Saturday, December 19, 2020

The triumph of the selective schools

Selective schools are ones that admit smart kids only. Leftists oppose selective schools as a violation of their idiotic "all men are equal" doctrine but their success speaks for itself. That success is the main thing that shields them from envious attacks.

A small complication is that the kids doing best in exams are not only from selective schools but of Asian background. James Ruse Agricultural High School is almost entirely populated by students of East Asian and South Asian ancestry. Asians are on average smarter. But even discounting the Asian element, selective schools still score best

James Ruse Agricultural High School has claimed the title of NSW’s top school for the 25th year in a row, an unparalleled achievement in the history of the Higher School Certificate.

Baulkham Hills High School was second, with North Sydney Boys’ and Girls’ high schools third and fourth. Sydney Grammar, at fifth, was the only independent school in the state’s top 10.

The top non-selective school was Ascham, at 11th. Mackellar Girls High, part of the Northern Beaches Secondary College (NBSC) network, was the highest-placed public comprehensive school at 43rd. Parramatta Marist High was the top Catholic systemic school at 46th.

Tangara School for Girls, which was forced to close for two weeks in August due to a COVID-19 cluster affecting senior students, climbed 78 places to 25th, its best performance in several years.

James Ruse principal Rachel Powell stepped into the role two years ago. “We got it! That’s such a relief,” she told the Herald. “It’s vindication of of all the hard work this year.”

The principal of Mackellar Girls’, Christine del Gallo, said she was “absolutely delighted that we were able to support our girls through the COVID-19 dilemma to enable them to achieve such amazingly wonderful results for them.”

Concerns private school students would have an advantage over high-performing public students due to better remote learning resources and a shorter shutdown due to COVID-19 appear to have been unfounded, with more public schools in the top 10 than any year since 2014 and more comprehensive state schools in the top 100 than last year.

It also did not appear to affect overall results among top students, with 17,507 distinguished achievers this year compared with 17,122 in 2019.

Of the top 50 schools, 18 were government selective schools, one was a comprehensive state school, two were Catholic systemic schools, and the rest were independent.

Of 14 independent schools in the top 25, nine were single-sex girls’ schools. Single-sex public comprehensive schools also fared well, with Willoughby Girls’ at 59, NBSC Balgowlah Boys’ campus at 60, and Epping Boys’ High at 76. Chatswood High, a co-ed comprehensive school, was 69th.

The highest-placed Catholic systemic schools were Parramatta Marist High, Brigidine College Randwick at 49th, and St Ursula’s College at 79th.

James Ruse has finished first in the HSC rankings since 1996, when it took the crown off Sydney Grammar. It was originally established as a farming school, and agriculture is still a compulsory subject.

It has become the most sought after of the state’s 50-odd selective schools, and has the highest year 7 entry scores. Alumni include Atlassian founder Scott Farquhar and concert pianist David Fung.

Qld exports in demand despite COVID, China threat

There has been a surge in export demand for Queensland products, including avocados, beans, and even rowing boats, despite the pandemic.

Trade data shows a soaring demand for Queensland produce and other products since February, with some goods reporting as much as 130 per cent growth.

It comes as Queensland’s economy faces potentially devastating shock from China’s increasingly hostile trade war which threatens 8 per cent of the state’s annual production.

Crippling tariffs placed on some of Australia’s biggest industries including barley, coal, and timber have resulted in Australia referring the communist giant to the World Trade Organisation.

The value of Queensland exports to China plunged nearly 25 per cent between February and October.

But despite this, the state has seen a 137 per cent growth to $79m in bean exports, while avocadoes, guavas, mangoes, saw an 8 per cent increase to $14.16m.

Rowing boats, canoes, and vessels saw a 13 per cent growth, with strong demand from New Zealand and the US, while baby carriages, games, toys and sporting goods increased to $59m.

Lead also saw a 32 per cent increase to $390m.

Acting Premier Steven Miles said since the pandemic had begun, the state had still recorded growing demand for beans, nuts, and vegetables along with a range of other resources and products.

Social distancing requirements along with consumers having more time for leisure and sport also led to a strong spike in sales for specialised rowing sculls and canoes.

Mr Miles said strengthening partnerships with markets like the US, India, Pakistan and Singapore would boost exports.

“In particular, we’re seeing growing demand for high-protein plant-based produce like beans in a range of markets including Vietnam, India and Indonesia,” he said.

“This is great news for Queensland farmers in regions like the Southern Downs, Goondiwindi and Toowoomba. Coronavirus has had a huge impact on our economy. But this data shows that our strategy to support local companies to sell more Queensland products in new markets is taking off.”

Mr Miles said global trade would not return to normal for many years.

“But by ensuring that Queensland continues to build on its strong presence in growth markets, we can position ourselves to capitalise as market conditions improve,” he said.

Exporters have been urged to diversify and negotiate new trade agreements to avoid further economic damage.

Owning a car to be cheaper as local mechanics boosted

Car ownership will get cheaper when manufacturers are forced to share tools and data with third-party mechanics under proposed changes set to go before parliament next year.

Previously off-limits to independent workshops, the mandatory availability of special tools and software currently withheld from independent workshops will give motorists a chance to shop around when maintaining their car.

Supporters say the move will benefit drivers, but some car makers object to sharing data with third parties on the grounds of safety and security.

Assistant Treasurer Michael Sukkar said the planned reforms “establish a level playing field for all participants in the automotive service and repair sector, increasing competition and consumer choice.”

“The new scheme is designed to ensure appropriate commercial dealings and improved competition in the service and repair market for the benefit of both businesses and consumers.”

“The scheme will mandate that all service and repair information car manufacturers share with their dealership networks in Australia must also be made available for independent repairers and registered trading organisations to purchase at a fair market price.”

The Morrison Government will consult stakeholders and accept submissions on the issue until January 31 before introducing legislation in the first half of 2021. The plan is to put it into effect on July 1, 2022.

Tony Weber, chief executive of the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries, said manufacturers broadly support information being made available “for the benefit of consumers, on fair and reasonable commercial terms”.

“The important thing is that consumers are protected through the process,” he said.

Mr Weber said small businesses were unlikely to be able to match dealerships’ investment in training, parts and tools, particularly if they want to work on a diverse range of cars.

“The days of the backyard mechanic fixing every car in the neighbourhood are well and truly gone, but some still cling to that hope,” he said.

“The capacity of the independent repair sector to cover a wide range of makes and models is very limited.”

Volkswagen Australia managing director Michael Bartsch said VW already cooperates with workshops to offering basic servicing, but that data held back by the brand “should be proprietary”.

Mr Bartsch said safety and security systems – such as the programming of digital keys, should remain exclusive to manufacturers. “I would say right now that key coding is something that we would do everything we can to retain the integrity of that information within Volkswagen,” he said.

The changes will allow independent workshops to plug computers into cars, helping them diagnose potential problems and clear error codes within a vehicle’s systems.

Richard Dudley, chief executive of the Motor Trades Association of Australia, welcomed the long-awaited development. “This is a good day for consumers, and a good day for business,” he said.

“This heralds a new era for consumers in terms of surety around consistency of those working on their cars, and ultimately being able to choose where they have their cars repaired and serviced.”

Mr Dudley said it means workshops can offer the same standard of service as official dealerships. “We will be one of the first countries in the world to have mandated this across a whole country,” he said. “I don’t think this should be underestimated.”

The news comes as manufacturers are pushing to lock customers into extensive prepaid multi-year servicing contracts and exclusive arrangements attached to extended warranties.

Many manufacturers offer multi-year service plans discouraging customers from visiting third-party providers. Mitsubishi has courted controversy by doubling its standard warranty from five to 10 years if customers have all maintenance carried out in its official dealerships.

Labor’s Shadow Minister for Employment and Industry, Brendan O’Connor, welcomed the changes while pointing out delays in implanting a scheme originally promised for 2019.

“We know independent mechanics are doing it tough,” he said.

“If the Morrison Government would just get on with the job, rather than announce and forget, these reforms could help this struggling sector.”

The un-dead Campbell Newman

The writer below says Newman came undone by firing a lot of bureaucrats. That is a matter opinion. I think Newman failed by not communicating his thinking well

Newman is a living, breathing manifestation of what the conservative side of politics would like to think it represents – a self-reliant self-starter, resourceful, distrustful of big government and bureaucracy, untainted by corruption, tough minded and hugely successful in both his financial and personal life.

This is the former soldier boy who became Mayor of Brisbane in 2004, then went tunnelling under it with all the fervour of a Viet Cong guerrilla before parlaying his extraordinary municipal success into an historic, 2012 landslide Queensland state election win, taking the LNP back into power 14 years after Rob Borbidge lost to Peter Beattie.

Yes, we all now know Newman made some poor political decisions. In hindsight he appears to have been engineering his own demise from the early days of office when he commissioned an audit from former Liberal federal treasurer Peter Costello on Queensland’s financial situation. That report, found, among other things, that: “Given the state’s weakened financial position, the current cost of service provision is unaffordable. Queensland cannot continue to be a high cost provider.’’

“Can do’’ rolled up his sleeves and, like the Army engineer he once was, set about solving the problem in a logical, methodical and highly transparent manner.

He sacked 14,000 public servants.

Given the six degrees of separation laws, Newman simultaneously ensured that almost everyone in Queensland knew someone who had lost their job, or knew someone who knew someone who had lost their job.

With his political capital burned down to the wick in just three years, Newman was turfed out of office in 2015 and ever since has been portrayed as a political pariah.

Perception will always hit reality for a six when it comes to politics, but Newman’s reputation as a political loser of epic proportions is deeply unfair, given we insist on looking at the devastating 2015 loss only through the prism of his epic 2012 win.

When you look at the numbers (which he’ll happily refer you to) the LNP suffered a not-so-crushing defeat in 2015, with 41.3 per cent of the primary vote.

Newman’s replacement, Tim Nicholls, received just under 34 per cent in the subsequent 2017 election and the affable Nicholls, in rude health and living happily in his seat of Clayfield, is hardly a He-Who-Cannot-Be-Named.

Former LNP leader Lawrence Springborg who lost in 2009 with 41.6 per cent of the primary is an LNP legend.

Yet the Newman name lingers in the air, not so much as a bad smell as like that radioactive fallout that stays in the atmosphere after a nuclear bomb detonates. Its presence six years after he left office is so potent that it would have been almost certainly one of the first issues that newly minted leader David Crisafulli and his advisers workshopped when Crisafulli was made LNP leader earlier this month.

Crisafulli, who arrived in state politics with Newman in 2012 and briefly exited it with him in 2015 when he lost the Townsville seat of Mundingburra, is the third LNP leader in six years who may not wish to see the Newman name up in lights. But the Queensland Labor Government and media will go on putting it up there over the next four years, and it won’t be of the little string of fairy lights variety – more in pulsating neon.

Newman had 41 mentions in state parliament by the end of Friday Question Time in the first week of sittings after the November election, while former Labor Premier Anna Bligh scored a more modest 25.

Newman’s legacy was also one of the first questions put to Crisafulli in his first press conference after being anointed leader earlier this month. Crisafulli batted it away, insisting he would not be referring to Bligh who led her party to defeat in 2012 after saying Labor would not sell off state assets, then did.

Bligh, in her 2012 defeat, presided over the over the largest swing in Australian political history (15 per cent against the ALP) received less than 30 per cent of the primary vote, then relocated to Sydney in a piece of political theatre you might think the LNP would be happy to remind the Queensland electorate of, possibly daily.

But all Crisafulli could muster was a refusal to look backward: “If they (Labor) want to look in the rear vision mirror, good luck to them.”

Newman, ever generous with advice via his regular spot on Sky News, has thoughtfully mapped out a plan for the LNP that doesn’t involve burying Voldemort deeper, but resurrecting him from his still relatively shallow grave.

Newman insists the attacks upon him and his legacy don’t really bother him. He appears to regard them much as an actor might view a rival actor’s performance, with a critical yet occasionally approving eye.

He can trace the hatchet job performed on his political persona well beyond 2015, all the way back to former deputy premier Jackie Trad and public relations whiz Dee Madigan who moulded the evil incarnate image in 2011 in the lead-up to the 2012 state election.

Then he was supposed to be the sinister mayor from city hall who was involved in property deals with his in-laws.

That didn’t stick. He won the election and during his three-year term he was easily cast as the villain because of public service redundancies.

Then, when Labor won back power in 2015, the Voldemort legend gained tremendous traction as he morphed into an historic figure of fear and loathing whose power to conjure up nightmares in ordinary Queensland voters seemed to escalate as each year passed.

“But it’s the Labor Party doing it!” declares Newman with an enthusiasm bordering on admiration.

“They are my political rivals; I expect them to do that. “Politics is often reduced to simple narratives – the government is secretive, the government is arrogant, the government is out of touch sort of thing, so I expect Labor to do that.

“The thing that annoys me is the LNP’s position on the matter.”

Newman believed the LNP never had the courage to own its own story, and is happy to remind many serving LNP members they were very much part of it.

If fully told, he insists, it’s a magnificent tale, ranging from the initiatives to establish the Queens Wharf precinct in the City to commissioning former Governor-general Quentin Bryce’s comprehensive review of domestic and family violence in Queensland which sparked the reforms the Palaszczuk Government continues implementing.

There was the overhaul of the public health system which resulted in the best emergency performance and surgery waiting times in the nation, the cuts to government expenditure that allowed (for the first time since World War 11) a government to spend less in one financial year than it did in the previous, a crackdown on outlaw motorcycle gangs that led to a 15 to 20 per cent reduction in crime, and workers’ compensation law reforms that saw an average 15 per cent reduction to business workcover premiums.

Dr Paul Williams, a long-time observer of Queensland politics and political lecturer at Griffith University, outlined in a 2018 paper examining the 2015 election published in the Australian Journal of Politics and History, a long list of negatives to accompany those positives.

They include (beyond the public service redundancies) a harsh fiscal austerity, perceptions of ministerial incompetence and “conflicts with insider groups” – a polite reference to the appointment of Tim Carmody as Chief Justice, which sparked a rebellion against the government by some of the state’s most influential legal figures. But Williams says Newman’s loss in 2015 was nowhere near as epic as the mythology around it now suggests.

He’s convinced that, had Newman held fire on the public service redundancies, the LNP Government would have survived comfortably into a second term in 2015.

“Queenslanders do like a politician who gets things done,” he says.

Williams counters that observation with another. Queenslanders have a deeply entrenched, intergenerational belief in the idea governments provide secure, reasonably well paid jobs – a belief which has at least some of its deep roots in the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Yet Newman remains an unapologetic and deeply committed believer in the supremacy of free markets operating within a framework of small governments which maintain a light regulatory touch.

It’s a political philosophy outlined over the centuries, never so elegantly as by 18th century philosopher Thomas Paine, never so nimbly as by 20th century US President Ronald Reagan: “Government is not the solution to our problem – government is the problem!”

In Newman’s view, the LNP has to start promoting that political outlook that hundreds of thousands of Queenslanders are more than ready to get behind.

He believes there are three things needed to get the state moving again, and the first is to cut energy prices: “I mean cut the price of energy, don’t shave it, cut it,” he says.

Asked if that means coal fired power stations, he throws out a withering glance and powers on, undaunted.

“That means whatever it takes – strip away the rules and regulations and subsidies, stop the bullshit and give people certainty you won’t reverse the rules, that they will get cheaper electricity and it will stay cheap.

“The second is to reform industrial relations and bring in labour market flexibility and that means making it easier to both employ people, and to un-employ them.

“The third is get rid of red tape and improve the approvals process for business.”

Newman says energy is being sapped out of the private sector every day by an overly officious government and bureaucracy not merely in Queensland but across the nation, even with a conservative coalition in charge in Canberra.

“It is really hard to start a business in this country,” he says.

“Queensland should be the lead state economically, we should be the powerhouse state, we should be the place where people want to go to get a job and start a business, we should be the state the rest of Australia looks on at in envy.”

To Newman, the ruling Coalition in Canberra committed a major betrayal of the Conservative cause when it rejected a 2014 Newman government ruling which allowed a Cape York landholder to clear 2100ha of woodland to plant grain crops. In late November, the federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley backed conservationists who opposed the plan, saying the land clearing posed a risk to threatened species.

That infuriated Newman, who exploded in frustration: “After being in office for seven and a half years this Coalition government has not done a thing for northern agriculture or built a dam,” he told News Ltd journalist Peter Gleeson.

“They never will. They are a government of spin. No substance and they do nothing. They are a disgrace,” Newman said.

“You can quote me on that,” he added generously, before delivering a final uppercut to Prime Minister Scott Morrison. “He really is Scotty from marketing.”

Newman is full of admiration for the private sector and its power to shape a successful society, and unabashed about his hatred of big government and its associated bureaucracy.

“I hate bureaucracy with a passion!” he declares with real venom in his voice.

“When I left office and I wondered what I was going to do with the rest of my life the thought of working for a large organisation just left me cold.

“I just couldn’t have done it.

“The only role that I could have considered would have been CEO or chairman of the board but even then, I just couldn’t have dealt with the politics, the slowness of it all.”

It’s a view held, perhaps from a slightly different perspective, by hundreds of thousands of Queensland voters.

They might not all be in a position to contemplate a position as CEO of an ASX top 100 company, but they include everyone from small primary producers to the T-shirted 20-somethings creating a new app to the wage slave suburbanites who save enough capital to buy a van and kick off a mum and dad mobile plumbing business, all the way to the Wagner family of Toowoomba who built an international airport in a cow paddock.

Newman identifies strongly with them, and has an almost evangelical faith in the resourcefulness, energy and enterprise of the ordinary Queenslander.

“When you just get out of their way and let people get on with it, things sort themselves out.”

As for himself, he’s not merely talking the private enterprise talk, but walking the walk.

Since leaving office in 2015, he has immersed himself in private enterprise including the fledgling world of robotics, centred on a farm operation near the Central Highlands town of Emerald, which is at the cutting edge of autonomous agricultural robots.

He left that outfit three years ago but still maintains a keen interest in its progress while also devoting his time to another project, Art Market Space, which sells art online and boomed during the COVID shutdowns.

His chief preoccupation (apart from more than 20 directorships of various companies) is his position as chair of commercial property syndicator and funds manager Arcana Capital, which has around $125m worth of properties under its whip ranging from petrol stations, shopping complexes, and industrial sites from Tasmania to the Queensland southeast and dotting the state’s coast line through Mackay and up to Townsville.

Newman, who completed his MBA in his middle age with a focus on property, says Arcana will provide you with a return of more than eight per cent per annum, but don’t bother applying to put your money in unless you are a high-end investor.




1 comment:

Paul said...

I think Newman came undone by under-estimating just how politically powerful a tool public-sector secure employment (regardless of need) has become under Labor State governments. Much the same thing happened under Kennett in Victoria. Communication may have played a part, but communication for any politician is only as good as the Mainstream media want it to be, or not be.