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John Passant

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March 2011



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My interview Razor Sharp 18 February
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp on Tuesday 18 February. (0)

My interview Razor Sharp 11 February 2014
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace on Razor Sharp this morning. The Royal Commission, car industry and age of entitlement get a lot of the coverage. (0)

Razor Sharp 4 February 2014
Me on 4 February 2014 on Razor Sharp with Sharon Firebrace. (0)

Time for a House Un-Australian Activities Committee?
Tony Abbott thinks the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is Un-Australian. I am looking forward to his government setting up the House Un-Australian Activities Committee. (1)

Make Gina Rinehart work for her dole

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Save Medicare

Demonstrate in defence of Medicare at Sydney Town Hall 1 pm Saturday 4 January (0)

Me on Razor Sharp this morning
Me interviewed by Sharon Firebrace this morning for Razor Sharp. It happens every Tuesday. (0)

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Send Barnaby to Indonesia
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Rich snobs’ education subsidised by workers

There are few examples that so starkly illustrate the class divide in Australian society than the lopsided education system. And there are few indicators that demonstrate the parasitic nature of the rich than how education is funded.

At one end of the wealth spectrum we have the schools where the ultra-wealthy send their children: Places like Scotch, Geelong Grammar, Pymble Ladies’, Cranbrook School, Xavier, Christ Church, St Peter’s, Methodist Ladies’ etc.

They charge in some instances over $20,000 per year in tuition fees and are built to accommodate their students’ wants for the luxuries of life that they have come to expect to indulge in. Take the facilities at the Shore School in Sydney:

For organised games at North Sydney there is one oval, as well as numerous cricket nets, tennis and basketball courts. There is also a fully equipped physical education complex with two gymnasiums, circuit and weights training areas, two squash courts and an eight-lane 25 metre swimming pool, with separate diving-pool. The School’s main sports facility…encompasses the Hawker Stand and one of the finest ovals in Sydney along with five other full-sized ovals and tennis courts.

Andrew Carswell, writing in The Daily Telegraph, noted of Shore’s spend thrift ways last year:

[T]he school went on a spending spree, splashing out $40 million on new buildings and facilities (including redeveloping its historic Harbourside mansion Graythwaite) – a staggering 80 times what public schools allocated for expenditure on average.

Shore is reportedly planning to spend a further $38 million “redeveloping an old nursing home it…recently acquired”.

But if that school is not good enough for the little darlings then parents can try Geelong Grammar, which sports the $16 million Handbury Centre for Wellbeing. The Handbury boasts a swimming pool, dance studio, indoor courts, and a fitness centre where students can enjoy Pilates and yoga. They also have an indoor equestrian centre which enables students to bring their horses to school!

At the other end lie government schools, in which about 80 per cent of students from low income families are enrolled. The facilities for government school stand in stark contrast to the grammar palaces of the rich – bitumen basketball courts, stand-alone portable class rooms with no heating or cooling, a couple of Sherrins, ripped-up cricket balls from the concrete pitch (if the school actually has an oval), dilapidated buildings, maybe a picture of Phar Lap on the wall somewhere to remind students that Thoroughbreds actually exist.

Opulence in education for the children of rich parasites that spend their days doing over everyone for a quick buck; overcrowded sub-par facilities for the children of workers who put in hour after hour slaving away for the substandard wages on offer from the aforementioned parasites: welcome to the Australian education system. It is, as Joel Windle, writing in The Age argues, “the best [class] segregation money can buy”.

It isn’t just the existence of this gross inequity in education that is scandalous, but the fact that the divide is getting worse and that government money continues to flow into the coffers of these elite schools for the born-to-rule while state schools struggle to make do.

Over the last decade, some of the wealthiest schools have seen massive increases in commonwealth funding. At Sydney’s Trinity Grammar it is up 193 per cent; Meriden 158 per cent; Newington 162 per cent; and over 200 per cent for Geelong Grammar. Yet funding for government schools increased less than 70 per cent over the same period. Research compiled for the Australian Education Union shows that:

In aggregate, Commonwealth general recurrent funding for the 2.3 million students in Australia’s public schools was just under $1.9 billion in 2008…. The total level of Commonwealth general recurrent funding for the 1.1 million students in non-government schools across Australia was just over $5.5 billion in 2008.

If the current funding system continues past 2012, by 2016, total Commonwealth funding for private schools will increase “by more than $2.3 billion…to a total of over $9.5 billion; compared with a $652 million increase for government schools, to a total of $3.1 billion, over the same period”.

Not all private schools are bastions of the wealthy, but ruling class and middle class schools getting millions in public subsidies is indefensible. Funding that is sorely needed for schools in working class suburbs is being siphoned into Toorak and the North Shore and helping to pay for equestrian centres for spoiled brats.

Some are actually attempting to defend the whole charade by claiming that these elite schools are doing us all a favour. Speaking to the Sydney Morning Herald in January Timothy Hawkes, headmaster at the King’s School (a private school in Sydney that charges up to $26,000 per year in fees), argued:

[I]n this debate it needs to be remembered that monies invested in non-government schools have the happy effect of saving the government many hundreds of millions of dollars it would otherwise have to spend on educating the students at government schools.

His argument, peddled in just about every comments section of every article written on this topic over the last month, has been rebuffed by JF McMorrow:

In 2006…200,000 additional students were enrolled in non-government schools compared with the 1996 level. Had these 200,000 students been accommodated instead in public schools over this decade, this would have required additional public funding of around $2 billion. Over that same period, however, the real increase in public funding for these same students, in the non-government sector, was more than $3 billion, mostly provided by the Commonwealth.

In other words, governments funded the additional non-government school students by $1 billion more than would have been required for the equivalent number of students in fully publicly funded government schools.

That’s the real “happy effect” that Happy Hawkes is talking about. I wonder if he draws a handsome salary and quaffs a lot of nice red wine to enhance even further the overall mood at ol’ King’s campus. ‘Ken oath he would. And he’s probably in line for the Order of Australia medal at some point. What public service!

Some of the rich and their elite-school lovers don’t want all of the facts of this sham known. Christopher Pyne, the Liberals’ education spokesperson and opponent of publishing school income reports, says that “There is no educational benefit for publishing the financial data of schools other than trying to play the politics of envy…”

It isn’t the politics of envy; it’s the politics of resentment. And we are right to be resentful. Many working class students have to miss out on camps, excursions, basic text books and calculators because they don’t have the money to pay for them. Recent Brotherhood of St Laurence researched found that 49 organisations alone from the community sector “contributed over $1 million in emergency relief to pay essential school costs” for the needy.

Yet a place like Pymble Ladies’ College can generate revenues of $35.8 million from tuition fees and still receive $6.2 million from state and federal governments. The Shore School received around $4 million in public funding last year while they spent over $40 million on property development.

You would call it theft, but the government is giving it away! This cuts to the heart of the matter. The real problem is not just people like Timothy Hawkes – or even Christopher Pyne. Of course the elite schools are going to ask for buckets of cash, and take it when it comes.

The real problem is that the Labor government is handing over the money. They are positively happy to. This is the party that promotes itself as the party of public education, a party that has in the past attacked Liberal politicians for being silver-spoon twits from the establishment.

Yet it is Labor that is now entrenching the class divide in education, ensuring that the ultra-rich get even more privileges at the expense of the working class. Happy Hawkes is out on the red, the ALP continues its slide into the political ditch inhabited by the Liberals, and once again the beneficiaries are the rich.

This article, by Ben Hillier, first appeared in Socialist Alternative.



Comment from Magpie
Time March 11, 2011 at 2:12 pm

The immoral American plutocracy-kleptocracy at its worst:

With Democrats absent, Republicans advance collective bargaining changes.

Travesty of Justice in Wisconsin, Video of the Vote, Next Steps.

Comment from Calligula
Time March 11, 2011 at 9:56 pm

Phhnnuttttt !
Ask Spike Milligan.
A sort of indrawn breath under the stiff upper lip of intolerant conservatism.

The same sort when cornered might come out with something like – “I can neither confirm nor deny that I have a policy about this, that, or the other – especially if by stating it in the presence of riff-raff like you I end by making a bloody fool of myself.”

Indeed, it has ceased being funny.
The real problem for many societies recently has been a lower class that accidentally received just enough education to activate their ‘bullshit detectors’.
The result has been frightening.
The tail-end of the baby boomer generation gained too much education but not enough opportunity to set themselves up as comfortably and ignorantly as their slightly older siblings.
Not only did they refuse to brainlessly believe in Santa Klaus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Jesus Christ but they also had a big problem with Global Freezing ™ when it came out a while back.
A lifetime of the threat of Cold War ™ suddenly hotting up may have driven them to drugs, drink and sex but that was okay when there was SFA other meaningful occupation.

Now we’re supposed to ‘believe in’ Global warming ™ ?
We’re expected to ‘stand by’ while some woman who displays about the same political acumen as a tuckshop manager makes POTUS chew the carpet with laughter – then sit about quietly when she comes back to argue the toss with a jug eared pugilist pretending to be the leader of HM’s Opposition?
We’re actually expected to roll our eyes heavenwards and pretend to BELIEVE this crapola as we pledge our sons and daughters to these moral bankrupts and the next cosy little arrangement they’re making with the Evil Empire.

I occasionally get to drive into town.
I park my vehicle quickly and the ignition is usually off as I brake to a stop.
I hate wasting fuel.
All too often I find myself parking among a legion of squarish shitboxes belching fumes.

Behind all that sealed tight smoked glass is some spawn of temporary solvency enjoying the air conditioning while everyone else out in the street gags on their exhaust fumes.

Two points –
A – If carbon reduction is the policy we’d make the grade if automatic ignition cut-outs were fitted to vehicles (that applies to revenue collecting traffic lights too)
B – As for private education. Of course our politicians want to perpetuate a class barrier within and beyond the education system.
My brainless older sister had the free ride through college.
Her brats received the private education she could afford with the employment she found after her free education.
I doubt whether she’ll be cared for by her offspring in her old age.

So what the hell is this idiot babbling on about – you might ask?
A connection between squandering increasingly scarce resources, greed, and private education?

Hell yes.
For you see it is only in certain parts of town that certain bad behaviour is exhibited.
It isn’t the poor or old money playing games with their exhausts.
It is the pretenders and the wannabes playing these smelly games.

It is essentially the same set of pretenders and wannabes equally desperately and pointlessly rooting about in the subsidized school systems.

If they backed off and behaved with manners and decorum we might get back to something that works – a select and very few upper crust schools and colleges for the nabobs with an extremely limited scholarship system for the genius poor.

It is best to remember that the sons and daughters of the privileged need their punching bags and that a survivor of that hateful system will be a force majeur in later life.

Of course maybe we should just pull the plug on private schools – destroy the golden mean – and leave it to the likes of Gillard and Abbot to decide whose kids gain an education?

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