Very random but related to our new PM

For anyone out there who wonders who the Prime Minister of Australia is this morning, here is the answer: Scott Morrison. See Liberal Party elders lash Tony Abbott for acts of revenge on Turnbull’s government and Scott Morrison’s ministry — who’s in and who’s out.  I see Wikipedia is up to speed. Now for the random bits.

I return to teaching — 1985

For reasons I won’t go into here, I took a break from teaching between 1982-3 and 1985, during which time I was involved in editing a little magazine and, for about a year, in bookselling in Glebe. In the second half of 1985 I recommenced teaching at Sydney Boys High.

In Surry Hills last Monday — 1

Posted on April 2, 2014 by Neil

The other objective of my Sydney trip was to visit my old workplace.

My association with Sydney Boys High goes back [almost sixty*] years to 1955 when I arrived as a pupil, Ken Andrews having just started his term as Principal. Then in 1985 I began teaching English there on a casual basis, after a year spent working at Harkers Bookshop in Glebe: I’ll never forget the Class of 1986! (Or the Class of 2000 if it comes to that!) For the next 20 years much (but not all) of my work was at SBHS. You can find a sample here. – *I wrote the original in 2005 and said 50! How time goes!


So that’s thirty years on now since I first met that class of 1986 when they were in Year 11. (Scott Morrison was in Year 12 in 1985 but I can’t recall anything about him.)

I have mentioned the class of 1986 several times – for example Philip Larkin 1922-1985….

Someone who was at SBHS at the same time, but graduated hence in 1988, is Russell Ward. He has posted a somewhat unfriendly account of Morrison on Facebook. Russell now lives in California.

It seems a boy I went to school with is the new Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison. I’ve a few emotions at the news, none of them nice. Shame one of them.

I’m reminded of a lovely guy Tri Phan who was a Vietnamese refugee, a “boat person.” While at school with us he won a state science essay prize on about the cancer-fighting drug interferon that won praise for having scientifically useful insights. Scott Morrison enthusiastically supported the policies that would have put him on an island to rot (a policy btw I protested against all the way over here at the embassy in San Francisco).

I’m also thinking of my brother, a captain of the school while Morrison was there.

My brother and his dear partner Paul O’Grady endured a lot of suffering when Paul came out as the first openly gay NSW politician and in their campaigning for marriage equality. Scott represents the homophobia that causes suffering where there should be love….

I remember (Associate Professor) Tri Phan well, and not just from school. He was a registrar (I think) at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital when I had a hernia operation there in 1997. SBHS people tend to pop up like that. (They  — staff and students — account for quite a few of my current Facebook friends!)

Another is Joseph Waugh who commented on Russell’s post:

High had always been a school that welcomed refugees – whether it be from the Holocaust in Europe, from the American war in Vietnam, or post-Tienanmen Square. My vain hope is that he is an outlier (the class of 1992 has a murderer, for example). Had I gone to that outrageous event put on for him, my one question would have been, which gulag would he have condemned Tri and his family to, had he been Minister for Immigration in 1980?

Joseph is referring to Scott Morrison’s time as enforcer of the tough “stop the boats”/Manus/Nauru policy Australia is now (in)famous for. He was invited to some SBHS Old Boys event and many boycotted it/him. Indeed.

Mind you, Tri arrived here, so far as I know, when Malcolm Fraser was in charge, and some on the left were not entirely admirable either back then, as I noted in a comment on a post by Jim Belshaw a few years ago.

On Vietnamese refugees and Fraser: In 1979 I have to confess I worried about Fraser welcoming so many Vietnamese. I wondered how they would, um, assimilate! (We all grow, don’t we?)

And unusual as it is for ne to commend Quadrant, Hal Colebatch is quite right here.

…Labor Senator Lionel Bowen also invoked anti-Asian white Australia imagery on July 27, 1976, claiming Australia was in danger from the “teeming millions in the North … And these people are on the move.”

The leftist Nation Review of June 1–7, 1978, carried an article referring to Vietnamese refugees as “bourgeois capitalist exploiters on the run” and ridiculing efforts to help them. In the issue of August 18–24 it referred to them as “political extremists and soft-life seekers”. The pro-Moscow Socialist Party of Australia organ, the Socialist, of May 31, 1978, carried a headline: VIETNAMESE REFUGEES VICTIMS AND TOOLS OF ANTI-COMMUNISM and referred to them as “right-wing Vietnamese who betrayed their country”. The CPA’s Tribune of June 7, 1978, claimed: BHP PREFERS VIETNAMESE and quoted South Coast Labour Council Secretary and CPA National Committee member Merv Nixon to the effect that the situation was disgraceful and that: “We can do without these right-wing elements.” Tribune elaborated on this in the following issue and warned of “right-wing people organizing private armies”. At the University of Western Australia, ALP Left Caucus member Graham Droppert published an article in the student newspaper Pelican, Number 4 of 1978, under the heading REFUGEES OR RATS?, claiming they included “the pimps, the wealthy merchants, the racketeers, the standover men and other exploiters”…

I was in Wollongong at the time and recall Merv Nixon very well.

No, the White Australia attitude was not dead and buried, and Fraser’s courage in this is highly significant in the story.

Here is a handy list of our Immigration Ministers, and the mind-boggling series of name-changes over the years.

One possibly good thing Scott Morrison has done right now is to divide that monstrous Home Affairs Department into three parts, restoring in the process a Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs! There is also a separate ministry looking at population policy and congestion. Mr Potato Head has been allowed to retain his black-uniformed Border Force, but not as part of Immigration. Back in January I had noted:

Posted on January 15, 2018  Reposts.

NOTE 2018: On Mr Potato Head’s latest frolic see Peter Martin and Benjamin Miller. Oh, and we no longer have a dedicated Immigration Department in Australia. Did you know that? Instead we have this gargantuan thing….

It is at least encouraging that Scott Morrison has rehabilitated the M-word. I gather Pauline Hanson has noted this with some displeasure.

Enough of my random thoughts. Let’s see if Scott and the government can recover from the dreadful thrashing they are getting right now in the polls.

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?


Australia is yet to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment that is concerned with the oversight and monitoring of detention facilities. – source October 2012. See also Australia – OPCAT Situation.


Source: a must read – Luke Mogelson, “The Dream Boat”, New York Times 17 November 2013.





To put a minor, questionable political point above an issue as fundamental as human rights diminished Australia and cheapened the Commonwealth.

Source:  A craven Tony Abbott’s refusal to discuss human rights in Sri Lanka cheapened the Commonwealth See also In Rajapaksa’s Sri Lanka, repression is a family affair.

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.

Update 19 November

Thanks, Jim Belshaw, for posting Monday Forum – a weariness in the bloggosphere?  Some interesting comments there too.