Christopher Bantick

The Courier-Mail

An F for fairness

If Education Minister Brendan Nelson has his way, all schools
across the nation will be forced to publish details of student
performance or have their funding reduced – which sets a “dangerous and
unwelcome precedent,” says Christopher Bantick. While on the face of
it, the calls for transparency make good sense, the minister has far
wider ambitions than he’s letting on. The Howard Government last year
announced a $31 billion schools funding entitlement package, with
access to the money dependent on schools following a number of
conditions – including clearer reporting systems, and reports on
absenteeism, teacher retention levels and qualifications. This is just
a small step from locking schools into a “league table,” says Bantick.
And while it’s reasonable for parents to have expectations of a school,
linking funding to performance fails to recognise the variables of
school environments – like daily disruption and ESL students.
Threatening funding cuts is a “big-stick approach” which should be
Crikey Says: An interesting argument against what appears to be transparency in schools, but could be something else again.


Kenneth Davidson

The Age

Economists are the priests of our time

“John Maynard Keynes said the power of ideas was far more potent
than vested interests,” writes Kenneth Davidson. But if economists are
to have any real influence over public policy, they have to accept the
same basic assumptions about the nature of society as the powers that
be. Since the rise of monetarism or “economic rationalism,” economists
are now more clearly identified with either the left (Keynesian) or the
right (neo-liberal) of the political spectrum. Now economic policy is
increasingly based on the myths of the dominant economic class. The US
FTA gives Australia nothing, but it serves US interests by extending
their copyright and intellectual property rights indefinitely – the
antithesis of an FTA. Now Australia is negotiating an FTA with
China, which is likely to swamp the remnants of Australian
manufacturing with Chinese imports. “In reality,” says Davidson, “free
trade will lead to a race to the bottom in terms of industry structure
and living standards, unless it is complemented by a range of policies
designed to move Australia up the skills chain and into more
sophisticated industries.”
Crikey Says: Davidson’s worldview is never ambiguous, and he
takes the circuitous route to arrive there, but there is a conclusion
and it isn’t all that loony.


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