Archive for the ‘economics’ Category

Oz Liberal party hate others double-dipping, but help upper crust triple-dip

July 1, 2019

Under $255 p.a.  for those below the top of the bottom bracket, $11640 for those on over $200,000 p.a. in the Oz “benefit the workers” tax cuts. Would you believe the Australian Government’s ruling coalition want to spend $102.5 billion for changes benefiting taxpayers including the top 5%, then $41.7 billion for the top 5% alone?

The Liberal/National coalition want to give these tax cuts in 3 lots, shifting tax brackets upwards and removing the top bracket.

Media reports on the three part tax legislation suggest that only the third  part benefits those on $180,000 dollars per year. This is untrue. The 1st part reduces the tax for all taxpayers, the second for middle income and above, and the third benefits only the top 5% of taxpayers.

For the lowest taxable income range,  the low and middle income tax offset is part of the tax system. From 2018-19 it will provide a tax reduction of up to $255 for people with taxable incomes of $37,000 or less.  For taxable incomes of between $37,000 and $48,000, the value of the LMITO increases at a rate of 7.5 cents per dollar to the maximum offset of $1080. Once somebody earns $90,000, the offset phases out at a rate of three cents in the dollar to $126,000.

For the From July 1, 2018, the Government  is increasing the top threshold of the 32.5 per cent tax bracket from $87,000 to $90,000, meaning a tax cut of up to $135 per year for those on that range – and giving a tax cut of the full $135 to those above that range. But they also get the tax offfset – reducing by income as they move up the bracket.  The middle of the range get little effective increase.

From July 1, 2022  those on  $90,000 to $120,000 will shift from the 32.5 to the 30% bracket, a tax cut of  $1,350 per year for taxpayers above this level.

By July 1, 2024, people on incomes of $200,000, where the top tax rate of 45 per cent kicks in, will receive $11,640 in annual tax savings – with extra income taxed at 45% if their income is higher.

Meanwhile, the MAXIMUM benefit to the lowest tax bracket, including the tax offset,  is $255 .

There is no increase in the current system for those on below-taxable income such as those on intermittent contracts, who end up on incomes barely above the age pension, or those on benefits.

Consider the cost of this triple-dipping:

According to the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) figures obtained by the Greens, the long-term cost to the federal budget of tax cuts would be as follows:

  • Increase the upper threshold for the 32.5 per cent marginal tax rate from $87,000 to $90,000 from 1 July 2018: $6.5 billion.
  • Low and middle income tax offset of up to $530 for individuals with taxable income up to $125,333 for the 2018-19, 2019-20, 2020-21 and 2021-22 financial years: $15.9 billion.
  • Increase the upper threshold for the 32.5 per cent marginal tax rate from $90,000 to $120,000 from 1 July 2022: $36.5 billion.
  • Increase the upper threshold for the 19 per cent marginal tax rate from $37,000 to $41,000 from 1 July 2022: $40.8 billion.
  • Increase the low income tax offset to up to $645 for taxable incomes up to $66,667 from 1 July 2022: $2.8 billion.
  • Increase the lower threshold for the 45 per cent marginal tax rate from $180,001 to $200,001 from 1 July 2024: $9.1 billion.
  • Remove the 37 per cent marginal tax rate, so that all income from $41,001 to $200,000 is taxed at a marginal rate of 32.5 per cent from July 1, 2024: $32.6 billion.

Yes,  $102.5 billion for tax cuts for taxpayers including the top 5%, then $41.7 billion for the top 5% alone.  Under $255 for those below the top of the bottom bracket, $1,1640  for those on the top bracket.

Rather than having the third part of the tax changes, the Government should increase basic benefits such as the aged pension and Newstart to cover the actual cost of living in poverty, and change the basis of future increases from the full CPI (which has been kept flat by decreases in costs for items which the poorest cannot afford) to the CPI for those on benefits – which is already monitored by the Bureau of Statistics. This would make a greater boost to local business than an increased refund for those who can afford overseas holidays.


Basic Wage: We have gone backwards since 1907.

March 26, 2019

Oz Liberal Party are saying that we can’t afford Labor’s plan to set Fair Work’s guidelines to seek basic wage to keep single person out of poverty.  (Yes, our “independent arbiter” on minimum wage is independent, but it runs on rails laid by the government…)

Time for the general public in Oz and overseas to revisit the Harvester Decision 1907 (!)  :

As the Fair Work Commission’s website says:

In Ex parte H.V. McKay (the Harvester Decision), Justice Higgins of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Court decided to determine what ‘fair and reasonable’ wages were using the following test:

I cannot think of any other standard appropriate than the normal needs of the average employee, regarded as a human being living in a civilised community. [p.3]

This became the basis of the national minimum wage system in Australia. It was a ‘living’ or ‘family’ wage, set at a level which would supposedly allow an unskilled labourer to support a wife and three children, to feed, house, and clothe them. By the 1920s it applied to over half of the Australian workforce. It became known as the ‘basic wage’. Additional amounts were paid to more skilled workers, for example an additional 3 shillings to a fitter or other tradesperson. These additional amounts were known as ‘margins’.

Our politicians are so proud of how we have “advanced” as a society. Well, let’s not go back to the high employment standards of 1907.  Compromise.  Don’t have the minimum be for a family of 2 adults and 3 children.  Let it be for a single adult, but have government support for dependants – covered by taking back some of the tax cuts we have had.  Have the Nation recognise that we need the children to be well-educated and healthy and happy if we are to continue as a strong nation.

Follow Justice Higgins: set the basic wage to cover at least housing, healthy food, medical costs (including dental and optical), power, water, clothes, footwear, furniture, rates, life insurance, savings in case of loss of employment, union dues, books and newspapers and NBN, public transport fares, school requisites, amusements and holidays, replacement of items such as refrigerators, domestic help, and any expenditure for unusual contingencies (e.g. too ill to work,  have to move house, death in family, etc.)

Yes, this means that Australia’s high rental and power costs should be figured in.

Seems weird that we have a high minimum wage by global standards but workers need more?

That’s what comes of letting private industry run vital services (Adam Smith would be horrified, and his works are the basis of many neocons’ theories!)  and also destroying the government-run provision of housing at controlled cost for low-income people.  With the perennial politicians’ bribes of lower taxes we have had the sale of infrastructure and the collapse of State Housing Commission support – with over a year’s wait for emergency housing as one result.  In North Metro Perth, 2018, the average wait was 166 weeks.  I therefore say that the private market’s prices for housing and power and internet must be factored into any calculation of unemployment and sickness benefits, as it should for the basic wage.

Bitcoin – not for me.

December 8, 2017

The recent enthusiasm for Bitcoin bothers me.

Not because it has got to the “taxi drivers are talking about it” indicator of bubble status.

Because it is being used widely enough to stay in use when the bubble bursts.

Many of the people using it are interested in the environment, and approve of replacing still-working globes with LED globes to reduce power consumption. They may have installed solar PV panels to contribute to low-emission power.

How will they feel when they understand the impact of the bitcoin computing approach?

The ConversationDigiconomist and IEEE   put it clearly.  A Bitcoin transaction uses 5,000 times as much energy as using a  credit card, and the energy cost will increase as the blockchain lengthens.  The multiple servers maintaining copies of the ledger, and comparing their versions, and doing the complex calculations to solve a puzzle  to be the lucky one to generate a Bitcoin (all the others’ discard the work they have done, wasted electricity) – all burn power and generate waste heat.

I believe  that cold climates are more ethical server locations, as the heat generated can at least be used for warming buildings or preheating for hot water systems, but even so the process leaves me uneasy.

I am glad that the alternative blockchain designers are testing less power-hungry approaches.  Until Bitcoin changes its approach, I think it should be avoided.

Australian Poverty Line

October 17, 2016

Recent reports of 3 million Australians below poverty line (where defined as below 50% of median income) – currently $426.30 per week for a single person – have started some public response. One person commented online that increasing welfare wouldn’t help, as it would drive up the average income and thus leave them still below par – another voter who does not know the difference between mean and median. Depressing that they can vote…

My immediate thought was different: have a major depression, and weaken Unions so more workers join the 32% of below-current- poverty-line whose main income is paid employment. Then the dole will be above that definition of poverty, while the executives stay on salaries giving over the poverty level weekly income per executive hour!

To compare with cost of basic needs: The March 2016 Henderson poverty line for a single person, including housing, is $425.61 for a single not in work, $524.89 for a single in the workforce. (The Henderson poverty lines are based on a benchmark income of $62.70 for the December quarter 1973 established by the Henderson poverty inquiry. The benchmark income was the disposable income required to support the basic needs of a family of two adults and two dependent children. Poverty lines for other types of family are derived from the benchmark using a set of equivalence scales. )

Australia’s Newstart Allowance (single person over 22  unemployment benefit) currently is at best about $335 per week, including rent assistance, and the Government is proposing to cut the Energy Supplement from it – about $8 per week. That is why I keep calling for those on welfare to have the right to surrender 90% of their income for guaranteed, supervised basic living provided by the Government.

What future for the average intelligence student? The problem with education “for employment”

July 10, 2016

Both our major political parties are talking about education to fit students for jobs in “the new economy.”  At the same time  Our Coalition Government wants to give Company Tax reductions to large businesses.  However, for large companies,  increased company profits invested in expansion tend to lead to job losses.

Not just from offshore subcontracting of labour to exploited workers with no leave entitlements, OH&S rights,  or superannuation. Consider

It includes a quote from a former McDonald’s senior staffer : “It’s cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who is inefficient, making $15 an hour bagging French fries.”

The main item in the article is that 60 000 (probably OH&S nightmare) jobs have gone because Chinese factories invested in technology not humans – even at their pay rates the robots are cheaper.

These job losses are not just the semi-literate jobs.  Consider the rise in expert systems, even self-reprogramming learning systems: the first white-collar job robots are already here, even doing work for lawyers:

The students know about this.  They know that machine intelligence researchers are even starting to find ways to program the machines for creativity.
(see John Gero on Creativity emergence and evolution in design concepts and framework
and  )

So why should the less bright and less creative struggle to learn the basics, if they are told education is “to get a job” and they know they are headed for love on the dole?   (Read Greenwood’s book, or at least a detailed review, if you haven’t come across a film or play adaptation yet )

It is time for the meme of “education to be fit for work” to die.  Move to “education to get tools to make more fun and happiness, or dodge trouble.”  Start classes in “Learning something new without a teacher’s help, and demonstrating it to others,” “Comparing and testing health benefit claims,”  “Bullshit detection,” “website reliability testing,” “effective complaints,” “Dealing with Bureaucracy 1:  Completing a basic tax return so you don’t pay your refund to an accountant,” and  “Dealing with Bureaucracy 2:  Complying with Dole paperwork requirements.”

Of course, you may end up with a lot of activists trying to improve the Nation because they realise that the  current socio-economic system is the source of much unhappiness.  They may even realise that money is just another social construct – and not a good one – and demand a world run on social obligation instead.
Would that be so bad?

Housing on the dole – or the minimum wage

May 6, 2014

 Fining beggars, cutting welfare, and moving young unemployed away from home.

The City of Perth recently suggested that beggars should be fined.  (They rapidly backed away from the resultant backlash, and started talking about “… if they don’t accept a referral to the Salvation Army…”)   At that time I thought – Our State gaols people for unpaid fines.  Someone poor enough to need to beg, and allergic to  religious types, can’t pay the hundred dollars, so goes to prison.  One way out of homelessness…

Now the Australian Government’s rushed “Commission of Audit” – consisting of the type of people you’d expect  to be appointed by a very Big Business aligned government – has brought in its predictable extreme list of possible actions.  As in the Pauline Hansen /  One Nation days, their suggestions are so extreme as to make vicious treatment of the poor look moderate, and a number of rich people are chipping in with ways to cut the welfare budget.

One of the ideas raised in the past week was to require young unemployed people to move from areas of high unemployment.

This reminded me of the City of Perth’s proposal, and I shall explain why.

 Income and homelessness

In Australia we have well over 5% unemployment, where that is defined as  not having had an hour’s paid work in the previous week.  

We also have cities where a report on affordable housing

“… prepared by Anglicare Australia, found single Australians on government payments are “seriously disadvantaged” in the housing market, with less than 1 per cent of properties examined deemed suitable. 

Single people with no children living on the minimum wage were slightly better off, with 4 per cent of listed properties found suitable, according to the study. ” 

The full report is at   It includes figures for some areas where welfare income won’t even rent a shed.

Now, business claim that the minimum wage is sufficient, and the governments say that the various welfare payments are sufficient.

Welfare groups say that we need much more public housing, as we have at least 100,000 homeless (2011 figures plus local information).

Young unemployed people rely on support – and often housing – from a network of family and friends.  Couch-surfing and rental sharing are much easier where you know a lot of people. Life is cheaper when they help you with food and laundry facilities. So, moving young unemployed people away from their home ground will lead to more homelessness and begging.

Here’s a thought.  Social Science Fiction, perhaps.

If the payments are sufficient, let the Federal government and State governments accept responsibility for showing it is so.

Sell no more government owned land within 20 kilometers of a city – any buildings which are no longer required (say, an old hospital in Perth where a replacement is being built elsewhere) can be replaced by State-owned quick-built and easily recycled buildings (in this case, so when the new hospital gets too old, you have somewhere to rebuild.)    That way you can experiment with physical structures for the housing.  (By the way, NEVER sell government owned land within 20 kilometers of a city in Oz,  ever.  You will need the land later, and it will have increased in cost beyond the interest on the money you get today.)

Have large, mulitstorey complexes with communal kitchens and laundries, and a mixture of single and family accommodation.  Provide subsidised housing there for concierges/maintenance workers, police, nurses, teachers, cooks, lawyers  and social workers.   And hire some of these to work in the buildings as teachers for those who cannot attend school, social trainers, residents’ representatives, police, etc.

People on welfare can choose to surrender their benefits in return for secure housing, food and clothing and laundry (taking rostered turns at kitchen and cleaning and maintenance duties if capable – thus learning skills and responsibility), transport to education or job-seeking activities and to second-hand stores (to get clothing etc.), internet access for such purposes, education and work equipment costs, health care, etcetera.  One of the in-house jobs woud be the “knocker-upper” : some people do need a person to get them up on time to get to where they have to be on time, and to remind them to get to important appointments.  It is a surprisingly common problem, and naturally linked to unemployment and problems with bureaucracy.

Where welfare recipients have their payments suspended for “breaches” they can be put on daily work rosters – a contrast with the current system: six weeks or more with no income and no monitoring of behaviour (natural risk of crime or homelessness.)

If  residents get employment or other income, half of all after-tax-and- costs income above welfare is also charged, and once they get more than the minimum wage they have support to find independent rentals (they do, after all, have a “rental reference” now. )

It’s cheaper than imprisonment or fully institutional care, and for many of those who are  intellectually handicapped / brain injured / just unable to cope out of institutions it is more likely to be  a happy life than tying to live independently.  For those who haven’t learned how to run a home in our culture, it can help with gaining the skills they need.  For families under stress it may provide the added support the children need to get them to happy adulthood – without the shame of being officially “targets” of support.  For single unemployed people, it provides a better environment that many random share houses.  For the elderly, it provides support greater than fully independent living but less intense that nursing home care.

What is more, it will take some pressure off the lower end of the rental market.

The trouble is, the State and Federal governments want to send the needy to the Salvation Army, Anglicare, the Uniting Church Mission, … anything but admit that the problem requires serious action by something more than volunteer organisations.


Do the politicians think we have no memory? Part 3

March 23, 2014

After an Australian election, if  one party gets a majority of the whole population vote but another party wins the majority of seats the losing  politicians regularly grumble, throwing around words like “gerrymander.”

Politicians say they want schools to teach students to understand and value our way of government.  They say they want schools to emphasise teaching of history, and it is an important part of our history that a great deal of care was put into setting up our system, which started peacefully and by negotiation well after the hasty and violent starts of the main European countries and the USA.   They say they want these things in the curriculum,  but I wonder whether they want voters to remember their schooling when they come to vote.

Background  to  the Australian Electoral System

(Skip this if you know it already)

It was a deliberate choice to have States’ federal Senate numbers equal regardless of population and representing proportional votes within each State, to prevent the tyranny of the majority.   They were certainly influenced by John Calhoun’s ideas on concurrent majority as an approach to the problem, ideas still discussed this century .   It was also a deliberate choice to have each voter  have as many preferential votes as there are candidates up for election in the State,¹ a change made in 1949, even though the mathematics and vote tracing were horribly curly in the days before computerised  counting.    A voter may vote for all one party first, or one Green, one Independent, one Labor, one Liberal, and one Euthanasia party candidate, then mix up the remaining candidates in any order as long as each candidate has ves preferred number on the paper.  If a candidate has more first preferences than ve needs (one-sixth-plus-one of the votes is the quota if there are 6 seats), ves surplus votes are distributed as first preferences in proportion to the preferences of the voters who gave ver the votes.  Candidates who get less than the fraction needed to get a seat are knocked out from least votes up, and at each step the loser’s votes next preferences are distributed and the scrutineers check whether someone has got the quota.    (Messy!  I’m not making this up – check with the Australian Electoral Commission)  No wonder they introduced “Or you can tick one party’s box and we will distribute all their preferences the way they have told the us to.”

It was also a deliberate choice to have each House of Representative seat linked to its own area (and electorates other than islands are single patches of land), and that the voters from that area  vote  for  individual candidates as individuals, though the candidates  could ally to parties.  That way, local interests could be well represented by someone known to the locals.   Also, in each area, the voter has preferential votes as in the Senate – so that if they like Alan but would rather have Jan than Ursula if they can’t have Alan, they can try for Alan but know that Jan will get their vote if he fails.  They just number the order of preference in the candidates’ boxes.  This means that you don’t get someone hated by 60% of the electorate into the seat just because the 60% have slightly different ideas about the best way to do things and vote for 3 other candidates first.  If they all prefer a 4th to the 40%er, they get their way.


For philosophical reasons, State governments have been selling off State-owned housing in expensive areas, buying housing in less expensive locations,  and subsidising private rentals for those in need – who can seldom get private rentals in the prime locations.   In addition, those short of money sell out of high-value areas to free up the money, and the wealthy seek houses close to well-known exclusive schools and other valued social resources.  This has led to the service-providers (shop assistants, teachers, police, cleaners, etc) having to travel long distances to work, and tertiary students having to travel hours to their studies, with the associated travel costs – while the wealthy are within easy foot or  public transport access of resources.  This is fair in the  eyes of those benefiting from the user-pays  approach, and they see its good points:  after all, if the State provided enough low cost housing in the  upmarket areas, the dregs of society would lower property values.  An additional benefit is that the local State schools have a better class of student and parents and thus better outcomes than in the more difficult suburbs..

You got over half the total but not enough seats.  Problem?

True, there are many reasons people vote their different ways, but let’s pretend that wealth-aligned interests are usually enough to swing the vote.  Let us assume that the electoral boundaries are fair, with pretty similar numbers in each electorate, and thus there is no real gerrymander.  Our Electoral Commission does work at being fair that way.

Pretend there are 10 electorates.

Rich party has 90% of the votes in each of 4 electorates.

Poor party has 60% of the votes in each of 6 electorates.

% of total voters                   %  of total vote             seats / 10

R 36%        P 4%                                 40%                      4

R 24%        P 36 %                              60%                      6

total votes by  party                 R 60 %        P 40 %

Total seats by party                 R   4             P  6

Don’t complain.  This was part of the design of the Australian system, deliberately included to control concentrated power groups with regional agendas inimical to the wider society.   This is in the curriculum – the intersection of History with Society and Environment.   Why don’t the journalists call the politicians on this, rather than just quoting them?

I am so annoyed that I am going to shout.  

If  you want a greater proportion of the seats, have a better distribution of your supporters across electorates. 

A good start would be:  Get out of your enclaves of power, and make housing available for the “lower orders” closer to the places that they work.  If you can’t stop the worsening inequality, at least reduce home address’s value as a predictor of socioeconomic status.  


¹ I know, it is really “a preferential vote” but they used be allowed to number only a limited number of preferences and I wanted to make the distinction .

What, no job losses from carbon pricing?

June 13, 2011

I heard a Union rep saying the Unions would accept a carbon tax only if “no job losses” resulted.  How many whale-oil shops, charcoal burners, farriers and blacksmiths are there?  Is there a politician brave enough to respond with “Carbon pricing is to speed up adoption of  changes in technology.  Changed tech = new jobs here, job losses there.  Plan for the inevitable .”?

Literacy, Numeracy, unfilled vacancies and classroom realities

April 4, 2011

There is a burst of interest in the number of Australians lacking the degree of literacy/numeracy required for understanding the training they require.  There is also the suggestion that unemployment benefits might be stopped in areas where unskilled vacancies exist.

Primary Education
From my children’s primary school years, I know that – for a class of thirty – there will be three who have some specific learning disability or are severely academically limited.  The latter have difficulty remembering new work the next week, and usually cannot find or remember patterns in information, or  generalise from one situation to another.  This means they find it difficult to use a method learned for one situation in another situation – even to the extent of understanding that the place value relationship from units to tens is the same as the patterns from tens to hundreds and from hundreds to thousands,  They have to learn these groups separately, and may never get beyond just doing them the way they are shown,  Similarly, they struggle with the pattern recognition tasks needed for reading beyond the basics, and the idea-pattern making needed for understanding science and society/environment lessons after age 9.

In addition, there will be somewhere between three and twenty who are not interested in school-learning, or who have some difficulty with the way the school system requires them to work.  Depending on the families and local culture they may merely do the minimum to keep the teacher quiet, and gossip or daydream as much as they can without being disciplined;  some are actively disruptive.  Some of them have chemical difficulties – undiagnosed attention or psychiatric disorders or frequent use of marijuana, for example.  Some of them may be classed with the first group, but shine academically in very small group environments.

These are the ones who could follow instructions, and might even excel, if the teacher has the gifts to capture their attention or if they find their own passion and follow it.  Or if the medical system gets the treatment right.

The former group will not all always struggle. Many will find ways to work to their strengths, or may suddenly “get it” as they mature, but chances are that one in each kindergarten class will be chronically unemployed because they are so hard to train.

The latter group has a larger proportion who learn what they want to when they need to, and can really benefit from adult access to primary school content.  However, it also includes the subset who will damage their brains through licit or illicit drugs, ending up unable to learn when they choose, and those who have deep emotional scars blocking formal learning.

A group not covered in thinking of the primary class is the normal or gifted who have later damage from illness or accident which reduces their memory, judgement, emotional control and/or ability to learn.

According to Centrelink contacts, there is a pool of adults, not officially unfit to work, not officially intellectually impaired, needing extensive one-on-one training to be fit for even theoretically “unskilled” work.  It’s not that they won’t do the jobs, or that they can’t work.  It’s just that there are very few of the undemanding jobs left, and even fewer who are willing to train people for them. This is inevitable in this age of high productivity (= use machines / dangerous chemicals = need to learn safety routines; also = less supervision time per worker = desire to employ quick learners).  Centrelink workers (anonymous for obvious reasons)  figure that, between congenital limitations and later damage, about 3% of the workforce will always struggle to get and keep an unskilled job.  In some areas, the percentage is higher. For a workforce of 10 million , that is about 300 000 people.

These would-be workers also have more difficulty meeting bureaucratic requirements – filling in forms, getting to appointments, understanding the written or verbal advice, and so take up more of the agency worker’s time per client.  Unfortunately, at the time of the peak in unemployment the funding for Centrelink’s unemployment workers was based  on the number of clients, so that when the easy customers got jobs the staff hours were cut, even though the number of time-consuming clients had not reduced much.  Please be patient with them.

Back to the chronically  unemployed and stopping benefits.

Remembering the employers who have “jobs no-one will take” which are so badly paid or harshly run that only the brain-damaged would take them (see the underpayment of Toys-R-Us employees), there will always be doubt as to the wisdom of stopping benefits purely because there are vacant positions.  Adding to this the well-recognised percentage of effectively unemployable, the doubt becomes stronger.  Adding to this the vision of a sympathetic but overworked Centrelink officer seeing a client who doesn’t understand the forms* for a special exemption from loss of benefits, and who doesn’t see verself as “unemployable” – the matter is certain.

Well, that deals with the learning side of chronic unemployment.

Learning in employment.

Now, looking at the expected distribution of abilities, consider those who can get work. We can expect that the normal distribution of abilities will apply – so that if 3% don’t meet the bottom limit, another 10% will be very close to it – and there you have over a million who will have difficulty with the training required to meet changes to their work.  Add to this those who are employed at their functional limit (inevitable: The Peter Principle,, and you get easily one-fifth of the workforce restricted in their ability to benefit from the training they require.

The scary part is that improving educational outcomes as measured by tests probably won’t change this much: the limit factor is really capacity to learn new stuff, and improved outcomes in tests are most easily reached by training in taking the type of tests used.   Consider the New York  experience  as reported by Radio National :  improved performance did not generalise.

Time to go away and consider our options.

Maybe it is time to explore  “the physical sensation of learning new stuff”, and condition more  children to find that sensation enjoyable.   Maybe it is time to use the asessment tools from Special Needs areas and apply them to the “at Benchmark” students, so that their limitations can be recognised by the Unemployment specialists.  (Unfortunately, that would take expensive staff, and have the emotional weight of labelling.)  Maybe it’s time to rename “Benchmarks” as “At Risk Levels”, so parents aren’t surprised when the child who made the benchmark struggles in high school, and so they encourage their children to work harder “to be more safe”.  Maybe it’s time to insist the schools help these children learn the skills to live on the dole when they have to.   Maybe it’s time to give cash incentives for additional  offspring to families whose children learn rapidly.  (Imagine the ads:  Don’t be an elderly primagravida  – Have your first child before you are 24,  so you have more time to prove your child’s gifted and thus get a bonus for your later children.)

If society wants to have a smaller proportion of the workforce struggling with the learning demands of their chosen employment, something must be changed.

*I made that up, I think they’d have to be invented.

Backbenchers, Blackhawks, and battling teachers

March 21, 2011

One of the problems for teachers is increasing conflict with different parents’ ideas of “the best” education for their children.  And I do mean that ambiguously.  At the same time, the teachers are feeling less valued by society – and with reason.  This devaluation does, I believe, result in the teacher having less social standing, and thus less interpersonal influence when there is a difference of opinion with a parent.

Parental actions
Compared with the 1970s, there is now less acceptance of difference of opinion between parent and teacher, or between parents of different families, and less willingness to wait so that others’ needs can be met  I think this is related to this being a time of one or two child families, and with parents also raised in small families:  firstly, there is less experience of inescapable tests of patience and deferral of desires in the toddler years;  secondly, there is less of a relaxed, experienced parent willingness to allow experimentation (you can catch up later, really); thirdly, although it is risky to admit it, in a larger family there is the sense of “hey, we have a spare …

So, when a clique of Blackhawk parents (not mere caring helicopter parents – these are the ones which attack with metaphoric heavy weapons in military-style strikes) do the ring-around and demand that the principal intervene, without having spoken to the class teacher –  remember, they really want the best for their children.  One can only hope  the principal can support the teacher – at least by suggesting that the parents  see the teacher to start with.  When two such groups start a brush-war over control of the teaching of the class, with irreconcilable differences in opinion on what “real” schoolwork is, it is easier for the teacher at first – but the inter-group tension can sour the whole class!

It takes a lot of energy to combine opinion-change and classroom teaching and administration liaison. It takes a lot of time to talk with everyone who wants to be heard.  It also takes formally collected data and references to show that the teaching style is best-practice. At the same time, the teacher still has to do the usual programming, but with the unnerving sensation that it may all be changed from force of parents rather than the usual change from force of events  or Government policy.  Also, at the same time, they have to come to terms with the new National Curriculum and cope with  mainstreamed special needs students.  No wonder teachers are finding their workmore stressful now.

In Western AUstralia, a backbencher MP from August 2010 gets $134,526 p.a. before allowances (1) ; a federal member gets $136,640 effective from 1 August 2010 (2);  a new teacher gets $56,112  rising to a maximum of $84,863 (3).

In 1975 the federal MP’s base annual rate was $14 500  (4);  a new WA teacher in 1975 was paid 176.8 per cent of Australian average ordinary time earnings, AWE (5) .  At $157.70 per week (6) that is roughly $14 600.  (The same multiple applied to November 2010 AWE gives an annual rate now of $224 978.)

The change is from roughly equal salaries to the new backbencher getting 2.4 times more than the new teacher.  Since 1975, has the politician’s workload really got that much greater than the teacher’s has?  New teachers used to be able to buy a home and have a stay-at-home spouse to nurture them; now they need both partners working to pay the rent, let alone buy, and their partner is tired, with less energy to share their troubles.  In effect, regardless of the above pressures their paid work has become harder because they now have to do more about the house and have less emotional support at home.

Economic and Social History: why the change?

It is unusually simple:  teachers have, like others who work in human-contact (productivity inherently fixed) work, in Australia suffered a decline in relative income resulting from the 1980s national decision to abandon Cost of Living – linked pay increases.   As long as increases in pay are productivity linked, the problem will continue.  Police, nurses, taxi drivers, social workers and orderlies are some of the others  similarly affected – you may have noticed them complaining, too.


As Leigh and Ryan note (on a statistical basis:  (7)), as the salary drops relative to other careers those with stronger talents see that higher cash rewards are available in other careers and many follow the money.  Add the resulting change in average ability to the inevitable nouveau-riche tendency to value a person solely by their income, and the result is inevitable.

It takes a special person to be very bright, creative, and choose to teach in the current environment.  These are the teachers who can reach the disaffected, alienated geniuses in the class – the ones who can become brilliant leaders, researchers, drifters, druggies, or  very well organised criminals.  If you get one of those teachers, protect them from the Blackhawks – the whole world may owe you one day.

Let’s start a campaign: return to 1975 relativities.  While we are at it, adjust the taxation thresholds, deductions, and child/carer allowances  to 1975 times CPI increases – now, that is interesting maths!  (Is there a volunteer to calculate the new figures?)




3. ).


5.    Chris Curtis on  ttp://$File/63020_SEP1975.pdf