Australia – Policy Forum https://www.policyforum.net The APPS Policy Forum a public policy website devoted to Asia and the Pacific. Fri, 22 Mar 2019 01:49:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.10 https://www.policyforum.net/wp-content/uploads/cache/2017/01/favicon/2924535576.png Australia – Policy Forum https://www.policyforum.net 32 32 Status update: Facebook’s self-regulation trumps transparency https://www.policyforum.net/status-update-facebooks-self-regulation-trumps-transparency/ https://www.policyforum.net/status-update-facebooks-self-regulation-trumps-transparency/#respond Fri, 22 Mar 2019 01:49:01 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=31567 A recent change to Facebook’s newsfeed has locked journalists out of tracking political advertising. It’s just the latest step in the company’s push to self-regulate and push back against the regulators, James Mortensen writes. In late January, Facebook quietly made a small change to its newsfeed with very big repercussions. The change essentially prevents third […]

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A recent change to Facebook’s newsfeed has locked journalists out of tracking political advertising. It’s just the latest step in the company’s push to self-regulate and push back against the regulators, James Mortensen writes.

In late January, Facebook quietly made a small change to its newsfeed with very big repercussions. The change essentially prevents third parties from drawing data from the advertisements it displayed in user’s newsfeeds. It’s a change that prevents analysts and journalists from monitoring political advertisements on the platform – a crucial activity since the revelations of the 2016 US election.

While the company has made efforts to fill the gap its decision has left, these efforts are insufficient to cover Australia’s May election. Further, Facebook’s decision solidifies its desire to self-regulate, a move that leaves governments and communities reliant on the company to maintain the resilience of democratic institutions.

More on this: Learning from the world's Facebook experiment

The change to Facebook’s website code prevents third parties from effectively monitoring the ads displayed in newsfeeds. While third parties such as Cambridge Analytica had achieved notoriety in their abuse of the platform using data harvested in line with Facebook’s terms of service, others, such as ProPublica, had been relying on scraped data from the newsfeeds of volunteer contributors to build an online database of political ads, an invaluable tool used to monitor both domestic malfeasance and foreign interference in the opaque world of social media influencing.

It seems, however, that Facebook has decided that it is the most capable agent in monitoring political influence on its platform, announcing that it will be rolling out a database of political ads on the platform globally ‘by the end of June’. Also detailed in the plan are stop-gap measures for democracies whose elections might come before the features are added – Nigeria, Ukraine, India, and the European Union.

Australia, however, is not on the company’s to-do list. Despite Australians going to the polling booths in May, and despite the Government’s recent concerns regarding foreign interference, there is no provision in the Company’s policy to provide any transparency or oversight during the election cycle.

But even before Facebook locked out third-party monitoring, issues of transparency and accountability in Facebook’s advertising practises had already drawn the ire of Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. In a draft report handed down last December, the impact of Facebook’s practises on democratic institutions was noted by the commission, with preliminary recommendations handed down including independent monitoring of Facebook’s algorithms and advertising practises.

More on this: Facebook's China challenge

Facebook’s Manager of Content Distribution and Algorithm Policy called the recommendations “unnecessary” and “unworkable”, suggesting that the company was already committed to transparency, that the commission was unclear in its aims, and that such a move would be “unprecedented” given that he was “…not aware of any other country seriously looking at this idea…”

Australia isn’t the only source of scrutiny, either; both the US and the UK have come to similar conclusions about the company, and yet Facebook has so far maintained the integrity of its own self-regulation.

Given the high level of scrutiny Facebook received after the 2016 US election, this has been no small feat, requiring extensive lobbying efforts against transparency laws in the US despite Mark Zuckerberg voicing his support for the laws on social media last April.

It seems that Facebook is acutely invested in being seen as supporting the move for transparency on its platform – as long as the company itself remains in control of what that transparency looks like.

Seen through this lens, the recent move against independent monitoring of advertisements on the platform appears to be part of a continuing trend in which Facebook seeks to set the limits of transparency for themselves.

More on this: Unsocial media

Indeed, despite calls for transparency being made in the context of political interference, malicious use of sponsored content on the platform is not part of Facebook’s vision for transparency. This, though, is hardly new – as far back as 2011, Facebook has been arguing against the disclosure of political advertisers on the platform.

This is not to suggest the company is complicit in foreign interference, nor that the company has a specific disdain for the Australian polity, or that the company would wilfully allow malicious actors to unduly influence the democratic process. Rather, it is to suggest that Facebook has acted counter to the values of accountability and transparency that governments the world over have been asking for, and is instead taking steps to ensure that if anyone is going to catch out malicious vectors on social media, it will be them.

But these recent changes to limit independent monitoring of Facebook’s advertising speak to perennial questions emerging across data analytics and cyberspace today; who owns the data generated by users, who has the right to aggregate that data, and can a private enterprise be trusted with the responsibility that data brings?

As it stands it seems that Facebook is consolidating its own answer to those questions, but given the upcoming elections in Australia, it might be the Australian people that bear the outcomes those answers bring.

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Soundtrack Australia: a promising start, but where is the next ‘Blue Poles’? https://www.policyforum.net/soundtrack-australia-a-promising-start-but-where-is-the-next-blue-poles/ https://www.policyforum.net/soundtrack-australia-a-promising-start-but-where-is-the-next-blue-poles/#respond Thu, 21 Mar 2019 02:35:25 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=31552 Australia’s Labor Party is on the right track to helping the country’s music and musicians prosper, but more needs to be done for them to reach their full potential, Kim Cunio writes. The recent release of an Australian Labor Party’s (ALP) music policy passed most people by at the end of what was a tiring […]

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Australia’s Labor Party is on the right track to helping the country’s music and musicians prosper, but more needs to be done for them to reach their full potential, Kim Cunio writes.

The recent release of an Australian Labor Party’s (ALP) music policy passed most people by at the end of what was a tiring year in politics. Several months later, and with an election looming, it is even more worthy of response.

The fact that a major political party has released a music policy at all is noteworthy. For many years, talking about music or the arts during election or budget time was implausible; a tune that would never be heard over the cacophony of economic analysis driving public discussion.

Does the release of the policy mean that better times are in sight? Could it even be possible for some bipartisanship given what we know about how the arts contribute both to the economy and our public sphere? Perhaps, even, the coalition is writing its own music policy in response?

There is no doubt that both parties have learned from the heavy-handed and punitive policies contained in the 2014 Budget. This is a great positive, yet we are still light years away from the bold vision that enabled the modern arts in Australia.

More on this: More than meets the ear

Could we imagine any government in an election year buying a major artwork such as Blue Poles as Whitlam did in 1973? Or even see them drastically boost music or arts funding in the knowledge that parts of our society will always argue virulently against the arts? Can we even perceive the pressure on our fledgling country when it gave the first arts grant of two cows in 1818-19, reported by both the Bureau of Statistics and the Australian Dictionary of Biography?

The recent announcement made by the ALP is as close as we may ever get to witnessing the halcyon days of old. For musicians and the music sector, it is a long overdue policy that acknowledges Australian music and its great significance, despite our modest spending compared to the Nordic countries, Germany, and France.

What does the ALP offer?  Some $28 million in the music industry, including $10 million for Sounds Australia to export Australian music, $5 million for the community to set up new music hubs, $7.5 million for youth initiatives, and $4.2 million for music and mental health. It also promises an increase in funds for the ARIA teacher of the Year Award, the Australia Council’s New Recordings Program, and the Association of Artist Managers.

More on this: Ups and downs of school fees

To any musician lucky enough to directly benefit from a part of this policy, the results will be significant.

The median income for musicians and artists within their creative practice is low and decreasing further, down from $10,400 in 2000-1 to $6000 in 2014-15. The ALP’s music policy considers our musicians as professionals who can generate both wealth and wellbeing for our country.

On the surface this is impressive. Not only is $28 million is a lot of new money, but the premise of supporting Australian music as an exportable commodity is farsighted and sustainable.

When we see, however, that our GDP for 2017 was a staggering $1.69 trillion, we might still feel – and rightly so – that more can be done. When a country is happy to spend $5 billion refunding franking credits, we see that music is, despite its massive potential for economic growth and its undervalued capacity for soft diplomacy, still waiting in the wings for another great moment.

If this ALP announcement is the start of better times, then we still have to define and argue for something better. We have to find the boldness of the 1970s and have faith that our musicians and artists can transform our country and economy over time. The upcoming election might be an opportunity for Australia’s musicians to start singing their own song.

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Regional policy, regional deals, and regional voices https://www.policyforum.net/regional-policy-regional-deals-and-regional-voices/ https://www.policyforum.net/regional-policy-regional-deals-and-regional-voices/#respond Mon, 18 Mar 2019 23:29:48 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=31495 Australia’s regions don’t just need funding, but the power to decide how to spend that funding, Kim Houghton and Kylie Bourne write. With a Federal election fast approaching, the National Parliament is again turning some attention to Regional Australia. Every seat will count, and there is a common feeling that dissatisfaction with major party performance […]

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Australia’s regions don’t just need funding, but the power to decide how to spend that funding, Kim Houghton and Kylie Bourne write.

With a Federal election fast approaching, the National Parliament is again turning some attention to Regional Australia. Every seat will count, and there is a common feeling that dissatisfaction with major party performance on regional issues has led to new independent members in the national and Victorian Parliaments, triggering Federal Government rethinking on policy.

In a recent article, researchers argued that Australia’s current high representation of regional ministers – and one parliamentary secretary  places Regional Australia in a unique position of now “calling the shots”. Regional issues are gaining traction at the highest level: there are more ministers ready to receive advocates and there is a greater chance that regional leaders will “have an opportunity to be heard”.

A new role for the Federal Government in regional development could emerge from the Federal Parliament’s Select Committee on Regional Development and Decentralisation. In June 2018, the Committee completed a 12-month inquiry which examined approaches to regional development, the decentralisation of Commonwealth entities and supporting corporate decentralisation.

More on this: Podcast: Rusted off rural voters take policy change into their own hands

The Committee’s report, Regions at the Ready: Investing in Australia’s Future, made 13 recommendations to support and promote the economic development of regional communities. The Federal Government has recently provided a response to the recommendations which gives indications of how it sees its role in regional development.

“The Committee will examine best practice approaches to regional development, the decentralisation of Commonwealth entities, and supporting corporate decentralisation.”

The Government’s response is based on its public commitments to decentralising Federal public sector staff, continuing to offer grants programs for regions, changing the role of its network of Regional Development Australia Committees, and piloting a deals-based approach to agreeing and funding regional priorities.

Of these actions, it is the deal-making model which has the greatest potential to mark a departure from the regional policy framework of the last decade.

Our organisation, the Regional Australia Institute (RAI), has written on the significance of deals approaches for regional cities, having seen the impact of this model in the United Kingdom. Deals are designed to bring together key players including the regional community and different levels of government, and commit to a long-term place-based approach to developing regional economic and social resilience.

More on this: What do the SDGs really have to offer?

In the UK, deals are helping revitalise cities in England’s north. However, these city deals are having a limited impact in the regions surrounding the cities of the north, the regions that were strongly in favour of Brexit.

These are the places ‘left behind’ by decades of policy-making that focused on cities in the belief that economic benefits delivered to a centre would spill out to the surrounding communities.

In the absence of the manifestation of such benefit, the Brexit vote can be seen as an instance of what Andrés Rodríguez-Pose from the London School of Economics calls the “revenge of the places that don’t matter”, which University College London’s John Tomaney identifies as the “struggling mill towns, declining coastal resorts and former coalfields that have been largely untouched by the growth in big cities”.

Using deals to reach beyond cities to these ‘forgotten places’ in their own right is a promising policy option.

In the UK, the London-led version of devolved decision-making is being seen as less than satisfactory for some northern regional leaders and their smaller communities. One Yorkshire is emerging as a locally-led reaction to the perceived weaknesses of London’s preference for developer-led, city-centric policies. It contrasts with a vision of rejuvenated economies based heavily on the big cities like Sheffield and Leeds to offer an approach “where power is devolved to the larger regional scale to create a more inclusive form of development that addresses the needs and aspirations of communities beyond the big cities.”

More on this: Podcast: Putting community engagement in the neighbourhood of good policy

Approaches like One Yorkshire bring into sharp relief the unequal power dynamics between players in city deals. While the concept of central government-initiated multi-level negotiations was welcomed in the cities in the north of the UK, it has become clear that these negotiations are not always amongst equals, and still favour the most economically powerful actors.

Regional policy in Australia is only starting to experiment with deals, and with closer partnerships between regional organisations and state and federal governments. Generally, policymakers have been very good at informing regions, and quite good at inviting their ideas by consulting with them.

But the spectrum of public participation goes much further, into the unfamiliar territory of collaboration and empowerment. This is the essence of the differences between a grants program and a deals process. A real shift in Australia’s regional policy framework would see state and Federal governments empowering regions to make decisions on priorities that are then endorsed and resourced.

The research by Andrew Beer, John Tomaney, and the RAI highlights the importance of not just of funded programs for regions, but of enabling regions to determine the nature and mix of that funding.

Movement on this would reflect the emerging global best practice examined by the Select Committee. It would also require a significant departure from the status quo, and at present this is just a small part of the response to Regions at the Ready.

The true impact of a changed national approach to regional development will depend on the extent to which an inverted decision-making process is recognised and supported by regional voters and validated by central government decision-makers. Progress down this path would mark a significant rethinking of regional policy.

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Podcast: Women in politics and policy https://www.policyforum.net/podcast-women-in-politics-and-policy/ https://www.policyforum.net/podcast-women-in-politics-and-policy/#respond Fri, 15 Mar 2019 03:22:25 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=31461 This week’s Policy Forum Pod tackles crucial questions regarding women in politics and policy. Why should we care about gender balance? What hurdles do women face in reaching senior positions in politics and policy-making? And what role do men play in all of this? Last week, the world celebrated International Women’s Day with an outpouring […]

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This week’s Policy Forum Pod tackles crucial questions regarding women in politics and policy. Why should we care about gender balance? What hurdles do women face in reaching senior positions in politics and policy-making? And what role do men play in all of this?

Last week, the world celebrated International Women’s Day with an outpouring of inspiring stories and recognition of the female heroes in our families, communities, and politics. But it also saw a speech from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison where he said, “we want to see women rise, but we don’t want to see women rise only on the basis of others doing worse.” This week on the pod, our panel – Kim Rubenstein, Helen Machalias, and Caitlin Figueiredo – take a look at women in policy and politics, the power of diversity in building good policies, and what roles gender quotas can play. Listen here: https://simplecast.com/s/e4fa0e4a

Our presenters – Sharon Bessell, Sally-Anne Henfry, and Julia Ahrens – also discuss ABC’s new soap-opera The Heights, Theresa May’s never-ending Brexit nightmare, and the excellent The Familiar Strange podcast. On top of that, they take a closer look at several of the interesting comments and suggestions you’ve left us – so keep them coming!

This week on the pod, we’ve welcomed:

Kim Rubenstein is Professor in the Law School in the ANU College of Law and an ANU Public Policy Fellow. She is a former Director of the Centre for International and Public Law and was the inaugural Convenor of the ANU Gender Institute. Kim is Australia’s leading expert on all matters around citizenship in law and practice and the author of Australian Citizenship Law.

Helen Machalias is Director of Communication, Advocacy and fundraising at the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) Canberra. Her career has encompassed roles in media relations and corporate communications, policy, fundraising and partnerships across the transport, arts, regional development and social policy sectors.

Caitlin Figueiredo is the founder of Jasiri and is an Australia Global gender equality activist. She was named 2018 ACT Young Australian of the Year and was recognised on the Forbes under 30 list for her work on parliamentary gender equality through the Girls Takeover Parliament Program.

Our hosts are:

Sharon Bessell is the Director of the Children’s Policy Centre at Crawford School, the ANU lead on the Individual Deprivation Measure Project, and Editor of Policy Forum’s Poverty: In Focus section.

Sally-Anne Henfry is the Executive Director of the Sir Roland Wilson Foundation. She was, until recently, the Deputy Chief of Staff and Special Adviser at the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) in Washington D.C. Prior to that, her career had included working in international development for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the World Bank. Sally-Anne has worked in Australia, the Asia Pacific, and the US.

Julia Ahrens is a Communications and Engagement Coordinator at Crawford School and a presenter for Policy Forum Pod. She is also an Associate Researcher at the European Institute for Asian Studies in Brussels.

Show notes | The following were referred to in this episode:

Brexit: What happens now? – Peter Barnes (BBC)

Upcoming US presidential elections

Ethiopian Airlines crash

The Heights (ABC)

The Familiar Strange podcast and blog

Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s comment on International Women’s Day

World Economic Forum’s 2018 Global Gender Gap report

McKinsey Delivering through Diversity report

More on Joe Hockey’s comment on ‘double-dippers’

Media report on Plan International’s survey

Girls Take Over Parliament

‘A women in politics scorecard’ – John Warhurst

Karen Andrews on Q&A

New norms of work and care: re-thinking what it means to be a responsible adult – Jennifer Nedelsky

Panel discussion: Research, work, life and balancing academic careers – Kim Rubenstein, Jennifer Nedelsky, Joseph Carens

Podcast: Is every billionaire a policy failure?

Mark Zanker’s comment on the Policy Forum Pod Facebook group

The heat is on: an urgent case for climate action – Andrew Leigh

More on Australian coal debate and Barnaby Joyce’s position

Policy Forum Pod is available on iTunesSpotifyStitcherSubscribe on Android or wherever you get your podcasts. We’d love to hear your feedback for this podcast series! Send in your questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes to podcast@policyforum.net. You can also Tweet us @APPSPolicyForum or join us on the Facebook group.

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The theory that’s too good to be true? https://www.policyforum.net/the-theory-thats-too-good-to-be-true/ https://www.policyforum.net/the-theory-thats-too-good-to-be-true/#comments Fri, 15 Mar 2019 00:03:05 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=31437 Printing money to replace excessive government borrowing is unlikely to improve fundamental problems but is likely to make things worse, Warwick McKibbin writes. There is currently a popular debate on how to stimulate economies that are stuck with low productivity, low real interest rates and a large amount of public debt. Proponents of an old […]

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Printing money to replace excessive government borrowing is unlikely to improve fundamental problems but is likely to make things worse, Warwick McKibbin writes.

There is currently a popular debate on how to stimulate economies that are stuck with low productivity, low real interest rates and a large amount of public debt. Proponents of an old idea in new clothes – modern monetary theory (MMT) – argue that central banks can solve all these problems by simply buying the large amounts of government debt and increasing the money supply. Advocates argue that the stimulus to demand would cause firms to unleash investment and a long sustainable economic expansion would follow. This can only be described as a classic free lunch.

The idea of free lunches has a long tradition in policy debates. Free lunches are politically popular and have recurred many times in the twentieth century and before. The experience with all economies that have swallowed this particular free lunch is that it is very costly, and it can take a long time before the contradictions eventually causes a disastrous outcome.

More on this: A dangerous dependency

The basic problem with MMT is that it has been tested by countries and the result has always been hyperinflation, massive social and economic destruction, and a crisis followed by more conventional economic policies being imposed. All existing experience: Venezuela today; Zimbabwe in 2008; Yugoslavia in 1994; Hungary in 1946; Greece in 1944; and Wiemar Germany in 1923 demonstrate the large costs.

It is possible that traditional economics has missed something? Is it possible that this time really is different?

When a government spends more than the revenue they generate, the budget deficit that results is usually financed by issuing government debt. The debt of the government is a promise to repay lenders at some time in the future. This can be done by eventually cutting spending relative to taxes or by raising taxes relative to spending.

Most taxes are transparent – such as income or profit taxes – but the usual tax that eventually finances large and persistent fiscal deficits and exploding government debt is the inflation tax. This is the decline in the value of real money balances in the hands of the public because prices rise more quickly than the printed money on issue. It happens when central banks print large amounts of money in excess of the capacity of the supply side of the economy to produce the additional goods. More money chasing a limited supply of goods leads to rising prices on those goods.

More on this: Tax, debt, and trouble topples Najib

John Maynard Keynes was an advocate of money-financed fiscal expansions to smooth the business cycle. There is a reasonable argument to smooth fluctuations in private demand with government demand financed by temporarily printing money.

The problem with the MMT is that it is seen as a way to raise the growth rate in the economy in the face of persistent fiscal deficits and high levels of debt for no apparent cost.

The reality is that, eventually, someone must pay for fiscal deficits – but the long lags from implementing money-financed, persistent deficits and the eventual crisis it creates, makes it a tempting proposition for politicians.

I know of no example of a country that has started down the path of money-financed fiscal deficits and then been able to transition back to more conventional policies once the economy enters a new long-term growth path.

More on this: Demonetisation: disruptive economics, self-destructive governance

There are plenty of examples where printing money to solve a fiscal debt problem hasn’t worked. There are no examples, that I am aware of, where the approach of proponents of MMT has worked. It is a theory with no practical relevance.

The fundamental problem in the global economy in 2019 is a complex mix of many factors including adjustments to demographic slowdowns; a decline is productivity growth; threat of trade wars; and a real concern about the scale of public and private debt in the global economy which imply that someone has to pay taxes in the future to fund these debts.

It is difficult to see how printing money to replace excessive government borrowing can do anything to improve these fundamental problems and it is likely to make things worse.

There is a good argument for governments to temporarily finance investments that earn a much higher rate of return than the current low and negative real interest rates. There is also a role for governments to smooth business cycles.

These arguments are completely different to the ideas being proposed by advocates of modern monetary theory that printing money to replace the huge quantities of government debt in the world economy is a free lunch.

 

This piece was originally published in the Australian Financial Review: https://www.afr.com/news/economy/the-theory-thats-too-good-to-be-true-20190312-h1ca6x

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The ups and downs of school fees https://www.policyforum.net/the-ups-and-downs-of-school-fees/ https://www.policyforum.net/the-ups-and-downs-of-school-fees/#respond Wed, 13 Mar 2019 23:28:16 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=31361 The changing nature of school fees and government funding amongst Australia’s Catholic, Independent, and public schools worsen societal gaps in the country, Chris Bonnor writes. You could create a recurring calendar out of media reports about schools. In late January, there is always news about starting school, then NAPLAN in May, the moral panic in […]

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The changing nature of school fees and government funding amongst Australia’s Catholic, Independent, and public schools worsen societal gaps in the country, Chris Bonnor writes.

You could create a recurring calendar out of media reports about schools. In late January, there is always news about starting school, then NAPLAN in May, the moral panic in August when results come out, and the various exams and league tables in December. School fees are often in the news, either marveling at how high they are in private schools or questioning why they exist at all in public schools.

As a former public school principal, I found that school fees, along with school uniforms, were the bane of my existence. In most cases, neither uniforms nor fees were or are compulsory – meaning considerable energy went into ensuring that the students were attired appropriately enough and that parents continued to make much-needed financial contributions. It was always easier in the Catholic or Independent school down the road: dress up, pay up, or ship out to the ‘free’ school.

More on this: Reimagining retention for rural, regional, and remote students

There is still a need for fees/contributions/levees/costs/charges – choosing the word most likely to keep you within the rules – in public schools. At the very least, some school subjects come at a cost, if only for materials used.

But it is also the case that the level of fees – and the collection rate – varies considerably. The most recent My School figures show that the average fee-income per student in public schools is around $340 each year, rising to well over a $1000 for students in selective schools. The amount seems to be linked to each school community’s capacity to pay.

There has also been a need, at least up until now, for fees in private schools. Historically, their public funding fell well short of providing the dollars needed to properly resource the schools. As a consequence, the charging of fees has long remained part of the operation and culture of Catholic and Independent schools.

However, the last two decades has seen this situation change. In 2015, governments funded most Catholic schools at between 91 and 99 per cent of the level of recurrent funding provided to public schools with students at similar levels of advantage. Most Independent schools in that year were funded at between 81 and 97 per cent. In financial terms, both Catholic and Independent schools are becoming government schools.

More on this: What matters in global poverty

Despite this, non-government school fees have kept increasing to the point where they are starting to resemble icing on the government-funded cake. The total income – from all sources – for private schools outstripped that for government schools several years ago. At the same time, the post-Gonski intention to fund schools on the basis of student need has certainly not been reflected in real dollars going to real schools.

The problems created by fees are deeper and wider. The charging of school fees at various levels is creating a substantial socio-economic status (SES) division between groups of schools, in ways which challenge myths about Australian egalitarianism. Fees have become a mechanism by which school enrolments are sorted along SES lines, in ways readily apparent to anyone logging onto the My School website.

In almost every community in Australia, Independent schools charge the highest fees. Across Australia, their fees average around $4,800 per student. They are followed by Catholic schools, that average around $2,600, and government schools, that average around $340.

The level of advantage of each sector’s enrolment neatly reflects these fee differences: the sector-average socio-educational advantage measures on My School are 1034 for Independent schools, 1017 for Catholic, and 980 for government schools. Given that two-thirds of schools fall between 950 and 1150, the gaps are considerable.

More on this: Returning teaching to the land

These developments have been accompanied by endless debates not only about fees, but about school choice as well.

To even question the way choice operates in Australia invites hostile responses accompanied by assertions that choice is almost a moral right – regardless of other impacts – and that it saves public money – though assertions about the latter are becoming increasingly doubtful as well.

Recent reports indicate that choice amongst public schools is quite highly exercised, meaning that the level of fees doesn’t seem to be a deterrent. But the choice of a higher fee-charging school is certainly not available to all. My estimates are that, overall, only half of Australian families can choose such a school. Even then, the choice – for average families – is available for just one child.

While choice enables selection of schools by those with the required resources, the reality is that it is the schools that do the choosing: students are substantially chosen by schools that can employ substantial enrolment discriminators. Higher-demand schools, regardless of their sector, are especially able to decide who walks in through the school gate each day. In more than one way, our schools are increasingly able to be categorised as high-choice, low-choice, and anything in-between.

The results are a disaster, and are easily demonstrated across Australia especially in our most vulnerable communities. Maybe the next big debates about schools in Australia, including the debates excited by our media calendars, will include searches for solutions.

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An off-target approach to Indonesia’s cyber-issues https://www.policyforum.net/an-off-target-approach-to-indonesias-cyber-issues/ https://www.policyforum.net/an-off-target-approach-to-indonesias-cyber-issues/#respond Mon, 11 Mar 2019 23:28:40 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=31126 To preserve its democracy, Indonesia must reconsider its current cyber-policy and rethink its political censorship measures, Thomas Paterson writes. Indonesia has one of the fastest growing economies in Asia with Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth slightly above 5 per cent per year. Much of this growth has been generated by cyberspace expansion and the creation […]

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To preserve its democracy, Indonesia must reconsider its current cyber-policy and rethink its political censorship measures, Thomas Paterson writes.

Indonesia has one of the fastest growing economies in Asia with Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth slightly above 5 per cent per year. Much of this growth has been generated by cyberspace expansion and the creation of new cyber-based businesses in the e-commerce sector.

It is estimated that Indonesia will constitute 46 per cent of Southeast Asia’s e-commerce in value by 2025. E-commerce is important to Indonesia’s growth because the government sees it as one of the main ways to reach its target of 7 per cent annual GDP growth by 2025.

These e-commerce businesses have been able to thrive due to the rising number of Indonesians connecting to the Internet. As of 2017, Indonesia had approximately 143 million Internet users, which will further increase as the economy grows.

More on this: A dance with censorship: from Asia to the US

Digital connectivity in Indonesia has created many positive economic opportunities but has also led to problems with cybercrime and disinformation. Indonesia’s out-dated legislation means that cyber-criminals use the archipelago as a haven to conduct their activities.

Recent examples include 103 Chinese nationals detained in May 2018 on top of another 153 arrested the previous August, both for alleged cyber-fraud targeting other Chinese nationals. These criminals were using Indonesia as a base because it is harder for Chinese authorities to track them.

Indonesia also has a disinformation problem. President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo has himself been a victim of concerted disinformation campaigns. The most significant of these occurred during the 2014 election when he was a presidential candidate. This campaign falsely asserted that Jokowi was a Chinese-Christian and the son of communists. Another notable large-scale disinformation campaign was the spread of the allegation that China was trying to wage biological warfare against Indonesia using contaminated chili seeds.

In order to try and combat these issues, the Indonesian government has announced that the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, or Kominfo, will hold weekly ‘fake news’ briefings to try and increase digital literacy ahead of the 2019 election. These briefings will involve information about recent ‘hoaxes’ and the relevant facts in an effort to help Indonesians think more critically about the news and information they consume.

More on this: Welcome to the 'managed' Internet

Problematically, the Indonesian government is also pursuing numerous negative measures to combat cyberspace issues. These include the implementation of a new US $14 million Internet censorship system. Although this censorship system relates mostly to pornographic and extremist content, it could be used to block whatever content the government considers ‘negative’ in line with Article 40 of the Electronic Information and Transactions Law.

Indonesia has a history of manual censorship of pornographic and extremist content, but there have also been worrying instances of political censorship. This includes the blocking of 300 social media accounts and websites by police without clarity over what the procedural framework was for those decisions. Police cited so-called ‘hate speech’, which only included hostile political expression directed towards the president and the national police chief, as a reason to block those accounts.

In 2017, the Harvard University-based Internet Monitor reported instances of websites being blocked that contained criticism of the government and Islam. The Open Observatory of Network Interference and the Malaysian-based Sinar Project also found that 161 sites had been blocked, including websites expressing criticism towards Islam, as well as political criticism more broadly.

While manual censorship has been occurring in Indonesia for years, automation will make the system far more effective. If instances of political censorship continue, let alone increase, this will be highly damaging for Indonesia’s democratic health. Even the perception that the Indonesian government can arbitrarily censor political expression is damaging.

There is also a distinct lack of appetite for the strengthening of democratic institutions in Indonesia. This is due to the general apathy towards democracy and democratic institutions amongst the ruling elite from across the political spectrum.

In a political environment where the powerful are indifferent toward democracy, the motivation to strengthen democratic institutions and not engage in censorship and draconian legislative revisions is decidedly lacking.

More on this: A new wave of feminism: China's #MeToo

In a world where China has clearly demonstrated how censorship and tight control of cyberspace can work very effectively, it is clear that the Indonesian political elite has no incentive to deny themselves of such powerful tools by voluntarily strengthening legal frameworks. This indicates that Indonesian democracy is not only at considerable risk from cyberspace-amplified problems, but are also in danger due to the very reforms and measures that are being introduced to combat those problems.

A positive step the Indonesian government could take, that would further build on the announcement concerning the weekly Kominfo briefings, would be to commit to funding a countering-disinformation style television show. This could be modelled off of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) Media Watch, with the help of Australia’s advisory assistance, in aims to counter disinformation by providing factual information to the public on recent ‘hoaxes’. Estonian public broadcasting and Danish media help combat Russian disinformation campaigns and their effect on the public in a similar way.

This would help further increase digital literacy in a cost-effective manner by providing counter-disinformation content in a digestible fashion that can reach a wide range of Indonesian citizens and help them learn how to be more critical about the information they engage with online.

The Indonesian government should also publicly outline a framework for how they administer and manage the new automatic censorship system so as to be transparent about its implementation. Greater transparency and a framework for managing the system would also help make it harder for it to be misused.

Political censorship in Indonesia is counter to Australia’s International Cyber Security Strategy’s aim of encouraging a ‘free and open’ Internet in the Indo-Pacific. There is, therefore, a role here for Australia too, where the government should actively encourage their Indonesian counterparts to adopt these recommendations. Ultimately, it is the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s responsibility to lobby the Indonesian government on these issues.

This piece is published in partnership with The Monsoon Project, the student-run academic blog based at Crawford School of Public Policy.

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Podcast: A social insecurity system https://www.policyforum.net/podcast-a-social-insecurity-system/ https://www.policyforum.net/podcast-a-social-insecurity-system/#respond Fri, 08 Mar 2019 01:56:57 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=31300 This week’s Policy Forum Pod delves deeper into the problems of punitive welfare systems, the caustic language we hear when talking about job seekers, and the role that labour policy plays in creating sustainable solutions. Why do so many welfare systems end up punishing people rather than helping them, or doing more harm than good? […]

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This week’s Policy Forum Pod delves deeper into the problems of punitive welfare systems, the caustic language we hear when talking about job seekers, and the role that labour policy plays in creating sustainable solutions.

Why do so many welfare systems end up punishing people rather than helping them, or doing more harm than good? How do these policies affect the lives of those who depend on welfare services? And what can policymakers do to remedy the situation – could a universal basic income help? Our guests John Falzon, Bob Gregory, and Sue Olney explore these questions and more. Listen here: https://simplecast.com/s/8740abdf

Our presenters Sharon Bessell and Martyn Pearce also talk about the Australian Labor Party’s recent election promises on making abortion safe for the country’s women, as well as taking a look at a few of the comments and questions you have left us over the last week.

This week’s panel consists of:

John Falzon OAM is Senior Fellow, Inequality and Social Justice at Per Capita. He is also a sociologist, poet, and social justice advocate, and was national CEO of the St Vincent de Paul Society from 2006 to 2018. John’s current work focuses on social security reform, housing and homelessness, workers’ rights, and rebuilding the concept of the common good across society.

Bob Gregory is Emeritus Professor in the Research School of Economics at the Australian National University (ANU) and a former member of the Reserve Bank of Australia Board. His research has focused on economic development and growth, comparative economy systems, and welfare economics. He has a particular interest in wage inequality, international comparison of wages and employment, and unemployment.

Sue Olney is a Research Fellow in the Public Service Research Group in the School of Business at UNSW Canberra. Her work revolves around access and equity in employment, education, training, and disability services in Australia with particular focus on the impact of reform of public services on citizens with complex needs. Sue has experience on both sides of the process of outsourcing public services.

Our presenters for this week’s podcast are:

Sharon Bessell is the Director of the Children’s Policy Centre at Crawford School, the ANU lead on the Individual Deprivation Measure Project, and Editor of Policy Forum’s Poverty: In Focus section.

Martyn Pearce is a presenter for Policy Forum Pod and the Editor of Policy Forum

Show notes | The following were referred to in this episode:

Tanya Plibersek’s election promise on behalf of Labor to provide free abortions

Controversy around Australia’s same-sex marriage plebiscite

Australia’s Department of the Senate’s report on Jobactive

Australian Council of Social Service’s ‘Faces of Unemployment’ report

UN rapporteur Philip Alston’s comment on UK’s universal credit scheme

Australian Department of Social Services’ Review of Australia’s Welfare System

Joe Hockey’s comment on ‘lifters and leaners’

Fred Chaney’s attack on Australia’s work for the dole scheme and its impact on Aboriginal communities

Podcast: Back to basics – Finland’s Universal Basic Income

Frances Flanagan’s work on conceptualisation of work in society

Australian Treasury’s Intergenerational Report

Podcast: The policy and politics of refugees and asylum seekers

In defence of ‘Silent Invasion’ – Kevin Carrico

Policy Forum Pod is available on iTunesSpotifyStitcher, Subscribe on Android or wherever you get your podcasts. We’d love to hear your feedback for this podcast series! Send in your questions, comments, or suggestions for future episodes to podcast@policyforum.net. You can also Tweet us @APPSPolicyForum or join us on the Facebook group.

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Pay attention to the vocational education gap https://www.policyforum.net/pay-attention-to-the-vocational-education-gap/ https://www.policyforum.net/pay-attention-to-the-vocational-education-gap/#respond Thu, 07 Mar 2019 00:42:36 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=31130 Women who receive higher education are by no means better off than men who opt for vocational education, Brody Hannan and Francesca Maclean write. It’s been long-established that there are more women enrolled in Australian universities than men. In a recent Department of Education survey, another statistic was added to the list: men are 5 […]

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Women who receive higher education are by no means better off than men who opt for vocational education, Brody Hannan and Francesca Maclean write.

It’s been long-established that there are more women enrolled in Australian universities than men. In a recent Department of Education survey, another statistic was added to the list: men are 5 per cent more likely to drop out of their undergraduate studies than women.

When the Grattan Institute echoed similar sentiments in its Dropping Out: The Benefits and Costs of Trying University report published in April 2018, even more people started taking interest in the matter.

With evidence to prove that university graduates have higher average salaries than non-graduates, why don’t more men stay in university?

The Grattan report suggested a possible explanation: men who receive vocational training are much more likely to benefit financially than women with the same qualifications.

In a 2017 ABS survey, upper-level vocation qualifications – for example, Certificate (Cert) IV and Diplomas – reaped more financial gains for men than they did for women.

More on this: Reimagining retention for rural, regional, and remote students

Whilst the median annual income for women with a Bachelor’s degree, aged 25-34 years, is marginally higher than that of men of the same age who have only completed Year 12, it is lower than men who have completed Diplomas, or even Cert IIIs and IVs.

What’s more, women who complete a Cert III or IV earn a lower median income than their male counterparts who have only finished Year 12.

Despite having higher levels of education, women, in many instances, are paid less.

For men, there is less financial risk in leaving university because they have these less orthodox but higher-paying career opportunities. It doesn’t matter which sector or pathway men pursue; they will receive higher wages than what they would have had they not pursued any further education at all.

On the other hand, women have more financial incentive to stay in university to receive their formal education. For them, university is also the most likely path to decreasing the wage gap and moving towards a high-paying job.

At this point, it is no longer an issue of improving male higher education participation rates, but rather, an issue of addressing the gender-pay gap and gender inequity amongst those with vocational training.

But why does this disparity even exist in the first place?

More on this: Well then, walk 500 miles more

There are many drivers: a lack of advancement opportunities for women; exclusive or even toxic masculine cultures without a critical mass of women or other minoritised groups; a lack of role models, mentors, and sponsors; bias against women negotiating pay; inadequate parental leave arrangements for all carers (women and their partners); as well as unconscious bias in hiring and promotion decisions.

This is a complex problem that has many drivers and the interplay between these issues should not be ignored. These issues do not exist in isolation in any sector or workplace – but are intertwined within Australian culture and families, including in how we socialise our young women and men as carers or risk-takers dependent on their gender.

Then there’s the separate problem that women aren’t as actively encouraged as men in earlier years to take the risk to explore less common options in their formal education.

Historically, schools and universities have been designed to reward girls for being well-behaved and striving towards better individual ability. Considering the correlation between encouraging risk-taking and boosting confidence amongst girls, there might be more merit than expected in emphasising vocational training in their younger years at school.

Pairing such initiatives with a concerted effort to reduce the wage gap across vocational employment sectors, we may one day see more women willing to pursue a path other than university in the long-term.

A closer look into high male attrition rates reveal a couple of things. Firstly, it’s the career opportunities that are available to men that put less pressure on them to pursue higher education.

But more importantly, it reveals that men receive greater financial benefit than women from receiving any kind of formal education – even at the Cert IV or Diploma level. Ultimately, we are reminded that there is still more work to be done in providing equal opportunities between women and men.

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Transnational, serious, and organised crime: Fighting a losing battle https://www.policyforum.net/transnational-serious-and-organised-crime-fighting-a-losing-battle/ https://www.policyforum.net/transnational-serious-and-organised-crime-fighting-a-losing-battle/#respond Tue, 05 Mar 2019 23:23:28 +0000 https://www.policyforum.net/?p=31242 Australia’s new National Strategy aims to prevent, disrupt, and protect Australia against transnational, serious, and organised crime. The principles underpinning the plan are good, John Coyne writes, but the strategy is light on details and may not deliver the results policymakers want. In mid-December 2018, while most Australians were focused on preparing for the Christmas […]

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Australia’s new National Strategy aims to prevent, disrupt, and protect Australia against transnational, serious, and organised crime. The principles underpinning the plan are good, John Coyne writes, but the strategy is light on details and may not deliver the results policymakers want.

In mid-December 2018, while most Australians were focused on preparing for the Christmas break, the Federal Government inexplicably released its inaugural National Strategy to Fight Transnational, Serious and Organised Crime with little fanfare.

The report was new, but the focus on transnational, serious, and organised crime (TSOC) was not. In August 2017, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC) released the sixth edition of its biennial Organised Crime In Australia report. That edition estimated that the annual cost of organised crime to Australia had doubled since the last report: from approximately $15 billion to $36 billion a year. These figures painted the clearest picture to date that the Commonwealth’s law enforcement agencies are losing ground in the fight against TSOC.

On 1 May 2018, in response to the rising cost of TSOC, the Federal Government announced plans to leverage the benefits of the newly formed Home Affairs Portfolio to establish a Commonwealth Transnational, Serious and Organised Crime Coordinator. The coordinator, Deputy Commissioner Karl Kent, was tasked with better integrating and unifying the country’s various TSOC enforcement efforts. Over the next six months, Kent set about developing and negotiating a national TSOC strategy.

More on this: A red flag for homicide

The new National Strategy provides a four-pillar approach to preventing, disrupting and protecting Australia against TSOC. The first pillar focuses on ‘integrating’ Australia’s available tools to disrupt criminal business models. The second pillar is concerned with building strong domestic and international ‘partnerships’. The third, strengthening national law enforcement ‘capability’. The fourth is a commitment to strategy ‘evolution’ through agility.

It’s hard to argue against the importance of all these pillars, although it’s easy to be cynical about a principle-based strategy that’s short on details and pushed out the door when the public wasn’t paying much attention.

Regardless, this is an important document, it establishes a much-needed foundation stone for agreement between Australia’s governments, the private sector, civil society organisations, academia and the community on how to work together against TSOC.

It was no doubt a tough job getting agreement from the members of the Council of Australian Governments, and many a compromise was likely made.

But, in the interest of accommodating all of the stakeholders Kent’s team may have not paid sufficient attention the lessons learnt from the implementation of similar Commonwealth law enforcement strategies like the National ‘ice’ Action Strategy 2015.

More on this: Reducing imprisonment rates in Australia

On the 6 December 2015, Australia’s National Ice Task Force released its final report to the Prime Minister. Nine days later, the National Ice Strategy 2015 was released – a strategy later modified in December 2017.

Predictably, the strategy’s four key pillars  better intelligence, improved border security and law enforcement cooperation, targeted international law enforcement capacity and capability development, and maximizing advocacy and political engagement  were straight out of the police best practice playbook.

This Ice action strategy continues to be successfully delivered but the impact on the nation’s ice problem has been negligible.

The evaluation report for phase seven of the national drugs campaign, released on 21 May 2018, states that ‘there was also little evidence for any campaign impact on attitudes to drugs at this stage’. Worse still, despite all the public discourse and demand reduction efforts, including marketing and education, ice consumption by weight has increased by 17 per cent over the last two years.

With this experience in mind, I would argue that those implementing the National Strategy to Fight Transnational, Serious and Organised Crime ought to consider three issues.

More on this: Protection from the protectors

Firstly, they need to revisit the assumption, and lexicon, that TSOC can be fought and defeated.

Arguably, while syndicates can be dismantled and supply chains disrupted, reducing the cost of TSOC is predicated on denying criminals the opportunity to commit offences. Those responsible for implementing the strategy ought to focus on applying further efforts to identifying and mitigating Australia’s vulnerabilities to TSOC.

Secondly, while the strategy uses the terms disrupt and dismantle, there is little in the way of explanation of their meaning. My personal experience is such that these words, especially for law enforcement, are simply synonyms for arrests and seizures.

While I don’t deny the importance of traditional law enforcement techniques, nor the benefits of better coordination of existing strategies, further efforts need to be made to explore new disruption or dismantling methods.

For example, 40 years ago, some 100,000 hectares of farmland in Thailand was being used to cultivate opium. By 2007, the country was declared opium-free by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. This was made possible by the Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who in 1969 established the Royal Project, which provided alternative livelihoods for those involved in growing and refining opium. The ambitious project was underpinned by rigorous research on alternative crops. The Thai government and international partners then developed critical infrastructure that gave farmers growing new crops access to markets.

Finally, in measuring the performance of the strategy, the focus must be on reducing the cost of organised crime in Australia. There can be no doubt that the arrest of criminals will resonate with the Australian public, but this is pointless if the cost of organised crime has doubled again in 2019.

Over the last 12 months, the Federal Government has made all the right moves in terms of responding to Australia’s spiralling cost of organised crime. The real challenge now is getting agreement for actual measures that bring down this cost. To do this, the office of the Commonwealth Transnational, Serious and Organised Crime Coordinator must encourage new thinking while promoting greater national and international cooperation.

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