Monday, October 29, 2012

Private schools not just for wealthy according to figures by independent report

ABOUT half of Queensland's richest families sent their children to state schools last year instead of the private sector, a report released today shows.

The report also found independent schools had a slightly higher percentage of children from the state's poorest families in its student population than the Catholic sector.

Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ) executive director David Robertson said figures in ISQ's "Research Report: Income Levels of Families with Students in Queensland Schools" - compiled using 2011 Australian census data - busted a myth that its sector only served the wealthy.

He said the figures also raised the question of whether the children of high-income state school parents, who could afford to pay more for education, should receive less money under the new school funding model. The ISQ report states 48 per cent of families earning more than $2260 per week - or $117,520 a year - sent their children to a state school, compared to 28 per cent to Catholic schools and 24 per cent to Independents.

"Of those students from families with incomes in the highest decile ($3278 per week), 39.7 per cent attended government schools, 30.1 per cent attended Catholic schools and 30.3 per cent attended independent schools," the report stated.

"This pattern of the Government catering for more of the highest-income families than either independent or Catholic schools was replicated at both primary and secondary levels."

The one exception was in secondary for the highest wage bracket of more than $3278 per week - $170,456 plus a year - with the independent sector schooling 37.5 per cent of those children, compared to 32.5 per cent in the state sector.

At the other end of the income bracket the report found "19.6 per cent of students attending independent schools were from families that earnt less than $1,108 per week, compared to 18.1 per cent for Catholic school students and 36.0 per cent of government school students".

Mr Robertson said there had been significant growth in independent schools catering for disadvantaged families and they would be able to cater for more if funding arrangements were more equitable.

"It would be a surprise to many that close to 10 per cent of students from families with a weekly income of less than $488 per week attended independent schools," he said.

Mr Robertson urged the Government to closely examine the data "which clearly dispels some public myths" before deciding on the nature of its school funding reform.


Corrupt bureaucrats

A corruption watchdog says an investigation into allegations of bribery and kickbacks at public authorities and local councils across New South Wales has uncovered widespread corruption.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has been investigating claims that staff from a number of councils accepted gifts from suppliers to encourage them to keep placing orders with their companies.

The commission's report found it was common practice in some places - with gifts including ipads, vouchers, clothing and holidays.

Although the investigation only looked at 14 local councils, and the then Roads and Traffic Authority, the report has made corruption recommendations that apply to all councils, stating that the problems are systemic.

The commission also made corrupt conduct findings against 41 people.

It will forward the findings of its investigation to the Director of Public Prosecutions this week, recommending that nine of those involved face charges.


Facts favour nuclear-powered submarines

Australia’s $40 billion project to replace six Collins Class submarines with 12 Future Submarines is at risk of failing. In addition to the potential gap between the retirement of the Collins Class and the commissioning of the Future Submarines, unsolved problems with the Collins Class threaten the viability of our future submarine fleet.

Australia’s diesel-powered Collins Class submarines are expensive and unreliable. These problems are likely to be inherited by any Australian-designed Future Submarine, which is why Australia must explore leasing the US Navy’s nuclear-powered Virginia Class attack submarine.

Nuclear-powered submarines can travel faster and farther, and remain deployed for much longer than their diesel-powered rivals; they also operate more powerful sensors, systems and weaponry.

Despite these advantages, the government has refused to consider the nuclear option, instead preferring to substantially redesign an existing diesel submarine. The same process gave us the Collins Class; we don’t need to repeat the mistake to know the likely outcome.

Each Collins Class submarine costs more than $110 million a year to maintain and operate, with total costs for the six submarines likely to exceed $1 billion a year by 2021. Nor has the higher cost meant greater reliability. Typically, no more than two Collins Class submarines have been available for deployment. The rest have been in maintenance or awaiting repair of serious defects.

By contrast, the Virginia Class submarine costs the United States approximately $50 million per submarine per year and is proving very reliable.

The acquisition costs are lower too. The upfront cost of leasing eight Virginia Class submarines (together with establishment costs) is $23 billion to $27 billion, substantially lesser than the $40 billion estimate for the diesel-powered Future Submarines.

Arguments against nuclear-powered submarines don’t add up. The defence minister cited self-reliance as the main reason for rejecting nuclear-powered submarines. However, the Collins Class submarine was the poster child for self-reliance and it is hardly a success story.

Moreover, Australia depends heavily on foreign defence companies (and their Australian subsidiaries) for the development and sustainment of its platforms now, and that dependence will only increase given Australia’s declining defence budgets.

The United States has agreed to give nuclear submarine technology to Canada and the United Kingdom in the past. As Australia is an important ally and has close defence ties with the United States, the latter would seriously consider a request from Australia for nuclear-powered submarines. Leasing submarines would also increase the effective force level of the United States and its allies, and take some of the pinch out of proposed budget cuts.

Safety concerns and skills gaps are also important considerations, but these are manageable issues. What is important is getting the best submarine we can for the money the government is willing to spend. On that basis, Australia must consider nuclear-powered submarines.


Queensland Health leaves trainee doctors out of work

HUNDREDS of trainee doctors have not been re-hired by Queensland Health, sparking fears the medicos will be left "driving taxis and washing windscreens" while patients languish on waiting lists.

Up to 500 doctors in their final years of training at state tertiary hospitals were recently sent emails telling them "you have not been selected for a position with Queensland Health in 2013".

The news has outraged doctors' groups and comes at a time when patients are waiting up to five years to be seen by specialists before they even have surgery.

Australian Medical Association Queensland president Alex Markwell said postgraduate doctors in their second, third and fourth years were the workhorses of public hospitals.

"We've never seen anything like it in Queensland. We've got doctors and they are being told to go away," she said. "Doctors need training and do not graduate 'ready to use'."

She said the State Government had given hospital and health boards their budgets and a directive on how many people they could hire.

Queensland Health deputy director-general Michael Cleary said it was too soon to determine how many doctors would not receive positions in Queensland Health, but he doubted it would be 500.

Professor Cleary said it was expected more jobs would be offered later in the year because doctors usually applied for more than one position, leaving a vacancy for another.

He said Queensland Health had offered jobs to 4400 doctors next year, more than in previous years.

Australian Medical Association president Steve Hambleton said Australia was still recruiting large numbers of overseas-trained doctors to fill junior medical officer positions.

In 2011-12, 1260 applications for 457 Class visas were granted by the Department of Immigration for junior medical officer positions.

"You're going to have (locally trained) doctors driving taxis and washing windscreens," Dr Hambleton said.

In the meantime, patients are left waiting for specialist treatment. Bundaberg retiree Carmel Daniel, 67, has waited two years for a specialist doctor to operate on her twisted, broken arm.

A letter from the Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital recently advised her that the specialist doctor needed to treat her was on holidays for three months, and was booked up to almost Christmas.

Data provided to The Sunday Mail under Right to Information laws showed almost 200,000 were waiting to see a specialist in 2010.


1 comment:

Paul said...

Our current crop of Doctors, many overseas-trained, are among the worst I've seen yet. Luckily they don't appear so incompetent placed against the dreadfully under-trained nurses they work alongside. And don't go thinking the Private Sector is any better. In some places they are even worse. I know of patients having serious crises and complications because the (Asian mostly) nurse was too scared to phone the (Private) Doctor at two in the morning for fear of being yelled at (which would have happened, but still...). This is a worryingly common phenomenon in the Private sector and it is known and doesn't get addressed.