Thursday, January 22, 2015

Australian public policy approaches, - refugees, confusion over objectives and private school funding

In Australia, the Abbott Government remains deep in troubles of its own making.

The latest troubles on Manus Island continue the running sore that is refugee policy. The first problem for the Government is that its own policy of controlling, or attempting to control, the flow of information has created a vacuum that has to be filled from other sources. The second problem is that the Government's responses seem inadequate.

Based on the polls, a majority of Australians still support Mr Abbott's border protection policy, but the constant drip of what seems to be inhumane news about the policy's application is erosive. Put simply, by criminalising and militarising its approach, the Government created a political and policy framework that ruled out specific actions that might have helped ameliorate problems while still preserving the intent of Government policies. Even those who support the Government's policy objective have some difficulties with its application in practice.

Fresh from the debacle over medicare, the Government is trying to save elements of its proposed university reforms. Back at the start of June last year (Over-reach: deregulation, fees and university education) I explained my own difficulties in understanding what all the changes meant. Now, stripped down, the most important element, the one that the Government appears to be trying to save, is deregulation of university fees. I actually support that, if with some reservations.

The Government's core problem, and the core weakness in Mr Hockey's budget, lies in the way it established a nexus between two very different things. The first was the need to fix the budget deficit, the second the desire to achieve reforms in specific policy area.

I dealt with one aspect of this back in September in If a equals b – testing the proposed Australian terrorism legislation and indeed any public policy. We need to fix the budget deficit (a), therefore you should support our university (or health) reforms (b). The two are in fact disconnected.

On an apparently different but connected matter, the Australian Scholarships Group released analysis suggesting that the cost of educating a child born in 2015 at a private school through to year twelve was now close to or in excess of $500,000.

I could believe that. When we came down to Sydney, we enrolled the girls at a private school in part because they had been going to one in Armidale, in part because time pressures made it difficult to evaluate the public option. Each years the costs went up more than the rate of inflation, so that school fees progressively absorbed a higher proportion of our family income. It's a bit like the old myth about frogs and boiling water: the frog is cooked before he realises it.

I haven't checked the numbers, but Commonwealth Government subsidisation of private schools must be one of the largest elements in middle class welfare payments. Perhaps its time to at least cap this until the budget improves.



Evan said...

I think the budget problem is income not expenditure.

Jim Belshaw said...

A bit of both, Evan!

Anonymous said...

What a joke those figures are: "Northern Territory, Public $57,909". Makes me wonder why they left off the 43 cents? What is the intent of such faux accuracy?


Anonymous said...

So, totally off-topic again:

(1) am I the only one who sees the immense hypocrisy of PM Abbott's pleadings on behalf of the so called "Bali Nine" who are about to face Indonesian justice, and his (earlier) government's shameful inaction re David Hicks?

I believe Jim, if you look back over past years, I have said a number of times that the (non) support of Hicks was shameful; here was a (dopey) Australian citizen held without charge or trial, and basically disowned by his government. And now we have the US government admitting that his incarceration was unjustifiable - that they "made a mistake".

(2) And here we go again: I had never heard of "William Spedding" until his name, photos, personal history, and specific whereabouts were plastered all over every news outlet. Does anyone else feel the slightest discomfort at this sort of treatment of a fellow Australian?

There is something very sick about this misuse and abuse of our laws and our "free press"; when those in power, or with a pulpit, can indict, then crucify, an Australian citizen. And then pay for an exclusive interview with the resulting wreck.

What has happened to our society?


Jim Belshaw said...

I am not so sure that you are off-track, kvd. We did discuss David Hicks, and there was differential treatment. However, it's more than that.

In the case of turn back the boats, the Australian Government made it clear that it was prepared to ignore Indonesia's wishes and even infringe that country's territorial integrity. So to now make representations does smack of sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander.

In fairness, I think that Mr Abbott is trying to tread very carefully, arguing demonstrated moral reformation. However, the point remains.

And, like you, I was appalled at the treatment of Mr Spedding. Made me wonder, too, about the role of the Police PR machine.

Anonymous said...

David Hicks for Australian of the Year, I say!


Jim Belshaw said...

Sardonic, DG?

Anonymous said...

Only possible justification for treatment of Spedding is if it is thought that this might get more people to come forward with info - but I can't really see how this would be because anyone coming forward with info would presumably be tainted by the kind of highly prejudicial publicity that was given. If they wanted to you would think they could simply give details of a vehicle (for example) without naming the person.

Jim Belshaw said...

I agree, marcellous.