On School League Tables

Following a barrage of criticism from within the Liberal Party on their stance to abandon fundamental Liberal principles of freedom of speech, freedom of choice, competition, by voting to support the censorship of media outlets who wish to publish ‘school league tables’, the NSW Coalition has responded to its critics.

The allegedly conservative NSW Leader of the Opposition Mr. O’Farrell had this to say:

“It is not Liberal Party policy to name and shame schools…where’s the sense in comparing schools in (Sydney’s) Berowra, Bankstown and Balgowlah, let alone ones in different parts of the state, with very different socio-economic conditions?”

Nice alliteration.

NSW Shadow Education minister Adrian Piccoli stated “A ranking system that is simplistic and wrong because it does not take into account the challenges that individual schools face” and noted that “Our position is supported almost unanimously by every serious education stakeholder”

Adrian, Adrian, Adrian. Of course your position is supported by teachers unions – school league tables empower parents and lessen their grip on the system! Principles? Of course they’d support it – when people will be able to see who’s under-performing. But you forget one very important stakeholder group – the families themselves. Parents and children – the most important stakeholders of all, yet one who you completely neglect. Rather telling really.

Irrespective of the fact that this policy is an unconscionable attack on freedom of the press and a free and open soceity, it is one that is also categorically bad for children. The only way for our primary and secondary education sector to improve is through a move away from the command and control style system of governance on which it is currently based, and towards a decentralised model based on principles of competition. A model where parents can choose to send their children away from failing schools, to better ones. Schools would be forced to increase their standards or lose students to better performing schools. And the only way you can do this is by empowering parents through giving them information.

Indeed, perhaps the most insulting part of the argument put forward by the NSW Coalition is that, effectively, parents are too stupid to know what is best for their children. That they can’t be trusted to read tables (and – heaven forbid – this might make them want to send their kids to a better school! ) Such an argument is not only arrogant, patronising and insulting, but it is also factually incorrect. Research has consistently shown, however, that where parents from poor backgrounds have been empowered to make choices, the results have been very impressive (for more info see Gannicott, K. Taking Education Seriously: A Reform Program for Australia’s Schools. Centre for Independent Studies. Sydney. 1997. p98) In any case though, if indeed choice and information is denied on the ground that parents do not choose well, then the present educational system condemns itself for failing to make them good chooser, and that “without the interposition of political influence, parents would over the decades have developed judgment in seeking schooling that would best equip their  child for adulthood.”

Is it any wonder why no-one takes the NSW Opposition seriously? Why Mr. O’Farrell’s opinion ratings are so dismally low, despite everything that’s going on in NSW?  Why anyone with an IQ above single digits on all sides of the political spectrum treats the NSW Opposition as an intellectual vacuum?in

Whilst Labor will most probably lose the next election, this shall be a Labor loss, not a Liberal victory, and  I suspect we can expect the third party vote to increase significantly.

In attempting to sidle up to the radical left teachers unions, the NSW Opposition has isolated every parent and child in NSW. By putting pusillanimous petty partisan politics above principle, they have betrayed future generations growing up in NSW. What’s more though, they have seriously, seriously delivered a punch in the guts to their supporters and Liberal Party members. Perhaps Messers O’Farrell and Piccoli are unaware of this sitting in their Macquarie Street Offices, as they spend the days thinking of their time on the Treasury benches, but the Liberal Party membership in NSW – and around Australia – is fuming. They have betrayed their core supporters, and this is a self-inflicted wound they will not easily recover from. Whilst perhaps in the electricity privitisation debate there were political gains to be made in the short term, here there are none. Radical Teachers Unions types will still never vote for us, and we have isolated our support base for nothing. A friend of mine said it best: “It’s taken socialists and the like decades of failure to try and establish a left-wing alternative to labor… It’s taken the libs half a term of O’Farrell.”

This move has been condemned by John Howard, Brenden Nelson, Jane Albrechsten and every Liberal Party blogger on the planet. The Australian Liberal Students’ Federation is is tabling a motion to condemn Mr O’Farrell for voting with the Greens “to hide information from parents about the performance of their children’s schools and instituting totalitarian bans on media reporting”. I am sure it shall pass near or even unanimously.

It’s time for Mr. O’Farrell to ‘fess up, admit he stuffed up, and take a stand for true conservative beliefs.

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25 Responses to “On School League Tables”

  1. Daniel Farmilo Says:

    As you alluded to, Tim, a sound criticism of O’Fail’s position can be made just on freedom of the press grounds. Remember that this clown wants to fine papers $50000+ if they publish the tables (which are, as far as I know, compiled using freely available information).

    It’s censorship of the nastiest kind based on nothing but opportunism.

  2. Tim Andrews Says:

    If I had the time, i’d just compile the tables myself.

  3. Bee Says:

    Tim, as you know, I love you for posting this. That’s nothing new – I say that about nearly all of your posts.

    The one problem in this entry is that I don’t think Mr O’Farrell (nice nickname above, though, Daniel) *has* any small government or conservative beliefs to take a stand for.

    This is, after all, the Opposition Leader who addressed Sydney Uni students a while back talking about how he was the most progressive Liberal Party leader in a long while, or somesuch. (I don’t remember the exact statement but I remember wanting to retch after hearing it.)

  4. Tim Andrews Says:

    That’s the real scary thing – he might actually believe the nonsense he’s spouting…

  5. Couldn’t Resist « Catholicism and Liberty Says:

    […] of course, the always insightful Tim Andrews has posted an analysis of the decision to oppose school ranking that is very much worth a read. An excerpt: Is it any […]

  6. Nick Tyrrell Says:

    Tim, Tim, Tim. You make such valid points; ones worthy of further enquiry and debate. And then…

    “Is it any wonder why… Mr. O’Farrell’s opinion ratings are so dismally low, despite everything that’s going on in NSW?”

    Au contrair…

    “Tuesday’s Newspoll has the coalition well ahead of the government on the primary vote, 41 to 31 per cent, with an election-winning two-party preferred margin of 55 to 45 per cent.” The Age, 23/06/09.

    “The Taverner poll, undertaken for the Sun-Herald newspaper, shows 50 per cent of voters back Mr O’Farrell in the preferred premier stakes, compared to Mr Rees whose support remains unchanged on 33 per cent.” Herald Sun 30/05/09.

    I don’t necessarily disagree with you at all, Tim, and opinion polls can swing. All said and done, I’ll stand my ground in support of Barry’s leadership of the parliamentary party because he’s working his backside off doing grassroots work with local communities (he’s visited my backyard twice in the last six months) and he’s presenting himself as a steady pair of hands to the average punter out there.

  7. Tim Andrews Says:

    Only 34% of NSW voters approve of Barry’s performance. That is the indicator I was referring to – http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/files/23jun-nswnewspoll.html

    I’m also wondering if you could provide a link to the poll you cite (from May) – Newspoll last week (same link) shows only 32% think he’d make a better premier.

    I agree Barry is doing a lot of hard work. I also agree that he’s the best option we have for leader at the moment. But I can not – and will not – support bad policy.

  8. Nick Tyrrell Says:

    Here you go mate. I’m not being antagonistic, I hope you don’t mind me joining in the debate. I’m waiting for it to start getting personal, but thankfully everyone’s showing a modicum of restraint…

    Here’s the poll:

    http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,25563853-5005961,00.html

    Barry was ahead of Iemma this time last year too:

    http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P1-153616366.html

    Also, to find the last time an opposition leader led the preferred premier polls:

    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23918424-601,00.html

    The polls aren’t everything, but the increase in our primary vote is a significant encouragement.

  9. Tim Andrews Says:

    Hmm, it does seem that the Tavernor Poll from May you quote is somewhat of an outlier though. Newspoll and other polling outfits do seem to have it consistently at around the low 30’s…

    As for 2PP, I agree that we’re doing well and it’s great – but come on, with the ALP winning the world record in shit government, how can we not be?

  10. Nick Tyrrell Says:

    I would think that any reasonable person in NSW would abandon the ALP at least at a state level, yet our 2PP is only 55%. I take your point, however Howard’s 2PP at the 1996 election was 53.6% to 46.4%.

    So currently the NSW Libs are doing (at the polls at least) better than Howard actually achieved in 1996, one of the biggest marginss since the 1940’s.

    As Howard did in subsequent elections, I believe the Libs will win by focusing on getting big swings in marginal seats to deliver the required number of legislative assembly spots required, rather than obsess over state-wide 2PP or preferred premier polls. This is why Barry’s (and other MP’s) hard work in marginal seats at the grassroots level is important, more so than adherence strictly to Liberal philosophy.

    Before I get crusified, I will say however that we do need to stand for something consistent, and I’m not convinced the school tables decision was the right one. That said, I’ll reserve judgement until we see a fuller picture…

  11. Tim Andrews Says:

    So. In your opinion, what does the NSW Parliamentary Wing stand for?

  12. Nick Tyrrell Says:

    Sorry, *crucified.

  13. Nick Tyrrell Says:

    Relevant to local government, the NSW Libs stand for decentralised planning powers, ie., returning planning powers to local councils…

  14. Nick Tyrrell Says:

    I have no doubt the NSW Libs stand for cleaning out the beaurocratic jungle that is the NSW public sector. I hope that includes a reduction in the number of public servants in non-customer-facing roles…

  15. Tim Andrews Says:

    Ok, good, I agree with that.
    Now go on 🙂

  16. Nick Tyrrell Says:

    The NSW Libs have committed themselves to building transport infrastructure (including a much-needed rail link) to the North-West of Sydney…

  17. Tim Andrews Says:

    That’s an example of a policy though, not of underlying principles

    Also, do you actually have any proof we’ll “clean out hte beaurocratic jungle that is the NSW public sector”? Can’t find it listed in our policy documents at all

  18. Nick Tyrrell Says:

    OK, so I’m between a rock and a hard place. I’m struggling to think of everything the NSW Libs stand for, but I need to acknowledge that few opposition parties unleash a policy platform this far out from an election.

    Also, I do believe state politics is somewhat more issue-driven than ideological, as the State basically functions as a service-delivery vehicle. Am I wrong?

  19. Nick Tyrrell Says:

    In our policy documents? Look where it got Debnam releasing that kind of policy prior to the election…

  20. Tim Andrews Says:

    There’s a difference between policy platform, and broadly outlining principles.
    As for the second point, I think many people do feel that way – and that that is probably the single reason for as to why we havesuch bad state governments.
    The Australian Constitution was specifically written in such a way as to empower states – and even a cursury reading of the convention debates will bear this out. There was a good reason for this. In order to improve good governance, once again our states ought be viewed as seperate, independent entities, not simply bureaucratic arms of Canberra.

  21. Tim Andrews Says:

    That was a failure of marketing, not policy.

  22. To All Aspiring NSW State Liberal Candidates « The musings of an Australian classical liberal in Washington DC Says:

    […] The musings of an Australian classical liberal in Washington DC 100% Legit & Fully Authorized! « On School League Tables […]

  23. Sean Says:

    The biggest concern that I have is if we fail to make a case for change in Opposition, if we do make massive changes in government then the voters will punish us for not being honest with them while we were vying for their votes. Although we need to be pragmatic, if we fail even to create a sense of where NSW will be under the Liberals then we should expect to get punished if we have to make any radical changes in public policy or government structure.

  24. John Humphreys Says:

    On what basis should a free-market, small-government person vote for the NSW Liberal party? I certainly won’t be.

    If you guys continue to support a big-government interventionist neo-socialist Liberal party, then you will get the party you deserve. Why would O’Farrell ever bother listening to the free-market wing of his party when he can embrace Green-style national-socialist economic policy and you all guarantee him your vote and support.

    Classical liberalism is dying because classical liberals are supporting national socialists. Stop it!

  25. Jonesy from Hurstville Says:

    Nick Tyrrell! You are lauding the fact we are in front of Labour in the NSW opinion polls!! Are you serious. We should be 25 points ahead when compared with the worst state government ever.

    Paul Nichelou, leading the fundraising arm of the NSW Liberals is way behind in his targets. Another O’Farrell appointee from the Left, who previously failed to win Pittwater in a by-election! For this we promote people!
    Barry O’Farrell and Nick Campbell have alot to answer for – NSW Liberals are still struggling to get the business sector onside. Remove them, and get talent in.

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