ABC decimated

I know: no actual executions, but there is a certain poetry about the idea of every tenth ABC employee “getting the chop” – as indeed is the case.

Key points:

  • Federal Government cutting $254 million over five years from the ABC budget
  • More than 400 ABC staff – close to 10 per cent – could lose their jobs
  • Adelaide TV production studios to close
  • State-based 7.30 programs on Friday to be scrapped and replaced with national 7.30 program
  • Lateline moved to a new timeslot on ABC News 24
  • Foreign bureaux will be restructured to create “multiplatform hubs” in London, Washington, Jakarta and Beijing
  • The Auckland bureau will close down and a new Beirut post will be opened
  • Regional radio posts in Wagin, Morwell, Gladstone, Port Augusta and Nowra to close
  • ABC Local, Radio National and ABC Classic FM programming changed, with programs including Bush Telegraph scrapped
  • State-based local sports coverage scrapped
  • New regional division and ABC Digital Network, to begin in mid-2015, and a $20 million digital investment fund

A local take on all this:

…Of the two full-time staff in Nowra, an open producer will moved  to Wollongong and journalist Ainslie Drewitt-Smith will reportedly work from home.

On Monday she tweeted: ‘‘Feeling for all of my ABC colleagues on this dark day. Such devastating news for so many. #OurABC #ABCcuts’’.

Politicians on all sides were quick to play the blame game.

In an open letter to Mr Scott, federal Member for Gilmore Ann Sudmalis called the decision ‘‘deplorable’’ and pointed the blame at ABC management, who she said took ‘‘the easy way out’’ by targeting rural and regional services.

‘‘If this closure goes ahead, it will be almost geographically impossible for the ABC to cover, in person, local news events between Nowra and Moruya on the NSW South Coast,’’ she wrote.

Liberal Member for South Coast Shelley Hancock also expressed her disappointment with the decision, describing the office as a ‘‘major asset’’ for the Shoalhaven.

Member for Throsby Stephen Jones laid the blame squarely with the Coalition government and MPs who had campaigned under a platform of no cuts to the ABC.

‘‘The decision to close ABC Nowra and four other ABC Radio sites is a slap in the face for regional Australia,’’ he said…

Spin it is they may, this is not a great look. Tony Abbott in 2013 just before getting elected:

So far as words might be thought to mean something that would seem rock solid, wouldn’t it? Wouldn’t you buy a used car from this guy? Well, looks as if we did…

Meanwhile it is true that ABC isn’t the only show in town. Here in The Gong back in 1962 something called WIN Channel 4 came into being – unfortunately with no sound being transmitted while compere Max Ambrose was speaking; Max I later had a bevvie or three with back in my Oxford Street days. In between his Gong days and then he had been on ABC Classic FM.  I find too that as a mere lad he had been on Wollongong’s former radio station 2WL – and had a bit of an adventure it appears.


The condition of 2WL announcer, Max Ambrose, who was severely burnt in Friday morning’s fire at the ‘Seaview’ guest house,Church St., Wollongong, has been complicated since he caught pneumonia. His condition may still be considered as serious….

Read a fascinating transcript of Max Ambrose interviewing Prime Minister R G Menzies (PDF) on WIN in July 1962.

WIN has grown and morphed several ways. I do watch the Wollongong News on WIN very regularly. It really is very good – aside from which one of the presenters, Geoff Phillips, does appear at Diggers from time to time. That is part of being local!

But it isn’t actually done live. “WIN broadcasts to a larger geographical area than any other television network, in the world, through owned-and-operated stations including RTQ Queensland, WIN Southern New South Wales, VTV Victoria, TVT Tasmania, MTN Griffith,STV Mildura, SES Mount Gambier, RTS Riverland, and WOW Western Australia.” There is an “Australian News” at midday that draws on the best of the regional news programs – and it is worth watching. But back to The Gong:

…Wollongong no longer has a live TV news broadcast after WIN Television began pre-recording its Illawarra bulletin.

The move comes after the television station announced two weeks ago that it would produce its Canberra bulletin at the company’s Mount Saint Thomas headquarters.

The Canberra news is read live at 6.30pm by Wollongong presenters Kerryn Johnston and Amy Duggan. As a result, Wollongong’s bulletin has been pre-recorded  about 5pm since last Monday.

WIN remains the only Wollongong-based television news service, after Prime and Channel 10 closed their Illawarra newsrooms more than a decade ago….

And on that first night in 1962:

6pm News, Newsreel, Weather. Includes opening message from WIN4 general manager Robert Lord

6.30 High Adventure
7.30 Movie: Destination Tokyo. 1944 [IMDB]
9.30 Playboys’ Penthouse
10.30 Interlude
10.35 Close

Did you see La Pyne on 7.30 last night?

“You’re trying to fluster me…” He didn’t look good. And from his mouth the Party LIne sounded even more hollow than every other time it has been trotted out in the last few days.

And that line? See Google:

Search Results

News for states are grown-up governments 

Premiers in uproar over federal budget  Ninemsn ‎- 15 hours ago The federal government will be out in force on Wednesday trying to … of Australia expect is grownup adult governments in the states, just as …

Tony Abbott unmoved by fury of premiers over cuts to states The Guardian‎ – 14 hours ago

We won’t horse-trade on co-payment: Labor‎ – 48 minutes ago

More news for states are grown-up governments

Hospitals and schools $80bn clawback in budget angers  www.theguardian.comNewsWorld newsAustralian politics  17 hours ago – “What the people of Australia expect is grownup, adult governments in the states just as they’ve now got a grownup government in Canberra; ….

Or, “Youse can all get stuffed!”

From my post 28 September 2013

What a patronising, nasty line it is – even more so out of La Pyne’s gob!

State premiers have reacted angrily to an $80 billion federal budget cut to schools and hospitals funding, accusing the Commonwealth of trying to “wedge” them into pushing for a hike to the Goods and Services Tax (GST)….

Labor’s Gonski school funding plan will be dumped in 2017-18, saving about $30 billion from the federal budget.

Hospital funding agreements, agreed with the states and territories under former Labor prime minister Kevin Rudd, will also be wound back from 2017, saving a massive $50 billion over eight years.

New South Wales Premier Mike Baird says the Federal Government is trying to fix the budget bottom line by shifting the burden to the states – and the states will not cop it.

“When we got our house in order, we didn’t send the bill to Canberra,” he said.

“We got our house in order, we took the actions required and got our budget back onto a sustainable path.

“What we had last night from the Federal Government is a flick pass; it is cost shifting and it says to this state, ‘we have a problem, you work it out’.

“Our message back to Canberra is no, we’re in this together. You cannot outsource your problems to the state.”…

It remains to be seen what happens to all this in the Senate.

It could well be a double dissolution is not far off – despite this:

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten says Prime Minister Tony Abbott will not be brave enough to call a double dissolution election if the Senate refuses to pass the government’s budget bills because voters will desert him.

Mr Shorten said Mr Abbott would not pull the trigger to go to the polls because his budget was “bad for the country” and “ridiculously unpopular” with the Australian people.

On Higher Education policy I was rather taken by Jamie Miller this morning: Christopher Pyne ends generations of equitable university education.

So we have the brave new world of Christopher Pyne’s controversial higher education reforms. Release cap fees. Let the market decide. An Australian Harvard is within reach.

But if only we knew what will be the effects for the whole of Australia’s tertiary education system years down the track. Fortunately, we do. I teach history at a private university in the dysfunctional and falsely worshipped American system, which has provided much of the inspiration for the government’s plans. We can see the future in the American present…

PISA is out and the maddies are having so much fun!

PISA? Well, just in case:

See the Australian results at PISA Australia. Thanks to Rupert, here is a summary:


The Daily Terror opines rather than reports:

AUSTRALIAN teenagers’ reading and maths skills have fallen so far in a decade that nearly half lack basic maths skills and a third are practically illiterate.

The dumbing down of a generation of Australian teenagers is exposed in the latest global report card on 15-year-olds’ academic performance.

Migrant children trumped Australian-born kids while girls dragged down the national performance in maths, the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report, released in Paris last night, reveals.

Australia’s maths performance dropped the equivalent of half a year of schooling between 2003 and 2012.

And rowdy classrooms and bullying are more common in Australia than overseas, the report


The meme is that it is all a disaster and we have slipped badly.

On the other hand, it really is all John Howard’s fault, according to Gareth Hutchens in today’s Herald.

Australians’ ability to read and write has continued to decline over the lifespan of the former Howard government’s school funding model, introduced in 2001.

The Abbott government pledged this week to honour the school spending commitments of the former Labor government for the next four years. The announcement went some way to ending the policy uncertainty that had been aroused by federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne last week, when he said he needed to go ”back to the drawing board” and develop his own school funding model because the former government’s model was ”a shambles”.

At the time, he said the former Howard government’s funding model, the socio-economic status (SES) model, would be a good place to start when designing a new system. But Mr Pyne later backed away from that comment and this week said he would fund the states according to the Gonski model.

The SES model has been controversial because it led to a large increase in the amount of federal funding going towards private and non-government schools.

Now figures from the recent Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) report show that model was unable to stop Australia’s decline in educational achievement…

Honestly, I am not entirely sure what it all means, or even how seriously  we should take PISA’s testing.  See also a series of posts by US education writer Diane Ravitch. For example:

In my recent book, Reign of Error, I quote extensively from a brilliant article by Keith Baker, called “Are International Tests Worth Anything?,” which was published by Phi Delta Kappan in October 2007. Baker, who worked for many years as a researcher at the U.S. Department of Education, had the ingenious idea to investigate what happened to the 12 nations that took the First International Mathematics test in 1964. He looked at the per capita gross domestic product of those nations and found that “the higher a nation’s test score 40 years ago, the worse its economic performance on this measure of national wealth–the opposite of what the Chicken Littles raising the alarm over the poor test scores of U.S. children claimed would happen.” He found no relationship between a nation’s economic productivity and its test scores. Nor did the test scores bear any relationship to quality of life or democratic institutions. And when it came to creativity, the U.S. “clobbered the world,” with more patents per million people than any other nation.

And I see Jennifer Buckingham of the Centre for Independent Studies – hardly a communist plot! – writes Don’t panic about PISA.  Rather sensible, in fact.

Now let’s take one bit some in Australia will seize on.


That seems a gift for advocates of the private (“independent”) sector being superior to the government sector. Of course we should also note the text around the graphic. But then, what happens on another measure – the NSW Higher School Certificate results? Last year:

BATTLING public schools have returned amazing HSC results, leapfrogging many selective and private institutions on the top schools honour list for 2012.

Leading the charge are Willoughby Girls High School, Cherrybrook Technology High School, Mosman High School, Cheltenham Girls High School and Burwood Girls High School.

As more than 72,000 students received their HSC results yesterday, The Daily Telegraph analysed Board of Studies data on the 15,937 students named as distinguished achievers – scores of 90 or better – to reveal the top 200 schools in the state.

Government selective schools took the top eight spots on the list and James Ruse Agricultural High School posted the top academic performance with 780 mentions on the distinguished achievers honour roll.

Independents SCEGGS Darlinghurst and Sydney Grammar School round out the top 10, with students at each school scoring 90 or above in more than 40 per cent of their exams….

See also No need to blush – public schooling can be first step on road to success by Jennifer Star, 2012 NSW Young Australian of the Year.

Here I am ten years ago, give or take one or two.  The links do not open in new windows and may indeed be dead, as this is OLD now. But familiar. Depressingly so.

Average performance on international tests.

Donnelly writes:

  • Australian students failing to perform amongst the best performing countries in their maths and science tests, TIMMS and TIMMS-R,
  • the fact that successful countries, in TIMMS and TIMMS-R, achieve consistently high standards for all students, unlike Australia where there is a significant gap between the more able and the less able.
  • My response

    The top performing schools are, as Donnelly says, Singapore, Korea, Japan, Hong Kong,Netherlands and the Czech Republic. The New York Times found even more reason to do a Chicken Little than Donnelly does, as:

    Four years after American fourth-grade students scored high on an international test of science and math, their performance declined markedly when they reached the eighth grade, a second survey shows…

    The survey was based on the results of tests that 180,000 eighth- graders in 38 nations took last year. It showed American students, over all, performing worse in math and science than students in Singapore, Taiwan, Russia, Canada, Finland, Hungary, the Netherlands and Australia. They did better than students in some less industrialized nations, including Iran, Jordan, Chile, Indonesia, Macedonia and South Africa…

    Funny that. Donnelly fails to mention we actually rank rather well.

    It is also fair to say that some education systems have different priorities. In Australia, we have certain values that just might alter the balance of curriculum in favour of such things as critical thinking and creativity. Korea, for example, has been a country obsessed with rote learning and private coaching (kwawoe) — even the Cato Institute (which I am sure Dr Donnelly wets himself over) reports on the strange phenomenon, if with a degree of approval:

    The spending frenzy on kwawoe started in the 1970s–during Korea’s economic boom–and immediately led to conflicts between the kwawoe-haves and the kwawoe-have-nots. In 1996, Korean parents spent $25 billion on private education–50 percent more than the government’s education budget. A Korean family today typically spends 15 to 30 percent of its budget on private education.

    You can read more on my thoughts on coaching on this site.

    Let us consider Singapore. Janet, one of my former Saturday coachees, remembered her early schooling in Singapore as being particularly dreadful. She feels the Australian system is much more balanced and, I would say, much more appropriate to a pluralistic open democratic country like Australia. Singapore resident Au Waipang would agree. On his excellent site, Yawning Bread, Waipang wrote in August 2001

    “A thinking nation”. One of the many slogans we have to put up with as we go about our lives in orderly, efficient, well-planned, brook-no-opposition Singapore. If what I saw of a schoolboy’s history exercise is any indication, we’re a long, long way from that.

    Last Thursday, I was in a fast food restaurant, nursing an orange juice waiting for a friend to show up. A bunch of schoolboys, about 14 years old, came to occupy the table next to mine. One went to the counter to get drinks for the group. The other three laid out their schoolbooks to do homework (If you don’t live in Singapore, you’ve really got to come see this local phenomenon). A minute or two later, the boy at the counter yelled for help ?something about not having enough money. The boy nearest me then put his exercise book on the bench inches from my hip, and went off to assist his friend.

    I glanced at the open book and saw that it had about four printed questions on the page, with space underneath each question for the student to write in his answer. It took me merely 2 or 3 seconds to read the first two questions. It took me another whole minute before I could believe my eyes.

    Melaka was known as the centre of Islam. Describe the 4 ways that Islam was spread to other parts of Southeast Asia.

    In ancient times, people travelled for different reasons. What are the 3 reasons people travelled?

    In those two questions, I could see much that was wrong with our education system! What are they teaching our young?

    The questions have been phrased in such a way as to require a regurgitation of the history text. “Describe the 4 ways Islam was spread to other parts.” Why only four ways? Surely, there were innumerable ways by which Islam was propagated to the region; some more important than others. Schoolboys could have been asked to name as many ways as they could discover. They could have been asked to rate how effective some routes of transmission were over others. If the question had been phrased this way, the boys would have been encouraged to think hard and to try to understand the social and technological setting of the historical period in question. They would also be expected to justify their replies accordingly.

    But to require that the schoolboys list and describe exactly four ways of transmission is to tell them that the best route to success in school is through memorising some lines of text from the history book and to spade them back as answers.

    If a boy could come up with a fifth route of transmission and included it in his reply, would he risk a failing mark? Would he be penalised for thinking an original thought?

    As if to prove that such a badly phrased question about the spread of Islam was not a one-off accident, the same fault ran through the second question. It asked what were the three reasons people travelled in ancient times. You mean, people travelled for only three reasons? Does any half-intelligent person believe that?

    As I write this, I can think of 20. And I’m sure my list is not nearly exhaustive…

    … Now, obviously, I would fail school history. I would be utterly unable to answer the question that called for exactly 3 reasons why people travelled in ancient times. Moreover, the question was not looking for any three reasons. It was looking for “the 3 reasons”. Undoubtedly, the smart strategy for the boy would be to regurgitate whatever the schoolbook said…

    We’re not talking about 6-year-old kids here. We’re talking about fourteen-year-olds: teenagers who are perfectly capable of reasoning and discovering, who can very creatively make up excuses for not having done homework, skipping classes, or why they need more pocket money. If they can do that, they can surely take more challenging history questions.

    Instead, they are taught to parrot. To look up the prescribed answers. To accept uncritically whatever some authority says, in this case, the textbook. In another case, it could be the preacher, the fashion pundit or the government.

    * * * * *

    It gets worse yet. When learning is presented as a process of looking up given answers, it leads to the idea that in life, answers are always to be had. And that, to each question, there are always right answers and wrong answers.

    Anybody who knows anything about the nature of knowledge will tell you it is nothing like that. Knowledge is a marriage of information and assessment. Look deeply enough and everything is grainy and grey. You have to sift, and you have to weigh. And as more information comes up, you have to reconsider.

    Knowledge is potentially infinite, and so learning cannot be but unending. We shouldn’t expect pat answers. We shouldn’t think that once those pat answers have been found, learning is done. It isn’t good preparation for life if that simplistic notion is what we instill.

    I definitely could not have put that better myself! Thanks, Au Waipang!

    I shared these entries in their original form with the Principal of the “Salt Mine”. On reading what Donnelly had to say about Australia’s performance in TIMMS and TIMMS-R, he said, rightly, “That’s simply not true!” Indeed.

    Homework for my readers

    Read Jesuit educationalist Christopher Gleeson (former Headmaster of St Ignatius Riverview and Xavier Colleges) on “values in education” as preparation for the next section on the “flight to private education.”

    Christopher Gleeson’s piece is still online! Smile

    Here are some more of my moth-eaten old posts, sadly still relevant.

    On that last one (2010) C Pyne is quoted thus:

    Kerry, unfortunately Simon has come into this debate unprepared and without specifics, but I can tell you if a Coalition government is elected, we will expand the education tax rebate, we will introduce an education card for young people with disabilities, we will give principals more autonomy, we’ll pay the remaining billion dollars in the school hall stimulus fund to the schools directly, the government schools to self-manage the same as non-government schools and we’ll allow them to keep the savings. We’ll have a policy to deal with cyber-bullying, because cyber-bullying’s a big issue for families and for young people. We’ll support teachers in introducing the national curriculum. We’ll get social engineering out of the classrooms to allow teachers to do more teaching and we’ll give principals autonomy to make their own decisions in their school communities, because that is the biggest indicator of whether people will go on to higher education.

    And “We’ll get social engineering out of the classrooms to allow teachers to do more teaching” is code for…? How does it square with the opposition’s own policy on cyber-bullying or even on students with disabilities? Aren’t they “social engineering”? I take it that one thing this is code for is so-called “left” agendas such as critical literacy.

    A former colleague and retired Principal commented:

    Oh dear, trotting out the ‘social engineering’ again. How bloody dreary.

    As a Principal I found teachers to be a very conservative lot when it came to classroom practice. For example, it took me 3 years to convert the junior school from exercise books (very heavy in the backpack) to an A4 pad and folders maintained at home. 3 years to convert from a single school report sheet (difficult to coordinate for comments) to individual subject report sheets (which could be done at any time by individual teachers). Not to mention how long it took to get an alternative to 8 x 40 minute periods in the teaching day. If there is a more conservatively orientated group in the community than teachers, I’d like to know what it is.

    I encountered no teacher who worked to a personal agenda of politicisation of anything.

    Often the hard part was kick-starting an idea. The daily classroom routine was all-consuming. I used to welcome the occasional leftie simply because that person injected some life into staff thinking.

    Leftie social engineering? Give me a break. In one way it would have been refreshing. Perhaps I should have encouraged it.

    More posts. Excuse the smell of mothballs!

    Myself when young did eagerly frequent
     Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument
    About it and about: but evermore
     Came out of the same Door as in I went.

    — Omar Khayyam


    For another take on such matters, see Peter Job (2012), ‘Teacher quality’ and the myth of educational failure.

    The last decade has seen an increasing politicisation of education, with ill-informed calls for ‘back to basics’ and the introduction of poor pedagogical practices, such as full cohort testing, which discourage rich learning and disempower teachers.

    It is ironic that many of these so-called reforms – national testing, the publication of school test results, proposals for performance pay – not only run contradictory to a great deal of academic evidence, but are based on practices of countries which achieve well below us on the international measures.

    Not only have the voices of teachers not been heeded in these debates, but teachers have too often been depicted as part of the problem, as underperforming obstacles to change rather than professionals with expertise to be respected and listened to.

    Any quality education system must be dynamic, responsive to new challenges, aware of shortcomings and open to reform. There is a great need for an informed education debate concerning pathways forward. But it must be intelligent debate geared to quality reform; based in realities rather than populist mythologies; built upon past achievements as well as issues of concern.

    Australian teachers, with their proven track record of achievement, must be central to these discussions, recognised for the expertise and professionalism they have so clearly demonstrated.

    But what would he know? He is just an English teacher in a state school! See also his Why use a failed model for school tests?

    Update 6-7 December

    Look at China’s supposed top world education ranking is designed to deceive.

    1) Do we know ALL schools in Shanghai took these exams? Especially the schools created for a populated 100% by the children of migrant workers? I doubt very much these schools took part in the PISA exams.

    2) Shanghai school quality cannot be compared to that of the Chinese countryside where the vast majority of Children still reside in China. (This assumes that Tier 3 cities and smaller are in reality rural areas versus urban areas). These schools in the countryside lack qualified teachers and are far behind in using technology in the classrooms. In fact only 40 of rural students attend high school, versus more than 80% in urban areas.

    Compare Philip Wen in Saturday’s Sydney Morning HeraldSocial and demographic factors help Shanghai students hit fast lane for academic success.

    At one end of the spectrum, at the historic Shanghai Middle School, an exclusive state-owned boarding school, more than 4 million yuan (about $725,045) has just been spent on six new machines for its suite of university-grade science laboratories. In its sprawling grounds the school has its own museum, performing arts centre, and a sports centre complete with regulation-size football field, tennis courts and swimming pool.

    Zhang Jianhua, the deputy director of academic affairs at Shanghai Middle School, said top Chinese schools had long moved on from the stereotypes of dictatorial rote learning. Her school, she said, was all about giving students the best facilities in order for them to find their passion and nurture their talent.

    On top of the core maths, science and humanities subjects, students are given a mind-boggling choice of more than 100 elective classes, including digital photography, music production, robotics and anti-terrorism.

    More at home with those familiar with a misspent youth were a classroom full of driving simulators that seemed more NASCAR than PISA.

    “It teaches students how to follow driving rules and prepares them for when they take their driving tests,” Ms Zhang says, seemingly ignoring that most of the simulators were zipping along at 130km/h.

    Tong Xiaoxi, a professor at the Agricultural University of China, said the test results only served to highlight the disparity of education standards in poorer parts of China, with many schools struggling to provide basic heating and to find qualified teachers.

    Many schools on the outskirts of Shanghai, which cater for the children of itinerant migrant workers unable to access government-funded schools, still rely heavily on a volunteer workforce…

    Update 10 December

    See Sorry, Michelle Rhee, But Our Obsession With Testing Kids is All About Money.

    Laurel and Hardy? No, Abbott and Pyne!

    Yes, there was a time it might have been Abbott and Costello, but Abbott and Pyne are doing rather well at farce, are they not?



    As the final sitting fortnight of 2013 began, a curiously embattled Tony Abbott knew he had little choice but to take a deep breath and effectively admit his plan to ditch the Gonski school funding model was a broken promise.

    That is the effect of Monday’s announcement.

    It was necessary because days of dismal ”word games” by the Prime Minister and his unfeasibly cocky Education Minister Christopher Pyne had only made things worse.

    Suddenly, talk in the corridors of power had turned to the unthinkable – that Abbott’s could be a one-term affair after all despite a thumping majority and the odium of Rudd-Gillard Labor.


    Yesterday in The Australian:


    Today in the Sydney Morning Herald, and also Christopher Pyne, the minister of muddles, is really the artful dodger:


    I am glad of the flip back to before the back flip, or whatever the contortions actually were, but 1) it is still a horrible look, 2) Christopher Pyne is still one of the smarmiest, most self-satisfied twerps I have ever seen, and 3) the Coalition still has an agenda for schools that I suspect we don’t really want to know about, and probably won’t for a while yet while they wipe the egg off their faces.

    Make this government a ONE TERM WONDER, or even better a HALF TERM HORROR!

    Despite the Abbott Government sending Gonski to the Memory Hole

    you may still find it here (PDF) along with

    related documents at the Australian Primary Principals Association

    Updates 3.15 pm

    You must see the great Fiona Katauskas cartoon in the Jesuit  Eureka Street!

    And enjoy the Roy Morgan poll — ALP (51.5%) gain lead over L-NP (48.5%) after Gonski ‘backflip’. What a surprise!

    The government clearly is not, as their feral day in Parliament today is showing. You know – let’s attack the media who inconvenience us so much…

    Liberal Senator Cory Bernardi led a charge against the ABC in the party room meeting, accusing it of “cannibalising” the commercial media and calling for reform.

    First Class Card Carrying Drongo Cory… Check his form in this 2011 portrait.


    Prime Minister Tony Abbott has accused Labor of giving voters the “two-fingered salute” and is threatening to extend Parliament into the Christmas break unless the Opposition agrees to pass his Government’s legislative agenda.

    The Government wants to repeal the carbon tax, raise the debt ceiling to $500 billion and restore Temporary Protection Visas – all measures that Labor opposes.

    “I want to ramp up the pressure on the Labor Party,” Mr Abbott said.

    “I don’t think the Labor Party should get a free pass at Christmas time … they really should be listening to the people of Australia.

    “The public voted for a change of Government, the public voted for a change of policy and the public expect the policies they voted for to be put in place.”…

    Funny that,from someone who tried to give us all the two-fingered salute over Gonski. Could the Roy Morgan result have helped bring the most recent Damascus Road moment? Of course not…

    And I still don’t trust that we are not hearing what they want us to hear on that one, not what they actually mean. What Kathryn Greiner has had to say today rather confirms my suspicions.

    The community has lost faith with the Abbott government on education, according to Gonski school funding panel member Kathryn Greiner, who has also revealed that Education Minister Christopher Pyne is still declining to meet the panel.

    “I would hold that Dr Ken Boston, and probably David Gonksi himself, and myself would certainly be very happy to meet [Mr Pyne] and to talk this through,” Ms Greiner told ABC radio on Tuesday.

    “The unintended consequence of all of this is that the community has lost faith and I think it’s going to take a while for the Abbott government to redeem the faith from the community.

    “I think that’s a tragedy,” Ms Greiner said…

    The education expert described Monday’s reversal by the Abbott government – in which it promised to match Labor’s deals for four years and inject an extra $1.2 billion into education – as a “win all round . . . with one caveat”.

    Ms Greiner said that it was no good for the government to blindly match money without adhering to the principles that underpinned the original proposals by the Gonski panel…

    Update 4 December

    See Peter Fray, A short history with Christopher Pyne.

    I promise…

    To keep my promise – mostly. That is:

    Friends, so depressing is all this and more in this dark time for Australian politics – not just beginning at the last election either – that I have decided to opt out of further commentary. This blog will become exactly what it says – a Commonplace Book of images, quotations, reviews, nostalgia and history, sometimes music, and sometimes recycled matter from my long back catalogue of blog posts.

    But as you saw my recommendation of the 2013 NSW Schools Spectacular did rather get hijacked by:


    Not much ambiguity about that, is there? But click on the image and you will – sorry, might – be taken to the Prime Minister’s site where there is – might be – a transcript of his friend Andrew Bolt giving him a hard time over what Young Christopher ACTUALLY said.  It would be rude of me to resort to words like “Jesuitical” and “casuistry” given those are of a less enlightened age, and both gents are well… But there it is. Our forebears would have seen the point as Tony Abbott manages to make a bad look even less attractive.

    Go to the NSW Liberal Party site and read the press handout on behalf of National Party member and Education Minister Adrian Piccoli:

    on November 29, 2013

    The NSW Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli has asked the Commonwealth Government to clarify its position on education cuts and which schools will be affected, following comments by the Federal Education Minister at a meeting of Education Ministers in Sydney today.

    The Federal Minister for Education suggested that reductions in Commonwealth funding would only be applied to States’ and Territories’ public schools, as Catholic and Independent schools were protected in the Australian Education Act (2013).

    NSW attempted to clarify the assertion, however, the Federal Minister refused to provide any further details about the Commonwealth’s plans, creating further uncertainty for all NSW Schools.

    Mr Piccoli said that the majority of States and Territories also restated their support for the principles of the Gonski model with recommendations passed by the Council.

    “A majority of Ministers supported a needs-based school funding model, based on the principles of the Gonski report, and that the six-year funding agreements signed between the Commonwealth and the States and Territories should be honoured. They also supported the rights of non-signatory states to be offered Commonwealth funding,” Mr Piccoli said. 

    “The NSW motions were supported by Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory.

    “Today was the first opportunity for all Education Ministers to meet since the Federal election, and I am disappointed that it failed to provide certainty for all NSW Schools.”

    Here is just one of Christopher Pyne’s performances before the election.

    And after…

    Remember when “Gonski review panel member Kathryn Greiner says signing up to the Gonski reforms is a “no brainer,” and that this is the best opportunity for states to get required schools funding”? Sigh! She was such a leftie, eh! Not.

    Today a former NSW deputy director-general of education and training, Jim McMorrow, has a go in the Sydney Morning Herald.

    NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli is not alone in finding it hard to make sense of what his federal counterpart, Christopher Pyne, has up his sleeve for the funding of schools beyond next year.

    For example, what does Pyne mean by a ”flatter” schools funding formula? We can assume he does not mean to flatten it upwards, raising the resource levels of all schools to the standards now enjoyed by the privileged few. But if ”flatter” means a smaller piece of the funding pie for disadvantaged schools, with any increases spread more thinly, this will make a mockery of the Gonski review principles enshrined in the Australian Education Act 2013.

    Most of the students whose educational outcomes are put at risk by family and community poverty, lack of fluency in English, irregular school attendance, transience or remoteness depend on the public education system for their chance of school success, not to mention a rewarding life.

    How can Pyne justify any move by the Commonwealth to shift the funding balance away from, instead of towards, these schools? Will he repeal the act? Or just destroy its integrity?…

    With very few exceptions – Kevin Donnelly being one – the chorus of hurt, disappointment and downright anger directed against C Pyne and T Abbott has been loud and not very proud, and it has not been just from the left either.

    Dean Ashenden, Pyne’s Gonski shambles; Leo D’Angelo Fisher, Breaking the Gonski promise may provide painful lessons for Christopher Pyne; Peter Boden, Gonski reform architect Dr Ken Boston slams Christopher Pyne over school-funding backflip; Laurie Oakes, Christopher Pyne needs to play the statesman, not games; David Zyngier, Ditching Gonski: what’s so unfair about funding based on need?; North Coast Voices, The Lies Abbott Tells Part 5; Adrian Piccoli, Politics has always been the enemy of good education policy in this country.

    BTW, speaking of Kevin Donnelly, here is something I wrote years ago:

    I did Dip Ed at Sydney University way back in 1965. So I have been around education for a very long time. Kevin Donnelly’s Why our schools are failing (sic) is probably the worst, the most stupid, book on education that I have read in all that time. To call it reactionary would be to flatter it. Even Malcolm Turnbull is so embarrassed that he is constrained to say in his foreword: “Dr Donnelly’s views are his own and not those of the Menzies Research Centre.” Malcolm Turnbull may be many things, but stupid is not one of them.

    What you have in this book is a cherry-picking exercise that would disgrace an undergraduate. Armed with a stock of cliches and prejudices, and with quite a few windmills to tilt at, Donnelly lays about the past forty years with an acute lack of discrimination, quite often plainly not understanding what he is criticising.

    Want to know the right way to learn History? Simple, learn off a few dates… I do not jest. Everything since about 1960 seems to have been a left-wing plot or galloping political correctness. Objectivity is not Donnelly’s long suit, nor is analysis, or fair treatment of the evidence.

    Typically Donnelly is his quoting Richard Tarnas on postmodernism (evil.) Now I happen to rather like Tarnas’s The Passion of the Western Mind: very readable and often challenging. Donnelly cherry-picks the part that suits him, but since he regards environmental education (along with just about everything else that has happened since 1960) as deplorable political correctness, he neglects to cherry-pick such things as this:

    Scott London: You point out that a widespread sense of urgency is tangible on many levels today, as if one historical era is coming to an end and another is about to begin.

    Richard Tarnas: Yes, there is a real awareness that things have to change. People are becoming increasingly conscious of the fact that the ecological situation is critical and that we cannot continue to live according to the same assumptions with which we have lived blithely for the past several hundred years. There are also social, economic, and political dimensions to the crisis. There is the unprecedented plurality of perspectives and worldviews and religious and philosophical and political perspectives that are in the air. And, when it comes down to it, there is a spiritual crisis that pervades our world.

    I think it affects everybody, but the more informed and thoughtful a person is, the more aware they are of the reality of the spiritual crisis. We live in a world in which mainstream, conventional modern science has essentially voided the cosmos of all intrinsic meaning and purpose. There is no spiritual dimension to it from its point of view. The intellectual power of mainstream modern science has effectively defined what kind of cosmos we live in. And yet human beings aspire for spiritual significance in the life that they lead and in the world that they live in. It is only, I think, though going through a profound inner transformation, and also an intellectual transformation, that one can see beyond that crisis and come into a world of a different kind.

    The fact that Tarnas is “Director of the graduate program in Philosophy, Cosmology and Consciousness at the California Institute of Integral Studies” seems to pass Donnelly by, who is, whatever he means by this, a stickler for the old “disciplines”. But Tarnas lives in the 21st century, after all…

    See Kevin Donnelly’s pre=election objections to Gonski. In part:

    Such research mirrors that of Gary Marks of the University of Melbourne, which also concludes that socio-economic status is not the main influence affecting student performance as measured by year 12 results and success at tertiary entry.

    In one paper, Marks states “research has shown that socio-economic background has only a moderate relationship with educational outcomes, not a deterministic relationship so often claimed”.

    In a second paper examining why non-government schools generally outperform government schools, Marks writes: “Therefore socio-economic background accounts for only between 20 and 30 per cent of school-sector differences in tertiary entrance performance.”

    Other factors influencing success or failure include a student’s ability and motivation, school culture and classroom environment, and the expectation that students can do well.

    Instead of embarking on a class war where so-called privileged and wealthy non-government schools are stigmatised and discriminated against, and based on the principle that all students deserve to be properly treated, any new funding model should be sector blind.

    To do otherwise is to unfairly discriminate against the increasing numbers of parents choosing Catholic and independent schools.

    It does not take too much imagination to see that Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne are on the same page as Kevin Donnelly, does it?



    Nice place, eh! I have been there several times in the past as a debating coach at Sydney Boys High – a state school that is also – anomalously some might say – a GPS school. Riverview was more than a touch more privileged and dripping with cash than we were. But they are not all bad:  Tony Abbott’s old school hits out at asylum seeker stance as ‘betraying moral values’.  Perhaps I should mention, after that, that Scott Morrison went to Sydney Boys High – though I don’t remember him. Maybe that is because he was in the class of 1985, which I did not have much to do with. The class of 86, on the other hand, produced among others Ben Pearson, who oversees all campaign and communications outputs for Greenpeace Australia Pacific, Evan Ruth who, after a career with UNHCR including time in the refugee camps on the Afghan border, is now a a Judge in the Immigration and Asylum Tribunal in the UK, and even more I could name.  I wonder if they remember Scott Morrison?

    Finally, thanks to laberal:

    Tony Abbott view of the Gonski Promise

    Update 4.48 pm

    I will believe this when it really happens. Perhaps we haven’t heard them correctly this time either. I do not trust them, and I trust their probable ultimate agenda even less.

    However: School funding: Government to largely honour Gonski deals, boost spending for states that did not sign up.

    How much wiggle room is there in LARGELY?