbled together in less than two weeks after the concept was floated by Snowy Hydro.

The nation-building vision was for a big battery to be added to the Snowy Mountains Hydro-Electric Scheme. It was to be completed in four years (that is, by last year) at a cost of $2 billion without any taxpayer subsidy, bring down electricity prices, generate renewable energy and incur minimal environmental impact on Kosciuszko National Park.

Inspiring stuff. But not one of these grand claims has turned out to be true. Worse, Australian taxpayers and NSW electricity consumers will be up for billions of dollars in subsidies and increased electricity costs, all while Kosciuszko is trashed. Let’s have a quick recap.

Snowy Hydro now expects completion in 10 years, not four, by 2026. Some experts consider even this extended timeframe to be optimistic. Construction of the tunnels is running at least six months behind the latest schedule and the transmission connection is unlikely to be built by 2026 anyway. The all-up cost has increased at least five-fold, to $10 billion-plus, as energy experts warned the Prime Minister and the then NSW premier in 2020.

The underground power station and tunnels alone will cost more than $6 billion, and Snowy Hydro avoids mentioning the transmission connections to Sydney – $4 billion-plus for HumeLink and the Sydney ring – and to Victoria. To make matters worse, Snowy Hydro refuses to contribute to these transmission works, leaving it to electricity consumers to pick up the tab. Transmission tariffs in NSW will increase by more than 50 per cent if the NSW government allows Snowy Hydro to get its way, based on analysis in a Victoria Energy Policy Centre report.

It’s been around for decades but pumped hydro power is gaining attention as a potential back up for renewable energy, which is increasing its share of the electricity grid. It’s also technology the federal government is interested in.

Despite the assurance that taxpayer subsidies were not required, the federal government was forced to shore up Snowy 2.0’s business case with a $1.4bn “equity injection”. Further taxpayer funding is inevitable, warned Standard & Poors when it downgraded Snowy Hydro’s credit rating in 2020.

Far from bringing electricity prices down, Snowy Hydro’s own modelling predicts that prices will rise because of Snowy 2.0.

As far as the claim that Snowy 2.0 will add 2000 megawatts of renewable energy to the National Electricity Market, Snowy 2.0 is not a conventional hydro station generating renewable energy. It is no different to any other battery, and as such it will be a net load on the NEM. For every 100 units of electricity purchased from the NEM to pump water uphill, only 75 units are returned when the water flows back down through the turbine generators. Not only is the electricity generated not renewable, Snowy 2.0 will be the most inefficient battery on the NEM, losing 25 per cent of energy cycled.

And on the final claim of minimal environmental impact to Kosciuszko National Park, vast areas have already been cleared, blasted, reshaped and compacted. Hundreds of kilometres of roads and tracks are being constructed, twenty million tonnes of excavated spoil will be dumped (astoundingly, mainly in Snowy Hydro’s reservoirs), and noxious fish will be transferred throughout the Snowy Mountains and the headwaters of the Murrumbidgee, Murray and Snowy Rivers, devastating native fish and trout. The NSW government has even agreed to issue exemptions to its own legislation to override the prohibition of such pest fish transfers – an astonishing precedent.

The massive cost and environmental impacts of Snowy 2.0 cannot be justified for providing occasional longer-term storage.

The latest revelation in this dismal saga is the proposal for four high-voltage transmission lines through eight kilometres of Kosciuszko National Park with a cleared easement swath up to 200 metres wide. The statutory plan of management that controls activities in Kosciuszko expressly prohibits the construction of new overhead transmission lines, as is the norm with national parks in Australia and throughout the developed world. Reprehensibly, the NSW government has released a draft amendment to exempt Snowy 2.0 from having to install underground cables.

Despite Snowy 2.0’s abysmal track record over the past five years, the Commonwealth and NSW governments continue to bend over backwards with billion-dollar subsidies (and more to come), electricity price increases and environmental exemptions, despite conclusive evidence that the project is fundamentally flawed and can never pay for itself.


Also see my other blogs. Main ones below:

http://dissectleft.blogspot.com (DISSECTING LEFTISM -- daily)

http://antigreen.blogspot.com (GREENIE WATCH)

http://pcwatch.blogspot.com (POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH)

http://edwatch.blogspot.com (EDUCATION WATCH)

http://snorphty.blogspot.com/ (TONGUE-TIED)


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