Lazy, sneaky or both…

That’s former Immigration Minister in the Howard Government Amanda Vanstone on Tony Abbott.

Tony Abbott is a constitutional monarchist and a self-confessed Anglophile, so for him to tolerate, let alone be at the helm of, a ship that throws the Westminster system of cabinet government out the window is simply astounding. The public will not long tolerate people who say one thing and do another.

Cabinet government demands policy change goes through a process whereby the arguments canvassing the pros and cons are clearly laid out in a cabinet paper prepared in the department concerned. It is circulated for comment to any other relevant departments. The theory is that the best views the Australian Public Service can offer and those of the minister proposing the change are circulated, so cabinet ministers can give them proper thought before the discussion…

What we’ve seen detailed in the media in recent days was not a minor policy issue escaping proper process, but a fundamental issue as to your and my liberty almost escaping any discussion at all…

So you can imagine my profound disappointment, bordering on despair, when I see some on “my team” thinking it is OK for a minister alone to take away a citizen’s rights – indeed, take away citizenship – in the blink of an eye. No appeal, no judicial process, just a ministerial decision. What were they thinking?

There’s nothing new and therefore sudden about dealing with terrorism that justifies this suggestion not going through proper cabinet process. In fact the very seriousness of the threat terrorism poses and this suggested response demands a full discussion. Hoping to flick it through at the end of a cabinet meeting smacks of trying to get something difficult through without proper discussion. That’s either lazy, sneaky or both…

Three cheers for Amanda!

  • Update: So depressing seeing former Labor NSW Premier Nathan Rees comprehensively missing the point about all this on The Drum (ABC 24) tonight.

And here in NSW we have Cheating ‘endemic’ in NSW high schools. My first reaction was a bit like a post I wrote in June 2005.

Angst de jour…

22 JUN 2005

Posted today on the current HSC cheating media frenzy.

The whole saga has developed into a family soapie, it seems. HSC scandal teacher betrayed by daughter.

Daniella Gardener, 28, is in a bitter feud with her mother, 53-year-old Rachel Gardener – to the point that she says they have taken out apprehended violence orders against each other.

Yesterday they exchanged a barrage of claims and counter-claims. Daniella, who worked for her mother as a tutor at Acclaim Education in Homebush West for almost two years, alleged her mother may have helped as many as 2000 students cheat the system.

She told the Herald yesterday that she decided to reveal the alleged systematic corruption at the college after her mother sacked her last October. Rachel Gardener labelled the cheating accusations as “a vendetta, all lies” and said she had disowned her “drug-abuser” daughter. Now their bitter fight has reached the Board of Studies, which is investigating the legitimacy of HSC results for 261 former students who were coached at Acclaim….

The daughter said Acclaim had a team of about 40 tutors, with at least four Homebush Boys High teachers, who coached between 120 and 250 students a week in demountables in her mother’s garden. Some of the 40 tutors had written assignments for money.

Students often came from elite schools, such as Sydney Grammar and Pymble Ladies College, and entered “prestigious universities”.

But Rachel Gardener said her daughter’s “lies and smears have ruined the lives of 300 students … we are rigorous about ethics, we teach life skills, and we certainly never overstep the line between teaching students and … cheating … I feel like I’ve lost a daughter … I know I’ll certainly never talk to this person again in my life. This is a vendetta, all lies.”…

Thou hast her, France; let her be thine, for we
Have no such daughter, nor shall ever see
That face of hers again. Therefore be gone
Without our grace, our love, our benison…

* * *


Ingratitude, thou marble-hearted fiend,
More hideous when thou show’st thee in a child
Than the sea-monster.

But I have to say today’s story really is substantial.

The problem is most acute in the Advanced English course, where some students have complained of being forced to take the advanced course over the standard alternative despite being stronger in the science and maths fields.

One 2013, James Ruse graduate insisted that she did not endorse plagiarism but was prepared to sell digital copies of her essays that had scored in the highest range of marks for Advanced English and Modern History.

The assignments are saved on a USB drive or transferred over the internet and are easily shared among groups of classmates.

The Herald contacted several services ranging from sole traders to industrial operations. The ghost-writing services gave quotes that spanned amounts from $160 to $300 for a “guaranteed band six essay from a PhD student”….

But frustrated teachers have said that what is harder to detect are those students who are using the services to write the essays for them before rote learning them and regurgitating them in an exam.

It is understood that the problem has become so bad that the principal at one of the state’s top selective schools, Normanhurst Boys, confronted a group of eight students in one class after they all wrote identical paragraphs in an exam.

A teacher at one selective school, who asked not to be named, said she was at her “wit’s end” and that the Board of Studies register was only “the tip of the iceberg”.

“The level of cheating is endemic; despite being in the best position to identify it most of the time we cannot confront students without proof because they are unique essays.”…

I spent some years up to 2010 tutoring HSC students especially – and I never wrote an essay for a student. Some idea of my practice may be gleaned from English/ESL archive. Links may not work as this was last revised in 2009:

OK, so what is a student to do?

See also (on Geocities) Essay writing for (clever) dummies and the links in the side bar here on Writing and Study Skills.

1. Develop efficient question analysis. You can see me model this in the “Images of Men” essays which start here.. See also the Online Academic Skills Resources page from the University of NSW. Go there to see the steps you need to follow. You need to know exactly what the question is asking you to do. More good advice is on this PDF file: “What does the question mean?”


How else will you achieve RELEVANCE to the question?

Memorising answers beforehand tends to cut you out of this vital first step.

2. Practise relevant answering. Use lots of questions for practice. You may get them from past papers, other schools, teachers, tutors, or you can even make your own. Be active when you study by setting yourselves problems.

When you are sure exactly what a particular question requires, go through your notes, your texts, material you may have memorised, and decide what MAJOR POINTS will be needed to answer this question and no other.Jot down those points. Think about any quotes, examples, and expansions you might use in developing each point.


— Write an introduction in the register and style appropriate to the task. Then skip the body of the essay and write a conclusion. This exercise can be done in five or ten minutes, and frequently done with many different questions makes your work very adaptable. So do LOTS of these.


— Write the full essay, not worrying about time, but just trying to get the ideas sequenced correctly. Put it away, and take it out again (or retrieve the file) a few days later. Now look at your answer again and decide what needs to be changed.


— Write the full essay in 40 or 50 minutes to simulate exam conditions. This is important as timing is often part of the problem, and the more automatic it becomes the better.

3. So what about memorisation?

Yes, it is a very useful skill to possess. Just be careful what you choose to memorise. Useful things might include:

— Quotations from the text you are studying, related texts, or critics. Always acknowledge them when you use them, and NEVER use them just because you know them. There has to be a reason to use them.

— Basic facts that could prove useful. Again, never use them unless they really are relevant to the question.

— Some carefully crafted passages of your own, argument or exposition for example, may be useful but there is a BIG danger. Anything you use has to fit neatly into the style and content of the answer you are writing.

Guess what?

You learn to write by writing, you improve by doing, you gain confidence by practising. Your teachers will be pleased to give feedback when you practise. If your teacher gives you the opportunity to practise, GRAB IT GRATEFULLY! Do not ask: Is this assessed? The answer to that is actually “Yes”. It will be assessed when you do the “real” task much more effectively as a result of this practice!

Good luck!