tip off

The BER outcome: time to correct the record

Here, in a nutshell, is the result of months of expensive work by the Orgill review team examining the government’s Building the Education Revolution component of its stimulus packages:

  • It will support, all up, about 120,000 jobs directly and indirectly, “filling a gap left in demand from the private sector and playing an important role in supporting apprentices and skill retention in the building and construction industry”.
  • The program’s impact was “most pronounced” in its first year, when it was needed most.
  • The new infrastructure is, in the review team’s opinion, “sorely needed, particularly in government schools”.
  • The review received complaints from 294 schools across the entire program — 3% of the 10,000-odd school projects.
  • The review team closely examined 57 projects, nearly all of which were drawn from “the most egregious complaints received by the Taskforce or were selected from our reading of media reports”. Seventeen of those 57 projects were found to fail the value-for-money criteria established by the review team.
  • Extrapolating that 17/57 figure across all complaints (even though the selected projects were “the most egregious”) suggests the rate of valid complaints about value for money is 0.9% of all projects.
  • The review has lowered its estimate of how much more the NSW government paid in order to deliver its projects quickly, from 5-6% to “at the bottom of that range, around 5 per cent”.
  • The total complaint rate even for NSW government school projects, which attracted more than half of all complaints, was 7%.

In short, the report is a comprehensive demolition of the campaign that has been run against the program by the opposition — which having missed out with two independent reports now wants a third — and The Australian. That campaign has consisted of claims that the BER was providing poor value for money, that it was useless because it wouldn’t provide any stimulus until after the economy recovered, that the infrastructure was entirely unnecessary, that it was all a “debacle”.

In fact, the BER has been a gold standard stimulus program, delivering tens of thousands of jobs, when they were needed, building needed infrastructure, across a vast number of locations, with an almost derisory complaint rate even in NSW, where the government rushed the program as quickly as possible.

And what of The Australian and journalists like Matthew Franklin, who has sat in the press gallery bureau and waged a campaign against the program? Or the ABC journalists happy to follow the News Limited line and parrot that the program was a “debacle” on par with the insulation program?

Perhaps those journalists should ask the tens of thousands of men and women in the construction industry who still have jobs despite the collapse in private construction since the GFC, who are still in work despite the commercial construction sector grinding to a halt, despite new housing construction going into a precipitate decline this year. Ask the apprentices still learning on the job.

Ask their families, their partners and kids. Ask the retailers where they shop. Ask their banks. Check with them if they think it was a “debacle”.

That’s not likely to happen either. The media doesn’t like the construction industry, despite it being one of our biggest employers. Maybe it’s journalistic snobbery about manual labour. Or maybe it’s because the only yarn from the construction industry that the media is interested in is about union thuggery. Particularly at The Australian, which led the charge in favour of the Howard government’s assault on the CFMEU — an assault that led to a systematic abrogation of basic civil rights, in the form of the ABCC, and a big rise in workplace deaths.

Is it any wonder the Coalition and the media despise a program that has been critical in keeping the industry going since the GFC?

31
  • 1
    Jimmy
    Posted Thursday, 16 December 2010 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

    The Herald Sun headline for it’s report on the BER report was something like “C+ for schools stimulus” and it buried the positive statistics right at the tail of the article. I can’t see New Ltd admitting it got it wrong any time soon. In fact due to the refugee story this one will get hardly any air at all.

  • 2
    klewso
    Posted Thursday, 16 December 2010 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    The problem for the ABC seems to be that too many of it’s “op-eds” seem to have forgotten what “journalism” is all about and seem to be auditioning for “Limited News”, echoing it’s interpretation of “news” - because “it’s in print”. Some even work for both now.
    Last time I looked “journos” were just as much a part of our society, and subject to it’s mores, as anyone else - but they won’t look enquiringly at what each other is doing, like they would “rubes”?

  • 3
    zut alors
    Posted Thursday, 16 December 2010 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    Where’s Christopher Pyne for a comment on this? Calling Christopher Pyne, hello….?

  • 4
    zut alors
    Posted Thursday, 16 December 2010 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Klewso,

    I don’t think the ABC scribes have much time for their own thoughts and angles on stories these days as they’re on that wretched treadmill of trying to fill 24 hours with news. Even with stocking-fillers such as old Landline and Australian Story re-runs, there’s still too much vacant airtime and the staff scramble to plug the massive holes.

    What a shame ABC News24 missed much of the Christmas Island drama - apparently our national news service was focussed on a dispute between the Ballina croquet and bowls clubs (see today’s Crikey Tips and Rumours).

  • 5
    David
    Posted Thursday, 16 December 2010 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    Pyne the sleaze. He squeeled like a 12 yr old schoolgirl at a Justin Bieber concert, for months about the shame, the disgrace, the waste, the misuse of money that he considered the BER. Now he slinks away to his hole and hides, no ticker, no spine. A pathetic waste of space, SHAME.

  • 6
    zut alors
    Posted Thursday, 16 December 2010 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    David, ‘He squeeled like a 12 yr old schoolgirl at a Justin Bieber concert…’

    I suspect The Hon Christopher Pyne has actually been to a Justin Bieber concert.

  • 7
    tonyfunnywalker
    Posted Thursday, 16 December 2010 at 5:20 pm | Permalink

    The silence on the ABC continues - I await with interest the editorial in the Australian tomorrow.

    As for “Pyne ‘o” Sleaze ” David says it all.

    Great Xmas Gift for Gillard though… hope she makes the most of it.

  • 8
    David
    Posted Thursday, 16 December 2010 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    @ tonyfunnywalker…too true Tony, I look forward to hearing Julia throw it all back in the creeps face, she took a lot from him and his gutter dwelling mates, Morisson and Hunt.

  • 9
    Jean Morreau
    Posted Thursday, 16 December 2010 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    The BER has only deepened cynicism in most of the schools I know.
    What is galling for Principals is that after years of scrimping and mountains of paperwork to get just a couple of thousand dollars extra for learning support and disability support, they are given a building and expected to be grateful.
    Most Principals wouldn’t bother complaining - they have done it for years with little result.

  • 10
    Tony Eastwood
    Posted Thursday, 16 December 2010 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

    30% of the complaints were held to be overpriced projects. It is widely held that most did not complain for fear of retribution. Would have been better if the money had been spent on improving education, (school halls and canteens does not equate to improving education). Typical Labor Party spending taxpayers money like drunken sailors, by the way the unions got a good cut from the BER program, many many millions of dollars I read, suppose they will funnell it back to the Labor party come election time.

  • 11
    Wayne Carveth
    Posted Friday, 17 December 2010 at 3:52 am | Permalink

    Tony Eastwood, you miserable bastard. And Jean Morreau, who expected the principals to be grateful? They weren’t asked for gratitude. Did the money stay in Australia? Yes all of it.

  • 12
    Tamo
    Posted Friday, 17 December 2010 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    Jean Morreau - how many schools do you know and how many of those heads wouldn’t/didn’t bother complaining? Are you telling us that these represent a valid sample, or are they just having a bit of a winge during a lull in the conversation?

  • 13
    Jimmy
    Posted Friday, 17 December 2010 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Some of the responses above underline to me why a CBA into the NBN would be pointless. Here we have a report into actual events that shows the project to be a massive success and those rusted on liberals just dismiss it with vague anecdotes that is given the same weight as the report. Just wait for Pyne et al to claim the terms of reference were to narrow or Orgill is just a labor party stooge. If they won’t accept proven facts why would the accept a forward looking estimate into the NBN.

  • 14
    922870
    Posted Friday, 17 December 2010 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Immediately sent this article to all the 2GB listeners I know! lol

  • 15
    markjs
    Posted Friday, 17 December 2010 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    Geez Tony Eastwood………so our School Principals are shrinking violets cowed into silence and submission by our evil dictatorship of a govt……….get real buddy.

    The BER was/is the most successful infrastructure project in our history in terms of efficiency/value for money and speed. It helped us to ride out the worst financial crisis in more than 70yrs……

    Give some credit where it’s due……and accept the FACTS contained in the Orgill report…….not that disgraceful propaganda rubbish spouted by The Australian in it’s disgraceful campaign supporting the relentless and unfounded attacks by the LIE -BERALS and their band of wreckers…..

    Thanks to Bernard and Crikey for setting the record straight

  • 16
    Jolyon Wagg
    Posted Friday, 17 December 2010 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Tony Eastwood…

    What a lazy and dishonest contribution!

    30% of the complaints were held to be overpriced projects.

    That is ~30% of 3% or 0.9% as noted by Mr Keane.

    It is widely held that most did not complain for fear of retribution.

    Widely held by who?!?!? Here is a tip: blandly asserting something does not make it either true or interesting.

    Typical Labor Party spending taxpayers money like drunken sailors

    Tedious cliche…yawn.

    by the way the unions got a good cut from the BER program

    Perhaps your contributions would seem less banal if you went to the trouble of providing the occasional reference.

  • 17
    David
    Posted Friday, 17 December 2010 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Tony Eastwood your contribution becomes redundant if you are not prepared to back up your accusations with facts…[Typical Labor Party spending taxpayers money like drunken sailors, by the way the unions got a good cut from the BER program, many many millions of dollars I read, suppose they will funnell it back to the Labor party come election time]…care to provide the link to facts.

  • 18
    greenbacks
    Posted Sunday, 19 December 2010 at 5:14 am | Permalink

    Vindication!? This report is clearly politically manufactured, I would like one figure that shows how much money was unnecessarily spent, but instead, extrapolating percentages seems to be the best way to numb it down.
    They should appoint these guys to the home insulation scheme.
    And before you start, yes I read papers, and yes, all I am doing is regurgitating their rubbish, because my experience in business, my education and my ideas mean nothing. You do realize that your arguments about media bias are flawed by the simple fact I am replying on this website?
    I am going to love the next 2 years, the sound of the worst government in our history trying to claw itself out of the crap, and the believers towing the line to the end. Can’t wait!

  • 19
    Jimmy
    Posted Monday, 20 December 2010 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    Greenbacks- So you only accept a report when it supports your preconceived opinion? Why is this “clearly politically manufactured”? Have you done your own indepenent anaylsis of every project?

  • 20
    Jolyon Wagg
    Posted Monday, 20 December 2010 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Greenbacks…

    …my experience in business, my education and my ideas mean nothing…

    At the risk of stating the bleeding obvious, readersof this blog have no way of knowing anything of your experience in business, education etc. They can only make inferences from the contents of your posts. For example, readers could reasonably infer that you never took any units in formal logic and are happy with the most superficial understanding of political events.

    BTW, as you brought it up, perhaps you could bring yourself up to speed on the disparities between actual events and the media reporting of them by reading Possum’s post on the home insulation scheme

    http://blogs.crikey.com.au/pollytics/2010/10/19/insulation-fire-risk-%E2%80%93-the-data-is-in/

  • 21
    greenbacks
    Posted Monday, 20 December 2010 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    I have not conducted my own independent analysis however the data that is shown in the article is tells us nothing. As an exmample…..If we had one school that went over budget by $1billion dollars (I know that this is not the case) how would this impact on the percentages above? It wouldn’t!!!! You would still have those lovely numbers.
    All I want is a dollar amount, not nicely manufactured percentages which also include some subjective assessment, i.e. the rating system.
    Jolyon Wagg - Units in formal logic……may I assume you are an academic? hmmmm did I just pass my unit in formal logic? Explains alot, you know real life does not mimic Star Trek and you are not Spock!

  • 22
    Jimmy
    Posted Monday, 20 December 2010 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Greenbacks - The data in this report shows that of the 10,000 projects only 294 had complaints against them, considering the amount of scutiny this project was put under in the media that alone show the project was a success.
    But of that 294 they took the 57 worst cases and found that only 17 of them actually failed, so in 2 thirds of the worst cases the complaints were unfounded.
    So unless there are terrible cases out there that no one bothered to complain about you would have to say it was a success.
    There are actual costs shown in the report together with independent estimates of what the costs should of been for at least some of the projects, I haven’t had time to read the whole thing.
    As far as one figure goes, look at what the federal govt paid out to the states - $17b from memory.

  • 23
    greenbacks
    Posted Monday, 20 December 2010 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    Jimmy - OK, but I think I have a point.
    The “campaign has consisted of claims that the BER was providing poor value for money”, well based on this report then the author is correct it has provided nice figures delivering “value for money”, however dependant on formal complaints, extrapolations, and subjective tests.
    Value for money is a very subjective measure. I am sure your perception of value for money is different to mine.
    I am just raising this as a questionable means of measurement. ………..umm but if we want a unbiased $$ total amount of $$ overpaid/wasted this report delivered nothing, the mandate for the Orgill review team solely seeking the answer to the “value for money” question. So now in parliament we will hear 1 million times about how it has “delivered value for money”, but no actual $$ figures.
    And I still refer to you my comment of “If we had one school that went over budget by $1billion dollars (I know that this is not the case) how would this impact on the percentages above?”
    Final score : Arse Covering 1 - Objective Information 0

  • 24
    Jimmy
    Posted Monday, 20 December 2010 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Greenbacks - There is actual amount paid V independant $ amount that should of been paid for a number of schools listed in the report, if you want the same list for all 10,000 projects you it will take a signinficant amount of time and a significant amount of money. I would also point out that this is not the final report from Orgill the next one is due in May 2011.
    You also seem to be suggesting that even projects that have had no complaints should be treated as though they have failed unless proved otherwise when even the vast majority of projects that have been complained about have been proven to be value for money by independent analysis.

  • 25
    Jimmy
    Posted Monday, 20 December 2010 at 5:17 pm | Permalink

    All 57 of the worst cases referred to above have the $ to $ anaylsis you are looking for on about page 35 of the report.

  • 26
    Jolyon Wagg
    Posted Monday, 20 December 2010 at 5:33 pm | Permalink

    Greenbacks…

    Jolyon Wagg - Units in formal logic……may I assume you are an academic? hmmmm did I just pass my unit in formal logic?

    My apologies…the fact that you were touting your education led me to infer that you had some form of tertiary education.

    BTW, I am not an academic but it was a reasonable hypothesis. Unfortunately given your earlier posts I cannot award a pass in formal logic 101.

    A question for you to consider:

    The Government could have taken the extra time (months at least) to ensure that there were absolutely no cost overruns at all in the BER. If they had done this, then the stimulus to the economy from the BER would also have been delayed, perhaps resulting in a recession and wide spread unemployment. Are you 100% sure that cost overruns in the BER are greater than the costs associated with such a recession?

    Explains alot, you know real life does not mimic Star Trek and you are not Spock!

    Live long and prosper :|

  • 27
    greenbacks
    Posted Monday, 20 December 2010 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    Jimmy - In response to “You also seem to be suggesting that even projects that have had no complaints should be treated as though they have failed “…Umm No, the point I am trying to make is that the measure they are using partially subjective and by no means gets to the real question of “How much money disappeared unnecessarily”… Can you acknowledge, that based on the results in the above article, this would NOT HIGHLIGHT my scenario of one school that had $1 billion overspent on it…Would you agree or disagree?

    Jolyon - We did need some form of fiscal stimulus during that period. However the spending continues. I have not seen anything from this govt that doesn’t involve spending huge amounts of $$. You realise this money needs to be paid back later on? If you are going to be spending money don’t throw it away for haste’s sake, use it for something that will make Australians more competitive globally, because the moment China comes off, we will enter the real world. Please don’t use the argument that the BER has anything to do with improving education, if you think that, then let’s build hundreds more of these buildings!

  • 28
    Jolyon Wagg
    Posted Tuesday, 21 December 2010 at 2:38 am | Permalink

    I notice that you didn’t answer my simple question:

    Are you 100% sure that cost overruns in the BER are greater than the costs associated with such a recession (i.e. one caused by lack of the BER stimulus)?

    I guess that means that the answer is….. no!!! In that case why are you so passionate about the minor losses associated with the BER. Could it be that you just enjoy partisan whinging?

    To answer your direct question:

    You realise this money needs to be paid back later on?

    Yes, but Australia has a very low debt to GDP ratio (historically and globally) and budget projections show Australia moving back into surplus in a couple of years. It is not a problem to lose sleep over.

    If you are going to be spending money don’t throw it away for haste’s sake, use it for something that will make Australians more competitive globally, because the moment China comes off, we will enter the real world. Please don’t use the argument that the BER has anything to do with improving education, if you think that, then let’s build hundreds more of these buildings!

    OK I get it. In your mind readers of this blog should put aside a thoroughly researched, referenced and independent review of the BER in favor of your glib assertions with no supporting evidence. Good luck with that!!

  • 29
    greenbacks
    Posted Tuesday, 21 December 2010 at 3:59 am | Permalink

    Oh, what profundly stupid logic from Jolyon! Am I 100% sure that the costs of overruns are less than a recession. No, probably not, but an extension of this logic means that it doesn’t matter what it was spent on (even overruns are acceptable) as long as we averted recession….ha ha ha. What if we built 1000 schools in the middle of the desert? Um you missed one other cost, it’s called opportunity cost. Maybe you should do economics 101. What else could have been done with that money?

    In my mind, the readers of this blog should be aware that these figures above are confirming a very narrow directive which is laced with subjective statistics, and would not change if one school had a $1 billion dollar blowout. I agree that a pat on the back is in order, but that was what the exercise was for. If you swallow this whole you are naive. Show me the $$ not the extrapolated %’ages based on subjective value for money scorecards.

  • 30
    Jimmy
    Posted Tuesday, 21 December 2010 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Greenbacks as I said, the 57 identified worst cases have been examined in exactly the way you want on about page 35 of the report, I am sure in they May report there will be more. As I have said as these 57 have been identified as the most complained about you would expect that if only 17 of them failed the ones that weren’t complained about or the ones that were complianed about less would have a better results.

  • 31
    Jolyon Wagg
    Posted Tuesday, 21 December 2010 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    Greenbacks…

    In your first paragraph I love the resort to the slippery slope fallacy. See for example: http://www.theskepticsguide.org/resources/logicalfallacies.aspx. I can’t make sense of your second paragraph at all. Perhaps I could recommend English 101.

    To me you bring to mind the old arab saying: the dogs bark, but the caravan moves on.

    BTW, I am bailing out at this point as I don’t think the discussion is going anywhere useful. Feel free to take a last swing :)

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