Ned's latest thoughts, stories and opinions

Our politicians fiddle while our schools burn

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

If there is one universal truth about Australian politics it is that no matter what the cause, no matter what the issue, self interest will always win the day.

When it comes to making big decisions like whether or not to fund Gonski 2.0, politicians, unionists, religious bodies and even educationalists are too busy feathering their own ideological nests to consider the greater good. If it doesn’t suit their particular agenda or, more likely, if it will serve to shore up their future power base, they will oppose anything that is proposed no matter how important it is to the future well being of the country.

The people who desperately need these reforms the most, Australian children in disadvantaged and under resourced schools, are being held to ransom by the blatant opportunism of people who should know better.

We are a nation that seems to be incapable of seeing beyond on noses.

At the time of Federation our politicians were incapable of agreeing on a standard rail gauge so that we are left with the ludicrous situation of being unable to link our major cities with a fast, efficient rail network. These visionaries put their own interests ahead of the national interest.

On the cusp of agreeing to a policy to reduce our carbon footprint and make a significant and game changing investment in renewables, the very party that theoretically championed both causes squibbed because of their “ideological purity.”

When the chief scientist, Alan Finkle, suggests urgent action to prevent us slipping further into an environmental abyss he is dismissed by people whose only concern is rebooting their flagging political careers.

The fact that Gonski and Finkle are not political figures but are well respected public intellectuals with our nation’s best interests at heart, matters not to a jot to those whose eyes are on quite another prize.

We are playing with fire here. We will never have a national rail network. In all probability we will never have a climate policy that deals with the impending doom of climate change.

And now we are in grave danger of preventing the kind of educational funding reform that will go some way to creating a level playing field for all Australian children.

This insanity threatens to completely derail all the work done by David Gonski and his panel. The principle of needs based funding has been lauded by everyone with any connection to, or interest in, education. The people at the coalface, the teachers whose calling it is to improve the educational opportunities of our students, aren’t interested in the political shenanigans that are preventing them from doing the work they are trained to do. They are desperate for the funding that will enable them to teach English to children for whom English is a second (or third) language, to provide the kind of specialised care required for children with learning and personality disorders, to provide desperately needed resources to children in remote and rural Australia.

That’s what needs based funding is about. Providing funding for those who need it most.

You can argue all you like about the detail but until you agree on the principle we will continue to create a two tiered society that penalises those most in need.

It is high time the vested interests put their own interests to one side and supported the reforms that have the potential to be a game changer for thousands of Australian children.

 

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