Letters that didn’t make it to the press!

February 1, 2011 at 7:36 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

In the piece, (“Catholics need more than ads to come home”, January 28), Fr Hodgens puts his finger on a major problem in the Church. In my words, Catholicism’s obsession with the bedroom has hardly served the institution or its members well in the past or indeed in the present!  If only the Church would become more like Dorothy Sayers and “…care less and less who goes to bed with whom.”

The return of the ‘Golden Tonsils’ (“A big day for John Laws”, February 1) to 2SM has been compared to the Second Coming, but a more apt theological comparison would have been the Rapture, where he and his admirers are etherized and wafted into eternity.

Stop public aid to private schools

Richard Ackland’s (“Religiously follow the rules, or catch church in bed with state”, February 4), raises the still contentious issue of state aid to non-government schools.

Since the early 1960s the Commonwealth has poured massive amounts of money into non-government schools. To question the wisdom of this in terms of national policy is legitimate. Most would agree that this has had disastrous financial implications on state schools, to say nothing about the abandonment of the principle of equity in government education policy.

The ideological rationale for the existence of non-government schools ranges from the religious to mundane considerations like class values. The raison d’etre for establishment of Catholic schools was and continues to be, to pass on the faith. By any measure today they are most unsuccessful in doing this. The vast majority of Catholics leaving school don’t practise the faith.

With the present openness of Australia to the world and its beliefs, it’s not beyond anyone’s imagination that the state could end up financing schools that are ideologically opposed to our secular liberal society.

How can anyone justify state aid to schools like Riverview and Kings after looking at some of our high schools in the Western suburbs?

The state should provide a first class education in its own schools that are open to all, and if some parents want to send their children to non-government schools that is their right, but it is not their right to expect the state to finance these schools.

An article published in Eureka Street and copied to add a balance to my comments above:

Home » Vol 21 No 2 > Why private schools need more money

Why private schools need more money


At this time of year, there is normally a raft of stories about private school fees and government funding. Now, there seems to be a swing in public sentiment towards questioning the level of financial support given to private schools.

A recent poll shows 70 per cent of people think the Federal Government gives too much money to private schools. The Australian Education Union, representing state school teachers, is campaigning on the issue, and a number of newspapers and commentators arepushing the same agenda.

Such commentary is significant because the Gonski review into Federal funding of schools isunderway. The review may shape the funding of non-government schools for many years to come. 

But headlines about rising school fees and claims that the majority of funding goes to private schools are full of misinformation and bias, and amount to a campaign against non-government schools.

Two images are being projected: the majority of government funding is going to a minority of students in private schools; and that ‘private schools’ refers to wealthy independent schools. 

In reality, non-government schools educate about one in three of all Australian students, most of whom are educated in Catholic schools and various low fee-paying religious and community schools. The rhetoric hardly acknowledges this.

And all schools do not get the same funding. The Socio-Economic Status (SES) score determines whether a school will have as much as 70 per cent of the estimated cost of educating a student in a government school or as little as 13.7 per cent.

The AEU and others talk of non-government schools receiving more government funding than state schools. They ignore the fact that state schools receive most of their funding (88 per cent) from state governments.

The fact is that if you combine federal and state funding, only 20 per cent of government funding goes to non-government schools that educate one in three Australian students. If critics argue that federal funding of non-government schools should reflect the percentage of students in the two sectors, why does the same argument not apply to the level of state funding?

Students at government schools receive about twice as much government funding as students at non-government schools. Also, contrary to perceptions of ever-increasing funding of non-government schools, Productivity Commission data shows a 1.2 per cent increase in funding to government schools in recent years, compared to a 1.6 per cent decrease in non-government schools.

Critics claim that private school fees have risen by about 100 per cent in the past ten years against an inflation rate of 37 per cent. It is implied that this gap between inflation and the rise in fees is because private schools are greedy.

However, inflation in the area of education is much higher than average. The Government’s Average Government School Recurrent Cost (AGSRC) index measures inflation in the educational sector and determines the per capita increases each year. Every year this is higher than the inflation rate.

The biggest educational expenses are salaries which have consistently (and rightly) gone up by more than the inflation rate each year. Other fast increasing costs include the heavy technology component which has climbed dramatically over the past decade.

Additionally, normally non-government schools do not get any funding for capital works such as new buildings. Therefore independent private schools have to factor building expenses into their fees, and many rely largely on fundraising to minimise the impact on fees.

In the government sector the construction of new buildings is met by the Department of Education.

Aside from the specific issues of funding and fees, Catholic schools can claim to have contributed enormously to the Australian community, and thus make a claim for some funding on the basis of the common good.

The historic success of immigration and multiculturalism in Australia owes something to Catholic schools that played a role in the integration and advancement of significant migrant groups: Irish, Italian, Maltese, East European, Lebanese, Vietnamese, Filipino.

In recent years, Catholic schools have contributed to the education of refugee groups such as those from East Timor. Every unaccompanied minor among the asylum seekers at Woomera and Baxter (all Muslims) was given a place in South Australia’s Catholic schools.

Indirectly also, Catholic schools, as a backbone of the Catholic community, underpin a Church that is the largest non-Government provider of welfare, healthcare and aged care services in Australia.

In countless other areas of Australian life (the arts, sport, healthcare, to name a few), governments subsidise private endeavour — and the fabric of Australian life would be the poorer without it. It would be ironic if government funding of the non-government sector was seen to be under threat because its investment in our young had proved to be too successful.

Chris MiddletonFr Chris Middleton SJ is the Principal of St Aloysius College, Milson’s Point, in Sydney. This article is an edited extract from his comment in a recent edition of the college’s newsletter The Gonzagan.

PUBLISHED 12/02/2011

Education for all

Jessica Irvine is so right (”It’s time to cut payments to the well off”, February 11). And with the money saved we could re-create the free tertiary education scheme that Gough Whitlam gave us many years ago.

David Wall Newtown

George Brandis (“Politicians must defend the multicultural project”, February
23) makes a timely reminder to Australians, particularly those of Irish Catholic
descent of just how a religion and race were discriminated against in our past.

Australians today of this heritage would do well to consider this when being
tempted to utter anti-Muslim sentiments against Australians of this persuasion.

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July 16, 2010 at 7:17 am (Bob Hawke) (, , , , )


deberigny | July 16, 2010 at 6:54 am | Categories: Australian PoliticsBob HawkeLetter| URL: http://wp.me/p84UH-vZ
Many Australians would be in complete sympathy with Miranda Devine’s view in “More shabby treatment in the greatest love story ever told”, and decry Bob Hawke’s treatment of Hazel, so much for “in sickness and in health”. In his interview with Kerry O’Brian, Hawke talks a lot about love, and I guess, eros is a form of love, even if Bob tries to flavour it with aspects of philia and agape. Let’s face it, in the rather crude terminology of the age Bob was a ‘pants man’ who left his wife of many years in her time of need.—————————————————————————————————————–I find it a pleasure to read the Herald’s News Review Section at the weekend.

Particularly when Miranda Devine writes an Opinion piece and this is followed by Mike Carlton’s article on the back page.

I know an analogy with Judy and Punch, Punch and Judy is not entirely apt, but I’m still tempted to make it.

After reading an article by Miranda (Judy), I’m usually convinced by her arguments and say to myself, ‘Miranda is right.’ My wife always says of me that I’m easily convinced, be that as it may. When I come to Mike’s (Mr Punch’s) piece, I find that Miranda’s (Judy’s) powers of persuasion are somewhat diminished. This was the case today with “How fortress Australia lost face” and “Gillard summons mongrel of xenophobia with dog whistle”.

Please excuse my irrational ramblings and rather tactless analogy, but what I’m probably trying to say is that I enjoy reading what you both write.

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Bits and pieces of letters

July 2, 2010 at 1:31 am (Uncategorized) ()


Congratulations for your excellent article in today’s Herald. I’ve been trying for the last few days to find the correct words to say exactly what you say so well in your piece.
With all good wishes


In “Shacking up is hard to do: why Gillard may be leery of the Lodge” (June 29), Bettina Arndt raises important questions about commitment, women’s fulfillment and the obligations of significant leaders in society to be responsible role models. All these points are licit areas of concern and are pertinent for our Prime Minister to consider.
David Wall
152 Wilson Street
Newtown 2042 NSW
Phone: 95505053


A nice little story came to light from Parliament House last week. After Kevin Rudd’s ousting, Michael Johnson, the member for Ryan, ran into him in the corridor, and they got into a conversation which attracted a lot of journalists. They didn’t want all ears on what they were saying so they spoke to each other in Mandarin.
David Wall
152 Wilson Street
Newtown 2042 NSW
Phone: 95505053

Hi David,

It is so nice to have some positive feedback to my article. As you might imagine, I am being swamped with abusive comments. I am glad you can see that I was simply raising some points of concern. Clearly there are many who simply want to shut down all debate. Thanks for getting in touch, Tina

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Alternate and alternative

November 19, 2008 at 3:49 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

On and off labour

Sydney Morning Herald 19/11/08
The start of The Howard Years was gripping television. However, in describing the waterfront dispute, the key players in the events and the presenter, Fran Kelly, repeatedly referred to employing non-union labour as an “alternate” option. Surely what was wanted was an “alternative” choice, not something to occur by turns.David Wall Newtown

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November 19, 2007 at 10:42 pm (Uncategorized) (, )

My friends said, “don’t go back, you’ll be so disappointed. This view seemed to be reinforced by reading Professor Patience’s article: “The other disaster on our doorstep,” in which he writes of Papua New Guinea as a “vast administrative and political mess”.My desire to return to the Sepik, however, remained strong. This was an area I had worked in in the sixties and early seventies. I have many friends still living there.The few words I write are based on first impressions and appearances, but perhaps provide something of an authentic insight by one who saw stark contrasts between the colonial East Sepik district and the present East Sepik province. But what had not changed was perhaps something most fundamental.This was the fine quality of the Sepik people. They were still essentially the same friendly, hospitable, accepting and genuine people I knew of old.Wewak is still a vibrant township, but with obvious signs of degeneration and decay that somewhat mar first impressions: pot holes on  roads, litter and inappropriate dumping of rubbish. Existing buildings and structures appear to be in general poorly maintained. The Wewak hospital looks rundown and, I remarked to someone that maintenance in the last thirty years or so seems to have been at a minimum. The local people told me about the inadequate medical supplies in stock at the hospital, and the time taken to get a diagnosis. From what I could see, there has been a general breakdown of government health services. Aid posts no longer exist in the villages.

The anti-malaria campaign of the past has been stopped. The one rural hospital that I observed in Angoram is a little more than a clinic with no in-patients. This is at a time when there is an emerging HIV/AIDS epidemic.In Wewak, the stores in town seem to employ as many security guards as assistants.The fate of Angoram, a past vigorous and lively town on the Sepik River, makes me so sad for the people still living there.

Shortly before I visited Angoram, I met Sir Michael Somare, the Prime Minister, at a yacht club function in Wewak. Somare was known to me in my younger days. We are both seventy years old and my first impressions of him were that he was a shadow of his former self, but then again, he may have been only somewhat tired and if he remembered me, he may have thought that I was also a shadow of my former self.

Anyhow, I told him that I intended to visit Angoram and he informed me that it was just the same. It was perhaps just the same as it was in the previous week, but it is certainly not the same town I remembered in the old days.

Angoram no longer has a functioning airstrip, wharf, or power plant. In fact, there has been no power for four years. Buildings are in an appalling state of repair, and in many cases no longer exist. The people are disillusioned and distrustful of their politicians.

The feeling I got was that if a referendum was held posing the question of whether the country should be returned to Australian rule, 90 percent of the Sepik people would vote yes.

I did also visit Maprik and Dreikikir and I was much more impressed with what seems to be happening in terms of road building and erection of permanent structures in these towns and surrounding villages. Maprik is a bustling little township and a lot of dynamism I observed in the area is said to have sprung from an energetic local member, Gabriel Kapris, who was elected in 2002.

I left the East Sepik Province with a lot of troubling questions unanswered. Why was a Malaysian logging company allowed to start operations in such a sensitive ecological forest in the area behind Kaup and the Murik Lakes? Why are priceless teak trees being sold to a Thai logging company for as little as K100 each in the villages around Yangoru?

The Sepik people deserve more than they have been given by their government and particularly my friends who are still living in Angoram.

David Wall
Newtown, NSW

“Islands Business” September 06

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