Ideas@TheCentre – The Centre for Independent Studies


Ideas@TheCentre brings you ammunition for conversations around the table.  3 short articles from CIS researchers emailed every Friday on the issues of the week.

Tax cuts on the nose: Millennials

Charles Jacobs

22 June 2018 | Ideas@TheCentre

As the tax cuts were passed in Parliament, new CIS research suggests that they may not have the backing of one of Australia’s largest group of voters. Indeed, in new polling we have commissioned from You Gov Galaxy, it appears that Millennials – now one third of the electorate – might not believe that income tax cuts are the best idea.

While also revealing that 58% of Millennials have a favourable view of socialism, the polls showed that 59% of the generation backed more government intervention in the economy. Another 56% were of the opinion that, allowing for inflation, Australia spends less on health and education than 10 years ago – a view that is indisputably incorrect.

These findings form part a greater narrative that has emerged over the last 20 years, as issues like house prices and low wage growth drive young voters towards the belief that more government is the answer.

Since the late 1990s, when Millennials first became politically active, Australian voters’ support for increased government spending has surged.

In 1996 only 18% of the overall electorate believed the government should be spending more on social services. By 2016, the first election where all Millennials were of voting age, 55% of voters favoured an increase in spending. The correlation between the rising number of Millennial voters and the growing support for big government is uncanny.

Conversely, the percentage of voters favouring less tax has plummeted. From an all-time high of 66% in the late 1980s, the numbers backing a cut in tax fell to just 36% at the 2016 Federal election. This trend was re-enforced in May, when only 37% of voters in an Ipsos poll backed Treasurer Scott Morrison’s proposed cuts. Nearly 60% thought the government should be using revenue to pay off debt.

The existence of this sentiment amongst such a large percentage of voters could leave a murky future ahead for future tax reform. Big government and a reduction in income tax are simply incompatible. With a significant number of voters leaning towards the former, it is not a surprise that the government has found it difficult to build support for the latter.

What Gonski 2 got wrong

Blaise Joseph

22 June 2018 | Ideas@TheCentre

The sequel is generally worse than the original movie. The same could be said of the ‘Gonski 2’ review into Australian schools.

Despite a one-year process, hundreds of submissions, and a cost to the taxpayer of at least $700,000 (not including the eight-person government secretariat), the review came up with wide-sweeping, general recommendations that don’t offer useful guidance for the school system.

As we outline in a policy paper released this week, the review also failed to fulfill its terms of reference to examine the evidence regarding the most effective teaching and learning strategies, and to provide advice on how the extra $24.5 billion of taxpayer money for schools over the next 10 years should be used. There is practically no discussion of the cost-effectiveness of the recommendations.

And the review’s most significant recommendations face substantial implementation challenges and aren’t supported by rigorous evidence.

A key focus of the review is growth in learning — recommending a new online continuous assessment tool — as opposed to an age-based or year-based curriculum. This seems impractical, and many teachers have expressed concerns about the teacher time involved in frequent individual student assessment.

In addition, there is no evidence that such an assessment tool would have a positive impact on student achievement. The idea of creating ‘learning progressions’ for the entire curriculum has no support in academic literature. And there is no evidence supporting the implementation of such a broad-ranging assessment tool — the report offers no examples to show that such an expensive and time-intensive reform would be effective. If implemented nationally, it would be a lengthy and costly experiment, with Australian teachers and students as the guinea pigs.

If this recommendation is to be adopted, it should proceed only after a careful trial of the online assessment system in a sample of schools, to determine the efficacy of the approach and lessons for implementation.

Almost as problematic is the report’s recommendation to establish a national education evidence institute (which now has bi-partisan support at the federal level). In theory, a new body like this has merit. But there are obvious risks — like becoming politicised and being too focussed on pleasing stakeholders — that aren’t adequately addressed by the review.

If such a body is to be established, then it should have high standards of evidence and commission outside experts to conduct evidence reviews on important topics in their fields, similar to medical research institutes.

The Gonski 2 recommendations should be approached with great caution. They are potentially expensive and disruptive to the work of teachers and the lives of students, and have little or no evidence basis — a recipe for educational disaster.

Don’t let absurd theatre of identity politics divide us

Jeremy Sammut

22 June 2018 | Ideas@TheCentre

The controversial University of Melbourne dance performance, Where We Stand, is an insight into kind of divided society we will become if identity politics is allowed to split the nation up into competing racial tribes.

By seeking to remind us that non-whites have been excluded from society and history, the political message being sent is that Australia remains a racist country in which racial privilege and prejudice determine outcomes in life.

What this really shows is how the kind of identity politics our politically-correct schools and universities incessantly preach to young Australians, creates fabrications that belie the diverse and tolerant society Australia is today.

There has never been less racism, despite the grievance-mongering claims made by Where We Stand — which epitomises the way identity politics misrepresents our history of successfully eradicating the racism that once blighted Australian society.  

A century ago, Australia was certainly a country in which race determined destiny.  Racial prejudices were so ingrained that the makers of the White Australia Policy felt that excluding non-whites was the only way to create an egalitarian nation.

The success of our non-discriminatory immigration program, and the transformation of Australia into one of the most harmonious multi-racial nations in the world, has only been possible because the old prejudices have been overcome and replaced by the willingness of the vast majority of Australians to extend the ‘fair go’ to all comers; regardless of racial background.

Absurd as it is, we should not downplay the threat identity politics poses to social harmony. The claim that the persistence of white privilege justifies special rights and status for certain racial groups, is a recipe for generating a backlash from those accused of holding privileges and prejudices they do not.

The best way to ensure that new age racism does not divide us is to simply tell the truth about our history and about the great changes that have occurred in Australian attitudes to race.