Labor cash cows under investigation. The saga involving Canberra’s chain of wealthy Labor Clubs continues with the embarrassing news for the political party that they are under investigation by the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission. The statutory body charged with controlling the multi-million dollar clubs industry is studying whether the ALP breached gambling, tax and corporation laws by intervening to try and stop the sale of the clubs.

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Under the Gaming Machine Act of the Australian Capital Territory the Commission can refuse a club a gaming licence if “the club’s management committee or board does not, for any reason, have complete control over the club’s business or operations, or a significant aspect of the club’s business or operations.”

As part of a wonderful little internet Labor Party brawl there have been allegations that the Party’s Federal Executive, of which Prime Minister Kevin Rudd is a member, threatened board members of the licensed gaming clubs with disciplinary action if they allowed the Canberra Tradesmen’s Union Club group (a body affiliated to the CFMEU trade union in a similar way as the Labor Clubs are to the ACT Branch of the Labor Party) to buy its clubs for some $25 million.

The key issue in dispute is apparently which part of the ALP gets its hands on the money from the sale – the left wing leaning ACT Branch or the Federal Party where the right is in control.

A Murdoch shut down. It is not just newspapers with paid circulation that are in trouble. Overnight the Murdoch press announced the shutdown of its freebie London afternoon paper given away to commuters at bus stops, tube and train stations. James James, chairman and chief executive, Europe and Asia, News Corporation, said: “The performance of the business in a difficult free newspaper sector has fallen short of expectations. We have taken a tough decision that reflects our priorities as a business.”

You can get an idea of what readers will miss from these highlights taken from thelondonpaper website

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Ranking schools. Perhaps there is a solution to the increasingly vitriolic dispute between teachers unions and politicians in an approach being taken in Ontario to publishing the rankings of schools on a range of standards tests. Canadian think tank the C.D. Howe Institute has just published a paper that screens out the influence of socio-economic factors on how a school’s students perform on Ontario’s standardized tests at the end of Primary Division (Grade 3) and Junior Division (Grade 6).

This allows the author of the paper, David Johnson, to identify those schools that perform better or worse than other schools with students of similar backgrounds. The resulting school ratings by percentile are useful not only to parents, says the Howe Institute, but also to school board administrators and education officials who wish to identify schools whose practices deserve imitation.

Johnson explains that Ontario’s standardized test results are the starting point for the study. In Ontario, the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO) conducts an annual assessment of learning by all elementary school students. Students are tested at the end of the Primary Division (Grade 3) and at the end of the Junior Division (Grade 6).

Rankings of schools from unadjusted test scores reflect not only the school’s relative success in imparting skills, but the socio-economic characteristics of the school’s community. This gives lower rankings to schools in disadvantaged neighbourhoods and higher rankings to schools in privileged neighbourhoods.

He has developed a way of adjusting the standardised tests results to take account of different socio-economic factors.I am not a good enough statistician to comment on his methodology for doing that but will be intrigued to hear from Crikey readers who think that they do.

Peter Fray

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