Shorten’s Ridiculous 80-Year Education “Dividend” A Joke

BILL SHORTEN’S pathetic pledge that spending $37bn on schools will produce economic dividends in 2095 would be laughable were the issue and context not so serious; any politician promising tangible returns in 80 years’ time is a charlatan, and this attempt to hoodwink people deserves contempt. With Education funding already at record highs, a responsible approach would spurn teacher unions — and tackle falling results in literacy and numeracy.

I’m in Brisbane for the day today, having cleared a large portion of the sizeable workload that’s kept me off this page for most of the week; even so, my remarks this morning will be brief, and I look forward to picking up the campaign with more gusto in the next couple of days.

But one issue that has caught my eye this week as I’ve gone about my business is the promise by Bill Shorten — apparently serious, and apparently without irony — that Labor’s plan to spend $37bn over a decade boosting funding to schools would produce economic dividends in 2095, and you really have to wonder just how stupid some at the ALP really are if they expect this kind of nonsense to cut ice with swinging voters.

When I left secondary school in 1989, senior students in Queensland were given a Tertiary Entrance (TE) Score, based on their results across a basket of five subjects: the top 1% in the state received 990, the next 0.5% 985, the next 0.5% 980, and so forth. It was an article of faith that mathematics, science and English weighed heavier in formulae for calculating TE Scores than other humanities or less traditional subjects (which is why, with a social science-skewed selection, I ended up with 920).

The reason for this trip down memory land is that in 1989, people were gaining admission to teaching courses (a “Bachelor of Teaching” being a new-ish option at the time, providing an alternative to the traditional postgraduate Dip. Ed. that was the normal course back to the classroom) with TE Scores of 685. The practice had been going on for some years before then and, as far as I am aware, continues today, although not perhaps with such low thresholds for university admission. And just as it happened in Queensland, this dumbing down of entry levels to teaching courses was also going on across the country.

Of course, some arrive as classroom teachers armed with degrees in Arts, or Science, or Music, or Applied Science, with a Dip. Ed. to round out their training; the point is that for almost 30 years now, tertiary institutions have been turning out teachers of whom some failed secondary school, and failed it badly: and this cohort of the teacher population is deeply entrenched in a system that no matter how much is thrown at it will continue to be responsible for producing secondary graduates who are defective in literacy and inadequately equipped mathematically for further study or for life.

I really do feel sorry for good teachers; shackled with socialised pay structures insisted upon by unions — along with the viciously-enforced refusal of education unions to permit any moves to either reward good teachers with significantly increased salaries or to fire the dross that dwells at the bottom of the industry — the cream of what was once a respectable profession is now forced to be shanghaied into the uniform mediocrity of being remunerated no better than the high school bombout and the inept.

Education funding to the secondary school sector in this country is already running at record high levels in real terms and — separating politics from astute governance — it surely isn’t too long a bow to draw in concluding that teacher standards, not funding levels, are the real problem at the heart of this issue.

Labor has been campaigning on the size of the cheques it would throw at schools and hospitals for decades, and in recent years those wild-eyed promises have grown increasingly shrill and unrealistic; the end destination of this ridiculous process was apparently reached this week in the form of opposition “leader” Bill Shorten’s po-faced suggestion that under his party’s policy, Australia would receive “an economic dividend” from this largesse toward schools in 2095.

Rather conveniently, when almost all of the currently coherent members of Australian society have taken a dirt nap.

I have to run, but we will revisit this issue, but in leaving this morning I make two points.

One, so-called Gonski funding recommendations were only truncated by the Coalition by two years, not ten, and not paying them was a Coalition promise in 2013: so let’s hear no more about “cuts” in this context.

But two, and more to the point, if Labor really is the “party of Education” — and if Shorten is serious about effecting meaningful change if elected, rather than merely preoccupied with securing power at any price — he would be outlining plans to give the finger to the education unions, and articulating the more complex task of identifying and rewarding the best of the best, offering additional training to those teachers in the middle of the pack, and providing support to get rid of the no-hopers and replace them with good teachers sourced internationally to begin with…until an overhaul of school curriculums began to produce consistently competent teachers to replace them permanently.

Don’t hold your breath. And if you’re planning to vote Labor this year on the basis of its Education policies, don’t bother. They won’t make a rat’s arse of difference — now, in 2095, or at any other time either.

Schools Funding: Once Again, Turnbull Tills Labor’s Electoral Soils

UNBELIEVABLY, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has handed Labor ammunition for another big scare campaign — this time on Education — that will hound him until polling day; regardless of the merits of any underlying principles or the possibility Turnbull has been misunderstood, he has given the impression the Coalition would fund private schools whilst abandoning public schools to the states. It is a flirtation with electoral Armageddon.

Hot on the heels of Malcolm Turnbull’s “initiative” to provide limited income taxing powers to the states (which can be raised after four years) to fund hospitals in exchange for the termination of some federal government grants — accurately described, I believe, in this column yesterday as a stinking, festering turd — the Prime Minister has continued laying the groundwork for the Labor Party’s election campaign, this time suggesting schools funding should be included in the recalibration of income tax arrangements and going so far as to virtually declare that the Coalition intends to continue to fund private schools whilst leaving full responsibility for public schools to the states.

There’s no need to doubt my word on it: the comments were made on ABC Radio National’s breakfast programme yesterday, and you can listen to Turnbull’s interview with Fran Kelly here.

And if you can’t be bothered listening to Turnbull blather on for quarter of an hour, left-wing media portal Crikey! — always happy to leave what it thinks is the material most damaging to the Coalition outside its paywall — nailed Turnbull’s misdemeanour in a crisp, clean post yesterday that you can access here.

I must make a point of clarification about the scathing article I published on the hospitals issue yesterday: nobody denies the recurrent funding of services like Health and Education is a never-ending problem, not least in the case of Health, where growth in real costs far outstrips CPI growth and has done so for years, and only an idiot would suggest that the total cost of providing both suites of services is within the scope of the states to meet on the current configuration of federal-state funding arrangements.

And it may very well be that the PM and his acolytes are clutching reams of documentary evidence to back their contention that what they are advocating not only adds up, but that nobody will be worse off (as they claim), that the states will have no need to raise the stipend of income tax the proposals will effectively enable them to levy, and that growth from the tax changes will cover Health and Education costs, in full, and in perpetuity: in short, proof that what they advocate is a stroke of policy brilliance.

But I doubt it.

Yet even if it was, or is, the politics of what Turnbull is doing is horrific; already, opposition “leader” Bill Shorten is running around, as expected, screeching about “double taxation” and ranting about vast tax increases for average wage earners whilst the nasty Turnbull government viciously slashes funds that should pay for treatment for the sick and the infirm.

It is all bullshit — just as I signalled yesterday that it would be — but in a sign of just how poor his judgement and/or the “strategic” advice he is receiving really is, Turnbull has now handed Shorten what is tantamount to a direct quote, with an audio track to match, for use in propaganda to allege the Liberal Party is planning to abandon state school funding altogether.

Never mind that this kind of material from Labor is misleading, deceptive, and filled with lies: even if Turnbull somehow persuades the reluctant state premiers to buy into his tax changes, the states will still receive funding to pay for schools and hospitals. It will just be accounted for differently, although as we have already seen over the past 36 hours, the endless bickering over exact amounts and whether these represent “cuts” or not will remain a feature of Commonwealth-State relations as it has been for decades.

But what Turnbull told Radio National yesterday morning will resonate with ordinary voters far more than the finely nuanced intricacies of the funding arrangements themselves, irrespective of whether you think they’re just great or a festering mess.

Explaining that the federal government — if its proposed changes were enacted — would continue to provide financial support to private schools directly, whilst allowing the states to assume full responsibility for funding public schools, Turnbull said

I suspect no federal government would retreat from funding and continuing to support the non-government school sector because there would be a concern that they would not get a fair go from state governments who obviously would have a competing interest with their schools.”

Rather lamely, he has since added that there would be little point expecting the states to assume funding responsibility for the independent schools sector as such an expectation would be predicated on asking the states to fund something that sat “in competition” with their own product.

Just for a moment, let’s set aside the question of whether Turnbull’s tax changes have any merit whatsoever, and focus purely on the politics of the Health and Education announcements of the past few days.

Turnbull has quantified the value of the income tax amount he and treasurer Scott Morrison have earmarked for allocation to the states: they say it’s 2% of income tax revenues, or $14 billion (although how 2% of $150 billion per year equals $14 billion is unknown, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt).

Turnbull has also made firm his earlier indication that Commonwealth grants to the states would correspondingly be reduced, producing a revenue-neutral transfer of accountabilities: that is, that other Commonwealth grants to the states would be cut by $14 billion. This, too, was explicitly spelt out in his interview with Kelly yesterday morning.

Whether the “reforms” Turnbull and Morrison are attempting to sell to sceptical state Premiers are creditable or not, one thing that is abundantly clear is that they are so detailed, heavy on bureaucratic concepts and jargon, and convoluted that the average voter — and I mean no offence to those who fit the category — couldn’t care less about the finer points and will make no effort whatsoever to avail themselves of same.

So here’s how the story will run for floating voters in marginal seats that will decide this year’s election, as framed by the ALP and its imbecilic “leader.”

  1. The Liberals will cut $14 billion from Health and Education funding to the states annually.
  2. The Liberals will refuse to spend a cent on the education of the majority of Australian schoolkids, who attend public schools.
  3. The Liberals will continue to pour money into elite private schools to the benefit of the families of their richest mates and corporate donors.
  4. The mean, nasty Liberals are planning to wipe their hands of any responsibility for public schools and hospitals across Australia — so don’t vote for them.

And do you know what? Hundreds of thousands of gullible swinging voters, who want to hear what they want to hear and to believe it, will listen up and take note.

I may not be doing this issue the justice I would have liked; a relatively short post this morning was the alternative to no post at all, as I have rather a busy day ahead.

But you have to wonder whether Turnbull and his “brains” trust are oblivious to the political damage their handiwork is exposing the Coalition to, or whether they even care: for so brazen are the poorly chosen words in which all of this is being framed for public consumption, the distinct impression given is that they will crash through — or crash — with nary a care for the consequences.

When I remind readers that I don’t think it’s even the right package of reforms to set out ahead of the election — not least given the hurried, almost panicked way in which all of this appears to have been thrown together — the judgement that Turnbull is wilfully flirting with political mortality becomes almost irresistible.

A different path to solving the funding issue (in Health at least) is laid out in a piece by Queensland LNP leader Lawrence Springborg that appears in today’s issue of The Australian; whilst I’m on record as agitating for him to be removed from the LNP leadership — and quickly — before a possible snap state election, I have also repeatedly opined that as Health minister in Campbell Newman’s government, his performance was excellent.

Springborg should be listened to on this issue, but he won’t be: not even by his Coalition colleagues, who stand to benefit the most were they to do so.

For just as the Coalition proved spectacularly inept at selling anything on the watch of Tony Abbott, its sales and communication skills have improved, under his replacement, only marginally at best.

All of this is writing a campaign playbook for the ALP that Shorten and his buddies couldn’t have wished for in their wildest delusions.

And given the movement in electoral sentiment over the past couple of months has been sharply away from the government — and from Turnbull in particular — the risk of electoral defeat is now all too real.

The coming federal election is Turnbull’s to lose and, based on the government’s output this week, you’d have to say he is making a reasonable fist of doing exactly that.

 

Election Pledge: Victoria – The Puerile State

DUMB STUNTS and meaningless slogans have characterised the resumption of Victoria’s state election campaign, with Labor leader Daniel Andrews promising to decree that vehicle registration plates carry the slogan “The Education State” if his party wins the election on 29 November. This farcical nonsense foreshadows a disastrous government if Labor wins, with substance relegated to an afterthought, and childish games held aloft as “policy.”

First things first: I spent some time, in the afternoon on Melbourne Cup Day, engaged in a vicious Twitter brawl with a cohort of Labor-aligned apparatchiks over the issue of the unending ambulance workers’ pay dispute with the state government, and whilst there was (to be fair) perhaps at least a grain of value in arguments put by all sides, the descent into complete abuse by those defending the ambulance workers’ union and their declaration that pro-Liberal voices be simply shut out if they couldn’t be silenced was probably an authentic foretaste of what Victorians can expect if they wake up with Daniel Andrews as their Premier come the end of the month.

Readers can form their own views of the merits or otherwise of Twitter, and whilst I am willing to engage with anyone who wants to initiate a contest of ideas, I find any forum that is self-limiting by virtue of its propensity to motivate its participants to start using bad language out of sheer frustration (and yes, I removed a few tweets yesterday morning in which I’d used the F-word) amply accommodates those prone to behaving like a law unto themselves.

The issue at its core — and it is relevant to my article today — stems from the fact that ambulances in Victoria are driving across the state with anti-government slogans scrawled all over them in chalk, coupled with the ambulance union modifying conditions for acceptance of a pay deal with the state government and withdrawing their agreement to accept it just weeks out from polling day.

The Liberal-aligned tweeters posited that the slogans on the ambulances were akin to vandalism of state property and a political abuse of a public service. The Labor-aligned tweeters were insistent in response that not only did all of this represent legitimate concern for people dying (when the whole thing is over the size of their pay cheques, not resources) but that the Fair Work Act legitimised everything the union campaign has entailed to date.

If nothing else, it proves how flagrantly the Fair Work Act is being exploited by unions to attack conservative governments through “protected” industrial action, and authenticates concerns articulated at the time that the Act was in fact constructed, at least in part, for exactly that purpose.

And the reason I mention the unedifying fracas on Twitter is because it highlights a few key insights into the Labor mentality in Victoria: the “truth” is supplied pre-determined and is dictated, with one compliant opinion only being permissible; “facts” are only accurate if they accord with this “truth.” Any opinion that dissents from the “truth” needs to be shouted down as aggressively and as patronisingly as possible and — if this fails — simply blocked out of existence, presumably lest it convince others to dispute the “truth.”

Another signpost to the Labor mentality was taken for, er, a drive once ’round the park yesterday, with Labor leader Daniel Andrews pledging that if he is elected Premier in a few weeks’ time, an early directive will be to instruct that the present slogan on Victorian registration plates — “Stay Alert, Stay Alive” — be replaced by “Victoria – The Education State” in a stultifying piece of crassness derived from what the ALP thinks it sees whenever it metaphorically sees itself in a mirror.

It’s hard to know just where to start, but here we go.

Some who read this column will actually be surprised to know that I think “Stay Alert, Stay Alive” was a masterstroke of former Premier Ted Baillieu, de-politicising as it did one aspect of life in this state that had needlessly become a talisman for tribal loyalties as Jeff Kennett declared in 1992 that we were “On The Move,” only for this mantra to be erased from existence by the Bracks government eight years later in a proclamation that Victoria was actually “The Place To Be” and well-motivated by extreme anti-Kennett sentiment in doing so.

To be honest, whilst I liked “On The Move” and resented “The Place To Be” bitterly, I actually think having cars driving around with political slogans emblazoned on them by law is a stupidity that was well dispensed with by Baillieu in favour of something that was a) unambiguously apolitical, and b) a worthy (if simple) message of road safety well suited to the medium used to deliver it.

So first up, a Labor government in Victoria promises to re-politicise something I suspect even most politically aware voters are heartily pleased to see the political contest removed from.

But so arrogantly cocksure is the ALP that it is the “party of health” and the “party of education” that it deems it appropriate for every car in Victoria to serve as a mobile billboard to advertise the fact.

Andrews’ announcement comes with a pledge to build 11 new schools (mostly in ultra-safe Labor electorates) at a cost of $88 million: a figure disputed by Treasurer Michael O’Brien, who estimates the real cost is about $180 million. But whether Labor’s “costings” are accurate or not, Victorians can confidently expect, based on the atrocious record of government projects under the ALP between 1999 and 2010, that the $88 million quoted will blow out to at least half a billion dollars, and so in that sense the veracity of the Labor number isn’t important.

No major project delivered by Labor last time came within a bull’s roar of being delivered on budget.

But the ALP seems to think simply that by talking about health and education incessantly, it will win the election; it’s the old Labor principle (most recently best illustrated by Julia Gillard) of simply repeating idiot-simple mantras over, and over, and over, and over until the gullible and the stupid accept it as fact, and anyone else throws their hands in the air and surrenders to it.

For all the blather on health, Victorian Labor has a questionable record indeed to defend, and not least on account of its leader — when he was Health minister in the Brumby government — having defended waiting lists and surgery times that had been modified by bureaucrats to show the then-government in a much rosier political light than was really the case.

It has yet to satisfactorily explain why health unions saw fit to shanghai hospital staff into masquerading as sick patients on trolleys in corridors to provide photographic “evidence” of ALP claims the health system had been shot to pieces after Labor lost power in 2010.

And no explanation has been offered (and nor is it likely to be) as to why, despite the Fair Work Act declaring it technically legal, the defacement of government property and the use of emergency service resources to conduct a political campaign against the elected government (cloaked in the pretence it is motivated by concern for patients when it is motivated by the desire for a pay rise) is in any ethical sense right or defensible.

And for all its blather on Education, the ALP track record isn’t much better than its record on Health.

For all the (GST-derived) additional funding the Bracks-Brumby government shovelled into Education, performance indicators in terms of educational outcomes and basic student competencies actually went backwards under their government.

It was content to sit on its hands as hundreds of millions of additional education dollars were either wasted or squandered under the Rudd government’s “Building the Education Revolution” programme: not ones to rock the boat of a fellow ALP government, Victorian Labor was content to see this money pissed up against a post rather than intervene in the disgrace that unfolded on the grounds of its own schools.

And under Andrews, Victorian Labor has been content to sit back and let the powerful teachers’ unions put the Coalition over a barrel and force upon it a wage outcome that guarantees the worst teachers, and those who fail to lift the educational standards in their classrooms, the same rates of pay as the very best educators who deserve to be — and should be — paid more than the no-hopers at the bottom of the pack.

Not simply content with all of this, Andrews now wants every vehicle on the road to trundle around Victoria advertising his party’s dubious wares on Education.

Just as the ambulance union has been doing with emergency service vehicles for years.

I have criticised Andrews in this column repeatedly over the past four years as a juvenile and immature specimen who never outgrew the fun and jollity of his days as a student activist in university politics.

Now, perhaps on the cusp of becoming Premier, it seems to be a situation that remains unchanged.

If — and God forbid — Labor should prevail in a few weeks’ time, and if there is a change in the number plate slogan to reflect that fact, a far better replacement would be “Victoria — The Puerile State.”

At least it would cut through the bullshit. And based on the way the ALP conducts itself these days, in tandem with its buddies in the unions, it would indeed be accurate.

 

Bishop Fracas: #QandA Education Protesters Just Thugs

WHETHER YOU AGREE or not with their opinions, the conduct of student protesters yesterday was a disgrace; assaulting and heckling Foreign minister Julie Bishop over education reforms at the University of Sydney, the students employed tactics that have no place in reasoned debate. Assault is not protest, and abuse is not debate, and the variety of rent-a-crowd thuggery deployed against Bishop is typical of the worst excesses of the Left.

I should just clarify something for the benefit of those readers sympathetic to the Left and therefore likely to take umbrage at my assessment of the tactics: one may not, under any circumstances, speak of a “rent-a-crowd;” such groups prefer to be regarded as responsible citizens exercising their democratic right to dissent and protest.

I know that — and I don’t care. If the shoe fits…

The band of thugs masquerading as concerned students — some of whom, perhaps unsurprisingly, were responsible for the gate-crashing stunt on the ABC’s QandA programme earlier this month — should consider themselves lucky not to have been handed over to Police and charged rather than bleating about being thrown out of the event at which Bishop was appearing.

The premeditated and orchestrated descent of dozens of people upon an individual trying to enter the venue, from whom a reasonable security detail struggled to separate the throng, is indicative of a disgusting pack-hunt mentality designed purely to bully and intimidate.

As ever with such unedifying spectacles, there lurked the great unknown of whether some or all of the group were either armed or otherwise intending to commit real violence against Ms Bishop’s person. In that context nobody could say the student thugs were inappropriately dealt with.

It’s a bridge too far for the protesters to whine about being evicted “because it was clear Julie Bishop was not interested in hearing our concerns” when, from the moment Bishop rose to speak, the rent-a-crowd pack shouted her down.

And their complaints of being denied a hearing are difficult to sympathise with when their opening salvo asked Bishop “how dare she set foot on (the University of Sydney) campus” before going on to accuse the government of “attacking university students right now” (despite any changes to higher education not affecting any of them personally) and asking, again: “How dare you claim that you give a shit about international students?”

I have three points.

First — and whilst it was ever thus when it comes to university politics — student demonstrators show time and again that whatever the merits or otherwise of their arguments, the temptation to descend into infantile anarchy and actual misconduct is usually irresistible; certainly it was in this case. Education minister Christopher Pyne was right in my view to describe their behaviour as an assault. Readers can form their own opinions from the footage  included in the story I have linked to here.

Second, and more to the point, the protest is typical of the Left generally, and let’s face it: the political Left is where most of these miscreants are destined to eke out “a career.” The will of the mob is increasingly portrayed by the Left as the will of the people, with pack actions like this one held up as “proof,” and whilst such a contention can and must never be condoned, any attempt to substitute the rule of the mob for the rule of law should be dealt with in the strongest manner possible.

It comes as no surprise that some of the demonstrators told journalists afterwards that they had been unfairly dealt with by Bishop’s security detail, and as I said to an associate earlier today there is always the accusation of Police brutality (or in this case, whatever the equivalent involving “security” might be) when perpetrators of this kind of fracas are thrown out of places they actually have no right to be.

And finally, there’s an argument doing the rounds over whether Bill Shorten (as “leader” of the party that engineered the current budget environment when in office that now requires redress) or Tony Abbott (as the nasty bastard undertaking the unpalatable fix-it job) is responsible for the violent protests conducted by student activists.

I simply say that in the final analysis, the thugs who choose to engage in this kind of behaviour are responsible for their own actions, and if they haven’t got the guts to say “no” to anyone egging them on, then they clearly have lessens in life to learn that no university can impart.

That said — and we’ve talked about this in frustration for some time — it wouldn’t hurt Shorten to accept and acknowledge the excesses Labor was responsible for in office, and commit the ALP to trying to work constructively with the Abbott government to fix the damage: it needn’t be a sellout or a rubber stamp.

But insisting there is no problem (as he and his colleagues continue to do) right up to the point this week of disseminating viral propaganda depicting Labor as a “low tax, low spending, low debt government” is an abject and arrant lie that can only fuel this kind of lawlessness as people hear what they want to hear, and take matters into their own hands when they believe nobody else will do so.

Taking a little responsibility for Labor’s appalling record in office might even help win Labor back some support, but of course Shorten and his cronies have no time for such logic.

And just one final, perhaps insignificant little quibble: Bishop isn’t even Education minister; that, of course, is Pyne. Leaving aside everything else that might be said of it, is it unreasonable to depict this latest stunt as pointless and misdirected in view of this?

Then again, when you’re operating on the Left and determined to cause trouble, such subtleties matter little. Provided there’s an enemy agent in the crosshairs, they couldn’t care less. And Bishop, senior Liberal minister and Coalition leadership figure that she is, was probably regarded by the marauding pack as fair game.

Sometimes you have to wonder what will happen to this country if people of the calibre of the QandA protesters ever get control of it. Lifetime behaviours become settled in later adolescence. And if yesterday’s violence and thuggery are the watchwords of tomorrow’s leaders, then God help Australia.

 

 

Upset The Left’s Gravy Train? Abbott Must Derail It

CALLS FOR TONY ABBOTT and his government to start taking tough remedial action where the state of Australia’s cesspit of governance and expenditure are concerned are gathering strength in the mainstream press; it may make 2014 a tough year in Australia, but the opportunity to fix the mess this country was left in by the Labor Party is there for the Coalition to take. If it doesn’t do this early in its term in office, it never will.

The legacy of six years of Labor government in Australia is everywhere; it is a cancer that needs to be cut out.

This is the job Tony Abbott and his Liberal government were elected to do, and whilst I think it’s premature to jump all over a few iffy poll findings — and only a complete fool would pay any heed to the frantic narrative of conservative incompetence the ALP and its “leader,” Bill Shorten, are desperately trying to pull together from a handful of teething problems — the clamour from more composed voices for tougher action to be taken is increasing in volume.

I’ve read the morning newspapers this morning, and the article that stands out is one from a favourite of this column, the Sydney Daily Telegraph‘s Piers Akerman, who calls for Abbott to upset the Left’s gravy train; whilst I agree completely with Piers’ sentiments and can’t fault his arguments or his logic, he doesn’t go far enough: far from merely upsetting the cart, Abbott has to drive it off the tracks once and for all.

The targets — so blindingly obvious they put anything the Whitlam government ever did to shame — are everywhere.

Akerman makes an extremely valid point in his assessment of the quality of economic “management” rendered by the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government and its utterly useless, self-important, cretinous specimen of a Treasurer in Wayne Swan, especially where its knee-jerk stimulus spending in the face of the so-called Global Financial crisis was concerned.

And his analogy of Labor “telling (its) followers that Australia was better off than Greece or Portugal when those countries were on their knees was insulting” is right on the money: readers will have heard me say often enough that to get debt levels to 100% of GDP and to achieve the basket case status some European countries now endure, those levels must first pass through 10%, 20%, 30%…the ALP inherited a debt to GDP position from the Howard government of -10% which it blew out to 20% by racking up $300bn in expenditures that the recent Mid Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) found would increase to more than 35% purely on the strength of additional and recurrent spending initiatives legislated by the ALP before it was thrown out of office.

At some point, the line was always going to have to be drawn on how much money should be thrown at car manufacturers, and Akerman is correct to assert that throwing yet more good money after bad to basically blackmail Holden into delaying the inevitable “would have been adding to Labor’s waste and pandering to the featherbedding trade unions.” As I have said in this column before, also, increasing subsidies to the car industry is to subsidise union-crafted bargaining agreements and their capacity to suck in additional funds to increase the pay of their members faster than government can throw them.

Something had to give. And I would remind readers — again — that Holden’s decision to abandon manufacturing in Australia was made months ago (unless people really are gullible enough to believe PR from GMH to the contrary, as late as the day of the official announcement), a reality over which the Labor Party is nowhere to be seen when it comes to owning any responsibility for it.

To share a quick personal anecdote, in 2008 my wife and I drove a Vauxhall Vectra around the United Kingdom for a month, racking up some 2,300 miles in it. It was identical to the Vectras sold in Australia apart from the badge on the grille. I decided I wanted one, and so the day after we arrived back in Melbourne we went to the local Holden dealership in Brighton to buy one.

The “salesperson” at the dealership could scarcely have been more honest, succinct, or helpful: he told us the Vectra had been discontinued recently in Australia and showed us a new Holden Epica, told us it was made in Korea and that it was “a piece of shit,” and suggested we go next door to Brighton Toyota and buy a Camry. So we did. Whilst not disputing that a Camry is made in Australia (and isn’t the best vehicle on the road, either), the incident neatly encapsulates Holden’s approach to new vehicle sales in Australia, its emphasis on inferior imported product, and probably can be taken as a signpost to the company’s likely local sales profile in the not too distant future.

Why would we pay Holden more money to build cars here? The suggestion is outrageous.

And this is where Akerman and I accord on what he terms the “handout mentality”: even after shovelling all that money out to Holden, its strategy appeared to be a rationalisation of passenger models in favour of the lowest-cost imports that would maximise profits even in 2008. Locally made Commodores haven’t been the commercial success they once were for many years. But as long as the tap of government monies remained open, the unions could rip the system off for their mates members at the expense of every taxpayer and business in Australia.

It’s the same story over at the renewable energy industry, where tens of billions of dollars have been pissed up against a post in the euphemistic name of “clean energy” — with the result that selected and preferred industries have become rich and fat whilst the most abundant reserves in the world of cheap fuels lie untapped in the ground and whilst average households are forced to pay $2,000 and $3,000 per year for basic necessities like electricity and gas.

And whilst the real thrust of Piers’ piece is based on manufacturing and energy, the simple truth is that the malaise he alludes to is much, much wider than that in its scope: it affects virtually everything.

Speaking of the “handout mentality,” it’s long been an article of faith in some quarters on the Right (including here) that the welfare spend of the Commonwealth is another area infected by it; not everyone on welfare is a bludger or a crook, mind, but the numbers aren’t encouraging either.

In round terms, the number of people on the Disability Support Pension rose during Labor’s term of office, from 300,000 to 850,000; at the same time, unemployment ticked up from 4.9% when Labor took office in 2007 to just 5.8% when it was kicked out six years later. The appearance is one suspiciously suggestive of the DSP having been used as a tool by Labor to hide real unemployment from the official figures, especially at a time marked mostly by tenuous economic conditions.

Then again, with some leading disability advocates suggesting that 900,000 people living in Victoria alone are “disabled” in some way — well over 15% of the state’s total population — it’s not difficult to play connect-the-dots in terms of ulterior motives associated with Labor’s much trumpeted (and entirely unaffordable) National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Which, of course, falls to taxpayers (or foreign debt) to fund.

In fact, $16bn could be saved at a stroke by abolishing the NDIS and the Gonski educational reforms, which sound like a great idea like the NDIS does, but just like the disability scheme are unfunded and unaffordable.

We talked about education in this column yesterday; since then, one reader made the comment that education spending in dollar terms does not equate to results, whilst another commented that spending isn’t the problem — the curriculum and the competence of those charged with teaching it are key. It may enrage the Left to say it, but not every cut to a government budget will disadvantage those it seeks to frighten witless if a proper emphasis on value for money and outcomes is placed on those expenditures that remain in place.

I’ve recently said that Tony Abbott’s paid parental leave scheme — fully funded and costed as it might be — is probably not a good look, and should either be scaled back or quietly dropped. (I think the First Home Buyers’ Grant is a Howard era program that has outlived its use-by date, too: it doesn’t cover rocketing stamp duty costs, it doesn’t cover the legals it was originally intended to cover, but it has succeeded in distorting the property market and contributed to driving house prices through the roof).

But returning to the monuments and citadels and tokens of the Left, I wrote a piece earlier this year about an odious and entirely unnecessary government-funded QANGO called FECCA, which runs at a loss and eats up at least a half a million dollars of taxpayer money each year whilst doing nothing more useful than churning out politically correct socialist propaganda designed to pander to minorities and crucify the majority.

It is the nature of the beast when it comes to Labor governments (and especially one held to ransom by the Greens) that where there is one of these contemptible propaganda factories subsisting on the taxpayer teat, there are dozens and dozens of others. Abbott and Hockey should not be sentimental in either shutting them down or forcing them to rattle the charity tin by withdrawing their funding in total.

The ABC — so blatantly a mouthpiece for the agenda of the Left to the point it simply fails to mention an increasing volume of news items prejudicial to that agenda — is ripe for reform, and I would go so far as to suggest that it be privatised: if the ABC’s output is indicative of what it thinks will attract the commercial support to sustain it, then I say it should be subjected to a market determination of the relevance and integrity of that output, which will end the burden on taxpayers of propping up what has become little more than an ideology factory.

Foreign aid budgets should not be abolished as some advocate, but should be trimmed to pre-2008 levels in real terms; with the damage done to the country’s finances, the kind of largesse set in train in this area by the Labor Party simply can’t be justified.

And it goes without saying that a serious reappraisal of Australia’s financial relationship with the United Nations — engorged and abused by the ALP to curry favour with unfriendly governments to secure a seat on the Security Council that will make no difference to UN outcomes by virtue of the sheer weight of numbers of the other 14 nations that sit on it — must be undertaken as a matter of urgency.

(In fact, a reappraisal altogether of some of the things this country’s obligations under United Nations treaties impose is also a long overdue exercise, but I digress).

I could continue, but the point is pretty obvious.

At the end of the day, every aspect of Australian governance, industry, business and society that was touched by the previous government has been afflicted: and as I said at the outset, this affliction is a cancer of mismanagement that must be excised if the country is to again emerge as the world-leading entity it so richly and rightly should be.

Abbott’s government must govern, and it must take the hard decisions required to correct these and other symptoms of the Labor disease. Properly communicated and sold to an electorate that installed the Liberal Party in office to do precisely that, the political benefits will flow in the longer run — even if the going gets rough early on.

Akerman is right. The Gravy Train of the Left should indeed be upset. But rather than stop there it must be derailed altogether, with a firm eye on ensuring any rescue mission in later years by a future ALP government is, by the nature of its intent and by the will of the public, irretrievably doomed to fail.

 

Video Performance Reviews Of Teachers An Excellent Initiative

AN IDEA from business identity, former Sydney councillor and Gonski panel member Kathryn Greiner offers the missing link to reconcile the salary expectations of teachers with the educational outcomes the incomes they aspire to demand; the use of video to review teacher performance is a brilliant concept that should be introduced and developed as an integral plank of education policy. If teacher unions object, then frankly, to hell with them.

It’s so simple — and so obvious — it begs the question of why it hasn’t been raised before and/or debated in the context of the perennial argument over how much teachers should be reasonably paid; certainly, the matter has arisen several times in this column over the years, and I am happy to take the idea on board and champion it with vigour.

The call by Gonski education review panel member Kathryn Greiner for teachers to be filmed so their performance can be reviewed and improved has enormous merit; properly implemented, it would see all of the key stakeholders in the education process — government, teachers, students, parents, and the community at large — emerge as winners.

The one group almost certain to be hit hard by the measure — and equally certain to lash out with a viciously obstructive campaign against it — is the unions, who in my view can take a long walk off the proverbial short pier. More on them a bit later.

I find it something of an irony that the only major media outlet reporting on this is Fairfax; to be sure, dear old Uncle Fairfax has dutifully noted the warning shots fired across the bows by teacher unions and other self-interested figures about not using video for “punitive” purposes, but it’s refreshing to see it at least record news that threatens the left-wing cabal on which what remains of its influence rests.

It’s also ironic that my remarks today will reference a truly useful, meaningful role for more bureaucrats; as readers know, my view on civil service roles is that they should be created and filled strictly as required and otherwise not at all, so today there’s something for the public service here in the blue corner, too.

But first things first: Greiner hits the nail squarely on the head when she says that “it is about time teachers understood that they must be assessed, they must be a part of professional development;” in what seems an unmistakable allusion to the perception that teachers — through the might of their unions — expect rocketing levels of remuneration that are in no way accompanied by commensurate improvements in educational outcomes, she suggests that every teacher in Australia should be reviewed using video.

I’ll leave readers to peruse the article from The Age, but here are my thoughts on the matter after some reflection.

I have long advocated that the best teachers in our classrooms should indeed be paid more, and perhaps significantly so, depending on the outcomes they deliver — namely, the results those students in their charge achieve on a range of educational indicators including the basics, but also their ability to gain critical insights into the material they study and a solid practical grounding on which to build in later years beyond the classroom.

The entire concept of collective bargaining on which unions are predicated is utter anathema to me, best evidenced of late in the educational arena in the protracted standoff over teacher pay in Victoria, in which an attempt to introduce so-called performance pay was brutally and savagely faced down by teacher unions which refused to accept differential remunerative arrangements for individual teachers.

I find it ridiculous and contemptible that a 22-year-old “teacher” — fresh from school to university to school again, with little or no adult life experience to speak of except a couple of paper qualifications — should automatically be entitled to be paid well in excess of $1,000 per week from the minute they set foot at the front of a classroom. It is, not to put too fine a point on it, an obscenity of the union bargaining process.

And by the same token (and this is an old story when it comes to awards, union enterprise agreements and similarly offensive collective bargaining instruments), I simply don’t agree that the “best of the best” of teachers should be limited in what they may be paid by the number at the top of the highest band of teacher rankings.

As an aside, what are those bands based on? Qualifications? Seniority? It seems implausible that they are based on outcomes; if they were, Australia wouldn’t be sliding down the international rankings when it comes to the top performing nations on educational indicators weighed against other developed countries.

I think Greiner’s idea is one that can and should be introduced as part of a suite of reforms to monitor teacher performance; an obvious first step is for governments and independent school boards to have cameras installed in all classrooms, along with adequate data storage infrastructure to file the footage for, say, each calendar year on a rolling basis — a measure that could be funded at a relatively small cost, given the colossal and burgeoning amounts of money expended on education with no apparent benefit in terms of outcomes.

I agree fully with some of the privacy concerns raised in The Age‘s article: obviously, the footage would be strictly for internal use only, with teachers able to review their own classes at will, or for formal review purposes (and of course, for performance appraisal purposes and any appeals that might arise from those), but certainly not to be made public in any way.

The application of the idea in terms of measuring teacher performance is relatively straightforward: a random selection of each teacher’s classroom time (say, one hour per month or term) may be extracted and reviewed by a panel comprising — for instance — the head of subject in a high school, along with a member of a School’s Inspectorate (I said there would be something for the public service) and perhaps an independent member of the school board. The exact composition of such a panel may be argued, but I think the principle is clear.

Such a process — benchmarked against the progress of the teacher’s students, their educational achievements and weighted against results across a given state — would provide an effective means by which to more accurately determine individual teacher performance; it would also offer a tool with which to better identify those teachers who are the best performers, and to pay them accordingly.

I think the reinstitution of an inspectorate-style regime for schools would restore (and better utilise) an important link in education regimes that has been mostly abolished by state governments, or effectively neutered; such a division within state education departments (and their equivalents in independent school authorities) would need to be well resourced, and come with the happy additional consequence of providing yet another potential career avenue for the very top teachers it would be charged with identifying, rewarding, and indeed promoting.

And such a wholistic shift in performance management and benchmarking of teachers from the collective to the individual would also restore to some extent to role of the school principal, which — by virtue of the collective agreements struck between teacher unions and governments over pay and conditions — has been rendered almost redundant when it comes to having meaningful input into the management of the workforce within his or her school.

I have little time for the almost complete aversion to anything that may carry negative repercussions for poor teachers when it comes to their performance: teacher unions have gone to great lengths in recent decades to engineer a public environment in which their members are treated as sacrosanct on questions of security of employment and entitlement to guaranteed pay rises at or above the cost of living.

If this country is to live up to the “clever country” moniker demanded of it in the 1980s (by a Labor government, no less), this is the sort of outdated thinking that must be abandoned.

Teachers are no different to any other body of professionals or employees in that there will be outstanding teachers, acceptable teachers, and poor teachers.

In my view, the outstanding ones should be rewarded; the acceptable ones coached, encouraged, and provided additional training and support; and the poor ones — just like poor employees in other walks of life — should, to put it kindly, be involuntarily motivated toward alternative employment opportunities.

It goes without saying that the powerful education unions will react with outrage to suggestions of the kind I am making here: bully for them if they do.

Over the past 20 years (and it neatly correlates with a time in the early 1990s, when most of the states were electing new Liberal governments), teacher unions have enhanced their muscle by campaigning on blatant fearmongering about the intentions of conservative governments and the impact of those purported intentions on the schooling of children.

Consequently, the education unions are now among the most powerful — if not the most powerful — of all the unions in Australia.

I don’t think they serve their members well — after all, there’s a limit to how well you can do for yourself under the EBA regime if you’re a brilliant teacher — and I don’t think they serve their students well either, given anyone able to complete teacher qualifications but who is otherwise an idiot can find their way into a classroom full of kids.

Frankly, the unions should embrace the use of video technology for performance management of their members: the only genuine reason to object is to protect the pitiful among their ranks; education is not a charity pursuit, but in fact the vocation every bit as critical to nurturing new generations of Australians as the leaders of teacher unions loudly proclaim — with an outstretched collective hand.

This is an idea that certainly merits further discussion, and I am very pleased Mrs Greiner has raised it.

At the end of the day, however, the teacher unions have two choices: embrace such a measure in a constructively critical spirit, or do what they always do when standards of increased accountability are put on the table, and cause as much trouble and disruption as possible (including to the education of their students) to ensure it never sees the light of day.

To be entirely candid, if the unions take the latter path, they can go to hell. And every parent, school principal or decent teacher with a real stake in improving the standard of the education each student receives should tell them precisely which way that is.

 

AND ANOTHER THING: For those who might like to accuse me of being doctrinaire, advocating the smashing of teacher unions (not that it’s a bad idea) or simply regurgitating conservative dogma on education, I’ll point out I’ve got a daughter due to start school in 12 months’ time and a son a few years behind her: this is an issue of great personal relevance, and I shudder to think of some of the excesses of teacher union conduct that have been played out publicly in recent years being applied to the education of my own children.

 

Moving Forward: Marginalising Unions Without WorkChoices

WHEREVER YOU LOOK, evidence of the misuse and abuse of union power abounds; folk in “Middle Australia” who aren’t lined up against the union movement soon will be as businesses like Holden collapse. Their outrage won’t be over job losses; it will be over the unions using them as a battering ram against a conservative government when their own actions are the problem. There are ways to deal with the union movement — once and for all.

The single greatest failing of conservative politics over the past ten years, in my view, was WorkChoices: armed with a Senate majority for the first time in more than 30 years, the Howard government introduced a fairly reasonable (if initially imperfect) set of workplace changes to increase flexibility in Australia’s labour market.

Everyone knows how that particular story played out: $13 million in union media bookings and the mother of all scare campaigns later, Howard’s government was swept from office in a campaign so saturated in industrial relations that even now, a new conservative government won’t consider revisiting those laws until at least after the next election — four parliamentary terms after the original “WorkChoices” election.

It was a failure for many reasons: the inability or unwillingness to respond to the unions’ characteristically hysterical and dishonest fear campaign; the failure or refusal of the business community that begged Howard to liberalise the labour market to fund or mount a co-ordinated response to the unions; the inability or refusal to properly explain and sell the policy to voters; the travesty implicitly committed against the national interest in mishandling the single opportunity that has presented in decades to wind back workplace inflexibility in any meaningful sense; and the damage that now continues to be inflicted on Australia’s economic and productivity growth as a result of the reshackling of the labour market as payback to the unions for services rendered to the ALP.

Above all, it breathed new life into a dying union movement that hasn’t missed a day since to wield — and misuse — its reclaimed and disproportionate power in Australia’s industrial relations system.

Yet the ultimate travesty from all of this lies in the fact that from a political perspective, the atmospherics surrounding any contemplation of workplace relations legislation reform is now so poisonous that even the conservative parties are too frightened to raise their heads above the parapet over the subject, and so I just wonder whether attacking the problem from the opposite direction — legislating on the conduct of the unions themselves — might present an alternate avenue to achieving at least some of the desired outcomes.

But first, I was asked yesterday why Monday’s article proclaiming it a “good riddance” if GMH terminated its operations in Australia was such a great idea on the basis it would lead to the loss of tens of thousands of jobs, directly and/or indirectly, and pose a colossal political headache for the Abbott government.

The answer can, to some extent, be found in a brilliant piece from yesterday’s issue of The Australian by Grace Collier, which outlines in infinitesimal detail everything wrong with the business model of the heavily unionised, taxpayer-indulged GMH, and how wages high enough to make the eyes of most of us in private enterprise water — driven by collective bargaining agreements negotiated by union thugs with scant regard for the long-term welfare of their members — have transformed an unprofitable business able to subsist on government handouts into an unproductive and uncompetitive sloth that should be put out of its misery.

As Collier observes, it seems the union thinks members are better off jobless than on award wages, so usuriously extortionate is the collective agreement it has extracted from (or imposed on) Holden’s managements. It also raises the question of what the point is in actually having the awards the unions fought against WorkChoices to preserve if the Holden example is indicative of what the movement then does with them. Regrettably, there are plenty of “Holdens” around.

Another with its name in the press for all the wrong reasons at present is Qantas, a far bigger commercial proposition than Holden which is also on its knees in large part for the same reason — its bloated, overpaid, complacent, unionised workforces presided over by union thugs and warlords with cavalier disregard as to whether the airline survives or dies.

It’s hard to believe that it has been more than two years since Alan Joyce grounded Qantas to neutralise rolling industrial action that its unions were engaging in; as we said at the time, the Fair Work Act introduced by the Rudd-Gillard government had created the most heavily pro-union industrial environment in 30 years, and the thugs at some of Qantas’ unions weren’t shy or bashful about exploiting it.

Indeed — despite the pleadings of some of the more reasonable figures in their movement, such as Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association federal secretary, Steve Purvinas — the Qantas unions collectively bent Qantas over a barrel, so to speak; and as we also said of their actions at the time

“What…is even worse is the fact that Qantas workers who have opted not to take part in strike action have been harassed and bastardised:…houses of workers refusing to strike have been damaged, or their car windows smashed in retaliation for turning up to work, are disgraceful.”

I’ll just float this for readers to consider, too: the three years Joyce bought Qantas by grounding the airline, during which its unions are prohibited from engaging in industrial action against it, expires in October next year. What right-minded individual would expect anything other than hell breaking loose at Qantas in ten months’ time?

We will, of course, get to Qantas in its own right very soon, as promised. Yet Qantas seems to have been singled out for special attention by the unions; the same unions struck largely the same deals for the same work with Virgin Blue shortly before the 2011 dispute for an average of 14% less in take-home wages for the Virgin workers than it had demanded of Qantas.

The point is that laid bare in last week’s press, it’s now clear that Qantas couldn’t even afford the compromise pay increases it worked through after the airline’s grounding, let alone the rip-off the unions sought at first to enact “in the name of their members.” Those who were loudest two years ago in their vehement protestations that the wage rises sought at the time were “modest” and “affordable,” and that Qantas was simply another evil employer that needed to be taught a lesson, are now — strangely enough — nowhere to be seen or heard.

It continues with the teacher unions; again I am going to defer to The Australian‘s Judith Sloan, who eloquently articulates the agenda of these most powerful of union beasts; it’s a good read that should really outrage anyone whose view of education funding extends beyond the idiot-simple (and fatuous) proposition that higher teacher salaries are a magic bullet for improving educational outcomes.

Indeed, Sloan concurs with my oft-repeated statements in this column that all Gonski will achieve, in short, is to fund further pay rises for teachers, with nary a care in return for enhanced standards of education delivery; what she fails to point out directly (although the allusion is there) is that such salary increases are indiscriminate: a really great teacher (who deserves to be paid more, frankly) will be paid at the same rate as the bumbling no-hoper who fell into a teaching course on the back of “loving kids” and who might have a “rewarding” experience in the classroom, but who isn’t a teacher’s bootlace.

It’s an insult to the great teacher in the example, and an abject waste of taxpayer money; it’s also a potentially lifelong disservice that is rendered upon those who really matter — the students — but when you’re a teacher union operating in this fashion and wielding the clout with which to do so, the welfare and education of school students play second fiddle to the more urgent task of lining pockets at public expense.

What makes it worse, as Sloan points out, is that the AEU in particular has taken the Victorian Department of Education to court to block it from introducing performance benchmarks for its teachers: proof, were it even required, that education is very much a second-order priority to salary.

Why do roadworks occur during the day, wreaking havoc on everyday life? Union-“negotiated” rates of pay and penalties make it prohibitively expensive for them to be undertaken overnight as they once were. Why do an increasing number of hospitality businesses close on Sundays? Because small businesses can no longer afford paying $40 or $50 per hour on the penalty rates that go with rostering staff on Sundays.

Of course, I could go on, but I think the point is amply illustrated. And the irony is that far from guaranteeing “the rights and conditions of members at work,” as the unions proudly boast, all of these scenarios (and plenty more like them) actually put their members at risk of unemployment — sooner or later.

The Abbott government has been bequeathed an unexpected opportunity to kill two birds with the one stone on account of the AWU scandal that enveloped the Gillard government; that scandal — and Gillard’s role in it — has some room yet to run, with a Melbourne court ruling that Victoria Police can access documents seized from law firm Slater and Gordon as part of the ongoing investigation into alleged fraud at the AWU. Lawyers for Ms Gillard’s ex-boyfriend Bruce Wilson had argued they were privileged.

It is already known that the industrial relations overhaul — such as it is — to be enacted by the Coalition during this term of Parliament will include the imposition of the kind of regulations and standards of governance on unions as already applies to business under the Corporations Act.

This is to be welcomed and, to be clear, is a reform that is decades overdue.

But so much of the mess that has been created by the “modern” union movement in Australia — business failures, mass sackings, and the movement of entire workforces offshore as union demands price their members out of Australian markets — dictates that something has to be done to curb their influence, even if the revisitation of a WorkChoices-style labour market liberalisation is too politically fraught to attempt.

The problem arises from the unbridled abuse of the very commodity unions trumpet as their greatest strength: their bargaining clout as a collective entity.

Whilst the Liberals are legislating more appropriate standards of union governance, here are a few other measures  — in no particular order — that should be evaluated and legislated as well:

  • The right of an individual worker to opt out of a collective agreement and negotiate directly with an employer should be restored;
  • The inclusion of any political levy in union membership fees should be outlawed altogether;
  • All major union ballots to occur as secret ballots, and to be conducted under the auspices of the Australian Electoral Commission;
  • “Slush Funds” of the kind central to the AWU scandal — and since reported to be rife within the union movement — to be outlawed;
  • The coercion, intimidation, harassment or victimisation of union members refusing to strike to be made a criminal offence punishable with fines of $500,000 for the individual and $2 million for the union, per offence;
  • Coercing, inciting or otherwise forcing or directing individual union members  to vote in support of industrial action to be criminalised and punished in similar terms;
  • Making the solicitation of new union members an offence during the standard working hours and on the premises of any business union organisers, stewards or the like enter;
  • Imposing a reasonable notice period (enforceable by the employer) under so-called “right of entry” provisions available to unions, and the abolition of those provisions altogether in businesses employing 20 or fewer workers;
  • Mandatory Federal Court review of all collective bargaining agreements struck between unions and employers since 2008, with the Federal Court empowered by legislation to dissolve these agreements where they can be shown to be significantly prejudicial to the continuing operation of the employer on a case-by-case basis; and
  • The dissolution and prohibition of any union-sponsored collective bargaining agreement explicitly stating that productivity and/or standards of performance must be excluded in determining whether employees are eligible to receive pay rises.

For far too long, the unions in this country have played fast and loose with Australia’s business sector, its economy, and the jobs of those they so callously yet emptily claim to protect.

If WorkChoices is no option, there is more than one way to skin a cat: perhaps an approach of the kind outlined here might be more propitious.

After all, unions now cover just 16% of the Australian workforce, and it’s a very reasonable assumption that a fair proportion of that 16% were coerced into joining up in the first place.

The final thought goes to Collier, who says — in the context of an ex-employee of Holden she interviewed — that

“If Holden does (close in Australia…it) says leaving will cost $600m. Most of this will go to staff payouts. The fellow interviewed agrees…the average production-line worker will walk away with a redundancy package of between $300k-500k.”

On those figures, you have to wonder — had Holden’s workforce been reasonably remunerated rather than kept in clover by a union gun to the company’s collective head — just how much more time it would have available to it to knock its Australian operation back into something resembling decent shape.

As I said at the outset, when the union “outrage” at the Abbott government begins after Holden shuts up shop, it will be a politically motivated attack on a conservative government, pure and simple; “concern” for the jobs of their members will have nothing to do with it.

There are plenty of “Holdens” around. It should give conservative lawmakers some pause for thought.