Let’s pretend we’re Mr G

So Kevin07 has given his backbenchers some homework before Thursday’s caucus meeting – they’ve all got to visit two schools in his electorate and have a yarn. Andrew Leigh asks his readers to speculate on what school principals might tell them. It’s a good question – and a lot will have good stuff to say (though there’ll be the Mr Gs wanting new creative arts centres too…) There’s strong speculation around the traps that the excision of billions during the delay leading up to the policy launch included a fair whack of dosh going to the education revolution – the less glamorous systemic funding rather than the bells and whistles of computers on desks. I’ve got a feeling the PM is preparing the ground to revive education as a front and centre issue with this move…

Posted in education, federal election '07, politics
39 comments on “Let’s pretend we’re Mr G
  1. Enemy Combatant says:

    Smart members will visit more than just a couple of schools in their electorates. How will those schools feel that don’t get a visit? This all seems a tad quick and tokenistic for “preparing the ground to revive education as a front and centre issue”.

    But definitely headed in the right direction….etc.

  2. mbahnisch says:

    Federal electorates are pretty big and there’s only two days before caucus meets!

    There won’t be much room for timeservers on the Rudd backbenchers. It’s a good move, too, rather than having them all disappear from view just after being elected or re-elected.

  3. FDB says:

    “they’ve all got to visit two schools in his electorate and have a yarn”

    Does this mean in Kev’s electorate or in each of the backbenchers’?

  4. murph the surf says:

    Excuse me for asking but your interpretation on this issue is that the need to visit schools is for Rudd’s backbenchers only .
    So schools in electorates which returned Coalition members don’t get a look in?
    Can we assume that policy decisions will be made on the basis that what is good for one place must be acceptable elsewhere ?

    My wife has been casual teaching in rural NSW and I challenge anyone to find more needy schools than those in these areas.
    Large numbers of kids from families which have been on welfare for 3 or 4 generations and so the community has no financial strenth to contribute to the school’s needs.

    The shiny ,new ,all inclusive Mr Rudd should invite all members of the house of Reps to visit schools and report back.

  5. Katz says:

    Principal to Pollie.

    1. “Can we turn Ratty’s flagpole into a footy goal post?”

    2. “Can we swap our “chaplain” for a maths teacher?”

  6. mick says:

    murph the surf – I’m sure that Coalition members are welcome to visit schools in their electorates as well. Rudd can’t exactly order them to do it can he?

  7. gummotrotsky says:

    The shiny ,new ,all inclusive Mr Rudd should invite all members of the house of Reps to visit schools and report back.

    Alternatively, the current Leader of the Opposition might stoop to a bit of me-tooism and insist that his colleagues do their homework too.

  8. mick says:

    Damn. Gummo – your comment is way cooler than mine.

  9. murph the surf says:

    So quick to the defence lads , well done.
    My point is that the LEADER of the country should be inclusive – the new ALP is going to be different isn’t it ?
    Or do we have to be satisfied with the same stale sectarian reponses that you two managed ?

  10. Anna Winter says:

    Murph the surf – Senators can be backbenchers too. Part of their job (when they’re any good) is to maintain a presence in coalition-held seats.

  11. murph the surf says:

    A point I hope to see in action Anna.
    Look my frustration is with the past of needless reflex confrontation when the Liberals were in power.
    All pupils are promised the new funds to improve their educational infrastructure and all schools should be involved in the process – if the new Liberal leader got his members out to visit the schools that would be minimum I’d expect from them Gummo.

  12. Anna Winter says:

    You could say the same thing about it only being two schools as well, though. I think the fact it’s two schools only (and there are about 7 seats where they don’t even have an MP yet) shows that it’s a start, not the end.

    It’s supposed to be a symbol that Rudd Labor will be talking about the community when they’re in their caucus meeting, not dictating to them. They won’t be formulating their policy based on the week’s discussion with selected schools.

  13. Beppie says:

    Having grown up in a rural area with underfunded public schools, I have sympathy with Murph’s position– but these schools are often in safe National seats, so even if their local memeber did go to visit these schools, the comments that they would like to make may be limited by coalition policy. Anna Winter makes a good point, and I’d just hope that Rudd makes sure that every electorate gets taken in, particularly in rural areas, which desperately need attention, even though many of these rural electorates will probably never vote in a Labor MP.

  14. suzeoz says:

    They’ve been told to visit one government and one non-government school. I’d be curious to see which non-government school most MPs pick. Presumably the local Catholic school, in a lot of cases, but maybe not… I don’t like the fact that Rudd is putting the public and private education systems on the same footing, though I can see why he is, in this particular symbolic gesture.
    Still, I think it indicates something about his general approach to education, something very middle of the road. For all his own history as a public school boy, he appears to have very little sense of the important role of the public education system. During the campaign when Howard made his private school fees rebate launch, Rudd was asked something about this and I saw him reply, “I don’t care who owns a school”.

  15. silkworm says:

    The kids in Maroubra will be thrilled to meet Peter Garrett.

    The kids in Denistone East and Epping have already met their local super-star – Maxine. Come to think of it, this is probably her suggestion. They may have discussed this in their 15-minute conversation. The suggestion would have to have come from a woman.

  16. Beppie says:

    suzeoz, I agree that there needs to be more focus on public schools (honestly, I don’t think that private schools should get a cent of public funding), but I think Rudd is being very careful not to alienate the private school voters at the moment. What I’m hoping is that his MPs will “discover” in their visits that public schools need a lot more funding and attention. 🙂

  17. gummotrotsky says:


    As far as I know, until the actual ballot for leadership of the Liberal Party takes place, John Howard is currently Leader of the Opposition. A lame duck leader, but leader nonetheless. He’s the bloke you should be looking to for an explanation for why Liberal backbenchers won’t be doing the same homework Rudd has set for his colleagues.

    Too partisan for you? Well, let’s look to the political realities – on Saturday, we elected a new government, led by Kevin Rudd. It’s started doing the governing stuff it was elected to do. I don’t think it’s realistic to expect the ALP to wait around until the opposition is all sorted out and ready to oppose them – in fact it would be downright irresponsible to do so. Particularly when it comes to a portfolio like DIAC where there are still plenty of rotten cases hanging over from the Ruddock/Vanstone/Andrews terms as minister.

  18. wasjotoo says:

    “My point is that the LEADER of the country should be inclusive – the new ALP is going to be different isn’t it ?”

    M the S one can only hope so. Still, having lived in a labor electorate for most of the Howard period we are due for a bit of catch up, here. While the teachers are great in my kids school the facilties are crap. No pork barrel has touched down just punishment for disloyalty.

  19. Chris says:

    I wonder if they’ll be considering deploying free and open source software to the schools rather than spending enormous amounts of money on proprietary equivalents. And with open source software students also get the opportunity to discover how the software works, rather than just use it.

  20. FDB says:

    I’d say you’re dreaming Chris. Great idea though!

  21. Greg says:

    It’s probably worth ensuring a visit to both a private and a public school, particularly in light of funding issues, because this will afford a basis for valid comparisons. Some members may never have been to one or the other previously. When I was in school, the only time I had anything to do with schools in the other system was at large athletic events, usually held someplace neutral.

  22. FDB says:

    “When I was in school, the only time I had anything to do with schools in the other system was at large athletic events, usually held someplace neutral.”

    Aye, where the private school kiddies could be heard bemoaning the quality of the facilities, while I marvelled at the digital timing gear.

  23. mbahnisch says:

    In Brisbane when I was in high school, private and public schools had entirely separate sporting comps. We only ever used to come across private school students when they’d casually abuse us in the mall. Oh, and in grade 12, when there was a big craze for trying to date St Rita’s girls.

  24. sam says:

    This is a completely futile exercise designed to promote some positive media spin. Who are the MPs talking to? The principal? The teachers–and if so, all of them, or the sycophantic ones the principals bring out for such visits?

  25. Debbie(aussie) says:

    Exactly how is this funding likely to work when education is, supposedly, a state responsibility? Does anybody else wonder at the wisdom of duplicating so many govt departments, when the money saved on bureaucracy, especially in health and education, could possibly fix the major problems in both area.

  26. Debbie: I do happen to think it’s unwise.

    It’s my great hope that the Rudd government decides to tackle this needless duplication – possibly even having a go at fixing the situation where the federal government raises most of the money and the states spend most of it.

  27. mbahnisch says:

    There’s been more talk in the Fin today about a proposed summit on federalism which Bligh and Brumby have written to biz leaders calling for. I expect that this is something Rudd will be addressing as a priority – remember the promise of a COAG meeting in the first 100 days and it fits in with his general and specific approaches.

  28. Debbie(aussie) says:

    Thanks Robert. I have wondered if this was something worth pursuing as I know of people on both the left and right (I hate this distinction) who like the idea. I think I read in one of Mark’s posts, I think, that maybe that was the idea behind the super council amalgamations here Qld.

  29. wpd says:

    “There won’t be much room for timeservers on the Rudd backbenchers”

    Agree totally. As for the frontbench, there will be even less joy.

    Rudd is a very hard taskmaster who sets extremely high standards. But his saving grace is that he leads by example.

    Sending members to schools is purely symbolic. It sends a powerful message that the work has just begun.

    The logistics of ‘giving’ every kid in Years 9 to 12 are mind boggling when one considers issues such as maintenance, theft, breakages (accidental and/or deliberate), duplication, accidental loss, upgrades etc.

    There will need very deep pockets. There will be disasters and the media will have a field day.

  30. I voted ALP/Greens at the weekend. i like the computer pledge, but arent there more important issues like health, the IR laws, petrol in the bush (Wagga) climbing to 1.47 a litre this week! Dont do a Whitlam on us Kevin and try and do it all in the first 100 days. another thought – will a computer on every desk necesarily make for better educated Kids?

  31. Mercurius says:

    I hope when those new government MPs visit the schools, that seeing the kids helps to remind them *why* they’ve sought public office.

    And I hope that the difference in the conditions between the public and private schools is not lost on them, and that they think about the reasons why.

  32. wpd says:

    planetultramarathon re your question.

    “will a computer on every desk necesarily make for better educated Kids?”

    Certainly not. Does giving every kid a ‘pencil’ or a ‘biro’ make for better education?

    Necessary (probably) but certainly not sufficient.

  33. Chris says:

    wpd: “Necessary (probably) but certainly not sufficient.”

    I’d question whether they really need one computer per kid at all times, especially
    if they are desktops rather than laptops. I suspect there will be a lot of computers
    sitting idle a lot of the time chewing up quite a bit of power (good thing schools will be getting solar cells too!). I understand some schools have laptop streams now where they do most of their work on computers, but that doesn’t neccesarily work well for everyone.

    I’d suggest they would get much better bang for buck by instead getting OLPC computers (http://laptop.org) for primary school children. Its designed for children with education as part of its primary goal, its much cheaper, and would give children who don’t have computers at home a computer they can use out of school hours.

  34. Carl says:

    I hope the principals really seize the moment, give them a tour of the unpainted toilets, the shoddy demountables, tell them how they had to run a lamignton fair to buy a gym mat.

    Then take them back to the office, pull out a spreadsheet and show them all the figures, staffing salaries and the million other overheads.

    Then take them to the local private school, I think a lot of the MPs could be truly shocked.

  35. Carl says:

    Oh and the laptop idea is freakin ridiculous, at my school, at least half of them would be hocked for weed, ‘sorry miss I just lost mine!’

  36. Chris says:

    Carl – have you looked at the OLPC (one laptop per child) ? Its designed to only be easily usable by children (eg small keyboard design for kids) and deliberately unnattractive to adults so its not sold/stolen by adults. They’re distributing these to 3rd world countries where there is obvious concern for them being sold or stolen. They’re only about US$150 with the eventual aim of getting them down to about US$100 so resale value for stolen ones would be pretty low.

  37. David says:

    Money to schools is most effective when it’s directed. Evaluations show that randomly throwing more money at schools more cash won’t really improve results in basic skills tests. But specific programs, perhaps like computers, are often good ideas. However, I do agree with Carl that school toilets need lots of focus. My old ones were terrible. Needs more investment, if on hygiene and social welfare grounds alone.

  38. Nabakov says:

    “Aye, where the private school kiddies could be heard bemoaning the quality of the facilities, while I marvelled at the digital timing gear.”

    Nothing like a good interschool riot at sporting days to take your mind off the facilities and focus it instead on finding and standing behind yer school’s rugby team. Egging them on.

    The laptop thing was a media-grabbing stunt and could still work if they go for some kinda OLPC thin client setup that keeps the teachers in charge of access. And RFID/GPS sorted so it’s adequately spimed against loss, theft and general buggering around. Could be a good kickstarter for a homegrown design and management industry in this area. Australians are supposed to be good at this kinda innovative, rugged, pragmatic products and services thang.

    But lets face it, the best teaching aide of all is a teacher. A billion dollars would go a long way to making teaching a more attractive and rewarding career option.

  39. Foucault A Go Go says:

    I wonder how clever this stunt actually is. Given how obsessive the state Teachers’ Unions are towards releasing any data to the public, it will be interesting to see how the Feds assuage the dissatisfaction among parents of the public high schools. As of 2007, the proportion of Sydney high school students attending government schools has crashed to 55%. I don’t know if the trend is as stark in other regions. Given that in Sydney there are about twenty selective high schools trying to plug the leakage, I imagine things might be worse elsewhere.

    Are these MPs really going to come back with a negative review of their state Labor government run schools?

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