Sunday, February 27, 2011

"The skull" is still a bonehead -- repeating the failed Latham hostility to private schools

The genius himself

Mark Latham's attack on private schools is generally regarded as a major factor in his 2004 election wipeout. Around 40% of schoolkids in the swing State of Queensland go to private High Schools so that's a big demographic to piss off. The Green/Left Peter Garrett was a huge liability as an environment minister. Looks like he is still as thick as a brick and doomed for more follies in education

THE Federal Government is set to launch a new war with private schools this week as pressure intensifies on the country's richest education establishments to reveal their assets. Education Minister Peter Garrett told The Sunday Mail that he wanted to force public and private schools to reveal their true wealth, including assets, reserves and profits.

The launch of the revamped My School website on Friday will reveal financial information including income through private fees for the first time, but not assets.

The website will also show that wealthy private schools are spending 50 per cent more to educate each student than the average spend on a child at a public school. But some high-performing, low-fee Catholic and independent schools are spending a similar amount per student to comparable public schools, when private and taxpayer-funding is combined.

The launch of the site was delayed after private schools complained some of the complex data used to arrive at a per student spend was misleading. The average government school recurrent cost for a high school student is about $12,000.

"This is all about fair dinkum transparency," Mr Garrett said. "This is all about giving people information that they deserve to have. "And it's about providing that information in a way that allows them to make valid and reasonable comparisons."

Mr Garrett will take his proposal to extend the financial disclosure requirements of My School to include assets to the next meeting of state education ministers in April this year. Some private schools securing millions of dollars in taxpayer funding have retained earnings or assets of $100 million or more. But there is no current requirement for many schools to disclose their assets, profits or financial information.

For the first time, the new version of the My School website will provide information on funding from fees and donations to public and private schools. But Mr Garrett stressed it was "not about ranking".

My School 2 will also reveal for the first time which schools are showing improvements in literacy results for children in their care and which schools are falling behind.


We've been Rudded: Labor MPs decry lack of consultation

THERE are rumblings of discontent among Labor MPs who are angry Julia Gillard didn't first consult caucus before announcing the government's backflip on a carbon tax.

"She talked the talk about including us when we gave (Kevin) Rudd the boot, but that's not what she has done. You would have thought (the Prime Minister) would want to know what her marginal seat MPs think about controversial ideas before she announces them," one Labor MP said.

The Weekend Australian has spoken to three Labor MPs, all of whom supported Gillard's challenge against Rudd last year.

They expressed frustration that the she had acted with a similar disregard for the views of her party colleagues that her predecessor Rudd did.

"We got rid of Kevin (Rudd) because he didn't listen, now she isn't talking to us before acting," another Labor MP said.

The three Labor MPs, who did not want to be named, are more concerned about the lack of process behind the carbon tax announcement than the substance of the plan.

Although at least one also had reservations about the backflip: "Julia said there would be no carbon tax, Now there will be. We have to try and sell this in our electorates, which won't be easy."

When Gillard assumed the Labor leadership she committed to being more consultative than Rudd had been. Gillard's failure to consult with Labor MPs on her carbon tax announcement, coupled with her refusal to accept the Labor review's proposal that the caucus choose the front bench, is a sign that perhaps not much has changed from the way Rudd ran the government.


Militant unions set to rock boat

BUSINESSES will be forced to deal increasingly with militant unionists this year as the individual contracts of their employees expire and unions exploit generous right-of-entry clauses in Labor's Fair Work Act.

In a speech today, former Howard government minister Peter Reith says he expects the industrial relations climate to worsen.

Mr Reith, who led the former government's fight against the Maritime Union of Australia during the 1998 waterfront dispute, highlights recent strike action by the MUA as well as attempts by unions to "muzzle" the construction industry watchdog.

As the ALP has stopped the making of new Australian Workplace Agreements, he points to the transition provisions that allow individual agreements to operate to their expiry date. "Many of those arrangements come to an end in 2011 and as the unions have generous right-of-entry clauses it is certain that in 2011 many businesses will be forced, against the interests of the business and the employees, to negotiate with militant unionists," Mr Reith says.

He attacks comments made by the national secretary of the Australian Workers Union, Paul Howes, who last week declared war on Rio Tinto and unveiled an ambitious strategy to totally unionise the mining giant's aluminium operations.

"Paul Howes and the AWU resort to the politics of hate, envy and class warfare because they have nothing else to throw at good employers," Mr Reith says.

"His threats to Rio and, by implication, others in the resources sector, will always be counter-productive when employers and employees work together. The frustration for the AWU is that it just can't keep or recruit members with a good employer who offers safe work, higher remuneration and the chance to be treated as a valuable member of a good team.

"The union's . . . opposition to AWAs was never about workers, it was always all about the powers of union bosses. AWAs were abolished by Labor because they had been too successful for workers."

The union is targeting Rio's aluminium operations in Queensland and Tasmania, claiming the pay and conditions at these plants is about 30 to 50 per cent lower than for aluminium employees in unionised workplaces. The union's goal is to recruit a majority of the workforce at the three Rio aluminium operations within two to three years, and then use the federal workplaces laws to force the company to negotiate. Unions claim Rio Tinto Alcan had a record of denying workers at its smelters and refineries representation on health and safety.

The AWU claims to be the nation's fastest growing blue-collar union, with membership increasing over the past three years.


White parasites feed on black misery

IGNORANT outsiders are not helping to end the spiral of drunkenness in Alice Springs.

Many people live on the gravy train that runs on Aboriginal suffering. And there is no shortage of suffering. We are up to our necks, swimming in misery.

I don't write from a distant perspective of an observer. I write from deep within the misery. I am the one burying nieces and nephews on a regular basis and crying for a brother dead far too early from the abuse of drugs and alcohol. I'm the one who, after a long night on the streets of Alice Springs two weeks ago, was called down to the hospital because my niece was in intensive care after attempting suicide.

Yet one of the problems in Alice Springs is that people feel free to comment on contemporary Aboriginal society from the safety of their computer keyboards without venturing on to the streets of the town and observing the nightlife.

These people object that recent media reportage has all painted the same bleak picture of life in Alice Springs. There is a reason for that: it is because there is only one view late in the evening around KFC Cross, the junction of Todd and Stott streets.

Some claim that there are effective services already working hard to treat the problems. But there is nothing effective about youth services in Alice Springs. The Youth Action Plan, the result of bipartisan commitment and consultation across the sector, and the Youth Hub have never materialised.

Yes, petrol sniffing has been targeted through the introduction of Opal fuel. This program has been a boon for BP. Unfortunately, our youth have just moved on to other drugs, especially ganja. The underlying issues remain the same.

Aboriginal people don't need to be saved by the legions of outsiders who have come to Alice Springs to speak for us, to hold our hands, to encourage us to pursue their romantic vision of a traditional Aboriginal lifestyle. We can speak for ourselves.

The Aboriginal leaders in central Australia know that we have a deep crisis on our hands. We want action. We back local businesses and the local community's call for change.

At a meeting in Alice Springs on Tuesday, the business community was present in droves. So, too, were Lindsay Bookie, chairman of the Central Land Council, and Sid Anderson, my brother, president of MacDonnell Shire. All people of standing in central Australia want to see this crisis resolved by strong action.

Potential solutions include: real truancy programs, schools adequately funded for the full cohort of Territory children, implementation of the Youth Action Plan, business community input into the management and funding of the Gap Youth Centre, normalisation of the town camps; putting Night Patrol and Day Patrol services out to tender, significant welfare reform and land tenure reform.

Even more important will be establishing a new culture of accountability in the Territory. Our problems may be complex, but they are not insurmountable. Government must be accountable, bureaucrats administering program funding must be accountable, youth service providers must be accountable.

I expect a hostile reaction to these observations and proposals from those on board the gravy train. Too bad.

Aboriginal people are not lesser human beings and we are not animals. We want an end to segregated "animal bars" that allow members of our community the humiliation of lower standards of behaviour and dress. We do not want our children scared into obedience by dogs with gnashing teeth. We want to be treated with the same high expectations, rights and responsibilities as any other human being.

We cannot wait any longer for change. I am tired of the funerals. I am frustrated with those who refuse to act. The pain of living with the ongoing loss of our young people is almost unbearable.

I am no longer shocked by life in central Australia, but I am sad and extremely concerned about our future.


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