Guardian Roundup - November 11, 2009
From: The Guardian, Tuesday, 10 November 2009
The following articles were published by The Guardian, newspaper of the Communist Party of Australia, in its issue of November 11, 2009. Reproduction of articles, together with acknowledgement if appropriate, is welcome.
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General Secretary: Dr Hannah Middleton
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1. Rudd govt falters at the water’s edge 2. EDITORIAL – Saving capitalism from itself 3. No merger of ABC international services without independence guaranteed 4. NT dialysis policy “threatening lives” – Top artist says he’d rather die on country 5. Photography Exhibition reviewed – ºSOUTH: WAR 6. Intervention condemned 7. A market model of education?
1. Rudd govt falters at the water’s edge
2. EDITORIAL – Saving capitalism from itself
3. No merger of ABC international services without independence guaranteed
4. NT dialysis policy “threatening lives” – Top artist says he’d rather die on country
5. Photography Exhibition reviewed – ºSOUTH: WAR
6. Intervention condemned
7. A market model of education?
The Rudd government has so far failed to take advantage of a golden opportunity to acquire the vast southern
Cubbie Station’s dams, which have the greatest capacity of any irrigation property in
The nearly bone-dry condition of the inland, and the likelihood of frequent and severe droughts, clearly indicates that intensive irrigation has no future in south-eastern
Last week, despite predictions that Cubbie Station would be sold to private interests, the company owning the property went into receivership after none of the bids covered Cubbie’s $360 million bank debt. The property is still on the market, and could still be purchased by the federal government.
Three of the five bids made for the property were from overseas interests. Nevertheless, it is entirely possible that after the next rainfall, when the property appears more commercially attractive, a private firm could snap it up, thus perpetuating the current situation indefinitely.
The government has expressed interest in acquiring Cubbie Station’s water entitlements, but the property’s owners have so far only expressed interest in selling the rights to 70 of its 538 gigalitres.
The government has rejected suggestions that it should buy the property outright, as it previously did in the case of Tooralee, another irrigation property. The decision to buy Tooralee aroused bitter objections from conservative local interests who want things to continue on exactly as before, and have accused the government of wanting to impose a socialist regime by buying Cubbie Station! Those objections appear to be influencing the government, whose initial policies on a number of issues appeared progressive, but are now in retreat.
The Rudd government also appears unwilling to cross swords with the
A wider view on rivers
Water accessibility is not the only major issue in the current river water crisis. In order for
The government’s decision to acquire Tooralee and turn it into a national park was excellent, because it opened up the possibility of reforestation, which offers not only environmental benefits but also local employment opportunities.
The time is ripe for government acquisition of Cubbie Station and other neighbouring irrigation properties that are now being offered for sale, if necessary by the government exercising its national emergency powers. This could be done at minimum cost, with little more compensation to the current owners than is necessary to clear their debts.
Last week, independent South Australian Senator Nick Xenaphon commented that irrigation properties such as Cubbie Station are not sustainable in their present use, in view of Australia’s likely future climate, and that “The only way to avoid more ‘Cubbies’ is for there to be an immediate national takeover of our river systems, including the Murray-Darling Basin”.
Alas, rather than doing so, the Rudd government is now engaged in seemingly endless discussions and arguments with the governments of the “basin states” (
A recent National Water Commission report found that state governments have failed to deal with excess water allocations. Only 40 percent of the water use plans they were supposed to prepare have been finalised. Few of those that have been completed deal with climate change, and in any case their recommendations have not been implemented. The governments of NSW and Victoria, which are primarily concerned with improving the use of irrigation rather than restricting its most intensive use, were criticised in the report as “parochial” and “self-interested”.
Meanwhile, the river red gums, which depend on frequent flooding, are continuing to die along the course of the
A major national question
The current crisis has prompted commercial interests to seek privatisation of the nation’s publicly-owned urban water supplies. This is usually accompanied with the claim that only the laws of supply and demand will ensure that water consumption is reduced.
This argument ignores the fact that government-set water rates already limit consumption, and that privatisation of water supplies would inevitably result in huge rate rises as the water corporations sought to maximise their profits, rather than maximising the benefits to ordinary consumers.
The current water shortages have led households and others to reduce their consumption to bare necessities. However, people must have some water, and if the water supply were in private hands, shortages would allow water corporations to charge virtually whatever they liked for this essential commodity.
The private ownership of water rights and water supply would be the worst possible outcome for the vast majority of Australian citizens. It is crucial for the federal government to take control and responsibility for the use of water from our major rivers, and for urban water supplies to remain in public hands.
“It wasn’t long ago that Rudd was saying the Liberal Party’s economic policies had brought world to the ‘edge of an abyss’,” and “here he is appointing the number one neo-liberal free market extremist to the board of the Future Fund.” This was the public reaction of Malcolm Turnbull, leader of the “Opposition”, who could not disagree with Peter Costello’s appointment. After all, Peter Costello was the Coalition’s Treasurer from 1996-2007 and one-time parliamentary leader of the Coalition. The Future Fund was set up by the Howard government to provide income to fund future superannuation payments of public servants, and now has over $60 billion under management by a board of “experts” from the private sector. Its assets came from budget surpluses (cuts to social welfare, etc) and the privatisation of Telstra.
This is not the first such break with tradition of “jobs for the boys” who have served the Labor Party loyally. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd upset prospective Labor candidates when he appointed another former Liberal Party leader Minister Brendan Nelson as ambassador to the European Union and former Coalition Senate leader Robert Hill who also held office as Defence Minister and then Environment Minister in the Howard government as head of the Carbon Trust.
Former Labor PM and Treasurer Paul Keating lashed out making the point that it was disloyal to all those members of the Labor caucus who stood and fought Costello. He also took a swipe at Costello’s credentials, saying that he presided over the growth of Australian foreign debt from $129 billion to $705 billion as Treasurer.
Before entering Parliament Costello was a founding member of the ultra-Right HR Nicholls Society and a key figure in the New Right whose policies he pursued in government. Before entering Parliament he gained a reputation as a barrister through the leading role he played in two historic, precedent-setting defeats for the trade union movement. The first was the successful use of the Trades Practices Act at the Mudginberri abattoirs in 1984 where the meat union was fined $144,000 over a picket and sued for $1.75 million in damages. The second, in 1985, was the Dollar Sweets case that saw a small union (Federated Confectioners Association) successfully sued under common law for damages ($175,000) resulting from a picket.
Costello is the antithesis of everything the labour movement has stood for and fights for today, but not to the right-wing leadership of the Labor Party. There is no contradiction here; Costello in Rudd’s eyes was a very successful Treasurer whose model of economic management, ideology and social reform program are being continued by the Rudd government.
Yes, Rudd has loudly proclaimed that Labor is a social democratic party, and called into question the neo-liberal orthodoxy that had prevailed over the past 30 years. He spoke out strongly: “the international challenge for social democrats is to save capitalism from itself”.
He described neo-liberalism as “that particular brand of free-market fundamentalism, extreme capitalism and excessive greed which became the economic orthodoxy of our time.” (“The Global Financial Crisis”, The Monthly, February 2009) He has even made noises about being Keynesian. But we should judge Rudd and his Treasurer Wayne Swan by their actions, by their policies and now by their appointments.
Policy-wise the Labor government is neo-liberal through and through. They are charging full-steam ahead with privatisation, deregulation and free-market policies. The education revolution is about privatisation of education, the reforms to health are about privatisation of health care and Medicare, the Henry tax review is to lay the basis for the rolling back of corporate and income taxes and the further dismantling of what is known as the “welfare state”.
From the Fraser/Howard Coalition government, the Hawke/Keating Labor governments in the 1980s and ’90s through to the Howard/Costello Coalition and now Rudd/Swan regime, there has been remarkable continuity in economic and social policy direction. All have pursued the conservative policies of Milton Friedman, the programs of the Organisation for Economic Development, the International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organisation. At first they were referred to as structural adjustment programs, and later as economic rationalism or neo-liberalism.
At the heart of these scorched earth policies is the transfer of wealth and power to the largest transnational corporations, the retreat of governments and the state from their role in economic governance and responsibility for the well-being of their people. When the global financial crisis and subsequent economic crisis hit, the Rudd government stepped in to play its part in bailing out the capitalist system with its temporary, multi-billion dollar stimulus packages, bank guarantees and other assistance to “save capitalism from itself”.
When Rudd says Costello is best the man for the job, he means it. It is time to end the two-party, one ideology system and set about real changes of benefit to the people.
Support group Friends of the ABC (FABC) strongly says it supports additional government funding being provided for the ABC to expand its international broadcasting services.
“It is in
FABC, however, has serious concerns about plans to merge Radio
“The national public broadcaster is the media outlet best suited to represent
“Australia Network relies on revenue from commercial advertising and funding from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT),” said Ms Stradijot. “The ABC is forced to win favour with DFAT to operate Australia Network.”
Since the former government’s failed efforts to hand the ABC’s international television service over to commercial operators, the ABC has to compete with them in a tender process to provide Australia Network.
“Governments have a strong desire to influence the ABC editorially. And DFAT’s capacity to do so is great while it funds a specific ABC service which it forces the ABC to compete for in a tender.
“The ABC must not only be independent, it must be seen to be independent – from government and commercial influence. Any international broadcasting service into which Radio Australia is merged must be as credible and trusted as RA is now.
“Like the rest of the ABC, its international service must be free from advertising and fully resourced through the Department of Communications delivery of base funding to the ABC as a whole,” said Glenys Stradijot.
Top artist says he’d rather die on country
Patrick Tjungurrayi would rather die on his own Central Australian country than travel to
Like many others in his community, Mr Tjungurrayi has been diagnosed with kidney problems that require renal dialysis – something which must be done by a specialised machine.
The nearest major town with the equipment is Alice Springs, a few hours over the border in the
But instead of receiving dialysis in Alice Springs, or at the renal facility he helped fund at Kintore which is about
Sarah Brown, the manager of Purple House, a dialysis centre run by the Western Desert Nganampa Walytja Palyantjakt Tjutaku Aboriginal Corporation, said the situation was “just bloody awful”.
“And the problem is much wider than Patrick,” she told The Koori Mail newspaper. “There are up to 50 people with failing kidneys who are going to have to move somewhere in the next 12 months for dialysis unless this policy is changed.”
Ms Brown said the 28 renal dialysis machines in Alice Springs were running at 20 percent over capacity and a new $16.7 million facility with 12 stations would not be opened until April next year.
She said it was ironic that back in
Despite that, under the NT government’s new policy, renal patients from Kiwirrkurra, who traditionally have been treated at
But to get there, they must fly or drive
Ms Brown said Aboriginal people on the wrong side of the borders would die as a result of the new policy because they did not want to go where they had no family or support.
“We want to shame the Northern Territory Government into showing some compassion,” she said. “These are whitefella borders that mean nothing to Aboriginal people, and people will die way before their time because they will refuse to leave their country and their families.” Mr Tjungurrayi, who is aged about 70, is one of
Last year, the
Papunya Tula art centre manager Paul Sweeney said there was no way Mr Tjungurrayi would agree to travel so far away. “He has no family or friends there who would be able to offer any amount of support and he will be desperately in need of all the help he can possibly get,” Mr Sweeney said.
“It seems ridiculous that he cannot be admitted and assessed through the NT health system because he lives an hour’s drive west of the NT border.”
“The demand for renal dialysis in
“In consultation with WA and SA, an agreement has been made for non-NT residents to access dialysis treatment in their home states. Eight patients, four from each state, have commenced treatment since the agreement came into effect.
“The new renal facility under construction in
“A proposal to SA and WA for the long-term strategic management of renal patients in
Ms Taylor said the NT Department of Health and Families was unable to discuss the specifics of Mr Tjungurrayi’s care beyond stating that he last sought specialist medical advice at
“This advice included confirmation that he would require renal dialysis, but not immediately,” she said.
“Details of the consultation were provided to his referring doctor at Kiwirrkurra (WA), where he is understood to be presently living. The Central Australian Renal Service wishes to do everything possible to assist with Mr Tjungurrayi’s care and is contacting him to suggest a meeting at Kintore clinic (NT) to discuss future arrangements.”
NT Council of Social Services Central Australian policy officer Jonathan Pilbrow said that unless more resources were made available in
“Some patients would rather stay on their remote community and risk death, rather than relocate to a strange place without family support, as it is simply too far away for families to visit,” he said.
“This story is similar for people from other remote communities in both WA and SA, such as Blackstone and Ernabella.
“Our council urges the NT government to urgently review this policy and to adopt a ‘borderless’ approach to patient care. The State/Territory borders are arbitrary and do not reflect ties to kinship and country and care.”
Mr Pilbrow said more resources were needed in the bush so that people weren’t forced to leave their home communities for life-saving treatment.
“We call for more resources to support the NT government’s self care model to create further options for remote patients,” he said.
“With renal patient numbers on the rise, investment in further treatment options will prevent an even bigger crisis in the future.
“People’s lives depend on it.”
The Koori Mail
I’ve been to many photographic exhibitions but none have had such a powerful and moving effect on me as this one. Daily we are subjected to images of war and conflict, on the TV, the internet and in the print media. Often they are quick, gratuitous, sometimes stomach-churning grabs – sensationalist tabloid journalism that lacks a humanitarian or critical component. Corporate media machines and military establishments today dictate so much of the reportage, but not all of it.
The award winning photographers in this exhibition take us beyond the official presentation of events. They are professional documentary photographers whose images are penetrating journalism, an important part of the historical record of political developments and carry a strong humanitarian message.
Ben Bohane, Michael Coyne, David Dare Parker, Stephen Dupont, Sean Flynn, Ashley Gilbertson, Tim Page and Jack Picone are members of an Australian group of award-winning documentary photographers, °SOUTH (Degree South).
“At present there are 43 conflicts taking place on our planet. Once, the battlefield was the place of devastation, now it is streets, alley-ways, schools and places of worship. People and places are no longer protected or sacred and in much of the world it is now safer to be a soldier than an unarmed civilian,” says a statement by °SOUTH members.
In keeping with this statement the 73 images in the exhibition are not restricted to the battlefields of professional soldiers. They document the impact that war has on its civilian as well as military victims, how their lives are shattered by wars they did not start and over which they have no control.
These photographers put their lives on the line as they ventured into some of the most dangerous regions of the world, and through determination and immense courage have given us through their images the realities of war – the suffering and devastation, the cruelties and brutality, the crimes and politics.
The uncensored photos of Tim Page and Sean Flynn covering the Vietnam war in the 1960s -70s are a reminder of the time the media were not “embedded” and censored by the US or other military. Sean was the son of actor Errol Flynn, an outstanding documentary photographer in his own right, who disappeared while on a photographic assignment in
The photos also cover wars and conflicts in
These photographers have created images that have gone on to influence public opinion, make history and inspire us to find other ways to solve our differences. The exhibition is a haunting journey through the devastation inflicted by war, a demonstration of the power of photography, and a window into otherwise censored and unreported elements of war. Above all it is a message for humanity and peace.
For those who cannot get to the exhibition in
The exhibition is open until Saturday November 21
Australian Centre for Photography
Tue - Fri: 12.00 - 7.00pm,
Sat & Sun 10.00am - 6.00pm
Aboriginal Elder Richard Downs has slammed the
Residents of the camp say they won’t move back into the community until the intervention measures are lifted. “I want people around the country to know what it is like to live under the intervention,” Mr Downs said in
“At check-outs in Woolworths and Coles ... we have got one line for the black people who have these special basics green cards and you have got the other check-outs which are open to the general public. It is an embarrassment.
“We have just gone backwards 50 or 60 years, back to the welfare days.”
Mr Downs said the intervention had not brought any improvements and claims of positive change were just that – claims. “We have had night patrols for years ... we have had Centrelink income management ... but it was a choice,” he said.
The intervention had taken away Aboriginal people’s human rights, Mr Downs said, adding that the policy must be scrapped. Politicians must return to the drawing board and work with Aboriginal people to find solutions, he said.
Following a number of meetings held across NSW, Mr Downs confirmed the NSW union movement and Amnesty International were supporting the walk off. He also said the protest camp of Ampilatwatja was in desperate need of funds to build a bore as currently the community was carting water to the camp.
Anyone interested in supporting the Ampilatwatja Walk Off can find more information at <interventionwalkoff.wordpress.com>.
Meanwhile, leading human rights lawyer Julian Burnside QC said the federal government must rework or scrap racist elements of the intervention program in remote Indigenous communities and honour
Labor is moving to reinstate the legislation that allowed some of the more controversial measures to be rolled out.
But Mr Burnside said
“This is a moral obligation on the part of the Government and nothing less would be acceptable,” he said. “The removal, or redesign, of special measures is an essential starting point.”
The Howard government suspended the Racial Discrimination Act to allow for the intervention’s more extreme measures, such as compulsory welfare quarantining. But the Rudd government announced plans to reinstate the Act when it gave public support to the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
Mr Burnside said that if
The Koori Mail
Dr Anthony Ashbolt
Milton Friedman introduced the concept of vouchers in education over 50 years ago. Thankfully the world ignored him. Nonetheless, the various victories of neoliberal doctrine from the early 1970s on in the
When the governments of choice for these tanks are replaced by ones with a thin veneer of progressive ideology (Rudd Labor, perhaps), they tend to search for a revitalising force, a product that will capture the imagination of those who crave authentic neoliberal orthodoxy. They feel, in a sense and justifiably, that their thunder has been stolen by their own progeny who pretend to descend from a different line.
Having helped drag brand Labor far into the murky world of market orthodoxy, they seek more and throw out adventurous challenges. Education revolution, Kevin and Julia? We’ll give you one. And thus it is that the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) published in July this year a pamphlet by Julie Novak entitled A Real Education Revolution: options for voucher funding reform. The IPA’s motto “Free people, free society” is a cheerful reminder of the sorts of freedoms that brought us the
Surprisingly, however, their latest pamphlet is almost honest about the additional fiscal costs associated with the introduction of vouchers. There is no such thing as a free voucher after all: “It is estimated that vouchers would cost federal and state governments anywhere from an extra $700 million to $10.3 billion each year.” (p 2)
Rather than racing away apologetically from such a costly exercise, Novak rolls on trumpeting the benefits of vouchers for the disadvantaged in particular. The IPA’s newfound interest in the plight of the poor, minorities and disabled is touching but upon not so close analysis is mere verbiage disguising the usual profoundly inegalitarian policy formulations.
Behind the rhetoric of reform lurks yet another push for privatisation. The problem, we are told by market fundamentalists, is with public schools. And the solution is to make them more like private schools, or at the very least, have them working within a privatised and corporatised educational framework.
So why not go one more step down this Friedmanite path and embrace
While they can be introduced through the back door in the “reform” of the health system, vouchers might just be a step too far for this “education revolution”; but a step too far because their underlying principles have to some extent been embraced. Their purpose can be achieved, at least partly, without the label of vouchers being imposed upon school funding. That purpose is, to use the words of a Centre for Independent Studies pamphlet from many years ago, “a private education for all”.
Successive governments in
Yet, some sense of the damage that would flow from a voucher scheme is outlined expertly in Wilkinson and Pickett’s book The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always do Better. They detail the social consequences of public policies that weaken the public sphere. Declining levels of health and happiness and social trust, amongst other things, can be traced in societies that enhance private position and wealth instead of the public good.
This once was common sense but it is very useful to have such sense reinforced with substantial empirical data. In exposing the real intent of neoliberal education policy, we need to probe the rhetoric, to analyse what is disguised by a clever concoction of words. As George Orwell understood, the truth is often concealed by fancy formulations. Take another term for vouchers – “portable school funding entitlements”.
The phrase signals flexibility and choice, watchwords of corporate managerialism. It seems to give consumers power, for it is they who take the funding not the school. The fact that corporate managerialism is more likely to promote conformity and squeeze out alternatives is hidden successfully by the choice of words. The triumph of choice (in both language and policy) is more apparent than real but that does not dilute its ideological power. Parental choice and/or student choice emerge victorious and trump the teachers’ unions and their government lackeys.
Moreover, and perhaps most importantly for those who worry about issues of equity, this gives low-income parents a magical strength that they previously lacked. They are, according to Novak, “financially empowered to take their children out of failing schools and into high-quality educational institutions”(p 6). It is a wonderful bedtime story and children around the world can float away on dreams where they wander from school to school waving their vouchers and tasting the delights on offer.
This is an educational version of the magic faraway tree. And these wizards with words are the ideological twins of the finance wizards on Wall Street. So beware their “hey presto” logic because it conceals an agenda somewhat less egalitarian than it pretends to put forward.
As RH Tawney warned many years ago in his book Equality: “It is the nature of privilege and tyranny to be unconscious of themselves, and to protest, when challenged, that their horns and hooves are not dangerous, as in the past, but useful and handsome decorations, which no self-respecting society would dream of dispensing with.” And so it goes with vouchers. How can we have been so blind to their educational merit, as well as their profound contribution to social inclusion and justice?
Note first, that somehow equality has been abandoned and “social inclusion” substituted. Nothing sinister here, surely? Actually, it testifies to a significant change in direction and the abandonment of equality as a key goal of democracy. Thus it is no accident that the current Labor government has portfolios for both deregulation and social inclusion.
The Prime Minister can shout his condemnation of neoliberalism from the highest rooftops in
There is a degree of wizardry also in the Prime Minister’s words, as he deflects criticism before it has even begun. He is on the record about neoliberalism, so what he is actually doing must be something entirely different. The problem is that such wizardry with words shares the same ultimate fate as unregulated financial wizardry.
Let us return, however, to Julie Novak’s suggestion regarding the liberating potential of vouchers for the disadvantaged. Poor parents, for example, would be able to march their children out of “failing schools” and take them to “high-quality educational institutions”(p 6). You would not, of course, want too many parents to be so empowered because it might make the job of the high-quality institutions so much harder and even the budgetary increase allowed for by Novak could not begin to meet such a challenge.
And let us be clear about who would pick up the tab for this experiment – government, rather than the IPA’s precious private schools. This is the Catch 22 of neoliberal policy design – the problem is with government, so you take education away from government only to ensure its sustenance through government funding. So the cause of the problem bankrolls the solution, a delicious irony that explains the smug self-satisfaction of neoliberal ideologues. Nonetheless, they pretend to be very concerned about the plight of the poor and minorities. Vouchers would enable, they suggest, a magical transformation in the life prospects of the poor.
Disadvantaged children, however, do not lose their disadvantage upon entering a wealthy private school like St Joesephs. If all Joeys’ kids came from remote Aboriginal communities tomorrow, that would upset the real voucher plan. A token few, as happens already, is all that is needed to fulfil an agenda of “social inclusion”. The stated goal – poorer kids marching willy-nilly into excellent schools – cannot be the real goal after all.
So what is being concealed? The high-quality institutions in this formulation are mostly (almost exclusively) private, the failing schools mostly (almost exclusively) public. The voucher model is designed to strengthen the private and weaken the public systems. The bleeding obvious needs restating, unfortunately, because the fancy footwork and conjuring tricks of the free marketeers can blind us to their real intent.
Novak and her supporters will protest, just like those in Tawney’s time, that their intentions are more honourable than this. They are not, as Novak herself makes clear. She refers, for instance, to the Swedish voucher system. What, for Novak, is most notable about that is the fact that the number of private schools has gone from 70 when the vouchers were introduced in 1992 to 800 today (p 20). This, she suggests, expanded greatly the choices of poor parents. Yet, Novak fails to mention that the reason parents found the “independent” schools accessible is that the Swedish policy does not allow fees to be charged. Education is free and this flies in the face of neoliberal voucher advocates.
So portable school funding entitlements or vouchers can be used, if people thought it a sensible way to proceed, within a public system or within a system where independent schools were not allowed to charge fees. Eventually, after endless funding tables, all of which set out to show (unconvincingly) what they presume (that vouchers would be good), Novak confronts this possibility or, rather, choice: “Any government ban on charging fees, as part of a voucher system, would effectively remove price signals from school education hampering informed school choices by parents” (p19).
Choice here is underpinned by and thus dependent upon the market. It is so strictly limited as to bear little resemblance to genuine choice. The Swedish experiment actually contradicts what some of its advocates claim it shows. More important than the slight swing towards privatisation (
Indeed, Swedish policy guarantees equitable resource distribution in its dual system. Novak exposes the ideological core of the voucher system. Pretending to be about choice, it is really about privatisation. Pretending to be about equity, it is about the entrenchment of class privilege. Pretending to be about the enhancement of democracy, it is about the strengthening of the market. In this model of school funding, the parents are consumers making market-driven and delimited choices. They are not citizens making democratic choices.
To get back again to Novak’s early suggestion about poorer students having the ability to move to high-quality institutions, she misses the fundamental point in order to promote her ideological agenda. A government with genuine democratic and egalitarian goals would seek to ensure that all schools are high quality institutions and none are failing. While the Australian government diverts so much of its funding to so-called private schools, it cannot hope to achieve this.
A recent Background Briefing on ABC Radio National highlighted the paucity of musical education in most of our public schools. This is just one example of the short-sightedness of a government convinced it can conduct an education revolution without confronting the central question of funding and can simply pretend that it does not matter if a school is public or private.
It not only matters, it also tells us much about the society and what it thinks of education. The public school system is the bedrock of democracy and any attempt to undermine it, including through the provision of increasing funds to private schools, undermines democracy.
If Australian society wants education to be shaped ineluctably by the market then it will adopt a voucher system like that proposed by Novak. If, however, we can see beyond the market and embrace goals of cooperation and excellence, then we will fight for a vibrant and well-funded public education system. The choices are, indeed, stark.
Dr Anthony Ashbolt,