The real bullies

A Brisbane 13 year old committed suicide last week because, according to his mother, he was being bullied. He identified as being gay and apparently was being bullied at school. Rather than join the chorus of those who instantly know what was going on and speculate for a week or so until something else comes along, how about we look at the culture that seems to be genuinely regretful when a tragedy such as the death of a Brisbane school boy occurs but votes for and allows much greater crimes against our society to be celebrated.

Prime Minister Turnbull appeared on the ABC’s 7.30 a few weeks ago and left no one in doubt that in his opinion the ‘elite media’ at the ABC was keeping the issue of Section 18C of the Racial Discrimination Act in the public view. Now Section 18C is the bit of the legislation that doesn’t allow you to ‘offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate’ someone based on their race or ethnicity . The Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) has been a leading light in the calls for this section to be repealed since radio announcer and newspaper columnist Andrew Bolt was found guilty of an offence under the section in 2013 in regard to two articles he wrote in 2009. The IPA claims that Section 18C restricts ‘freedom of speech’. According to the IPA:
First, it has become a major touchstone for a growing debate about freedom of speech in Australia. Since the Bolt case in 2011 there has been a sustained campaign in favour of repealing 18C. This campaign was partly born out of the deep concern about the provision being used to silence a prominent and well-respected columnist in a mature liberal democracy such as Australia.

But it also brought to the fore the idea that governments have passed laws which restrict this most fundamental human right, and that something must be done to turn back that tide.

Second, political activists and their lawyers have come to realise that section 18C can be used to aggressively pursue political goals.

The case against Bolt was not merely a group of offended individuals making a legal complaint in an effort to remedy personal loss. It is possible that the complainants could have made out a defamation suit against Bolt. But the case was pursued using 18C as a battering ram because of the negative perception that would be created by a breach of the Racial Discrimination Act.
The problem with the IPA’s (and by association Turnbull and his conservative LNP colleagues) argument is the existence of Section 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act. According to the Human Rights Commission website:
Section 18D of the Racial Discrimination Act contains exemptions which protect freedom of speech. These ensure that artistic works, scientific debate and fair comment on matters of public interest are exempt from section 18C, providing they are said or done reasonably and in good faith.
In the same week as the schoolboy died in Brisbane, Australia’s Immigration Minister claimed that his predecessors (ironically from the same side of politics) in the 1970’s did the wrong thing by allowing refugees from Lebanon to enter the country because some of their grandchildren were now radicalised Muslims. According to, Dutton made the argument:
Australians were “sick” of over the top political correctness, the Minister told media after a Greens Senator said his comments might be factual but they weren’t “productive”.

Mr Dutton rejected suggestions his comments were whipping up racism.

Instead, he blamed the “tricky elite”, Opposition leader Bill Shorten and Greens MPs for making the remarks a big deal to win political points.

“I want to have an honest discussion,” he said.
Dutton may have evidence to back up his original claim:
The advice I have is that out of the last 33 people who have been charged with terrorist-related offences in this country, 22 of those people are from second and third generation Lebanese-Muslim background …
But he conveniently overlooks the fact that every person charged with a crime in Australia since 1788 is either an immigrant or descended from immigrants. As reported:
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten issued a statement calling on Mr Dutton to apologise for his remarks.

“Enough is enough,” Mr Shorten said.

“Our hardworking migrant communities shouldn’t have to tolerate this kind of ignorant stupidity and he needs to immediately apologise.

“It’s time for Malcolm Turnbull to show some leadership and pull his Immigration Minister into line.”
Shorten is right to a point: enough is enough and Turnbull should pull his Immigration Minister into line; however, Shorten’s political party still supports the indefinite detention of refugees in sub-human conditions, or their refoulment to their original country, contrary to the 1951 Refugee Convention (to which Australia is a signatory). Shorten is sitting on both sides of the ‘barbed wire’ fence here.

What is really interesting, however, is Turnbull and Dutton using the term ‘elites’ as an insult. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, elite has two definitions, although it is doubtful if Turnbull and Dutton are referring to the one involving typewriters. So we are left with one definition — broadly, the best part or the socially superior. Others have already done the Turnbull is ‘more elite’ than you or I thing seriously or in fun than it’s possible to do here, so it’s not worth repeating the blindingly obvious.

While Dutton may not as be as well off as Turnbull, he’s not going to be ‘short of a bob’ as he gets older — unlike a lot of those in Dickson he claims to represent. Dutton will be sitting on a parliamentary pension when he leaves parliament as well as his superannuation as a police officer (for which of course he has to wait until his late 50s or 60 to access, along with the rest of us) rather than eking the increasingly hard to get pension out until the next payment.

Paul Bongiorno, writing in The Saturday Paper suggested:
Whatever way you cut it, Australian politics in the past week travelled further down the low road of ignorance, prejudice and bigotry. It’s the new fashion propelled by the extraordinary success in Britain and the United States of politicians who push these buttons.

Immigration Minister Peter Dutton, already a practitioner in the dark arts, quickly took his cue in an interview with Andrew Bolt on Sky News. Bolt suggested that former prime minister Malcolm Fraser got the Lebanese refugee program wrong in the late 1970s. Dutton agreed “mistakes were made”. When parliament resumed, Labor wanted to know what these mistakes were. The answer was profoundly jarring.
Of course Dutton’s response was that a number of the people most recently charged with terrorist related offences were Lebanese Muslims, a failure of the Fraser Government. Bongiorno went on to suggest:
What should be remembered is that Dutton, who is fast becoming the leading conservative voice in the Liberal party, is a Queenslander. A clue to his approach could be the alarm at the spike in support for One Nation of which his fellow Queenslander, Attorney-General George Brandis, speaks. A hot microphone picked up his frank conversation with Victorian Liberal party powerbroker Michael Kroger this week. In what he thought were private remarks, Brandis revealed support for One Nation is already running at 16 per cent in the Sunshine State. He is convinced it will win seats at the next state poll.

In 1998, One Nation peaked at 22 per cent to capture 11 seats in the state parliament and deny the Nationals and Liberals government. Adding to the alarm is the Palaszczuk Labor government’s reinstatement of compulsory preferential voting. According to the sotto voce Brandis, this could lead to a split between the merged Liberal and National parties that form the LNP. The ABC’s election analyst Antony Green believes that had preferential voting existed at the last state election, Labor would have won a majority on Greens preferences.
Politicians playing politics is to be expected and both Turnbull and Dutton have been around long enough to be ‘good at their game’. However, as the leaders of the country surely they should be the moral elite as well as the financial elite. As Shorten suggested, Turnbull should have pulled his immigration minister into line. As Bongiorno wrote:
Fraser’s immigration minister, Ian Macphee, was scathing in his reaction to Dutton. In a statement released through the Refugee Council, he said the attack was “outrageous”. He said: “We have had a succession of inadequate immigration ministers in recent years but Dutton is setting the standards even lower. Yet Turnbull recently declared him to be ‘an outstanding immigration minister’. The Liberal Party has long ceased to be liberal.
From Turnbull, all we heard was crickets (nothing).

Not that the politicians are the only ones who seem to be practicing the ‘game’ of kicking groups of people while they are down. Fairfax reported in the last week of November that a number of Caltex franchisees seem to be paying their staff considerably under the award rate of pay for working all hours of the day or night in an environment that has a number of hazards to the physical and mental well being of the employees. Caltex isn’t the only organisation that has been accused of underpaying staff with, according to Fairfax:
One in four Australian workers who checked their pay through a union-run online wage calculator found out they were being ripped off, with staff in the restaurant business the worst affected.

Based on nearly 20,000 workers' pay details entered into the Fair Pay Campaign Calculator over three weeks, more than half of all restaurant industry submissions (60 per cent) showed staff were being denied minimum rates of pay.
And it gets worse:
"It's horrifying," said Maurice Blackburn employment principal Giri Sivaraman.

"It's horrifying to think that so many people across a wide variety of industries are getting underpaid.

"This isn't a case of a few bad apples — you can't isolate it to one type of job, one industry, or one employer — this is systemic wage theft, and it's just so widespread."

Another troubling result from the data related to employment in Australia's pubs and clubs, where nearly 92 per cent of casual staff who used the calculator to check their wages found out they were being underpaid.
Sivaraman is already assisting a number of people who were underpaid by 7-Eleven franchisees in the related scandal earlier this year.

It’s probably unfortunate for Caltex that they are a public company and under Australian listing laws, they operate in an environment of continuous disclosure. So we know their profit for 2014 was $493 million and the 2015 ‘record’ profit was estimated to be between $615 and $635 million at the time the Sydney Morning Herald reported in December 2015. Their franchisees and other smaller businesses (along with the corporate structure of 7-Eleven) have considerably fewer requirements for publicly reported financial results.

While Caltex is probably not responsible legally for the actions of its franchisees, it is responsible for the contracts it has with the franchisees and, as they have been in the industry for a long time, they should by all rights know the costs involved in the 24 hour a day operation of a petrol shop. In a similar way, 7-Eleven corporate should know the costs of running a corner shop or petrol shop. It seems on the face of it that either Caltex and 7-Eleven both charge the franchisees too much or the franchisees are greedy. Regardless, if you were a small shareholder in a large firm that was involved in underpayment of wages, you would have to be concerned at the senior management of the company who stood by and watched the business’s name be trashed due to taking advantage of those who could least respond to bullying and intimidation.

So how does all this relate to a Brisbane schoolboy who committed suicide?

According to the boy’s mother, he was bullied because he believed he was different to the ‘ordinary’. Regardless of the matter of the school knowing about the claims or acting on them, some of the students at the school seemed to think that it was acceptable practice to tease or bully someone who was ‘different’. Do you wonder where they got the idea that their actions were acceptable behaviour? Could it be they were following the behaviour of Turnbull or Dutton (or Abbott)? Surely the actions of big business of imposing conditions on contractors that conspire to ensure they cannot comply with Australian laws for the payment of staff while making a profit is also bullying.

It is a sad indictment on Australia, if at the same time as we rightfully decry bullying at schools and similar institutions, we allow our political and business elite (in the true sense of the word) to get away with bullying consumers of a certain media channel, grandchildren of migrants from the 1970’s or those who have to work in lower paying and (let’s face it) rather insecure employment.

Teenage boys who suicide should be mourned – and those that victimise or bully anyone should be called out. Pity our national elite seem not to think so.

If you or someone you know is suffering distress, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

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4/12/2016"...conveniently overlooks the fact that every person charged with a crime in Australia since 1788 is either an immigrant or descended from immigrants" Well, not the case. A substantial number of indigenous people have been charged with crimes, and they are well over-represented in our prison systems. A bit too much over-reach in your article there.

Michael Taylor

4/12/2016Another fine article, 2353NM. Bustopher, you might want look at why they are over-represented in the prison system. I've done a lot of research on this issue, and many are in prison for 'crimes' that were not a gaolable offence if committed by a non-Indigenous Australian. Namely alcohol related offences. I don't think you'll find too many Indigenous Australians in prison for serious crimes such as murder or armed robbery.


4/12/2016Bustopher - just before you jumped to a conclusion on over-reach; did you maybe pause to consider that anthropologists tell us that indigenous Australians 'migrated' to what is currently Australia some 40 to 50 thousand years ago over a land bridge from Asia. Therefore, they are immigrants too. Michael - thanks for the comment. You are correct that indigenous Australians are over-represented in Australian jails. I'll bow to your research on what level of 'crime' they are there for. Since the preparation of this piece, Fairfax (via The Brisbane Times) found out that Dutton seems to have assets of around $5million in property They also make the argument that Dutton's wealth is clearly greater than the majority of his constituents.

Michael Taylor

4/12/2016Even longer than 50,000 years, 2353. The oldest archaeological remains were unearthed at a rock-shelter in Queensland that were dated at 63,000 years old. And given that the earliest inhabitants would have been coastal dwellers, and that 17% of the continent was was lost to the rising seas at the end of the last Ice Age 9,000 years ago, it's fair to assume that older archaeological remains now lay submerged at the bottom of the ocean.


5/12/2016First rate article [allowing for bustopher's valid criticism - I mean to say, blimey, after 50,000 years plus you barely qualify as an 'immigrant' do you - by that standard only Africans descended from a few thousand people around about 100,000 years ago are not immigrants] But back to the article - nice points, nicely built up to a denouement. Or we could have my shorter version - Dutton is a .... well you can guess the rest, it's pretty blatant after all.

Lawrence Winder

5/12/2016The snarling, negative and destructive utterances of this IPA led ruling rabble are indeed a far cry from the "elite" standards Liberals once pretended to embody.

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7/12/2016Folks 2353NM has identified some of the Turnbull Government bullies. In the last few days we have seen one of its most strident bullies, Cory Bernardi, again raise his head above the parapet to utter threats to his own leader and the so-called Energy and Environment Minister, Josh Frydenberg, over his suggestion that the Coalition could consider an ‘emissions intensive scheme’ that might place a price on carbon pollution. Bernardi had only to call that notion ‘dumb and divisive’ to have Turnbull, and particularly Frydenberg ingloriously running for cover with denials of the actual words he uttered. We can see more clearly than ever who rules the roost in the Coalition: Bernardi and his cohort of extreme right-wingers. About to write a comment about this, I came across Katherine Murphy’s fine article in [i]The Guardian[/i] today titled [i][b]Josh Frydenberg backtracks on emissions trading comments[/i][/b], which I reproduce in full below, as I could do no better: “[i][b]Energy and environment minister downplays Monday’s comments about a possible scheme for the electricity sector after internal pressure[/b] “Energy and environment minister Josh Frydenberg now says the Coalition is not contemplating an emissions trading scheme. “The energy and environment minister, Josh Frydenberg, has folded in the face of internal pressure, declaring the Turnbull government will not pursue emissions trading as part of adjusting its climate policy to meet Australia’s international emissions reduction targets. “In media interviews on Monday morning Frydenberg explicitly said a looming review of the government’s Direct Action climate change policy would canvas the desirability of a trading scheme for the electricity sector. “But after backbenchers and one cabinet minister – Christopher Pyne – dissented vociferously from that view over the course of Monday, Frydenberg told 3AW on Tuesday night he had not flagged an emissions intensity trading scheme for the electricity sector. “It’s always been our policy to have a review. I didn’t mention an emissions intensity scheme – that’s not in any document to the Coalition has put out,” the minister said on Wednesday night. “The Turnbull government is not contemplating such a scheme. We are not advocating such a scheme”. “What we are focused on is driving down electricity prices and … energy security.” He said an emissions trading scheme was “not the policy of the Turnbull government”. “The recanting followed a day of canvassing government dissenters. Coalition sources have told Guardian Australia Frydenberg spoke to a number of opponents of carbon pricing over the course of Tuesday. “On Tuesday night, the former prime minister Tony Abbott also weighed into the poisonous internal debate. He told Sky News: “I’m sure the last thing ministers want to do is reopen questions that were settled for our side back in 2009.” “We’re against a carbon tax. We’re against an emissions trading scheme. We’re against anything that’s a carbon tax or an ETS by stealth,” Abbott said. “We are the party of lower power prices and should let Labor be the party that artificially increases [electricity] prices under Greens pressure.” “The terms of reference for the Direct Action review Frydenberg outlined at the beginning of the week include considering policy mechanisms to reduce emissions on a “sector-by-sector basis” – which was interpreted by analysts as a green light for the review to consider an emissions trading scheme in the electricity sector. “On Monday Frydenberg went a step further, telling the ABC the government would look at an emissions intensity scheme for the electricity sector as part of the review of Direct Action. “Now, as you know, the electricity sector is the one that produces the most emissions; around a third of Australia’s emissions come from that sector,” the minister told the ABC’s AM program. “We know that there’s been a large number of bodies that have recommended an emissions intensity scheme, which is effectively a baseline and credit scheme. “We’ll look at that.” “Frydenberg’s initially positive comments on Monday are in line with advice to the government from the Climate Change Authority, from the energy industry and the CSIRO. “On Tuesday Australia’s electricity and gas transmission industry called on the Turnbull government to implement a form of carbon trading in the national electricity market by 2022 and review the scope for economy-wide carbon pricing by 2027. “While Abbott once characterised carbon pricing as a wrecking ball through the Australian economy, the new report, backed by the CSIRO, says adopting an emissions intensity scheme is the least costly way of reducing emissions, and could actually save customers $200 a year by 2030. “Some stakeholders believe the Finkel review into energy security and Australia’s climate commitments may also float the desirability of an emissions intensity scheme for the electricity sector when it presents its preliminary findings to Friday’s COAG meeting of the prime minister and the premiers. “Business and Australia’s energy sector has been calling on the government to deliver policy certainty in order to allow an orderly transition in the electricity sector from emissions intensive sources of power generation to low emissions technologies.”[/i] [b]Coalition Commandant Bernardi has spoken. The rabbits have taken fright. Coalition action on climate change has once again been neutered.[/b]

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7/12/2016Folks: This is what Bernard Keane of Crikey had to say about Frydenberg’s monumental backflip in [i][b]Well, that didn't take long: Frydenberg flips on climate review[/b]: “We know that there’s been a large number of bodies that have recommended an emissions intensity scheme, which is effectively a baseline and credit scheme, we’ll look at that.” said Josh Frydenberg on December 5. “I didn’t mention an emissions intensity scheme.” said Josh Frydenberg, on December 6. “Thank goodness we’re in a post-truth world, otherwise the Energy Minister might look more than a little – what was the word Greg Combet used to like? Mendacious! “In any event, it didn’t take long – 36 hours after announcing the terms of reference for the long-planned climate policy review, Frydenberg was forced by the Coalition’s right wing to kill off any suggestion it might consider any form of baseline and credit scheme, thereby ensuring that the ludicrous baseline safeguard scheme — the “safeguard” relating to safeguarding power company profits – that notionally forms part of the government’s current of climate policies will never be converted into a serious mechanism for reducing emissions. As we predicted on Monday, this government will never do anything serious on climate – the denialists within its ranks won’t allow it. “It also removes the last shred of dignity for Turnbull’s climate policy: he has ratified an international agreement to reduce our emissions by 26-28% of 2005 levels by 2030 and has nothing that will achieve even that unambitious target, and the review designed to address that problem is unable to address the most effective way of achieving it because of the power wielded by climate denialists in the Liberal Party and National Party. “That only leaves more government spending on renewables — which everyone loves, but is hardly the most efficient means of reaching the target — or dumping the problem on the politicians of the 2020s, by which point the Prime Minister will be long gone. “Frydenberg used to be in charge of the Northern Australia Infrastructure Fund when he was resources minister, and in that capacity flagged the government would look at throwing money at Adani’s rail line for the Carmichael coal line, only for Liberal director Tony Nutt to issue an election assurance that it would receive no money. Malcolm Turnbull also ruled out funding, then seemed to rule it back in again. Now Nationals minister Matt Canavan is pushing for funding, along with the Queensland Labor government. But federal Labor has now refused to back the handout – a rare case of Labor encountering a form of protectionism it didn’t like. “The common theme — apart from the Coalition’s obsession with making climate change worse rather than trying to address it — is government intervention at the expense of much-loathed market mechanisms. The hopelessly inadequate “Direct Action” — that name has been abandoned in favour of an equally misleading “Emissions Reduction Fund” — was about the triumph of bureaucratic intervention and winner-picking over far more efficient market-based price signals to reduce emissions, to suit Tony Abbott’s agenda of climate denialism with a figleaf of climate action policy. What the last 36 hours has demonstrated is that there can never be a bipartisan consensus on sensible, market-based solutions to the challenge of emission abatement, and there will be constant pressure from the right to prop up coal and other fossil fuel sources with taxpayer assistance. “The most likely outcome will be the government dumping the challenge of living up to its binding emissions abatement commitments onto its successors. Turnbull has no realistic choice if he doesn’t want to fracture his own party. The Liberals haven’t moved in climate change since 2009. And it seems they’re not likely to anytime soon.”[/i] [b]Frydenberg’s mendaciousness is right out of Abbott’s top drawer.[/b]

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8/12/2016Folks Take a look at this video of Wayne Swan commenting on Scott Morrison's response to yesterday's national account figures:

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8/12/2016Folks Look at this video clip of Christina Keneally on Fox News with Peta Credlin asking Grant King, Managing Director of Origin Energy and President of the Business Council of Australia to name one country where trickle down economics has worked – he couldn’t and didn’t. Watch his body language while he prevaricates.

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10/12/2016Folks Australia's poor performance in the international test for science, maths and literacy (PISA) is alarming. It seems though not to have alarmed our government much; they are having difficulty coping with the alarm occasioned by the figures in our recent accounts, and the prospect of actually doing something effective to curb carbon emissions. But at least some are concerned, not least of which is our Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, who in addition to advising government on carbon abatement and keeping electricity prices down, has written intelligently about our PISA score in [i]The Conversation[/i] in [i]Australia is very average when it comes to maths and science performance – here’s what needs to change[/i] [i]"As a school student, I awaited the arrival of the end-of-year report with a bracing mix of hope and fear. "Now, as Australia’s Chief Scientist, I’m worried once again about school reports. "Our proudly first-class country, with a prosperous economy and an egalitarian spirit, must not be fair-to-middling when it comes to science and maths in schools. On the evidence before me, we are. "Do I believe that international testing can capture everything of importance in Australian education? No. "But do I take these findings seriously? Yes, I do. "Be it the international studies Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), or the national scheme National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN), the message is clear. "Our performance in absolute terms is stalling, or in decline, and our position in global rankings continues to fall. "[b]International comparisons[/b] "Canada now scores significantly higher across all PISA and Year 8 TIMSS domains. England has improved its TIMSS performance, while also decreasing the proportion of low-performing students. "Australia, by contrast, is one of only three countries with significantly decreased maths and science scores in this round of PISA. And the difference between children in Australia’s highest and lowest socioeconomic quartiles recorded by PISA is the equivalent of three full years of school. "While we demand to be top ten in sport, we are barely scraping top 20 in schools. "In PISA maths, we have fallen as low as 25. How much lower are we prepared to go? "My concern is not the temporary wound to national pride. It is the enduring harm we do when students leave school with malnourished potential – or worse, no interest at all – in disciplines that they require to navigate their world. We need to improve. "[b]Let’s start by defining the aim: the best possible education in maths and science (and literacy) for every child, irrespective of gender, region, income or incoming ability.[/b][/i] My emphasis - shades of Gonski! [i]"In the 21st century, we can no more write off a child because “he’s not into numbers” any more than we would accept that “she’s not keen on the alphabet”. "Maths is not just the language of science and technology, but the foundation of commerce, the core of engineering, and the bread and butter of every trade from cooking to construction. "How can we hold governments to account if journalists can’t interpret data and citizens can’t make sense of charts? "How can we resist the prophets of the post-truth world? When everything we value is at stake, surely nothing less than our utmost will do. "So with that aim in mind, let’s agree to share the task: yes, we do bear individual responsibility; but, no, we cannot lay the blame solely on individuals, be they principals, teachers, parents or students. "There is no point in exhorting individuals to aim high unless we help them to make the leap. If we want excellence, we have to provide a system with the incentives, enablers and rewards for improvement built in. "[b]Policy responses[/b] "For me, that comes down to a new three Rs for education. "[b]Restore maths prerequisites for courses[/b] "Restore meaningful maths prerequisites for all university courses that, no-one could argue, need numbers. "This would reverse the exodus from advanced maths courses and set students up for success – in commerce and accounting, as well as science and engineering. Just as importantly, it would give principals a reason to make the quality of their maths programs a priority all the way from kindergarten to Year 12. "[b]Respect teaching[/b] "The single most important factor in the classroom is the human up the front. The education system must be engineered around that fundamental premise, so that high-achieving students become highly qualified teachers with well-targeted professional development. "Crucially, teacher training and development need a strong discipline-specific focus. It should be expected that our science and maths teachers are experts in their fields, with both the technical and pedagogical knowledge to teach them well. "The Commonwealth Science Council strongly endorsed this principle at its last meeting in September, and requested the Department of Education to investigate options to bring it about. "[b]Recognise the influence of school leaders[/b] "Principals set the tone in their schools and, with the right strategic focus, they can drive a culture of constant improvement. Without that senior leadership, it is simply too hard for individual teachers to keep the bar consistently high – another reality the Commonwealth Science Council has acknowledged. "Of course, ambitious aims have investment pathways attached. But money spent is not a proxy for effort invested, and it is certainly not a reliable predictor of success. "As a businessman, I learned that no project delivers what you want unless the how comes before the how much. "Face the hard truths, aim high, be strategic – and we might just receive a school report we can be proud to display."[/i] [b]That makes good sense to me - pity our government seems not to be listening![/b]

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10/12/2016Folks You may be interested in Michelle Grattan's piece in [i]The Conversation[/i] yesterday titled: [i][b]Has Turnbull’s credibility deficit reached a point of no return? [/i][/b]. [b]It is a damning inditement from a sensible senior journalist. How many of you share her views. I do.[/b] "[i]Despite briefly being able to dine out on the legislation passed before parliament wound up last week, Malcolm Turnbull is headed to a not-very-happy Christmas. This week has surely been one of the worst of his prime ministership. "News of a quarter of negative economic growth – only the fourth since 1991 – came hard on the heels of Turnbull’s surrender to the noisy right when, ahead of the long-scheduled review of climate policy, the government kiboshed any possibility of contemplating an emissions intensity scheme (EIS). "Experts believe economic growth will come back to a positive number in the December quarter. But observers must doubt whether Turnbull can turn his personal credibility deficit around. "Turnbull prides himself on being a pragmatist. There is a significant if fine line between pragmatism and buckling. "It was sensible pragmatism to compromise in order to secure the Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC). The price Turnbull paid to the crossbench was a weaker body, but the alternative was no ABCC at all – and, anyway, some of the changes, notably in relation to individuals’ rights, were for the better. "But to refuse even to consider an EIS for the electricity sector – which is a long way from a broad emissions trading scheme, or a carbon tax – is abject surrender, and a major failure of Turnbull’s nerve and leadership. "It also puts the government embarrassingly at odds with its own chief scientist, Alan Finkel, whose report before Friday’s Council of Australian Governments (COAG) gives a positive nod in the direction of an EIS. "At the most basic level, a good policy process is one that examines everything, especially an option which has wide support including in the relevant sector. "As Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg noted on Monday, when saying an EIS would be looked at in the review to be led by his department: “We know there’s been a large number of bodies that have recommended an emissions intensity scheme, which is effectively a baseline and credit scheme”. Under such a scheme, a baseline would be set for what could be emitted per unit of power generated; producers with emissions under the base would get credits, which they would sell to higher emitters. "If an EIS has the drawbacks Turnbull would now have us believe (not that it is likely he really believes them himself), then presumably the review would elucidate them. "If on the other hand, the review gave such a scheme a positive rap – well, why not let the public hear the case and have the issue fought out with all the facts on the table? "And how does the review now deal with the suddenly taboo issue of an EIS, which presumably will be supported in some submissions to it? If it declines to think about it, won’t its findings be relatively valueless? "If it is not permitted to look at it, shouldn’t its terms of reference – which include examining “the opportunities and challenges of reducing emissions on a sector-by-sector basis” – be rewritten to specify the exclusion? "The bottom line is that the government’s decree is absurd – a product of ideology (on the right), expediency (hey, let’s score against Labor, which supports an EIS) and fear (Turnbull feeling the bounds of the not-so-gilded cage to which his party has consigned him). "Turnbull’s tension was obvious this week in a couple of tetchy performances. Pressed on whether Frydenberg had been initially sent out to say the EIS was on the table, he said: “If you want to ask questions about what another minister said, you should address them to him”. "Sources deny Frydenberg was despatched to float an EIS, and there’s no reason to disbelieve this. They maintain the usually careful minister just went further than he should have when elaborating on the review’s terms of reference, which had been approved by cabinet. Certainly Frydenberg has accepted full responsibility. "The question remains why, given the Frydenberg statements were made early Monday, it took until late Tuesday, after cabinet, to have him kill the EIS option in his humiliating backdown. Perhaps it was thought, just for a while, that common sense could prevail. "Turnbull is letting the right inside and outside the Coalition progressively tighten their grip on him. He’s become, or maybe always was, a whatever-it-takes man, and it’s taking more and more to deal with situations as the power of the right strengthens, post Brexit, post Trump and in the age of Hansonism. "With a note of condescension, Tony Abbott recently described Turnbull as “growing into the role of prime minister”, saying he was “now governing as an entirely orthodox centre-right” prime minister. It was the sort of compliment that wasn’t one, if you were Turnbull. "Yet whatever he throws to the wolves will never be enough to satisfy them. Liberal senator Cory Bernardi has won the day on the EIS but now wants Australia to pull out of the Paris climate agreement. Columnist Andrew Bolt endorses Kevin Rudd’s assessment that Turnbull is the most ineffective conservative prime minister since Billy McMahon. "The future is always another land but it is hard to see how Turnbull can become anything like his own man in 2017. If he had secured a big rather than wafer-thin victory at the July election, he’d have some political capital – and that capital, like the financial kind, carries its own strength. As it is, he’s at the beck and call of those who hold the mortgage over him and, just now, they are not actually the voters."[/i] [b]Our PM, in whom so many, including Labor supporters, put so much faith, expected so much more that Abbott ever could give, experience disappointment after disappointment in his governance. We now know he is not the statesman for whom we yearned; he is just another paltry politician, focussed on his own survival in the face of the hostility of his right wing, whose knives are out to cut him down the moment he defaults at all from their position.[/b]
How many umbrellas are there if I have two in my hand but the wind then blows them away?