Just one complaint I promise

This isn't going to be long and it's not going to be frequent, because I have so much other stuff to do and also because I don't want to be that person who spends months after an election defeat smouldering with rage. It's probably unhealthy, apart from anything else.

But come on.

Review the demand-driven model? Okay. It's vaguely plausible that universities are taking on too many students and quality is declining as a result - although it's strange that the main worry is about "poisoning" the international reputation of the sector rather than, you know, making sure that students are getting the best possible education. But whatever.

Abolish compulsory SSAF - well, I don't go to an Australian university and I have no dog in this fight, but somebody has to pay for this stuff and it's not obvious why it shouldn't be the students. Any particular student's university fees already pay for lots of things that student will never use, so the services fee seems like an unusual place to plant your liberty flag. And can we spell "free rider"?

But here's the one that really gets me.
The Coalition government would make "sensible, methodical reform" to maintain the number of students going to university and encourage those from low socio-economic backgrounds. But the government would axe Labor's target to increase participation by those from low socio-economic backgrounds to 20 per cent by 2020, and to have 40 per cent of 25- to 34-year-olds holding a bachelor degree or higher by 2025.
When you say you're going to make changes - "sensible, methodical" changes at that! - to promote socio-economic opportunity, but you absolve yourself from any commitment to that end, that says to me that you don't really care about it. What harm do these targets do? If the Coalition thinks that getting students from low socio-economic backgrounds is a worthy goal - and they're still carrying a sensible, methodical figleaf to that effect - then how can it possibly be a bad idea to actually make that a formal goal? That way, governments have some incentive to properly try achieving it. And if it gets to 2020 and we haven't achieved those goals, and millions of young people have been denied a shot at fair educational opportunity, then that will be branded a failure - as it should be - and not as a mildly regrettable cause of short-lived hand-wringing.

And why?
Mr Pyne said he did not believe in "targets for targets' sake".
"Labor is obsessed with targets," he said. "We're obsessed with outcomes ... I don't think a target adds to good government. I think it's simply a 24-hour news cycle press release approach to government."
The 10-15 year target, an infamous indicator of 24-hour politics! But seriously, what is this? Coming on the back of some really award-winning stupidity about women in Cabinet, it's almost too much to bear. But just to make it clear: nobody believes in targets for targets' sake. Everybody is "obsessed with outcomes". Here's the thing about targets, and why they can be so great: they don't target good intentions, or fine words. They target outcomes. They don't measure how sensible or methodical your policy changes were. They measure whether they work. That's what targets are for: because when we really care about an outcome, we want to make sure we achieve it, and we commit to doing that. But apparently not today.


  1. Couldn't agree more. I love how leading consultancies and analysts are all about making change measurable--because it's pretty obvious that that is the way to actually achieve things (and know whether you have achieved them)--but your education minister seems to think that they are all wrong. Granted, saying "we want to achieve xyz" can be a way of supposedly incorporating it in your policy programme and not actually doing anything. The prime example here is Angela Merkel's "policy shift in the production of energy" ("Energiewandel"), which has been announced after Fukushima but not carried out. (Nuclear power plants have been switched off and Germany has been importing--ahem, nuclear--energy from France, but no substantial investments have been made into nets, plants etc.) The trick here was to make voters believe that you achieved something simply by announcing it.

    The way to avoid that, however, is making progress measurable in the short and long-term (and, importantly, to be specific in your targets), not doing away with targets altogether.


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