Monday, 26 September 2016

Australian Education Minister out to bully the states under the guise of fixing Gonski education funding model?

On 23 September 2016 ABC News reported:

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham says he is not expecting to broker a final deal on the highly-charged school funding debate as he meets state and territory counterparts in Adelaide today.

Senator Birmingham yesterday attacked the Gonski funding model, which expires at the end of the next school year, saying it had been "corrupted" by a patchwork of individual deals with state governments.

"The Turnbull Government is determined to right this corruption," Senator Birmingham told the ABC's AM yesterday, vowing to "replace the special deals that Bill Shorten cobbled together ... with a new, simpler distribution model where special deals don't distort a fair distribution of federal funds".

Changes to the funding model involve altering federal legislation, and it is anticipated that the Commonwealth can make the changes without the agreement of the states.

When asked if he would push ahead with changes without state support, Senator Birmingham responded that he was "not looking for a result today".

"I'm looking for informed feedback and information from the states and territories," he said.

Another education ministers' meeting is scheduled for this year ahead of COAG discussions early next year. The funding changes are not expected to the finalised until after those consultations.

Senator Birmingham said he is expecting "robust discussion" from the education ministers, some of whom have said they were blindsided by the Senator's remarks.

South Australian Education Minister Susan Close said the first she knew of analysis of the Gonski model given to the media was when she heard Senator Birmingham on the ABC.

"It's extremely discourteous," she told AM this morning.

"We've had no paper presented to us and all we are left with is trying to glean what the proposition is by listening to programs such as yours.

"It seems what he's saying is just a recasting of 'we're not going to give you the money we know you need'."

The analysis highlighted disparity in per-student funding between the states thanks to a "patchwork" of 27 deals signed under the Gonski model.

But Ms Close told AM the Gonski model never envisaged full parity between states until its sixth year in 2020.

"The view that's being put forward through this study that somehow the disparity that occurs in the transition period is a reason to stop doing it at all is a view that will be firmly rebutted by all ministers," she said.

While waiting on the outcome of this “robust discussion” it is well to remember that, given the obvious pro-private schools bias displayed by Coalition federal governments, it is highly unlikely that the Turnbull Government intends to remedy this…….

Recent trends in school recurrent funding strongly suggest that over forty per cent of students in Catholic schools next year will average as much, if not more, public funding than their peers in similar government schools. Two years further on an additional forty per cent will most likely join them. Half the students in Independent schools are on track to get as much, if not more, than government school students by the end of the decade.

This finding emerges as one of the most significant to date from our analysis of My School data. We have previously shown that changes in school funding in recent years – increasingly favouring students who are already advantaged - has done little for student achievement and nothing for equity. Earlier this year we pointed to a $3 billion overinvestment in better-off students, without any measurable gain in their achievement. Now we find that state and federal governments, within four years, will be funding the vast majority of private school students at levels higher than students in similar government schools. Concerns about funding equity should now be joined by concerns about effectiveness and efficiency in how we provide and fund schools.

The apparent runaway public funding of private schools is a legacy of discredited sector-based funding which the half-hearted implementation of the Gonski recommendations hasn’t really touched - and which current school funding schemes and dreams will almost certainly worsen. While Gonski pointed to the need to close the gaps in student achievement, the only gap being closed is that between government funding of its own schools and its funding of the schools that are considered to be "private". Private schools are about to operate at a far more substantial, and previously unimaginable, public cost.

In this report we illustrate how funding has changed and how familiar claims about the relative cost of schools have become obsolete and misleading. We address questions which arise about our schools: what is public, what is private, what should be the difference between them, what obligations do and should fully-funded schools have to the public which pays to run them? Such questions have to be answered if schooling is to provide access and equity combined with effectiveness and efficiency.

The Guardian on 23 September 2016 reported that Senator Birmingham’s NSW counterpart, Adrian Piccoli, is well aware of what his own party at federal level is intending:

The New South Wales education minister, Adrian Piccoli, has warned he will publish full results of commonwealth funding cuts in new school agreements which he says would increase funding to some of the most expensive private schools while cutting funds to public schools.
“We will be making it very clear which schools will win out of any new funding model and which schools are going to lose,” Piccoli told the ABC.
“And what they are proposing is public schools are going to lose money in NSW but continuing to index some of the most expensive private schools in Sydney and across Australia by 3%. That means expensive private schools go up a minimum of 3%.”

ACCC to rule on News Corp's planned purchase of APN News & Media regional print and online newspapers by 29 September 2016

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is currently  investigating the proposed acquisition of APN News & Media Limited (APN)'s Australian Regional Media division (ARM) by News Corporation (News) – with the aim of establishing what if any the impact of the proposed acquisition will have on on competition, and whether it will: lower the quality of content, especially local news content; reduce the choices available to readers for local news content; increase newspaper prices and/or increase the price of advertising, especially in newspapers in Queensland and northern New South Wales.

As to lowering the quality of content, especially local news content or reducing the choices available to readers for local news content – well that horse was out the stable door in a flash once Murdoch had acquired the largest single shareholding in APN News & Media.

This will be the extent of News Corp’s print and online stable once the ACCC signs off on this $36.6 million sale:

The acquirer – News Corporation
News Corporation (News) is a global diversified media and information services company with businesses in news and information services, digital real estate services, book publishing, digital education and, through its investment in Foxtel Management Pty Limited, subscription television.
 In Australia, News, through various indirect, wholly owned subsidiaries, publishes a number of state, regional and community newspapers as well as The Australian.
It also publishes various websites associated with its newspapers as well as News publishes the following paid print newspapers in Queensland and northern NSW:
· The Courier Mail, published daily Monday to Saturday, while the Sunday Mail is published on Sunday
· Gold Coast Bulletin, published daily Monday to Saturday
· Townsville Bulletin, published daily Monday to Saturday
· Cairns Post, published daily Monday to Saturday (published as the Weekend Post on Saturdays)

News also publishes the following community newspapers:
· through Quest Community Newspapers, 13 free community newspapers circulating in various parts of greater Brisbane as well as Brisbane News, a glossy free magazine distributed to inner city Brisbane. The 13 free community newspapers are:
o Albert and Logan News o Caboolture Herald o Pine Rivers Press/North Lakes Times
o Redcliffe & Bayside Herald
o City North News o North-West News
o Northside Chronicle
o Westside News
o South-West News/Springfield News
o City South News
o South East Advertiser o Southern Star
o Wynnum Herald

· through Sun Community Newspapers, the free newspaper The Gold Coast Sun, in four localised editions:
o Gold Coast Sun Upper North
o Gold Coast Sun North o Gold Coast Sun Central
o Gold Coast Sun Tweed / Southern 4

· a number of small community publications circulating in Cairns and surrounds including The Tablelands Advertiser, The Tablelander, Innisfail Advocate and the Port Douglas & Mossman Gazette
· the Bowen Independent, a paid newspaper published twice a week, and a number of other small community publications in Townsville and surrounds including The Herbert River Express, The Northern Miner and The Burdekin Advocate. News also publishes the Weekly Times, a paid newspaper distributed predominantly in rural Victoria and the Riverina region. A small number of copies are also distributed in Queensland and NSW.
News also publishes or has an interest in a range of online publications including the following:
· (48.95% interest)
· (majority interest)
· (25% interest)

News, through a wholly-owned subsidiary, also has a 14.99% interest in APN......

The target business – ARM
The target business – ARM The ARM business comprises:
· 12 paid daily, 14 paid non-daily and 32 free non-daily, community newspapers circulating in various parts of south-east and regional Queensland and northern NSW
· 14 specialist print newspapers including 'seniors', 'agriculture' and 'big rigs' titles · 4 specialist business-to-business magazines for the education and health care sectors
· 60 websites including masthead websites, websites for the specialist print newspaper titles, other websites not linked to a print title and classifieds website
· printing facilities located in Yandina, Warwick and Rockhampton in Queensland. A full list of ARM’s print publications is set out below:
North Queensland (Mackay region)
· Daily Mercury
· The Midweek 5
· Whitsunday Times
· Whitsunday Coast Guardian Central Queensland
· The Morning Bulletin
· The Observer
· Capricorn Coast Mirror
· Central Telegraph
· Central Queensland News Wide Bay Burnett
· NewsMail
· Fraser Coast Chronicle
· The Gympie Times
· Guardian
· Isis Town & Country
· Central & North Burnett Times
· Hervey Bay Observer
· The Maryborough Herald
· Cooloola Advertiser
· Hervey Bay Independent

South-East Queensland - Sunshine Coast
· Sunshine Coast Daily
· Sunshine Coast Sunday
· Noosa News
· Coolum & North Shore News
· Maroochy Weekly
· Kawana Weekly
· Caloundra Weekly
· Nambour Weekly
· Buderim Chronicle South-East Queensland (Greater Brisbane and Ipswich)
· Caboolture News
· Bribie Weekly
· The Logan Reporter
· The Satellite
· Bayside Northern Suburbs Star
· The Queensland Times
· The Ipswich Advertiser South-West Queensland
· Warwick Daily News
· The Chronicle
· Stanthorpe Border Post
· Dalby Herald
· Gatton, Lockyer and Brisbane Valley Star
· Laidley Plainland Leader
· South Burnett Times
· Southern Downs Weekly 6
· Balonne Beacon
· The Western Star
· Western Times
· Chinchilla News and Murilla Advertiser

Northern NSW (Gold Coast, Tweed and northern NSW)
· Tweed Daily News
· Tweed Daily News – Community Edition
· The Northern Star
· The Daily Examiner
· The Woolgoolga Advertiser
· Byron Shire News
· Ballina Shire Advocate
· Lismore Echo
· The Richmond River Express Examiner
· Coastal Views
· The Coffs Coast Advocate

Specialist publications
· Surat Basin News
· Rural Weekly (five editions, including a Northern Territory edition)
· Big Rigs
· CQ Industry
· Style Magazine
· Seniors Newspaper (eight different editions distributed in South-East Queensland and NSW)
· APN Educational Media publications (business-to-business publisher of Education Review, Nursing Review, Aged Care Insite and Campus Review

Sunday, 25 September 2016

Well, you did open that particular door Mr. Editor.....

This is what happens when an editor opens his mouth about a subject about which he knows very little……

The Daily Examiner, letter to the editor, p. 9:

Diverse communities of interest

Your reference in your editorial (9/9), "The divisions and jealousies between the different area's - particularly the up river/down river divide have to be dealt with decisively" by the new Council, is dripping with hypocrisy.

Many people may have been justified in believing there was a "division" when the DEX received the CVC's block advertising at the expense of the Independent.

You may find it "stunning" that rates balance between different area's still lingers after a dozen years, but it demonstrates profound ignorance of the diverse economies and different communities of interests that exist within the shire that demand contrasting services and facilities.

The driver of the lower Clarence Airport Shuttle will tell you the services to the Ballina Airport are far greater than to Grafton Airport. The market therefore suggests the lower Clarence is paying for a Grafton Airport it does not require.

In fact the Grafton Airport was in the Ulmarra Shire and it too saw no need for it. It was Grafton and its business economy that needed it, so it took over its costs. However, since amalgamation, it has been able to offload these costs onto communities that have no need for it.

Similar arguments can be put for the expensive services provided by the Grafton Regional Gallery and Library from which Grafton enjoys the direct benefit. Are our kids really expected to skateboard down the Pacific Highway, enjoy these services and then ride back for tea?

The then State Government forced four councils of rural, urban and coastal communities, each with their differing economies and communities of interests, into one council to cover a massive 10,440sqm, under the delusion there would be tremendous savings from economies of scale. In fact the only one that gained savings was the State Government in its allocation of Financial Assistant Grants.

Having spent a day at a Yamba polling booth, I experienced first hand the white hot anger directed at the CVC and it's up river centric governance. And they have every right to be angry. The Maclean Shire Council lived modestly within its means, paying rates 200% lower than the "City" of Grafton which had no bridges and only 180km of roads to maintain in its tiny 80sqkm area. For the past decade this rate burden has progressively been transferred down river to pay for questionable services it does not need.

With great respect, these services are not "jealousies" as you refer to them, they are economical facts.

As is the fact that the DEX received the CVC's lucrative block advertising at the expense of the Independent, suggesting the DEX is no more than an instrument of CVC propaganda to influence public opinion.

Ray Hunt

Cliff Notes for Submission 38 to the Senate Inquiry into the 2016 Census

On 21 September 2016 the Australian Chief Statistician, David Kalisch, made a submission on behalf of the Australian Bureau of Statistics to the Senate Economics References Committee Inquiry into the 2016 Census.

This document was listed as submission number 38 and briefly published on the relevant parliamentary webpage.

It has since disappeared, but one enterprising soul with an IT background had already downloaded a copy and posted all 123 pages online here.

Here is my personal interpretation of some of the submission's contents.....

#CensusFail is IBM’s fault

"The online Census system was hosted by IBM under contract to the ABS and the DDoS attack should not have been able to disrupt the system. Despite extensive planning and preparation by the ABS for the 2016 Census this risk was not adequately addressed by IBM and the ABS will be more comprehensive in its management of risk in the future. However, once the system had been affected, the ABS took the precaution of closing the online Census form to safeguard and to protect data already submitted, protect the system from further incidents, and minimise disruption on the Australian public by ensuring reliable service." [p.4]

Even though ABS didn’t inform widely inform Australia of personal information & data retention plans ‘we’ knew in our hearts that the general public wasn’t going to mind

"In December 2015, the ABS announced a change in the length of time Census names (and addresses) would be retained, building on the increased capability of the ABS to integrate Census data with other sources safely and effectively, as demonstrated by the 2006 and 2011 Census Data Enhancement programs. The time frame for which names and addresses would be retained was extended from the end of the Census processing period until there was no longer any community benefit to their retention. The ABS made this decision following a public consultation process and on the basis that independently run focus group research indicated that support for the change and significant public concern would be unlikely." [p.5]

Even though deliberate failure to complete a Census 2016 form would lead to conviction and hefty fine and ABS repeatedly stated so in the mainstream media, the fact that most Australians completed a form was not because they were compelled but because they cared so little about their personal privacy

"...sentiment testing, both before and after 9 August, showed that only a very small minority of Australians considered privacy concerns to be a barrier to them completing the Census. The small level of general community concern about privacy in relation to the 2016 Census was similar to that observed in the 2011 Census, as also shown by the high levels of participation in the 2016 Census." [p.6]

#CensusFail is also the federal government’s fault

"Over the last 15 years, ABS resources have generally been reducing. Its staff numbers have fallen by 14% and the budget appropriation (in real terms) has also fallen by 14%. In contrast, the demands on the ABS to properly measure the economy, society and the environment, and respond to the requirements of governments, has increased and become more complex….In line with ABS forward funding (Figure 2.2), non-Census staffing affordability decreases significantly over the next four years with required reductions of approximately 400 staff in 2016-17, 300 in 2017-18, and then a further 40 in 2018-19." [p.14]

The chief statistician before me sucked

"In 2013 the Australian Public Service Commission (APSC) undertook a capability review3 of the ABS, as part of a broader program of reviews of Government agencies. The review team, led by Tony Cole AO, found that the ABS is “widely regarded as one of the best statistical agencies in the world. It has a strong reputation as a highly respected and trusted institution”. While the reviewers noted that the independence of the Statistician was a prerequisite to this respect and trust, they also noted that the manner in which this independence had been exercised had contributed to a degree of organisational isolation and insularity that needed to be addressed." [p.16]

Honestly, I wasn't laughing as I typed *cough*

"In regard to statistical risk management (an element of the ‘governance’ dimension of transformation and overseen by the Statistical Strategy Committee)4 , the ABS has adopted a more proactive and fit for purpose management of risk with a view to:

· more accurately foreseeing and managing the cumulative impacts of change on key economic and population statistics;
· enhancing the quality assurance for significant statistics;
· ensuring clear lines of accountability and clear governance; and
· ensuring risk management is streamlined, pragmatic and actually makes a difference, without unnecessarily stifling innovation." [p.18]

Despite the fact that a recent Freedom of Information application revealed a January 2016 privacy breach by the ABS which released the contact details of 5,245 individuals, your personal details are always safe with us

"Privacy is a foundation of all statistical agencies, and the ABS is no exception – protecting privacy remains the number one priority of ABS and its staff, and it is a requirement in the ABS’s governing legislation. The ABS is committed to upholding the privacy and secrecy of all of the information it collects. Maintaining the trust and support of the Australian community is critical for the ABS to effectively carry out its functions, and is a key measure of organisational success set out in the ABS Corporate Plan1." [p.24]

See, it’s not our fault!

"The online Census DDoS attack of 9 August 2016 was against an IBM system not an ABS one." [p.27]

It all went like clockwork according to plan ‘we’ got there in the end. What was the question again?

"The new approach:

*Changed the way Census materials were delivered and information is returned by the public. Australia Post’s mail service was used to deliver and return required materials from the majority of households. The majority of households responded online. Households are able to request a paper form through an automated phone service if they preferred or needed to respond by paper. These changes were designed taking into account international best practices in Census taking and build on the Australian public's increasing access to and use of the internet, while also providing a paper response options for others
*Removed the need for Census Field Officers to visit every dwelling. The use of approach and reminder letters were planned to allow half of all Australians to respond to the Census before household visits were required. Household visits were planned to provide support to any households that required it, deliver additional materials and remind households to complete the Census.

*Allowed for approaches to be tailored to the needs of different areas. In some areas of Australia, where the postal service was likely to be unsuitable or insufficient address information was known, Census Field Officers delivered materials to each dwelling, enabling residents to either complete their form online or mail back a paper form. In other areas where a high proportion of residents were expected to need to complete the Census form on paper, all households were delivered paper forms in addition to login numbers (e.g. in areas where there is a higher proportion of older residents).

*Provided the ability to monitor progress on a near real-time basis through the integration of management information from Census Field Officers using handheld devices, call centre agents receiving public enquiries, completed online Census forms and completed paper Census forms when received by the secure Data Capture Centre. This information was be used to highlight areas of lower response, or any other issue, so that alternative strategies were enacted quickly to respond to these problems as they arose. In previous Censuses, such timely management information to inform operations was not available. This new approach planned to deliver savings of $100 million in the running of the 2016 Census compared to the 2011 Census. The digital-first Census will also establish a sustainable model for the Census 2021 and beyond." [p.53]

Just to make sure everyone knows ABS is publicly breaching a business contract I'm helpfully spelling it out for you across 13 paragraphs – and by the way, it’s all IBM’s fault

"The ABS is obliged to notify the Committee that the following subsection "Online Census" contains Confidential Information under the terms of the contract with IBM (ABS2014.105 Services for eCensus and Data Capture Solution)…..
The subsection containing Confidential Information under the terms of the contract with IBM (ABS2014.105 Services for eCensus and Data Capture Solution) concludes" [pp.61-63]

On 9 August 2016 I began to furiously tap dance so that my excessive annual salary was protected

“8:26pm -- the Australian Statistician provided an initial telephone briefing to the Hon Michael McCormack MP, the Minister for Small Business who has Ministerial oversight for the ABS. The Australian Statistician provided updates to the Minister during the evening.” [p.67]

You are getting sleepy, very sleepy….and when you wake up you won’t recall that a mini industry is developing in re-identification research and, formulas used to breach privacy as well as re-identification attack results have been reported/
published exposing the total anonymity myth

“Consistent with the quality studies undertaken as part of the 2006 Census Data Enhancement program mentioned previously, a non-identifying grouped numeric code was assigned to all records in the ACLD following the 2011 Census using a combination of letters from first and last names using a secure one-way process. For example, "Joe Blake" might become “100321”. Each code represents approximately 2000 people and therefore is not unique to an individual. Since a large number of different names receive the same hash value, it cannot be reversed to identify individuals. However,a particular name and surname will always code to the same hash value so that it is a useful linking variable.” [p.78]

I deliberately waited until mid-morning on a Friday at the start of December 2015 school holidays before announcing the ABS was retaining Census names and addresses indefinitely, hoping you all wouldn’t notice

“This decision11 was announced on 18 December 2015, accompanied by a media release12 and publication of the Privacy Impact Assessment 13 on the ABS website”. [p.84]

We’re right and the rest of you are plain wrong

"* Privacy of information is important to the ABS and the community. However, this also needs to be seen alongside the proposed community benefits from use of personal data to produce reliable statistics, as well as the mechanisms available at the ABS to produce statistics while preserving privacy. The 2016 Census public commentary has predominantly focussed on the first aspect while largely ignoring the second and third aspects.

*Community attitudes to privacy and trust in the ABS to secure and effectively use personal data to produce statistics of value to the community appear to be quite different from the views of some public commentators who may have presumed that their opinions are widely shared across the Australian community." [p.85]

We’re allowed to be highly subjective or just make things up if 'we' want to – so there!

"There is no requirement to engage an external consultant to conduct a PIA [Privacy Impact Assessment] in the best practice guidelines of the Office of the Australian Information Commission. The ABS sought advice from the Office of the Australian Information Commission on the 2016 PIA, and followed their best practice guidelines issued by that Office." [p.118]

Saturday, 24 September 2016

Political Cartoon of the Month

Cartoon by Matt Golding

Our silence supports this..................

Fifty-one pages of February-March 2016 incidents reports from the Nauru Regional Processing Centre created and funded by the Australian Government with the implied consent of the Australian people.

Quote of the Week

For my part, I’ve never met a national politician as ill informed, as deceptive, as evasive and as vacuous as Trump. He’s not normal. 
[Journalist Nicholas Kristof writing in The New York Times, 15 September 2016]