Monthly Archives: March 2019

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Schools face burdens irrespective of Gonski deal

Schools would face rigorous reporting burdens about their plans to improve performance even if Victoria refuses to join the Commonwealth’s education reforms.

The paperwork regime was revealed on Tuesday when the federal government published legal changes to deliver its landmark Gonski reforms.

The federal government wants to pass its education legislation before Parliament rises this month, but has so far only struck deals with NSW and the ACT.

The bill passed the lower house on Wednesday morning, with the opposition’s education spokesman Christopher Pyne accusing the government of trying to “ram” the changes through and “gag” debate.

An incensed Mr Pyne also argued that Parliament was being asked to pass a bill where there was no national agreement – as only 2 out of 8 jurisdictions had signed up to the funding reforms.

“The minister is claiming there is a national agreement to introduce a new funding model. There is a not,” he said.

Under the changes, schools would have to meet goals even if the Victorian and federal governments fail to reach an agreement.

These goals include better teaching and learning, greater power for school principals and for Australia to reach the top five performing countries in reading, maths and science by 2025.

State Education Minister Martin Dixon said he was concerned about federal interference.

”Victoria is concerned about the level of prescription and intervention proposed by the federal government with regards to all Victorian schools,” he said.

Brighton Secondary College principal Julie Podbury said state schools already wrote plans for improvement.

”Every Victorian government school has a plan or are reviewing their current plan and are preparing to write the next one,” she said.

But state schools urgently needed more funding, Ms Podbury said. ”Every government school is struggling financially. We do need more funding.”

The Prime Minister has placed education at the centre of her election-year agenda, saying the Gonski reforms would deliver an extra $14.5 billion in combined federal and state funding across the nation over six years.

States that refuse to sign on to the reforms would have an extension of the existing funding system, but lose targeted national partnership funding when those programs expired. To gain any federal funding these states would have to sign a modified education agreement, including a requirement for schools to publish annual improvement plans.

Ms Gillard has set a June 30 deadline to finalise agreements with other states, but the legislation does not lock in this date. Instead, the bill would allow further deals to be struck before the 2014 school year or even later.

The education reforms could also trigger an influx of appeals as schools take advantage of new powers to challenge their entitlements.

Planned legal changes revealed by the federal government on Tuesday create a more extensive process for education authorities to appeal decisions, including funding.

The government has received only 19 applications over the past four years to adjust schools’ socio-economic status rating, but officials expect an increase in appeals under the new system.

The executive director of the Association of Independent Schools of NSW, Geoff Newcombe, said more schools were likely to use the Administrative Appeals Tribunal process to challenge their funding.

”The data is so rubbery. We’re going to do a quality assurance on the data with the government to try and fix where it’s obviously incorrect,” he said.

With Judith Ireland, Amy McNeilage

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Sydney Airport congestion problems set to continue

A long way to go: Congestion problems around Sydney Airport will likely continue despite plans to ease problems. Photo: Brendan EspositoSydney Airport boss Kerrie Mather has been true to her word.

For months, she has been telling all and sundry to expect an “evolution rather than a revolution”.

She was, of course, referring to her grand plans to develop the country’s least-loved airport over the next 20 years.

The need to spell out those plans is a legal requirement. Every five years, the airport has to release its development plans for the next two decades.

The latest incarnation of those released on Wednesday include for the first time a plan to try to tackle what is quickly becoming the bane of any traveller’s experience of Kingsford-Smith – a car trip there to catch a flight.

Mather’s plan is a step in the right direction: a new ring road around the two domestic terminals – T2 and T3 – within the next five years, and a new thoroughfare to the international terminal.

The privately owned airport is also pushing for better use of trains and buses. And at long last, it plans a public bus facility at T2 and T3.

A central part of Mather’s plan to free up the roads is to break the divide between what are now the domestic and international terminals.

By making the three passenger terminals suitable for domestic and international flights, Mather reckons it will reduce unnecessary trips to the other side of the airport via Airport Drive to catch a connecting flight.

But the question is whether it will all go far enough to reduce road congestion?

If history is any guide, the answer is probably not.Importantly, the airport also requires buy in from the airlines to get its plans off the ground any time soon.

Firstly, Qantas has to agree to sell back the leases on T3 and its jet base well before they expire in 2019 to free up land for terminal expansions.

Then there’s the question of which terminals the airlines will use.

Virgin Australia has made it well known that it has no intention of shifting its entire operations to what is now the international terminal. It believes such a move would put it at a huge disadvantage to its arch rival.

In all of this, it is important to remember the underlying politics. The plans are aimed at convincing us that Sydney Airport is capable of handling surging demand for air travel for decades to come, and to delay as long as possible the push for another airport which would break the incumbent’s monopoly.

On the former, the verdict was in last year when a joint federal-state study declared that the existing airport would be full by 2027.

Of course, Sydney is not alone.

Congestion at airports is a growing problem around the world, particularly in Europe. At an airline conference in Cape Town this week, executives took aim at their pet target: London’s Heathrow Airport.

Even Dubai Airport – the home of Qantas alliance partner Emirates – is quickly hitting its limits.

But that knowledge will be cold comfort to Sydneysiders hoping for a revolution.

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Qantas, Emirates seek to close frequent flyers loophole

Qantas and Emirates are working behind the scenes to close a loophole in their alliance which allows frequent flyers to avoid paying as much as $610 in fuel surcharges on international flights.

Executives from the two airlines have been in ongoing talks about resolving the large discrepancy in their fuel surcharges, and a decision is expected within the next few months.

Fairfax Media revealed recently that resolving the discrepancy between the airlines’ surcharges has been high on the agenda of upcoming talks between their respective management teams.

Travellers wanting to fly economy from Australia to London return have been able to escape paying $610 in fuel surcharges by redeeming their frequent-flyer points on an Emirates flight rather than Qantas. They can also pay $290 less for a return economy with Emirates to an Asian destination.

Emirates president Tim Clark said he did not like discrepancies between the products and charges of partner airlines.

“We must deal with it as we need to deal with it,” he said on Tuesday on the sidelines of a meeting of airlineexecutives in Cape Town.

“I don’t like discrepancies. [Resolving the difference in fuel surcharges]  will take a bit of time and we are still working on it.”

Qantas International chief executive Simon Hickey said the airline was working with Emirates on “an ongoing basis about what we should do in relation to alignment”.

“We don’t need to align at every level but we are talking about what we should and shouldn’t align,” he said.

The airlines would not detail what a likely outcome would be.

The most likely resolution would be for Qantas to lower its surcharges to better match Emirates . But that would mean Qantas would take a hit to its revenue. Conversely, an increase in charges by Emirates is likely to spark a consumer backlash from consumers.

The reporter travelled to Cape Town courtesy of the International Air Transport Association.

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Bolt ready to kickstart Euro season in Rome

Six-time Olympic champion Usain Bolt says he is ready to put his injury woes behind him when he lines up at the Rome Golden Gala for his first appearance of the year in Europe on Thursday.

Bolt’s start to the season has been hampered by hamstring problems and, a month ago, American rival Justin Gatlin posted an impressive time of 9.97 seconds in the 100 metres at the opening Diamond League event of the season in Doha.

Meanwhile, Bolt was clocking a comparatively mediocre time of 10.09 seconds for the event at the Cayman Invitational, way behind his world record time of 9.58.

But, ahead of his European debut at Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, the 26-year-old Jamaican said he is now up to competition speed.

“I’m feeling great, (I’ve) been doing a lot of work, working on my speed and endurance for the past couple of weeks,” Bolt told reporters in Rome on Tuesday.

“I’ve done a few starts, so everything is coming together.”

He added: “I’m happy with where I’m at, the coach is happy, I’m in good shape so I’m just looking forward to going out there and competing at my best.”

The Rome Golden Gala is the fifth meet in the 14-leg Diamond League season, at the conclusion of which the athletes (men and women) with the highest number of accumulated points wins The Diamond Race.

Bolt won last year’s Diamond Race for the 100 metres, but having “achieved all my dreams” he is now looking at stretching his impressive list of records at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

At the London Games in 2012, Bolt became the first man in history to successfully defend 100 metres and 200 metres titles and then added a sixth Olympic gold by helping Jamaica defend their 4×100 metres title.

Although evasive when asked how far he could take his world record, saying: “I never put a limit on anything. For me anything is possible”, Bolt already has one eye on the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games.

Having flirted with converting to other sports, from soccer to cricket, Bolt hinted that he could end his athletics career after the next Games.

“(I will have) four more years, personally, in the sport, so now it’s all about dominating for those four years,” he added.

“I’m looking forward to the next Olympics, to do something that has never been done before. For the next four years I will try to dominate the sport and show people it’s possible to go year-in year-out being the best.”


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In the balance

Laying a foundation … Permaculture Exchange co-founder Nick Huggins has 100 isa brown chickens for egg production.A Permaculture Exchange course at the Australian National Botanic Gardens over a weekend in May drew an eclectic group of participants.

A woman from Tuggeranong had cleared out her garden to prepare for permaculture-based holistic growing. A couple from Fadden was keen on permaculture for the way it fosters a sense of community. And an arts worker wanted to join a community garden.

Nick Huggins led the course. He studied horticulture and landscape design on the Gold Coast where he worked for 12 years before moving to Tarago two years ago, where he bought 41 hectares.

With Colin McLean of Braidwood, he founded Permaculture Exchange last year to run courses on the subject. McLean says permaculture provides a design tool and techniques that lead to happiness and life balance.

The pair runs courses in Goulburn, Braidwood, Cooma, Wagga and Canberra, and offers a permaculture design certificate course over six weekends from June 8 at Lanyon (

On his Tarago farm, between Bungendore and Goulburn, Huggins’s garden is built on the contours, where ”keyline” beds harvest water from the landscape for the gardens below. He showed an image of a dead kangaroo on his property, the flesh of which had been eaten and stripped clean by soldier fly larvae. He fed the soldier fly larvae to his cows.

Huggins keeps 100 isa brown chickens for eggs, has introduced turkeys, and grazes angus and murray grey cattle. A local with a food stall at Lake Bathurst sells the eggs and cares for the chooks while Huggins travels.

At Lanyon, he will supply potatoes, onions, garlic, eggs, milk and apples to the cafe to use in meals for course participants. He will use the vegetable garden and orchard at Lanyon to teach participants who move to a working farm how to start a micro enterprise.

At the Botanic Gardens course, participants ate cakes made by a Wamboin resident who used local milk, eggs and fruits, and there were jars of spicy tomato pickle for sale made from 60 kilograms of green tomatoes grown by Nick Huggins and turned into preserves by Robyn Carroll, of Canberra. They were given a copy of Bill Mollison’s book Introduction to Permaculture, and a quote of Mollison’s made everyone laugh: ”That’s not a slug problem but a duck deficiency.”

Susan Parsons is a Canberra writer.

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