The financial benefits of higher education

The ABS has an interesting new publication out today on the financial benefits of higher education.

ABS anlayst Hui Wei uses data from the 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001 and 2006 censuses to provide estimates of rates of return for investment in higher education. In the figure below, the rates are based on post-tax earnings of graduates compared to someone who finished their education at year 12 (say a Year 12 completer earned $800 a week and a graduate $1,200 a week – the graduate premium would be $400). The graduates are aged through the census of the stated year (eg it assumes that a 1996 graduate would at age 40 earn what a 40 year old graduate earned in 1996).

The costs are assumed to be the opportunity cost of four years out of the workforce with no earnings in that time, plus direct costs such as HECS.

Continue reading “The financial benefits of higher education”

What is a donkey vote?

In my post-election conversations and eavesdropping I have heard several people refer to informal votes as ‘donkey votes’.

In standard usage – still supported by the Macquarie Dictionary and several random Australian politics books I checked – a donkey vote is defined as the practice of numbering all candidates in the order they appear in the ballot paper, rather than according to the voter’s political preference. This is a formal vote, which will eventually go to whichever serious candidate appears first in the list of candidates. However Wikipedia is wobbling, suggesting that informal votes can also be classified as ‘donkey votes’.

In Bryan Garner’s five stages of language change, ‘donkey vote’ is at stage two or three. Several of the people I have heard use ‘donkey vote’ when they mean informal vote have university degrees.

Stage 2: The form spreads to a significant fraction of the language community but remains unacceptable in standard usage.

Stage 3: The form becomes commonplace even among many well-educated people but is still avoided in careful usage.

Continue reading “What is a donkey vote?”

Wilson Tuckey’s unexpected influence on my political life

As an inner-city, latte-sipping classical liberal you would not expect Wilson ‘Ironbar’ Tuckey, who lost his seat on Saturday, to have influenced my political life. But the somewhat embarrassing truth is that he did.

Way back in 1986, the Monash University Liberal Club, of which I was a member, rather provocatively invited Wilson Tuckey to speak on campus. The campus left were not big on freedom of speech, and decided not to let Tuckey speak. Having spent the earlier part of his career as the publican in a rough pub (the ‘Ironbar’ nickname came from some rather excessive means of ejecting unwanted customers), Tuckey was not easily intimidated. Though he could not give his talk, he refused to back down and spent his allotted time trading insults with the assorted lefties who had turned up to silence him.

When it came near to the scheduled end of the meeting, I was sent out to make sure that Tuckey’s Commonwealth car had arrived to get him off campus. Unfortunately it had not. I dashed to the car park to get my car as a back-up, knowing that the protest could be following him as he made his way to the designated pick-up point. I arrived at the pick-up point just before Tuckey did, surrounded as I feared by menacing Trots. Continue reading “Wilson Tuckey’s unexpected influence on my political life”

The hypocrisy of GetUp!

When it comes to political parties, activist group GetUp! favours strictly regulating donations. Its principles include:

* Only individuals should be allowed to donate to political parties.
* Increase transparency requirements.
* Cap individual donations at a reasonable limit [they suggest $1,000 a year]

But when it comes to donations to GetUp! things seem to be rather different, as the SMH reported yesterday:

The union movement has emerged as a key financial backer of the advocacy group GetUp!, with six unions pouring more than a million dollars into its election purse in the past three weeks alone.

GetUp! has splashed nearly $1.5 million on TV advertising since the campaign began, meaning the unions have effectively supplied two-thirds of its advertising budget.

The organisation’s director, Simon Sheikh, refused to name the six unions yesterday, saying they wanted their identities kept secret until after donor returns are filed with the Australian Electoral Commission.

So this arrangement breaches all of GetUp!’s three principles: Continue reading “The hypocrisy of GetUp!”

What now for higher education policy?

What might a hung parliament mean for higher education policy?

Even with a Liberal government, it is possible that a compulsory student amenities fee might return. A quick Google search this morning indicates that all three rural independents have supported such a fee in the past, though it may need ‘political’ funding to be quarantined (Labor’s policy specifically created a role for their comrades in the student unions). So it is possible that a revised bill that passed the new Labor-Green Senate post-1 July 2011 would also pass the House of Representatives.

If a Liberal government is formed, there are things that could be done by regulation – or lack thereof. Labor is promising a red-tape extravaganza with its so-called ‘compacts’ between the government and universities, its equity and participation funding, and an even more ill-conceived ‘performance’ funding program. All of these are based on departmental/ministerial discretion given force by legislative instruments.

The significance of these legislative instruments is that they are disallowable by either house of parliament. In the event of an equal vote the disallowance motion will be lost. So there is an asymmetry between legislation and guidelines: the government needs a majority to pass legislation, but it only needs a tie to defend its guidelines. Continue reading “What now for higher education policy?”

Spare a thought for the hacks

Terry Barnes empathises with the electorate and ministerial staff who could be out of a job by Sunday morning.

While I don’t think the punters should worry about them too much, I know what he is talking about. When I was a ministerial adviser during the 1998 election I could hardly bear to watch the election night coverage. It felt like I was being slowly sacked on live TV.

In the end the Coalition scraped back with a minority of the votes but a majority of the seats. And so then began the wait to see if my minister would get to keep the portfolio.

As Barnes says, political staffers know the risks. Most political careers end in failure – mine certainly did. While I survived the 1998 election the reform I had hoped to be involved with died in the controversy surrounding the leak of its Cabinet submission.

Two modest higher education policies

Just when I thought that neither major party was going to bother with higher education policies, both put out statements today. The Liberal statement is here; I can’t yet find Labor’s policy on its website.

Most attention seems directed at the Coalition’s decision to cut by about two-thirds the money Labor was planning to give universities according to their enrolments of low socioeconomic status students. The higher education sector is opposed to this, but I will support it. The Coalition’s policy document observes that the main problem is not the unwillingness of the higher education sector to offer places to low SES students, but that too few people from low SES backgrounds have the necessary academic preparation to go to university. The Liberals talk about their school policies as alternatives.

I have also argued that the government’s equity policy is based on an arbitrary definition of SES and assumes, contrary to the available evidence, that low SES students have much higher academic needs than other students. The program needs to be substantially reformed as well as its funding reduced.

The Coalition is also on the right track in effectively abandoning its policy to re-introduce full-fee domestic undergraduate places, accepting the criticisms made of it: Continue reading “Two modest higher education policies”

Why Labor voters in Melbourne need to vote Liberal

In the 2002 French presidential election it came down to a run-off contest between the conservative Jacques Chirac and the nationalist firebrand Jean-Marie Le Pen, after the left candidate Lionel Jospin was eliminated. Showing they had not lost their sense of humour, French leftists set up a shower outside a polling booth, to wash themselves after voting for Chirac to keep the lunatic Le Pen out of the Élysée Palace.

Labor voters in the seat of Melbourne may need to do something similar this Saturday. In what may be a first for Australian major party politics (or at least very rare), the only way Labor can guarantee itself victory in this seat is to boost the Liberal vote.

Their problem is that if the Liberals are eliminated before the Greens their preferences will run heavily against Labor. The figures on Antony Green’s website suggest that about 85% of Liberal preferences went to the Greens in 2007.

Yet if the Greens are elmininated first, Labor is headed for the kind of crushing victory over the Liberals it achieved before 2007, because Green preferences overwhelmingly flow to Labor. Continue reading “Why Labor voters in Melbourne need to vote Liberal”

Bowtell for Melbourne (or why the Greens are just too flaky for me)

Last night on ABC TV news Lindsay Tanner filled what seemed to me to be a major omission in Labor candidate for Melbourne Cath Bowtell’s campaign. He appealed directly to Liberal voters to ignore their party’s Green preferencing how-to-vote card and preference Labor instead.

All the Bowtell campaign material I have received is focused on a competition with the Greens for the ‘progressive’ vote. Even the admission that Labor is not as far left as the Greens is phrased in apologetic terms: ‘Unlike the Greens, Labor does not have the luxury of behaving like a single-issue group’ said one campaign letter I received from Bowtell.

But despite the ‘progressive’ vote focus, it is likely that Liberal voters will decide the seat of Melbourne. Indeed, for all the money the Greens spend in Melbourne, and all the buzz their campaign generates, they would have no hope whatsoever of winning the seat were it not for the Liberal how-to-vote card. On the primary vote in 2007 the Greens were actually about 600 votes behind the Liberal candidate. Only the distribution of minor party and then Liberal preferences made them serious contenders. Continue reading “Bowtell for Melbourne (or why the Greens are just too flaky for me)”

Ozblogistan News, Part Deux

Hello all, your friendly Ozblogistan Overlord here.

Last week I wrote briefly about slowness being caused by attempts to debug a comments plugin used by several Ozblogistan blogs — Brian’s Latest Comments — in the context of Larvatus Prodeo. It transpires that LP’s database of comments was too large to process without causing errors and slowdowns. During the week I worked on various modifications; these ‘work’ in that they have the correct behaviour and don’t crash, but in actual use they have proved to be unacceptably slow.

Consequently I have asked our blogs to deactivate the offending plugin for a few weeks. Our busiest, Catallaxy Files and Larvatus Prodeo, have done so, which should for now improve performance for everyone.

Why have I asked them to deactivate it for a few weeks? Because yours truly is moving to Darwin to take up a new job. I won’t have my usual computer for 3 weeks, according to the removalists. Once I am settled in I have another plan of attack to try, but until then I will not be in a position to easily fix things. Until then, enjoy the blogging.