On Gonski

David Edmunds writes: Re. “Gonski reforms are vital to our ‘agile’ future” (Friday). There are two problems with the Coalition critique on school funding.  The Coalition claims that despite increased funding over some two decades there is no indication that academic performance has improved.  This is hardly surprising as the Howard era funding formula directed federal funds precisely where the funds can be guaranteed to do the least good.  The funding was more about redistribution to those hardly done-by Australians who send their children to elite private schools than education.

The Gonski funding formula specifically addressed this problem by directing the funds where they would do the most good, and is therefore a problem for the coalition who claim this is their goal, but are reflexively opposed to the underlying principle of Gonski, that is, funding according to need.

Many Coalition members believe that funding IS the issue, at least for their own children.  It would be interesting to know just how many are sending their children to public schools instead of private schools operating on high per-capita expenditure on students.  Presumably those who choose private schooling and pay considerable fees to do so expect to see results from this expenditure.

This comment is no doubt an example of the politics of envy, a term used by some to denote an objection to the transfer of wealth from the poor to the wealthy.

On Latham

Geoffrey Heard writes: Re. “Razer: je suis Mark Latham” (Friday). Helen Razer says what she is writing about Latham is no defence of Latham but a defence of free speech.

Yeah, no, Helen, but the canning of a column in The Age does NOT impact on Latham’s free speech (or anyone else’s who suffers the same fate); he remains free to say or write whatever he likes, where he likes, and when he likes, within reason (or without reason, and I hope he gets jobbed appropriately for some of his poison). All it does is remove from him the privilege of having a major public forum to disseminate his drivel or vitriol or just plain shit.

If being able to have a column in The Age is a measure of free speech to which we are all entitled, then what about the rest of us? Personally, I would love a column in The Age — or even a berth in Crikey — but let’s face it, it ain’t gonna happen. So here I sit, an old wordsmith with lots to say, confined to my lonely hovel watching my lovely free speech dribble away through the cracks in the calendar. Maybe the cockroaches will benefit (but not if I get them first — the Mortein is ready to hand).

PS: Actually, I lie. It isn’t lonely at all in this hovel but is full of wife, kids, kids’ friends, visiting in-laws, friends, and neighbours.

Trust and money

John Richardson writes: Re. “Who can we trust on the economy?” (Friday). So Crikey, how dumb are we to be taken-in by a debate on the part of bureaucrats and politicians about Australia’s alleged standing in the world, on the basis that we are one of only ten nations to enjoy the illustrious AAA credit rating (Editorial, Friday)?

Maybe if we looked more closely at the quality of the company we are in (including Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Switzerland) we might just be a little less impressed. Indeed, apart from Germany, none of the world’s major economies, including the United States, Russia, China, the UK, South Korea & the EU, make it into the top 10 economic hit parade.

While Treasury Secretary John Fraser reckons that our AAA credit rating speaks to our international reputation for “fiscal prudence”, perhaps we should be a whole lot less impressed by a system run by ratings providers who have all been caught bestowing favourable blessings for a price.

It was Groucho Marx who so eloquently protested that he would never want to join a club that would have him as a member. I’m not sure where that leaves the Sydney Institute, but I reckon every galah in the pet shop understands that putting lipstick on a pig doesn’t make it any less of a porky.

Peter Fray

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