Local government referendum pointless

Martin Gordon writes: Re. “News Ltd bites hand that feeds local paper network” (yesterday). Having been an elected member of local government I agree with Stephen Mayne about the importance of local government. But I do disagree with the arguments about constitutional recognition been important. This (if tried again in 2013) would be the third time that a referendum on local government had been put; the first two failed. In the 1980s the Hawke Labor government cut into state and local government grants to help balance their budget, and then in 1988 put an amendment recognising local government. The obvious hypocrisy was reflected at the state level under the corresponding Bannon government, which was coincidentally Labor, also treated local government appallingly.

Whenever there was money to be given there was no obstacle to it being given from the federal government to local government, so I suspect that the referendum means little. As local government exists under a framework of the states, and federal and state government act in capricious ways towards local government, I suspect this will be one of the most meaningless referendums ever put to the Australian people.

Having the G-G onside is essential

Philip Howell of Advancing Democracy writes: Re. “Crikey Clarifier: the process of appointing a new GG” (yesterday). I have just read and commented on today’s clarifier concerning the G-G. How can you possibly publish something so misguided on this subject? The main point with new appointments is that under our present constitution a prime minister would be mad not to ensure that the G-G was politically on his or her side.

The consequence of having a head of state who can dismiss an elected government is the loss of neutrality of that head of state.The fairly benign political environment that usually prevails conceals this essential truth. Yet when certain circumstances coincide, as they may well do after this year’s election, dismissal or some other interference in government becomes a real possibility. That’s when the conventions simply do not matter, and those with power try to use royal power to destroy their opponents.

Population growth not good for the economy

Ian Lowe writes: Re. “Keane: curbing population to cut emissions lazy and damaging” (Friday). Bernard Keane repeats the discredited canard that rapid population growth is good for the economy. Yes, it increases the rate of growth of the GDP, but it is questionable whether it increases GDP per person, which is the significant indicator. It has been estimated that each new resident of the major cities — which is where almost all the immigrants go — costs the community about $250,000. Yes, they increase the tax base, but you don’t have to be a mathematical genius to work out that 2% more revenue won’t pay for 100% more infrastructure. It might still be possible to meet responsible emissions reduction targets with a much larger population, but it requires much greater reductions per person. Our target will be a challenge even if we decide to stabilise our population, which will inevitably grow to about 27 million as a result of past decisions. It will be much more difficult if we allow the growth-mongers to inflate the population to over 40 million.

Private school teachers’ tax deductions

Trevor O’Wake writes: Re. “How much does an Aussie teacher earn?” (Friday). In your teachers earnings piece, there was one thing you didn’t talk about which I wished you had. That is the ability for teachers in the private and religious schools to salary package much more generously because they are working for a “charity”. This means many can salary sacrifice straight to their mortgage or credit card and pay a lot less tax on a similar salary than their state government counterparts.

Schooled on partnerships

Barbara Preston writes: Re. “PromiseWatch 2013: what have the parties pledged on education?” (yesterday). Yesterday’s article on education stated “federal funding mainly occurs through National Partnerships”. Federal funding for schools does not “mainly occur” through National Partnerships. In fact, National Partnerships are only around 12% of federal funding for schools that goes via the states, and National Partnerships are budgeted to fall by 33% by 2015-16 (with funding for low-SES communities going to zero).

More than two-thirds of federal funding is paid to non-government schools, most on a per student basis via the notorious “SES” scheme, which has been in operation since 2001, which tweaked (“no school would lose per student funding in real terms …”) a program that had largely been in operation since 1973, with various adjustments to formulas (almost always increasing per student rates for non-government schools relative to government schools). The 1973 Interim Committee of the Schools Commission (Karmel Committee) recommended per student rates for the government sector that were on average 72% of the per student rate recommended for non-government schools. In 2012 the per student rate for government schools is just 33% the average per student rate the Commonwealth funds non-government schools, even though low SES students have become increasingly concentrated in government schools.

See also Dr Jim McMorrow’s budget analysis.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey