Tell em they’re dreaming

Do you feel the sense of desperation in the air?

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce has decided that a dam should be built at Urannah in Central Queensland that will according to Crikey
reinforce the Coalition’s electoral dominance of a regional Queensland seat, directly benefiting the Nationals’ holdings of Flynn, Capricornia and Dawson. It would also send an explicit message to the fossil fuel industry that the government is not retreating from spending significant amounts backing coal production — a message it would also hope reaches voters in such electorates as Hunter.
There are a couple of problems with Joyce’s grand plan. Joyce claimed the money was in the March 2022 Federal Budget. First, he has to convince the Queensland Government to stump up the remaining money to build the dam. The Queensland Government doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to do that. Then he has to convince the Queensland Government to approve the dam under state legislation as well as apply to the Federal Environment Department for Federal approvals, which again the Queensland Government doesn’t seem to be interested in.

And then the final obstacle is Joyce’s Cabinet colleague, Senator Sussan Ley who is the environment minister. When asked for comment, Ley’s response was
The first step had to be made by the Queensland government: “We will consider matters of environmental significance that impacts the dam, on world heritage places, on natural heritage, on migratory species, on threatened species and so on.
“There is no suggestion that this proposal steps outside our national environmental law.”
The dam was first considered about 60 years ago and 25 feasibility studies have denied it environmental endorsement. Local Indigenous groups have also opposed it.
Joyce’s claim that the proposed dam will enhance the country’s economic growth and stability is argued by others. Again, from Crikey
This wealth guarantee is contradicted by an economic analysis prepared for a Mackay conservation group which argued the return on every dollar spent on the dam would be just 75 cents. A separate report claimed the dam would cover 9850 hectares of suitable high-value cropping farm development and 12,250 hectares of improved grazing land.
Parts of Bundaberg are in the electorate of Flynn. Current Mayor of Bundaberg (and former LNP Queensland Minister) Jack Dempsey claims
“It’s a false stereotype that all regional Queenslanders are coal-loving climate-change deniers,” Dempsey said.
“The minister for coal — Keith Pitt — he doesn’t actually reflect the views of our community on environmental issues.”
“We’re about clean, green, quality products.”
Keith Pitt, the Federal Resources Minister, is the federal member for Hinkler, who represents the rest of Bundaberg and surrounding areas.

A week later, the Morrison Government announced they would fund the $5.4 Billion ‘Hells Gate Dam’ on the Burdekin River in North Queensland despite the environmental assessments and business case being incomplete. The ALP’s environment and water spokesperson, Terri Butler reminded us that the dam was originally announced before the 2019 election. Independent North Queensland MP Bob Katter has been promoting this dam since he was a state MP in 1981 and has claimed the current scheme is incomplete. Queensland’s Water Minister Glenn Butcher commented
it was “interesting” to see the Commonwealth investment earmarked so early.
The state is still providing technical assistance to proponent, Townsville Enterprise, for its business case.
“Investment decisions should be informed by completed detailed business cases, the Hells Gates business case is not yet complete — this means it hasn’t even received necessary federal approvals,” he said.
It seems to be common practice in Australia to ‘means test’ in some ways government assistance to the public. Should you qualify for an aged pension, or child support or any number of other government assistance programs, including assistance after natural disasters, you have to be able to demonstrate that you meet a financial test. The test might be based on your income, your assets or apparently which electorate you live in and is mostly ‘designed’ to ensure that recipients who need the assistance are prioritised over those that only want it. That is fair enough. If someone doesn’t have the income or assets to support themselves, we pride ourselves on living in an egalitarian society and should be happy to assist. That’s how the process works, and it has done so for decades.

So how do we explain the governments of Australia funding private schools? While a generalisation, independent schools are usually the ones with the marketing departments to generate more students, the ‘better' facilities including ‘necessary’ things such as indoor Olympic standard pools, elite level sporting grounds or permanent ‘camp grounds’ well removed from the school’s main campus, glossy advertising of Year 12 results, private transportation services for students and so on. At the same time some public schools in the major cities around Australia have to roster their student lunch breaks so there is a little circulation room in the bitumen square that passes for a playground. Yet, significant funding is given to private schools along with inaccurate and uneducated opinions on the alleged differences in educational standards between public and independent schools. Stand-in Education Minister Stuart Robert — yes Morrison’s ‘Brother Stuie’ — has claimed that independent schools don’t employ teachers that are in the bottom 10% of some undisclosed rating process, those teachers are forced to work in public schools where they are protected. The inferred logic being if you want the best teachers for your Tarquin or Madison, send them to a private school. Remember all schools teach to the same curriculum and their students work is moderated across the sector - not just schools in the private or public cohorts.

Like Joyce he’s dreamin’. We commented on Citipointe Christian School in Brisbane (a school run by a Pentecostal Church) demanding early this year that parents sign a document that restricted the students to religiously acceptable gender roles and attitudes. The school’s principal at the time (who has theological but no educational qualifications) chose to take leave for an indefinite period after the justified public outcry. Now the same school has asked teachers to sign a contract that forbids all personal relationships except those that are acceptable to the particular religious principles of the church that operates the school.

Robert’s claim is demonstrably false because if the best teacher for the job falls foul of the implications of the teaching contract and is not employed, that particular independent school won’t employ the best teachers. Not because they are a bad teacher, only because their lifestyle is not acceptable to the church that owns the school based on their literal reading of the parts of a religious text that suits their purpose, regardless of the hundreds of logical and factual errors contained in the bible. Robert has apparently offered no evidence to support his claim, so it is logically based on either privilege or snobbery, not reality. The reality is there are plenty of good teachers who successfully engage with their students at public and private schools. There are also some teachers that underperform across the sector, just as there are good hard working politicians and others that don’t adequately represent their electorates while claiming as much as they can from the system.

If it wasn’t so tragic, it’ll be funny.

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