Wednesday, November 08, 2023

Fears merit-free hiring in universities and public service could lead to cronyism

A large part of the original rationale for using tests and exams was to give people without personal contacts an equal chance of being hired. Looks like that is being lost. Will hiring now be dependent on whom you know, not what you know? That's pretty sad in a university

Merit-based hiring has been abolished for academics and public servants in Queensland to stamp out “unconscious bias’’, sparking concern about “jobs for mates’’.

Both the Queensland government and Queensland University of Technology are dumping the word “merit’’ from their selection policies, and will instead hire staff based on “suitability’’. Job applicants will have their achievement rated against “opportunity’’.

In a proposed new hiring policy that has angered some academics, QUT will ensure that an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander employee vets any applications from Indigenous jobseekers.

The new rules would require selection panels to assess “the extent to which the person has abilities, aptitude, skills, quali­fications, knowledge, experience, and personal qualities relevant to the carrying out of the duties in question’’.

“This includes consideration of achievement relative to opportunity,’’ the draft policy states.

“The panel must consider the diverse ways in which responses may be expressed or demonstrated, including with respect to applicants who are Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples, people from cultural and linguistically diverse backgrounds, applicants who identify as LGBTIQA+, applicants for positions where it is a non-traditional area of employment for women or men, and applicants who have a disability.

“The panel may consider how appointment would achieve organisational equity, diversity, respect and inclusion obligations.’’

One academic, who did not want to be named, questioned whether students should now be “marked based on suitability, rather than merit?’’

“The policy to get rid of merit is bordering on embarrassing,’’ the academic said. “It’s completely disrespectful to tell students who will be charged thousands of dollars for a program that they will be taught by people chosen not on merit, but suitability.’’

Australian Institute for Progress executive director Graham Young said that abolishing merit-based selection at universities and in the public service “will enable cronyism’’.

“Merit is about meeting a set of criteria that is skills-based,’’ he said. “Assessing on suitability allows a move away from that.’’

QUT vice-chancellor Margaret Sheil – the first woman to become a professor of chemistry in Australia and a former chief executive of the Australian Research Council – said the university was “trying to build on the culture of choosing the best possible people for each role’’.

“There’s nothing sinister in it at all,’’ she said. “I’m the anti-­cronyism, jobs-for-the-mates champion of all time.’’

Professor Sheil said her university’s existing selection policy was “sort of bureaucratic’’.

“You had to get a score for each candidate against each selection criteria, and trying to get a merit score – that was very hard to apply in any kind of serious modern contemporary recruitment,’’ she said.

“It’s really about trying to move people away a little bit, as many places are, from the notion that merit’s something that’s completely objective – and in the case of academics, numerical – to looking at whether this is the person who’s most suitable to take the role.’’

Professor Sheil said “I still like quirky mathematicians’’. But she said QUT wanted to ensure that staff with stellar academic credentials were also excellent teachers, and respectful to other staff and students as well.

“The best person on merit in terms of CV might be the top researcher in all the publications and the best qualifications, but if you’re not going to actually be interested in teaching students, we don’t want them,’’ she said.

“The reason they’ve got the best CV is they’re not interested in doing anything other than their own research. We want people who are interested in teaching students as well.’’

Professor Sheil also pointed out that the requirement to have an Indigenous staff member screen job applications from ­Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander applicants, and recommend if they proceed to an interview, was designed to ease pressure on Indigenous staff.

Under the existing policy, selection panels interviewing a First Nations applicant must include an Indigenous staff member.

Professor Sheil said this requirement was placing undue pressure on Indigenous staff members to constantly take part in selection panels.’’

She said the requirement had been imposed “before my time but suspect it was for cultural safety reasons’’.

Professor Sheil said the proposed new hiring rules would look at “the whole person and the whole picture for the person who is applying’’.

“The problem is if you leave people to select on merit, some sort of supposed analytical criteria, they will automatically score the person who looks like them higher,’’ she said.

“I see it all the time, that’s the unconscious bias.

“People talk about merit often to exclude people, not include people.’’

Professor Sheil said the new selection method would ask, “have they got the qualifications to do the job, can they do the job, are they outstanding in whatever they’ve done, and are they suitable for what we want to do?”

“Sometimes that will give you a more diverse field, sometimes it won’t,’’ she said.

QUT is basing its controversial policy on a new hiring rules for Queensland’s public service.

The Queensland Public Service Commission yesterday said that recruitment “must be fair and transparent and directed to the selection of the person best suited to the position’’.

“The best person must be selected for a role, and this is consistent with the concept of merit in the previous directive and legislation,’’ a spokeswoman said.

“Where there is a mandatory qualification for a role, the person must have that qualification to be appointed.’’\

A new Queensland public service directive, issued last month, states that selection panels need to identify the person “who is best suited to the position‘’ – replacing the previous requirement for appointments ”based on merit’’.

Panels must “consider equity and diversity and cultural considerations‘’, as part of a ”holistic assessment’’ to choose the ”eligible person best suited to the position’’.


Victoria's Property taxes causing investors to scramble for the exits

Who needs landlords anyway? There are plenty of streets to sleep in

The Victorian government had kicked off the property tax changes in its budget last May, and then widened the tax net to include more investors when a vacant residential land tax was extended beyond the inner city to include the entire state. The tax will impact investors and holiday home owners from next January.

In recent times the Victorian government has also introduced a windfall gains tax for property developers and doubled the tax on absentee buyers from 2 per cent to 4 per cent, along with hitting the short-term rental market with a tax of 7.5 per cent on annual revenue.

According to Irina Tan of Pitcher Partners: “It is no exaggeration to describe the proposed changes to Victoria’s land tax regime as a seismic shift in the way system currently operates that will impact anyone who

The proposed changes have also been slammed as ham-fisted and unlikely to be effective. Lawyers at Russell Kennedy describe it as “an odd policy initiative which does not seem to meet the brief as to consumer protection”.

READ MORE: When will the property investor exodus end? | The unnecessary costs stinging property investors
But it is the unexpected expansion of the vacant land tax that appears to have triggered widespread frustration across the property sector.

Under the terms of the plan, all owners of a second property beyond the family home in Victoria will face a tax of $975 plus 0.1 per cent with a $50,000 threshold.

The tax must be paid unless the owner ha lived in the property for a minimum of four weeks each year or leased the house for at least six months.

Sale statistics show property owners have already been quitting across Victoria. In fact, the percentage of new sales that are driven by investors is running at up to twice national levels. In the coming months holiday home owners are expected to join the wave of selling.

Victorian Real estate agents also report a lift in the number of sellers trying to add property tax liabilities to the sales price – under new state vendor rules this will soon be prohibited.

The Real Institute Of Victoria reports that one in four Melbourne rental providers have sold their properties over the past 12 months.

“Investors are fleeing and looking at other states or alternative investment vehicles,” Quentin Kilian, the CEO of the Real Estate Institute of Victoria, told The Australian.

“Each time a new tax or a new regulation is introduced it beats confidence out of one of the state’s most important economic contributors,” he said.

While Melbourne remains the top spot for new immigrants, the city has now got a rock-bottom vacancy rate of near 1 per cent, prompting industry analysts to suggest rental prices will rise further.

The Victorian parliament resumes on November 14, when it is expected negotiations will resume around the new taxes.


Fight over cow burps looms as farmers face forced emissions cuts

Fewer cows, dearer milk??

A fight over plans to cut farming’s greenhouse footprint from methane-burping livestock looms for the Albanese government, with Agriculture Minister Murray Watt declaring the sector must reduce its emissions as the National Farmers Federation campaigns against the government’s renewable plans.

Watt declared the industry cannot rely only on carbon offsets and must change practices as he launched consultation on Tuesday on the government’s agriculture and land plan, which will guide cuts to emissions from agriculture in line with the national target to hit net zero by 2050.

The Albanese government has launched a controversial reform, which will result in a sector wide plan for agriculture to cut its greenhouse emissions, which are mostly generated by methane-laden burps from livestock.
The Albanese government has launched a controversial reform, which will result in a sector wide plan for agriculture to cut its greenhouse emissions, which are mostly generated by methane-laden burps from livestock. CREDIT:STEVEN SIEWERT

The government is also committed to the global pledge to cut methane by 30 per cent from 2020 by 2030.

That is a big task for graziers as sheep and cows’ gassy burps are loaded with the greenhouse gas – a byproduct of digesting grass. Livestock methane makes around two-thirds of agriculture’s greenhouse emissions.

New Zealand has imposed a tax on farm methane emissions that kicks in from 2025, but in news that will be welcomed by Australian farmers, Watt has already ruled this out.

Watt said the reforms “will be done without a methane tax or ag sector emissions target” but government would work industry to develop a plan.

Climate Change and Energy Minister Chris Bowen has teamed with other ministers to draw up plans for emissions reductions in six sectors of the economy. Agriculture, which generates 17 per cent of the nation’s greenhouse footprint, is first cab off the rank.

“It’s really important that agriculture does reduce its emissions,” Watt said told the ABC.


Sun sets on daylight saving in Queensland after damning new poll results

I am pleased to hear this. I don't like people messing around with my clocks either

A referendum on daylight saving held in Queensland today would more than likely fail, with exclusive new polling revealing a majority of the state don’t want to turn the clock forward an hour.

Even in Brisbane less than half of respondents to The Sunday Mail’s exclusive YouGov poll supported daylight saving.

But the result among regional Queenslanders was as unequivocal as it was at the 1992 referendum — a hard no to daylight saving.

The YouGov poll of 1013 Queenslanders, conducted between October 4 and 10, revealed 47 per cent were against daylight saving, 41 per cent for and 12 per cent did not have a view.

In Brisbane, 48 per cent of respondents wanted daylight saving while 40 per cent rejected the idea.

A whopping 60 per cent of regional Queenslanders said no to daylight saving while 25 per cent approved. 15 per cent of regional Queenslanders were undecided.

Ardent supporters of daylight saving — including Brisbane Lord Mayor Adrian Schrinner and Gold Coast Mayor Tom Tate — remain undeterred with Cr Tate stridently calling for a referendum to be held in March 2024 alongside local government elections.

“We now live in a borderless, global commerce world and these split time zones are costing both NSW and Queensland billions in lost productivity,” Cr Tate said.

Cr Schrinner put the results down to people being “far more concerned about their household budget and rising costs” at this time, and affirmed trialling daylight saving would bring “huge benefits” to residents and local business.

“It’s now a matter of time before another trial finally happens and once that occurs I’m confident a large majority of Queenslanders will vote to keep daylight saving,” he said.

“During the warmer months, Brisbane residents endure the earliest sun rises of any major city in the world.”

Geoscience Australia data revealed Brisbane’s earliest sunrise in 2022 was 4.45am on December 9, with the sun setting at 6.35pm that day.

That same day the sun rose in Cairns at 5.36am, in Mount Isa at 5.54am and in Townsville at 5.27am with the sun setting at 6.42pm, 7.15pm and 6.43pm respectively.

One of the recommendations made by the Daylight Saving Taskforce in 1990 was to dissect Queensland at 151 degree east longitude — slicing the state vertically from about Mount Larcom near Gladstone down to Beebo just outside Texas — and giving everyone east of that line daylight saving.

Under this plan the regional centres of Gladstone, down through Bundaberg and Gympie and out west to Toowoomba, Warwick and Dalby would put their clocks ahead an hour from October to April alongside Brisbane, and the Gold and Sunshine Coasts.

Tasmania was the first state to apply daylight saving time - a year later it applied to all states. Daylight saving was removed again at the end of World War I in 1918.

Explained: The real arguments for and against daylight saving

Townsville Mayor Jenny Hill, a daylight saving detractor, said dividing the state at an “arbitrary line was not the solution — unless a complete separate state with Townsville as its capital was established.

Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk again rejected the notion of a referendum saying the government wanted to unite Queensland not divide it, and recent events had made clear bipartisan support was needed for referendums to succeed.

Opposition Leader David Crisafulli, a North Queenslander with an electorate on the Gold Coast, maintained he too would not “do anything that would divide the state”.




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