Universities are not a threat
Professor John Hewson’s article (“The dumb country”, October 23-29) is a timely reminder of the problems facing our universities, and the flow-on effects for future generations. Universities have done what successive governments have wanted, that is, increased the number of international students to fund growth and cross-subsidise research. However, there have been counterproductive side effects, including disproportionate growth in university administration and management, increasing separation of teaching and research (aiming to gain efficiencies in each, but at the expense of both), and casualisation of the academic workforce – all of which stifle critical thinking and innovation in staff and students. The loss of many experienced academics through redundancies forced on universities during the pandemic will hinder the recovery of an already ailing tertiary sector. Australians and the governments they elect largely see education as a cost, if not a threat, rather than an investment in the future. We could learn much from the success of Scandinavian countries where the reverse is true, and free education helps compensate current trends in intergenerational wealth transfer.
– Graham Town, Denistone West, NSW
Morrison has a point
John Hewson is correct when he states that the Morrison government has missed the opportunity to reform the higher education sector, but then again so has every government over the past two or more decades. However, Hewson is not on point when he criticises Scott Morrison’s attitude that universities are, “fat and ugly – that they spend excessively and wastefully and are poorly administrated”. As much as it grieves me, I have to agree with the prime minister. Universities are replete with too many academic and non-academic executives holding down industry-scale salaries who contribute very little to the primary business of universities, that of teaching. Notwithstanding this, Dr Hewson is on point when he cites authority for the oversupply of universities in Australia and the misguided research policies that do not focus on fundamental research that often leads to impact and potential commercialisation. As for your lament, Professor Hewson, that the PM fears “radicals and activists” – all evidence is to the contrary. If I am wrong, then why has there not been an education revolution in higher education led from the sector?
– David Spencer, Balwyn, Vic
The Liberals’ poor grasp of reality
The response to the comments by Pru Goward (“The Week”, October 23-29) is as declared by Mike Baird when describing his reaction to a secret relationship between former premier Gladys Berejiklian and Daryl Maguire – “incredulous”. For the benefit of Ms Goward, our family experience of being poor was because of a decision by the Menzies government in November 1960 to sharply increase sales taxes and impose severe restrictions on credit. The family business in the Victoria Market in Melbourne was lost. My father worked a 14-hour day to try to prevent this and sold the family car but had to join the unemployed, which doubled from December 1960 to December 1961. Ms Goward got one thing right in describing poor people as “often damaged”, as my father was emotionally and physically damaged for years. But Ms Goward was horribly wrong in saying the poor are “almost entirely lacking in discipline”. My mother and family worked long hours in later life to regain financial security. And so, 61 years on, that a former Liberal Family and Community Services minister can pen such disgraceful comments says a lot about a Liberal government that today begrudgingly gives a poverty handout to the unemployed that masquerades as a benefit.
– Daryl Regan, Eden Hills, SA
Caught wanting on global stage
As pointed out in Mike Seccombe’s article “Target practice” (October 23-29), initiatives to curb emissions, particularly in electricity generation, transport and heating of premises need to be progressed with greater urgency. Unfortunately there is no clear plan or policy detail addressing these core issues by the Morrison government, despite their claims to the contrary. Their lack of a responsible 2030 carbon-reduction target will likely be unanimously rejected at the Glasgow summit. That would be hugely embarrassing for Australia and destroy any credibility Morrison has as a leader.
– Mike Anderson, Holt, ACT
Sportswashing and Saudi Arabia
Martin McKenzie-Murray’s alarming article about Newcastle United selling its soul for Arabian petrodollars (“Free kick for tyrants”, October 23-29) reminded me of an apposite quote from legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankley: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”
– David Clarke, Battery Point, Tas
Artswashing by mining companies
Is the sale of soccer clubs to Saudi Arabian companies any different to Australian arts – Perth Festival, Western Australian Symphony Orchestra et cetera – being sponsored by Chevron and Woodside, global fossil fuel mining corporations currently murdering the planet?
– Eileen Whitehead, Queens Park, WA
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This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on October 30, 2021.
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