Archive For 20/09/2019

‘Increasingly alarmed’: Private and Catholic schools demand the government reveal school funding plans

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The Turnbull government says it will announce its plans for school funding by the middle of the year Photo: Michele MossopThe powerful private and Catholic school sectors are demanding the Turnbull government reveal its plans for a new school funding model to begin next year because they are growing “increasingly alarmed” at the lack of detail from Canberra.
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Fairfax Media reported this week that Education Minister Simon Birmingham has examined how to slow the funding growth of “over-funded” private schools, a move that would free up money to distribute to schools funded below their Schooling Resource Standard.

Both the Catholic and private sectors are concerned some of their schools could lose out under the new funding arrangements.

The politically-sensitive issue of school funding has been discussed repeatedly in cabinet over recent months, but the government has not finalised its position.

It is understood the government wants to hammer out the new four-year school funding deals at the April COAG meeting between Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and state and territory leaders.

Independent Schools Council of Australia executive director Colette Colman said uncertainty over the new funding model was disrupting principals’ planning for the 2018 school year.

“Independent schools call on the Government to urgently resolve this issue,” Ms Colman said.

“The Commonwealth government has made public assurances that the independent school sector would be consulted on proposed changes to current school funding arrangements yet with less than 12 months until the Government’s current funding commitment ends and potential new arrangements are due to take effect, we have not seen any details.”

Ms Colman said the private school sector was particularly vulnerable to funding changes because it cannot move money between schools.

“Sudden alterations to funding would affect schools’ capacity to plan their operations going forward with confidence,” she said.

Acting National Catholic Education Commission executive director Danielle Cronin said time had already run out to overhaul Australia’s school funding system.

“The outstanding issues requiring attention in the school funding model will take more than a few weeks or months to address,” she said.

“There is not sufficient time remaining to define, analyse and negotiate changes to the Schooling Resource Standard and understand the implications for all schools in advance of the legislative and administrative arrangements that would be required to implement a new funding model for the 2018 school year.”

Senator Birmingham, who met with the private school sector last week, said the government was sticking by its timetable to resolve school funding in the first half of this year.

Funding for both public and non-government schools will continue to grow in coming years, he said.

“As a result of the 27 different funding deals struck by the previous Labor Government, we see the similar disparity and inequity in the funding the Commonwealth provides for comparable schools in the government sector as we do in the non-government sector,” he said.

“Similar government schools should be treated consistently by the federal government wherever they are in Australia, just as similar non-government schools should be treated consistently by the federal government wherever they are in Australia.”

Labor education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek called on Mr Turnbull to release his school funding plans because principals are “growing anxious” about the government’s plans.

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Could Malcolm Turnbull’s attack on Bill Shorten be the beginning of the end?

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“He came in as Prime Minister when people had such high hopes for him”: Bill Shorten responds to Malcolm Turnbull’s personal attacks. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen Mr Turnbull told reporters on Thursday Mr Shorten “is a complete hypocrite”. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
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Illustration: Jim Pavlidis

 Malcolm Turnbull’s verbal blitzkrieg against Bill Shorten produced two diametrically opposed, yet predictable, responses from those who witnessed it inside the national Parliament this week.

As Shorten crossed the chamber, immediately after Turnbull branded him a sycophant of billionaires, a hypocrite and a parasite in that 10-minute tirade, the Labor leader confronted one veteran Liberal MP with the words: “Your bloke’s losing it!”

The counter view was summed up in the table-thumping response of the vast majority of Coalition MPs, and in the opinion pieces of many who watched from the press gallery. To them, Turnbull was finding it, and not a moment too soon.

Suddenly, it seemed, Mogadon Malcolm morphed into Street Fighting Man, all, we were told, in an impromptu response to Shorten branding him “Mr Harbourside Mansion” and “the most out-of-touch personality to ever hold this great office of prime minister”.

When broadcaster Neil Mitchell compared it to Julia Gillard’s misogyny speech, Turnbull saw it as a compliment. “You know something, they’re the best speeches,” he replied. “The best speeches are when you speak from the heart.”

What those outside the Canberra bubble make of it remains to be seen, but what is abundantly clear is that Turnbull is determined to do everything within his power, and then some, to recover from one of the most miserable of starts by a national government to a political year.

The imperative for the Prime Minister was to re-set the agenda after ending 2016 behind in the polls, under enormous pressure and seemingly in a funk. Instead, Turnbull has had to react to a series of setbacks outside his control.

First came the travel expenses furore that led to the resignation of health minister Sussan Ley, where Turnbull’s response was a case study in deft damage control.

Not only did Turnbull swiftly quash Ley’s naive hopes of toughing out the crisis, he proceeded to implement the most comprehensive reforms to MPs entitlements in a generation. A tick.

Then came the phone call with Donald Trump that could so easily have scuttled the centrepiece of his plan to finally end to the misery of those on Manus Island and Nauru by resettling a significant portion of the caseload in the United States.

Here, Turnbull’s projection of calm restraint in the face of provocation was vindicated by the result: for all Trump’s histrionics, the deal remains in place … at least for now. Another tick.

Finally, Turnbull had to deal with the much-anticipated betrayal of Cory Bernardi and, with it, speculation that the fragmentation of the hard right would trigger a new phase of leadership tension and instability.

Once again, Turnbull showed judgment and restraint, leaving it for others to make the obvious points. One, that having been re-elected as a Liberal senator for a six-year term barely six months ago, Bernardi had done the dishonourable thing.

And two, that Bernardi would not hold a candle to Pauline Hanson or Nick Xenophon, and will struggle to attract quality candidates or votes for his new party. Tick number three.

Turnbull still faces a swag of problems, of course, from the backlash from those whose pensions have been cut, to the flaws in Centrelink’s automated debt recovery scheme, to this week’s plans to cut family payments to help pay for childcare reforms, to the absence of a compelling narrative or plan for the nation, to the detractors still in his ranks.

But there were hints this week that his run of appalling luck might be coming to an end, with the South Australian blackouts helping him reframe the climate change debate as an energy security and cost of living issue, although this blame game is more complex than most.

Clearly, taking the fight up to Shorten is central to the recovery strategy, and there is no doubt that Turnbull’s demoralised backbench was buoyed by the attack.

Whether Turnbull should have been the one to deliver it is another question. Before the election, John Hewson suggested that Turnbull bring Tony Abbott back into the tent and assign him the task of going after Shorten. Good advice ignored.

Moreover, this was qualitatively different from past attacks by prime ministers on their opponents, and not in ways that reflect well on Turnbull. For one, it was an assault devoid of stinging, all-tip-and-no-iceberg witticisms of a Keating. “He is a simpering sycophant,” was the closest we came to a literary flourish.

For another, it was intensely personal and bitter, nasty even. “A cranky pile of bile,” is how one insider saw it. This creates an opportunity for Shorten to seek out the high ground if he tones down his own “Mr Harbourside Mansion” goading and focuses on policy. We’ll see.

Finally, the tirade raises the question that proved so problematic for Gillard: who is the real Malcolm? Is he the man of conviction who promised to respect the intelligence of voters and provide different style of leadership, or is he prepared to say and do whatever it takes to hold on to power?

Rebecca Huntley, the author of Still Lucky, says one upside for Turnbull is that the attack will cause voters to reassess the view that was taking hold toward the end of last year.

“Malcolm has been coming across as quite down in the dumps and flat and that’s not great because the electorate is asking, ‘What are you going to do? Where are you going?’ At the very least, some kind of animated spray sends a message that there is life in the old man yet.”

But Huntley says the most likely take-out is bad for both Turnbull and Shorten, showing both to be out of touch. “My sense is that the electorate would see this as they see everything else – politicians slagging off at each other.”

Hugh Mackay, who has been studying the national mood for decades, disagrees, saying Turnbull has done himself immense damage. “I think we will be able to track the gradual disintegration of Turnbull from that attack,” he tells me.

“It was such a weak strategy and so appallingly personal and vile that I think a lot of people are going to lose a lot of respect for him over that.”

Herein lies the rub. It is one thing to inject a dose of passion, energy, focus and urgency into one’s performance. That is a good thing. It is another altogether to make oneself the issue. That just puts a target on your back.

Michael Gordon is The Age’s political editor.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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World’s largest copper mine shut as BHP union readies for months-long strike

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The head of the union at the world’s biggest copper mine says he’s never seen owner BHP Billiton this reluctant to cede ground over wages. That’s why he’s preparing for a long strike.
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Patricio Tapia, the president of Escondida’s main union, is overseeing construction of a workers’ camp outside the mine that’s designed to last at least two months. He spoke in an interview on Thursday, hours after the union’s 2500 members downed tools following the failure of a month-long negotiation.

Tapia, a second-generation miner who says he became a union director by chance when colleagues nominated him to fill a vacancy, was elected president in 2013. Before that he worked as an electrician for 23 years at Escondida, in Chile’s Atacama Desert. He’s been involved in three wage negotiations at the mine, where a 25-day strike in 2006 was Chile’s longest in at least a decade.

“We’ve never seen the company in this position,” Tapia said. “This is a dialogue of the deaf.”

While workers are emboldened by a 30 per cent rally in copper prices in the past year, BHP is under pressure to keep costs in check as commodity markets recover from the biggest downturn in a generation.

The dispute is being keenly watched by unions and management at other mines whose contracts are coming up for renewal. With the market tightening, investors are also paying close attention to possible supply disruptions.

BHP declined requests for comment. In a statement on Wednesday, Escondida said it always strives to reach a consensus but that wasn’t possible at this stage.

Tapia is well aware of what’s at stake as the union prepares for a protracted work stoppage.

As he spoke, union members were erecting a kitchen and dining room and installing toilets and showers at the camp, which will hold as many as 1200 in any given time.

“This is neither good for the union, nor the company,” Tapia said. “But it is our only alternative in front of a rival that does not want to talk. Our only strength is the strike.”

The union, which represents 95 per cent of Escondida’s operators and maintenance workers, has requested that BHP evacuate about 1700 contractors working at the mine. While Chile’s labour authorities had determined that 80 workers are needed to provide minimum services at the mine, the union said it only allowed 10 workers in this morning.

Workers will meet twice a day at the camp to discuss any news about negotiations. Tapia said he couldn’t reveal what other actions the union will be taking to protest.

“Our people are confident that we have a strategic plan that will not affect the security of the mine and our members’ security,” he said.

As the son of a saltpetre miner and born in an Atacama saltpetre community, Tapia hasn’t known life outside the mines. He remembers when workers’ protests were simpler.

“There was a sort of brotherhood — families lived together taking care of each other,” he said. “Protesting was a matter of holding your fist in the air and hoping for the best.”

Today, he said, union leaders must be aware of labour regulations and reforms. Escondida’s union periodically conducts its own research on worker productivity to be able to counteract the company’s position in wage negotiations.

Around him, workers at the camp start cooking lunch in tents that afford some shelter from the strong desert sun. Someone connects a phone to a speaker and music blasts out.

“About time!” they shout as they laugh.

“See? We are ready for everything,” Tapia said. Bloomberg

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Brisbane Tens: Waratahs without Cam Clark but Daryl Gibson still aiming high

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The Waratahs will be without former sevens star Cam Clark for the Brisbane Global Tens but coach Daryl Gibson is confident his squad can adapt to a new format, and overcome sweltering heat, in what he believes will be a successful weekend.
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Clark, who was a member of the Australian sevens team in Rio, did not feature for the Waratahs in last week’s trial match in Mudgee because of an ankle injury.

The 23-year-old was touch and go for the inaugural Tens event, however Gibson has erred on the side of caution and is hopeful Clark will be right for the Waratahs’ final pre-season trial against the Highlanders at Brookvale Oval next Thursday.

Aside from Clark, Gibson has another two recent sevens weapons in Con Foley and Pat McCutcheon who Waratahs players have “leaned on” this week to gain a better of understanding of how to attack the embryonic Tens format.

Gibson has picked a squad, excluding his rested Wallabies representatives, to win the Tens rather than one to go through the motions of another pre-season hit-out.

The Waratahs, like a number of other teams, are not sure what to expect from Tens, but Gibson is adamant there will be a degree of flexibility about the way NSW play.

“Scrums and lineouts will be far more important than sevens,” Gibson said. “We still need some specialists there, so you still are going to get the game for all sizes because you need props and you need tall people to win lineouts. It’s good in the fact that you can be far more flexible and that’s why we’ve picked players that are more suited to the Tens format than the specialist games of XVs.

“There are a number of ways you can approach Tens. You can play more like XVs style, so play more set-piece, or you play more sevens. Certainly the way we’re approaching it is going more like XVs.

“We’ve been doing a lot of training for that format and we’re going to lean on that experience and incorporate our philosophies on the game in a slightly different format.”

The Waratahs have drawn Japanese franchise Panasonic Wild Knights and the Chiefs on Saturday before a match-up with the Rebels on Sunday ahead of a potential quarter-final.

One man the Waratahs will be looking to is Israel Folau, who will relish the open surrounds of Suncorp Stadium with fewer players on the field.

Folau has scored just three tries in his last 26 Tests, compared to 17 in his first 26 games for the Wallabies.

Teams have worked out how to combat his attacking flair but with bigger gaps in defensive lines this weekend, Gibson anticipates Folau will be let off the leash.

“It’s come at a good time for him,” Gibson said. “We’ll be winding up next week with that trial which he’ll feature in and getting back to rugby. He had a good break in the off-season so he’s been looking excellent at training. He’s looking forward to getting out there and playing in a different format and something different and a new challenge.”

Waratahs marquee signing Lote Tuqiri has had a number of runs ahead of his highly anticipated return to competitive rugby, with Gibson describing his inclusion as “a real buzz”.

“He’s still in good nick, he’s 40-plus and doing something that comes as second nature to him,” Gibson said. “He’s been really excellent around the team. [It is] exactly what we want; someone who’s been there and done that.”

The Waratahs battled through scorching temperatures in Mudgee last week in their trial against the Brumbies and the Tens is expected to be just as uncomfortable with the mercury tipped to reach 39 degrees on Sunday.

Gibson said Sydney’s relentless heat has put his side in better condition than others from New Zealand and further abroad.

“We’ve suffered through a pretty sweltering summer and we’ve trained all through that,” Gibson said. “We feel like we’re well acclimatised to it. There are other teams that are going to hurt more than us in the heat.”

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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Lee Curtis in awe of Winx as fairytale filly Lasqueti Spirit takes her on in the Apollo Stakes

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Take a bow: Brenton Avdulla celebrates winning the VRC Oaks on Lasqueti Spirit. Photo: Michael DodgeWizard of Odds: Live Odds, Form and Alerts for all Racing
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Fairytale filly Lasqueti Spirit challenged Winx for the moment of the spring as Brenton Avdulla took a bow at Flemington, but there is little doubt who will win when they meet in Monday’s Apollo Stakes at Randwick.

Winx’s demolition of the Cox Plate field by eight lengths was the racing moment of the spring carnival, but for sheer theatre and storyline the VRC Oaks win of Lasqueti Spirit created as much of a stir at $101.

Both are trained at Rosehill but Lasqueti Spirit’s trainer Lee Curtis admits they are at different ends of the top-class racing spectrum.

He believes Ladbrokes have got it wrong with Winx as a $1.14 favourite and his filly at $151.

“We are millions to beat her,” Curtis said. “She is a millions to get beaten on Saturday. I clocked [Winx] the other morning and she is in a different league.

“She looks as she should look – incredible – and has that presence. God, she is a good horse.

“We are a group 1 winner, so we needed to start somewhere and this race is the right race because it is weight-for-age. We are going out to lead like in the Oaks but I suspect we won’t be there for long in the straight.”

Curtis is getting Lasqueti Spirit ready for a shot at The BMW and the Australian Oaks.

“We know we need to get to 2000m and beyond to be competitive and if she can finish midfield that would be good on Saturday,” Curtis said.  “She is tough my filly, and she won’t give in but they will be a bit sharp for her.”

The challengers for Winx in the 12-horse field are thin on the ground. Godolphin trainer John O’Shea admitted $9.50 chance Hartnell, which was Cox Plate runner-up and second to WInx first-up over this course in the spring, “was not as forward as back then”.

“He has a long preparation ahead of him and we have plenty left in him this time,” O’Shea said. “He will run a good 1400m and has a good Randwick record but I think his best chances will come as they step in distance.”

Chris Waller admits there will be nerves before Winx takes the track but labelled the preparation faultless heading to her return.

“It is always a bit of concern wondering how they have come back but everything we have looked at [with Winx]  has pleased me,”  Waller said on his weekly podcast.

“She is ticking all the boxes. She has had a good break and had two [barrier] trials and the horse is terrific.”

Waller will start the campaigns of his staying team with Preferment, Libran and Scared Master all using the Apollo as a building block, while Irish 2000 Guineas runner-up Endless Drama could run into a place even from barrier 14.

“He is a really promising horse that has now had the benefit of an Australian preparation,” Waller said. “We have seen him trial well and we have seen him work well.

“They could be a bit sharp for him, and the draw is a bit of a concern, but he is the one to watch out of the race.”

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