Ben Eltham writes: Re. “My Cup of Tea: who’s making money in art? Rarely artists …”  (July 20, item 5). In this article, I erroneously stated that the MCA does not pay NAVA rates to artists for exhibition fees. I also implied that overseas artists are paid preferentially over local artists. This was incorrect: the MCA does in fact pay artist fees at above-standard rates and does not preference international artists in this manner. I’d like to apologise to the MCA, Liz Ann Macgregor and MCA staff for any offence.


Marcus L’Estrange writes: Re. “The Pyne prescription V.2: how the Coalition would educate” (yesterday, item 13). As a teacher, I must contest opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne’s claim that better teachers, not more teachers, are needed

Currently, at least 35% plus of teachers’ time is spent on indiscipline. This means that many students are getting only four years of high school instead of six. It also means that many, many teachers, because of this time loss, cannot really display their capabilities as teachers and consequently it cannot be ascertained if they are good, bad or middle-of-the-road teachers. Remember, teachers are trained to teach, not be glorified, overpaid bouncers.

Secondly, school based assessment must be abolished and be replaced by two Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority externally set and corrected exams that covers all areas of the curriculum and the NAPLAN skills set, in all years. The key point of this is to stop the schools “cooking of their exam results” books. Until we do this we won’t again really be able to again ascertain a teacher’s ability as we don’t know the honesty level of current school-based assessment.

Pyne should go back to the planning board and the coalface classroom, introduce the above measures if he becomes the education minister and level the playing field against cronyism in schools and then, only then, start making assessments of teachers’ ability levels.

Alan Corbett  writes: Despite their pronouncements on the necessity for quality teaching and a quality education for all children, both major parties have similar views when it comes to the continued use of physical punishment in schools. Quite simply they choose to ignore its use in a small number of non-state Christian schools in Queensland and Western Australia.

When challenged, Labor and the Coalition state the official line that the Commonwealth has no constitutional authority to force any change. Hence, for some unfortunate children, a quality education must include a bit of inflicted pain with a liberal serving of biblical justification.

By the way, Tony Abbott was quoted in the Sunday Mail on June 15, 2007, as suggesting that “… schools bring back corporal punishment to counter brutal playground behaviour …” This was when he was the federal health minister. Is this still his view? Is violence best met with violence? Would some journo please ask him for me? I have asked him twice but alas I have not received any reply.

David Hardie writes: Well done to Dean Ashenden for an excellent article on the opposition’s school policies. Not only do they intend to exert influence over a complex schooling system, which they have very little control in the first place, and they intend to direct the states to give principals more autonomy, but the more that schools and principals are given autonomy, the ability of the federal government (or state government for that) to influence what occurs in schools will diminish (e.g. tell them to run more classes for languages other than English).

If they want to run schools then they can run schools. If they want to give them autonomy then they can give them autonomy. But they can’t do both.

Melbourne byelection:

Melbourne Liberal Michael Kennedy writes: Re. “Andrews smacked down Labor hacks and got Kanis over the line” (yesterday, item 2). There is a reason Melbourne’s Liberal voters have abandoned the Greens since electing Adam Bandt.

The reason is simple: Bandt’s unequivocal support for the present Commonwealth government. The day that Bandt announced that he would always support the ALP is the day that the Greens lost Liberal support.

Now, as all the demographics show, Melbourne’s electors, including Liberals, are above average in education, employment, income, etc, and below average in age, etc.  Melbourne’s voters are not reflexive voters, nationally they are exceptional.  They are probably more “left-wing” than your average ALP voter and probably, occasionally, enjoy a cafe latte and, perhaps, a pinot varietal.

In discussions with my compatriots, we constantly posed the question, “if the Greens were automatically supporting Labor, then what is purpose of non-Labor voters supporting the Greens?”.

The answer is clear, for the moment, there is no benefit in Liberals in supporting the Greens if the Greens are automatically preferencing the ALP at the ballot box or if the Greens automatically support parliamentary Labor (minority government or otherwise).  We may as well cut out the middle man and vote for the devil we know.

Without the benefit of the 80% of Liberal preferences that went to him in 2010, Bandt will not hold the seat of Melbourne. I recall that previous  polling has shown that over 70% of Melbourne’s Liberal voters would turn to Labor before voting again for the Greens — as seen in this election. Perhaps it’s not only the ALP that needs to work out which side of their bread is buttered.

Martin Gordon writes: The political coverage of the Melbourne byelection has been as disconnected as any I have ever seen. It is amazing that the ALP has claimed a great victory, this is an electorate where in 1999 its primary vote was 59%. In 2010 it was 36% and now it is 33%. If this is a victory it is a truly a pyrrhic victory (the sort of victory you cannot afford to have more of).

The Greens went up from 32% to 36%. The total percentage vote for everyone else barely changed going from 32% to 31%. Labor lost ground on first preferences in 12 and two-party-preferred votes in 13 out of 14 polling booths.