One thing Kevin “Mini-Me” Rudd would find it hard to do as Prime Minister: be more of a centralist than John Howard.

Never mind grabbing waterways and industrial relations powers, the Howard government is reaching right down to the finer print in State education systems – enforcing year 12 public examinations.

Next month will be compulsory federal standards on blackboard chalk and uniforms for teachers. (For women, full-length skirts year round; for men, walk shorts and long socks in summer, short-sleeved shirts and ties, slacks in winter. No jeans.) Corporal punishment is on the 2008 agenda.

The edict from education minister Julie Bishop (a later model than the Bronwyn — taller, leaner and more doctrinaire) that Queensland and the ACT must reintroduce Year 12 public exams was quietly shoved into the federal budget papers but it’s only now that the two territories are getting around to announcing they won’t wear it, putting their federal education funding at risk.

It seems Julie is particularly fond of a bit of control and discipline – witness her determination to kill off unions in universities by withholding funds from those not going all the way with AWAs.

I’ve always thought I was most fortunate to be in the last year that enjoyed Queensland’s Year 12 public examination – the system that replaced it, of constant internal assessment over two years, appeared much harder for a successful crammer, never mind the personality conflicts that can occur between a sometimes wilful student and his teacher/assessor.

The NSW system of a 50/50 mixture of final exam and final year assessments strikes me as a fair compromise, but it’s not Canberra’s job to decree such things.

Federalism and the Liberal Party’s fine traditions are being rapidly killed. Long Live The All Wise Grandfather of the Nation. And tuck that shirt in, son.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey