Category Archives: Brendan Nelson

Ken Boston outsources, falls on sword…

I will give Ken Boston some marks for integrity, to judge from Australian steps down as Britain’s exams chief after marking debacle. Ken Boston is a familiar name to any of us who were teaching here in NSW in the 80s and 90s. As the article explains: “Dr Boston, 65, was instrumental in delivering many reforms to the NSW education system during the early 1990s under Dr Terry Metherell. He has headed the British authority since 2002.” Here is what happened, according to the Sydney Morning Herald:

ONE of Britain’s most highly paid and powerful public servants, the former NSW education chief Ken Boston, has resigned his £328,000 ($873,000)-a-year post after a chaotic round of national curriculum tests.

Dr Boston, who began his career as a teacher in Victoria and was in his sixth year at the helm of the British schools testing watchdog, announced that he believed in public officials "taking responsibility when things go wrong".

Thousands of British children aged 11 and 14 received late – or incorrect – Standard Assessment Test results this year after the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority outsourced their administration to an American company, ETS, which signed a £156 million contract for the job. The British Government sacked the company in August.

Known as SATs, the tests are given at the end of years 2, 6 and 9 and are designed to measure children’s progress in comparison with peers born in the same month. The mess led the Government to drop the tests for 14-year-olds and there has been debate about scrapping the tests for 11-year-olds.

An inquiry by Lord Sutherland was launched into the disastrous round of SATs three months ago and is widely predicted to contain serious criticisms of the authority. The report is due to be handed down in London tomorrow…

He said at the weekend that the performance of ETS had been "quite unacceptable" and repeated an apology issued to the 1.2 million students who took the tests and their teachers at the end of the summer term in Britain.

Criticism of Dr Boston has been tough since the disastrous results and he has come under pressure about his salary package, which includes the use of a £1 million apartment in London’s fashionable Chelsea district as well as six business-class flights a year back to Australia. London newspapers have also made an issue of his ownership of a yacht in Sydney…

Our measurement fetish – and theirs in the UK, and ditto in the USA — really needs to be looked at in the light of these events, not to mention the perils of outsourcing to private concerns. The same mob did our Adult Literacy Survey under Howard in 2006: Australian Adult Literacy and Life Skills Survey 2 (with comments by Jim Belshaw).

I wrote more on the Educational Testing Service a year ago on English/ESL: Email about the Educational Testing Service.

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Posted by on December 15, 2008 in Australia, awful warnings, Brendan Nelson, curriculum, education, exams and assessment, future schooling, Jim Belshaw, John Howard, literacy, London


Camden on the Gold Coast?

I promoted Muslim Schooling on Gold Coast by Postkiwi Duncan Macleod on Neil’s Shared Items yesterday, but it is worth a post here too.

The Gold Coast where I live has hit the news headlines this last week as a group of Christians petitioned, and protested against the establishment of a Muslim school in Carrara. Australian International Islamic College, based in Durack, Brisbane, is proposing to build the Gold Coast’s first Muslim school right next door to the Dream Centre, a large AOG church.

Tony Doherty, a minister with the Dream Centre, is coordinating the Concerned Carrara Residents Group, mobilizing the local residents against the proposed school. The group’s expressed concerns are about the increase in traffic, reduced security, the disturbance of the peace (look how upset the group is and the school hasn’t started yet), a lack of community cohesion relating to the long standing churches and social clubs in the area, a concern that a separated Muslim community would take over the area, and the loss in property values.

It’s obvious that this protest is based on a concern about the school being Islamic. There’s a major school just down the road run by an interdenominational group of Christians that would have ten times the amount of traffic.

One of the comments from the Church is that it doesn’t make sense to have a Muslim community next to a Christian community. Where else would you place them if you wanted them to live harmoniously within the wider community?…

My emphasis. It all has a familiar ring, hasn’t it? Duncan, a Uniting Church minister, continues:

I think it’s time to affirm what being Australian means. We live in a secular society, in which people of all walks of life can have access to education and employment, no matter what their creed. That includes access to State schools, as well as the right to provide faith-based education that fits with the State’s syllabus…

Let’s keep our eyes on this one.

Speaking of Uniting Church, it is hardly a secret that The South Sydney Herald is a community project of South Sydney Uniting Church. I was interested to note, when I attended the end-of-year party, that those involved testify to its inclusiveness, however, ranging from Andrew (editor and minister) through a group including older leftie/anarchist activists, young bright journalism types, including one Liberal Party member, artists, atheists, gay lesbian and transgender, and just lately as a guest contributor Brendan Nelson! The Paper, as those involved call it, has developed quite a lot this year and really is appreciated in the local area – that is Newton, Redfern, Chippendale, Rosebery, Surry Hills, Darlinghurst, Kings Cross. They have broken some important stories during the year and been quite a little ginger group all round. They also do much to give voice to local performers and artists, the local Indigenous community, and quite a few others.


While not directly related to the subject of Duncan’s post, OPINION: Second Column in Crescent Times … by eminently sane Australian Muslim lawyer Irfan Yusuf is a good companion piece.

So here’s my solution to prejudice – prove the agents of prejudice wrong. Yes, Muslims have a soft spot for the Palestinians (as indeed do many Jews, especially in Israel). But that doesn’t mean we should assume all Jews have an anti-Muslim agenda. We should leave this kind of simplistic logic to simpletons who attend Republican Party rallies or who seek to take over the NSW Liberals.

That means we should build networks with like-minded people. And under no circumstances should we tolerate any group in society to be marginalised.


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Malcolm Turnbull on Q&A last night

Did you see last night’s episode?

Malcolm Turnbull became Leader of the Opposition in dramatic circumstances earlier this month when Brendan Nelson called a surprise leadership vote in an attempt to put an end to speculation about who should be the Liberal leader. Malcolm, having lost to Mr Nelson by three votes after last year’s election, won by four votes and has set his sights on becoming Prime Minister at the next election. Widely regarded as an all-round high achiever and the man most likely to achieve whatever he puts his mind to, Malcolm is currently on his fourth career – politics – after highly successful forays in journalism, the law and business…

Yes, he was impressive in style and presentation; he usually is. Yes, he is very very bright. Yes, he once smoked dope and even inhaled. Yes, thank God, he is not John Howard and he is not Brendan Nelson. Yes, Kevin Rudd needs to worry. Yes, the audience was predominantly young. That’s new.

But behind the scenes much is same old, same old…


Dr Nelson looks forward to a diet of jam and baked beans…

I think not.

What a performance that was by Dr N in Parliament yesterday! I’m not referring to the fact that in a few hours he may no longer be Leader of the Opposition, but to his poncing around with his tin of baked beans and his jar of jam in fake sympathy for the plight of pensioners. His real aim of course was to embarrass the government and go down the populist path of seeming to be the Santa of the Senior Set.

I write this, just so you know, as a person on the Single Aged Pension myself. I don’t need Dr Nelson-Turnbull to tell me the rate is very low. I do remind Dr Nelson-Turnbull that the rate is exactly the same as it was when he/they were several Ministers in the Howard government. And that rate is, as Dr Nelson-Turnbull well knows, pegged at 25% of the average male weekly earnings, and that has been so for a very long time. All this talk about an extra thirty bucks a week is just talk. As Dr Nelson-Turnbull well knows. Only a systematic review, such as the government is undertaking, holds out any real hope, and even there I am not holding my breath.


Dr Nelson-Turnbull

The true beliefs of Dr Nelson-Turnbull’s side of politics are transparent anyway: just look at this patronising git from the Centre for Independent Studies:

The rate of the pension is currently set at one-quarter of average weekly earnings and is indexed annually for inflation. Contrary to what has been claimed, the pension has therefore increased every year. However, the base rate has been set at – and should be kept at – the present level for sound policy reasons.

The old age pension system has never been structured to replace the earnings people forgo when they retire. It has always been designed to alleviate poverty. The government taxes people still in the workforce to provide a ‘safety net’ for those who have failed to provide for their own retirement.

The expectation, in other words, has been that people who are now retired or about to retire should have provided for themselves over the 30 to 40 year span of their working lives by purchasing a home, by accumulating assets, and by investing and saving. To reinforce this expectation, and maintain the integrity of existing government policy, it is essential to keep the pension at the current rate to discourage people from trying to shifting the cost of their retirement onto others.

That is the tune Dr Nelson-Turnbull would be singing in government. They know that. I know that.

Anyway, I find kangaroo sausages at around $3.50 for 7 bangers, the basis for three meals, are a much better bargain than baked beans…

The whole performance aspect of this just sickens me.

Politicians! Rot them!

Seriously: see The Institute of Actuaries Australia and The Australian Government Pension Review Background Paper.


National MP backs guest worker scheme: she is, and I am, so over Brendan Nelson…

Of course National MP Kay Hull doesn’t put it quite like that, being part of the Opposition herself. But she does say as strongly as possible that Dr Nelson is misguided.

Nationals MP Kay Hull has backed the government’s guest worker scheme to allow Pacific Island workers to pick fruit in Australia.

Under the three-year pilot scheme, 2,500 workers from Tonga, Vanuatu, Kiribati and Papua New Guinea will be given temporary work visas to help in agricultural industries.

Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson has criticised the idea saying unemployed Australians should do the work.

But Ms Hull, the federal member for the southern NSW seat of Riverina, says Dr Nelson is misguided.

She said farmers in her electorate were being forced to let their crops rot because there were not enough workers to pick the fruit.

“You simply cannot live in a city electorate and make these decisions without recognising the absolute dire circumstances that are existing in my electorate and other electorates,” Ms Hull told ABC Radio.

The desperate and dateless Nelson — who I have long suspected of taking the worst advice possible on a whole range of matters, a characteristic of him in both his portfolios under Howard — seems set on opposing for opposition’s sake. And he wonders why people get to hate politicians, though Kay Hull is proving an exception right now… (See also Jim Belshaw.)

As, in his own way, is Barnaby Joyce. The issue here is university “union” fees — which I posted about in 2005: USU Online – the University of Sydney Union Website and Student union fees bill passed – National – As the downside of this ill-considered reform became apparent I posted again in 2007: It seemed a good idea at the time… This week we learn that the government plans to undo some of that reform. I really think this must be done.

THE Rudd Government is set to reintroduce compulsory fees for university students to reverse a decline in sporting and social services on campuses.

It is understood that an announcement is due next month on an “opt-out” system in which students will be able to choose which services their fees are spent on and whether they belong to the student union.

It will aim to redress what the Government says are the consequences of the Howard government wiping out compulsory student unionism in late 2005 and replacing it with voluntary student unionism.

The former government relied on the support of the Family First Senator Steve Fielding after the Nationals Barnaby Joyce crossed the Senate floor because he feared a decline in campus sport.

Senator Joyce, who met recently with the National Union of Students, told the Herald yesterday that he would vote with Labor again if he liked the legislation.

Sport, he said, had been “smacked” by VSU. “I haven’t changed my position. If it’s right, I will support it,” he said.

“You’ve got to have some capacity to cover sporting costs. A university is more than an academic institution.”

A report commissioned in February by the Youth Minister, Kate Ellis, and released recently, received more than 162 submissions, the majority of which “concluded that the abolition of upfront compulsory student union fees had impacted negatively on the provision of amenities and services to university students”.

For example, the University of Technology, Sydney, reported that compulsory student unionism used to raise $6.2 million a year for services. That had declined to $190,000 a year and the university had contributed another $500,000 from its operating budget.

To cope, it increased food prices by 15 per cent and reduced “funding and member numbers in sporting, recreational, cultural and social clubs”.

The Howard government offered about $80 million in transitional assistance but that runs out on June 30 next year.

Despite this, the report found most universities were having to supplement student services from funds budgeted for salaries, learning and research.

The Education Minister, Julia Gillard, has in recent days reinforced Labor’s election pledge that “there would not be a return to compulsory student unionism”.

But a Labor source said Ms Gillard was choosing her language carefully. Labor would not reintroduce compulsory student union membership but the fee that accompanied the membership and funded services.

“It’s like saying that you won’t pay taxes,” the source said of those opposed to having to pay a fee.

Before VSU, fees ranged from $100 to $600. Under the new system, yet to go before cabinet, fees would be at the lower end of the scale.

Under opt-out proposals, students could tick a box if they were unhappy with their fees being spent on any area in particular. There would be restrictions or bans on money being used for partisan politics but student advocacy would be funded.

The Opposition education spokesman, Tony Smith, was opposed to any change.

“We thought the legislation we passed was the right legislation. The former Howard government gave students choice,” he said.

The president of the National Union of Students, Angus McFarland, said the Government needed to pass the legislation in time for fees to be collected at the start of the academic year.

“Month after month, services keep degrading. It’s that urgent.”

Clearly I do not agree with all that Barnaby Joyce comes up with, but I really do think politics in this country needs more people prepared to say “If it’s right, I will support it.”

Perhaps Brendan Nelson might take note.


Govt denies compulsory student fee plan — ABC

…Federal Finance Minister Lindsay Tanner has told Fran Kelly on ABC’s Radio National that several options to make changes to the fee structure are still being considered.

But Mr Tanner says compulsory fees are not an option.

“We’ve indicated we’re not proposing to do something that’s compulsory but we are looking at ways to ensure that we can revive services on campuses, non-academic services that in many parts of Australia have been seriously eroded by the changes the Howard government has made,” he said.

“[The report] suggests that we are both going to do something that is compulsory but also [have] an opt out clause but it can’t be both, so I’m not quite sure of the logic of the position that’s being put.

“We’ve indicated that we’re not proposing to do something compulsory but we haven’t concluded those consultations and investigations of what the options are.”

Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who is in Niue for the Pacific Island’s Forum, says Labor’s policy is “clear cut” and was outlined before last year’s federal election.

Liberal Nationals Senator Barnaby Joyce crossed the floor to vote against the laws three years ago…

But they are clearly going to have to do something.



Interdependency is a bureaucratic invention with which I became very familiar in the years 1990-1995, during which time M attained first his permanent residence and then his Australian citizenship. It was a long and sometimes frustrating saga, but in the end M achieved what he wanted and, I would assert with no qualification whatsoever, Australia was also a winner — first because Australia gained a good citizen, and second because at least two Australians, M and I, had reason to be proud of what this country can be like.

The Interdependency Visa Class still exists.

This visa is generally for same-sex partners. An Interdependency visa allows you to enter or remain in Australia on the basis of your interdependent relationship with your partner:

  • on a temporary visa (usually for a waiting period of approximately two (2) years from the date you applied for the visa)
  • on a permanent visa if, after the waiting period (if applicable), your partner relationship still exists and you are still eligible for a Spouse visa.

Your partner must be one of the following:

  • an Australian citizen
  • an Australian permanent resident
  • an eligible New Zealand citizen.

The point is it doesn’t officially recognise same-sex relationships, not in any way that impinges on the Marriage Act, despite everyone knowing, and as you see the Immigration Department explicitly saying, what comes under the heading of “interdependency”. It is also true that there would be other kinds of relationship which may be classed as interdependent.

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Relevance of Canada’s Apology to Australia’s

I could well relate to the feelings Canadians must have experienced as they witnesses the Apology to their Native Peoples, video posted in the VodPod on the right. The Toronto Globe and Mail reports: ‘We are sorry’.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper had yet to utter a single word of Canada’s apology to former Indian residential schools students when the cheering began. Native drumming and shouts turned into loud, simultaneous clapping. Raw emotion bursting for an apology decades overdue. There were many smiles.
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Posted by on June 13, 2008 in Brendan Nelson, Canada, current affairs, events, human rights, humanity, Indigenous Australians, John Howard, Kevin Rudd, pluralism, Political, politics, Reconciliation


Yeah, right…

Just a few examples of quality thinking from this morning’s Sydney Morning Herald.

1. Board clears Henson images

In this instance the quality thinking is that of our PM and others who have joined the panic over the Henson pics.

Images declared “absolutely revolting” by the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, at the height of the Bill Henson controversy have been cleared for general release.

Late last week the Classification Board swiftly assessed five Henson images taken from media websites and rated them all “G” or “very mild”. Some or all of the images are partly censored with black bars covering nipples and genitals. The assessment followed a complaint about images on media websites after NSW police closed his Sydney exhibition on May 23. The main complaint is said to involve a slide show of seized photographs on The Daily Telegraph’s website.

Last Thursday, the Minister for Home Affairs, Bob Debus, said images from media websites had been referred to the Classification Board. They were cleared the same day. An internet censorship expert Irene Graham told the Herald: “The fact that the Classification Board has become involved in this and then worked so quickly to reach its verdict is a sign of just how politically sensitive the Henson issue has become.”…

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You may as well protest about photosynthesis…

That’s what a caller to BBC said last night our time — I heard it on ABC News Radio — in response to the latest round of fuel price protests in Europe. Then on Lateline last night economics correspondent Stephen Long had this to say:

LEIGH SALES, PRESENTER: FuelWatch or ‘FoolWatch’? It’s dominated politics this week, but does the petrol price scheme make economic sense and does it really matter?
With his take, I’m joined by Economics Correspondent Stephen Long.
Stephen, what do you reckon?
STEPHEN LONG, ECONOMICS CORRESPONDENT: Leigh. I reckon it’s amazing that so much time and effort has been devoted to such a second order issue, really. “Much ado about nothing” you could call it or if you wanted to change Shakespearean analogies, “a tale told by idiots full of sound and fury signifying nothing” or not much at all because really this won’t make much difference to prices one way or another. We’ve seen a 400 per cent increase in the price of crude oil since the war in Iraq. The economist John Quiggin has calculated that if a carbon tax is introduced, it’ll add 25 cents a litre to the price of petrol and we’re talking at best, what, one or two cents off the price of the bowser? Small beer. That said, Leigh, there is an economic logic to FuelWatch and logic and common sense as well. And so, it’s not a bad thing. I just don’t see why it’s such a big political deal other than the populist politics.
LEIGH SALES: We say it’s not a bad thing and God knows I don’t like to contradict a man who can analyse economics and quote Shakespeare at will, but four government departments seem to disagree with your assessment of FuelWatch not being a bad thing. How do you explain that?
STEPHEN LONG: Well, I could say to be glib that the finance department never wants to spend public money and there will be big public administration costs with this, and Treasury never wants to intervene in markets. What I would say is, they have legitimate concerns and the ACCC raised similar concerns before it investigated it further. Now, what’s the logic of it? Well, the logic of FuelWatch is that at the moment, basically, the sellers of petrol have all the information. They subscribe to their service informed sources which gives them real time information about what their competitors are charging. So, all the pricing power and information is with the buyers. That’s a basic issue in economics. It’s called information asymmetry that undermines competition. So, FuelWatch is designed to give the information to – sorry, the information’s with the sellers. FuelWatch is designed to give information to the buyers. And, it will work basically as a tender system. So, you have to bid your prices the day before and the logic is that in a market where clearly consumers are very price sensitive, if you bid too high, you’re gonna be out of the market. So, the logic is there: it makes economic sense. The modelling as I’ve seen it from the ACCC in this second round modelling makes it look reasonably convincing, but, as I said, it’s small beer in the scheme of things one way or another.

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Playing politics

Honestly, I am disappointed and angry. Here we are, I believe, confronting a crisis of monumental and lasting scope. Consider these stories from AlterNet:

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Posted by on May 28, 2008 in Australia, Brendan Nelson, challenge, current affairs, Kevin Rudd, Political, politics


Child porn playwright sought

NSW Police, acting on complaints by Interested Citizens, are on the point of cracking Child Pornographer William Shakespeare. “I have never heard anything so disgusting in my life,” Prime Minister Rudd told Good Morning Australia.

“But I was disgusted long before Kevin Rudd, and no child will have to pay for petrol under a Coalition Government,” responded Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson on Sunrise.

Shakespeare — not to be confused with Australian singer Johnny Cabe whose suggestive lyrics (see the YouTube) do explain his choice of “William Shakespeare” as a stage name — has been foisting his filth on impressionable young Australians for years, informed sources say.

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Opposition temporarily unites in an illusion of competence

Last night on Q&A, and since, Kevin Rudd has been suggesting that some elements in the current economic situation are not actually answerable to national governments and that the recent budget did all it could at this point — which, he went on, is not the end of the story… But he is right. One illusion the Howard government cherished and encouraged is that they were more in control of such things than they really were. Andrew Charlton exploded that one for me in Ozonomics: see my entry last year, and The Economic Myths of Peter Costello in The Monthly October 2007.

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Posted by on May 23, 2008 in Australia, Australia and Australian, Brendan Nelson, John Howard, Kevin Rudd, Political, politics


So that was Brendan I saw coming out of the Surry Hills Actors Centre then…

No, I jest; I saw no such thing.

However, Brendan does seem to have been to a drama coach —  if tonight’s Address in Reply is any guide. His outrage over the tax on Alcopops — which may indeed be ill-judged policy, but that’s another matter — was all the more remarkable given his being on the record in support of it just a very little while ago; it was almost believable… If you hadn’t heard what he said before.

He has at least lived to fight another day as Leader of the Opposition, I suppose.

I know what he did. Locked himself up for a few days and watched Jimmy Stewart in Mister Smith Goes to Washington over and over again.

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Posted by on May 15, 2008 in Australia, Brendan Nelson, Political, politics


Overdue catchup for Aussie gays and lesbians

There is no doubt this is good news, so far as it goes: Matching rights for gay couples, Government moves on gay reform, and Opposition gives qualified support. That last story:

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