If you had to rank the most important professions, teaching would be right up the top of the list. There is something noble about entering a profession which offers comparatively low rates for so vital a service as preparing children for a productive working life and a rounded social and intellectual life.
The teachers who most impress me are those who choose to work in the toughest public schools, where the idealised view of teaching spelled out above jars with the reality that “teaching” probably feels more like child-minding, with dysfunctional parenting and the absence of male role models in the family home leaving classrooms looking more like crèches for young adults who still act like little kids.
I was talking to a mate this week who also attended a fairly standard public school. She was saying that she can’t remember too many bad teachers from her school days, but will always remember the many excellent teachers she had. It’s an assessment which gels with my experience at a state school, where so many teachers went the extra yard, often outside of school hours, not just for kids who wanted to learn but also for those who did not.
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When Barack Obama met the Australian Cabinet on Thursday morning, Julia Gillard introduced Peter Garrett as “a former rock star”.
The president, who had obviously never heard of Midnight Oil or its bald front man, broke into a big grin.
“Most of us end up in politics because we fail to become rock stars,” he said
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There was significant attention given to Barry O’Farrell when he spoke at the National Press Club yesterday. There will be a whole lot more when Premier Kristina Keneally has her turn on Friday.
Keneally is a political item of particular fascination, and not just because she gets out of bed every morning knowing she is another day closer to getting the tripe kicked out of her government by voters.
O’Farrell is the man who will become the next Premier of the largest state in the Commonwealth. Keneally is the voluntary sacrifice needed to cleanse the Labor name of the grime collected over 16 years of government.
Calling this political year a long one is a little like Usain Bolt recenlty describing himself as “quick”.
This year’s political highlights were as extraordinary as they were painful. The language describing them is consistently one of violence: a spiked ETS policy, a Prime Minister stabbed in the back, an election on a knife edge and, finally, a hung parliament.
On the battle field that was federal politics in 2010 we had those that thrilled and those that failed. Tomorrow we’ll give our verdict on the best performers. But today, on the second last day of Parliament sitting for the year, The Punch presents, in no particular order, our most underwhelming MPs who have disappointed or just disappeared in 2010.
How are you still a Minister Peter Garrett?
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The new paradigm has begun to play mind games with our federal MPs. Yesterday nobody was quite sure what was expected of them. At times it was a little embarrassing to watch, like some awkward kid consistently dancing out of time at the Rock Eisteddfod
Manager of Opposition Business and chief prosecutor in the case of Gillard v the BER Christopher Pyne copped the worst of it. Pyne didn’t ask for a division on a vote that would have forced a judicial inquiry into the Government’s BER spending. A vote the Coalition lost. Awkward.
No matter, Pyne plans to introduce his bill into the Senate after a session with the choreographer on Thursday afternoon.
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Twelve months ago today I released a video blog warning of the dangers of the Home Insulation Program.
Back then, Peter Garrett’s office had been denying a link between his program and house fires. Astonishing to believe, given the some 200 fires we have now. It was when there had been only one tragic loss of a young installer. Three more would follow.
But by then, the avalanche of problems of safety hazards, rorting and waste were being made very clear to my office. Which is why, 12 months ago, I warned in the video: “You also have a risk of fires … Pink batts on down-lights equal fires …you have the risk of electrocution for people who aren’t trained … There are risks of further tragedies.”
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I once encountered Peter Garrett on the way to Coober Pedy.
I was shooting down the Stuart Highway, several hours through a tough, dry, apocalyptic part of central Australia, when mine shafts, mounds and machinery appeared over the horizon. My iPod, running on shuffle, picked the mood perfectly: Blue Sky Mining.
On that day, the Midnight Oil frontman was in the right place at the right time. But since he entered politics, recruited by Mark Latham, Garrett’s timing has been off. Some of his strumbles are well-known: messing up the insulation scheme, or saying in front of Steve Price that Labor would ``change it all’’ if it won power. His responsibilities were first reduced in 2007, when Kevin Rudd handed responsibility for climate change to Penny Wong, a shrinkage later repeated when Greg Combet was asked to fix insulation. Now he’s lost arts too.
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Deaths, house fires and safety concerns have seen the Rudd/Gillard Government and Peter Garrett take plenty of heat over the disastrous Home Insulation Program, but three damning reports released last week reveal the failed $300 million Green Loans program was mismanaged on a similar scale.
The aforementioned deaths and house fires have understandably commanded more attention, but the scope of maladministration highlighted last week show that Peter Garrett has just as much to answer for over Green Loans and seriously calls into question the capacity of this Government to deliver whatever its latest climate change policies might entail.
Of key concern is that the report of the Faulkner inquiry (conducted by former Victorian Department of Human Services secretary Patricia Faulkner) identified 149 breaches or issues with Government procurement and contracting guidelines and legislation, including deliberate and systemic breaches with allegations of kickbacks to departmental staff.
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Peter Garrett’s demotion by Kevin Rudd this afternoon has all the hallmarks of a sacking - it is humiliating, it is based on poor performance, and it leaves him with virtually no power in his narrowly-defined portfolio.
But it isn’t a sacking, because Kevin Rudd does not want to give the Opposition the satisfaction of claiming a ministerial scalp, with all the political momentum such a blow would generate.
Sneakily announced late on a Friday to avoid mass media scrutiny throughout a full week, and with the Parliament not sitting next week, Kevin Rudd said his decision to limit Garrett’s responsibilities followed a long conversation with his besieged Environment Minister today.
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It was so simple for the Opposition. Keep hammering Peter Garrett on the details of when exactly he saw Minter Ellison warnings about the risks associated with the Government’s home insulation scheme.
If they didn’t get his scalp, they would at least have a strong message about Ministerial incompetence in the Rudd Government for the Federal Election campaign.
Then this morning Liberal Senator Simon Birmingham jumped the shark.
Peter Garrett has not been sacked as Environment Minister – and you can bet your possibly electrified house on the fact that he will not be sacked by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.
If anything was going to tip Garrett over the edge it was the revelation that a risk assessment report was prepared in April last year by respected law firm Minter Ellison but that – remarkably – the minister only read it 11 days ago.
But after holding the line during Question Time, with the Opposition moving a predictable but justified censure motion calling for his head, Garrett is emphatic that he doesn’t need to go, and Rudd insistent that he won’t go.
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How long can Peter Garrett last? He’s probably rather be at the dentist getting teeth removed with no anaesthetic than go to Question Time today. Join us here from 2pm as we cover it live.
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I have a confession to make. I have a soft spot for the Australian Workers Union.
Before anyone gets too excited, let me explain. My great, great aunt was Dame Mary Gilmore, the first female member of the AWU. Dame Mary was one of Australia’s greatest ever poets who now graces our ten dollar note.
Dame Mary edited the women’s page of the Australian Worker before heading off to South America in 1900 to be part of William Lane’s ‘New Australia’ commune in Paraguay.
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GONE are the days of burning the Midnight Oil and singing about the dangers of environmental degradation.
Peter Garrett is beginning to learn it’s not easy being green when you are in Government.
After originally singing the praises of his $2.5 billion insulation program, the Environment Minister is now at risk of finding himself in the political wilderness over the accident-prone rebate scheme which he unceremoniously dumped on Friday.
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A couple of weeks after Peter Garrett won the seat of Kingsford Smith in the 2004 Federal Election he was taking a dip a Maroubra Beach when all of a sudden he turned grey and collapsed on the sand.
The very healthy then 51-year-old could not stand up, and told lifeguards he felt dizzy and didn’t know what had happened. “He looked really confused and quite distressed,” said lifeguard Paul Julian.
Later at Prince of Wales Hospital Garrett was cleared of anything other than a fainting spell. It’s generally not the sort of thing that happens to people who are 100 per cent thrilled and confident about the major life change they’ve just made.
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Whatever happened to the grand promoter of the great big ETS tax – Prime Minister Rudd? Channel 9 said it cost $1.4 million to take 68 people to Copenhagen.
What was the cost of the remainder of the 114 that actually went?
Up to Copenhagen the great tax advocates were Mr Rudd and Senator Wong who have suddenly gone very quiet and given all the running to junior Minister Peter Garrett.
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THE evaporation of Queensland Premier Anna Bligh’s hopes of building the Traveston Dam could end up being her Waterloo.
But last week’s intervention by Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett to scuttle the controversial $1.6 billion dam planned for the Mary Valley, north of Brisbane, citing ecological concerns, also has wider political and planning implications across Australia.
Unlike the protests against Tasmania’s Franklin River dam project in the 1980s where generating hydro-electricity was the primary motive, the Traveston is a portent of battles likely to be waged around the country involving choices between protecting the environment and supplying drinking water to keep pace with urban growth.
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Malcolm Turnbull’s presentation on his plan B for an emissions trading scheme got a “gratifying grunt of approval” from his party room this morning - which is really the best he could have hoped for.
In fact he’s lucky the meeting did not get a lot worse than Wilson Tuckey’s outburst, he was angrily railing against any ETS whatsoever according to Coalition sources.
While on the one hand the Coalition has released the Frontier Economics report as plan B to the Government’s ETS legislation it is failing to commit to the plan as part of its own alternative. The Coalition is just setting itself up for a savaging of the kind it received from the Government in question time today.
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OK, so I know the drill is that we’re meant to dust off our LPs and find the angriest Midnight Oil lyric about uranium mining or nuclear war, present it as a damning tearsheet, and then use a photograph such as the one below - taken at the Sydney protests against French nuclear tests in the Pacific in 1995 - to declare that Environment Minister Peter Garrett is the mother of all hypocrites.
It was certainly the position Malcolm Turnbull took last night after Garrett signed off on the Four Mile Uranium Mine in South Australia. Turnbull might be our alternative, conservative prime minister but he sounded for all the world like some campus Trotskyist as he led the sell-out charge against the former Oils frontman.
“What this approval just shows today is that Mr Garrett is as big a phoney as the Prime Minister,” Turnbull said, happily side-stepping the fact that, in endorsing Australia’s fifth uranium mine, Garrett has done the exact thing the Liberal Party has been urging him to do.
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THE best thing about the mooted ban on climbing Uluru is that it gives slightly overweight, middle-aged white people who enjoy the occasional cigarette the perfect vehicle to forgo taxing exercise on the pretence of respect for indigenous heritage.
The worst thing about it is that it seems to be a bit of pre-ordained, politically correct posturing that will add to the nation’s ever-expanding collection of hollow symbolic gestures that do nothing to increase white Australia’s respect for, or understanding of, our Aboriginal history, and may actually work against it.
I have never climbed the rock and probably wouldn’t _ not just because I’m kind of lazy and would rather do the bus tour, sit down in front of the rock for a while, and get back for beers at sunset at the Yulara resort _ but also because it clearly distresses some Aboriginal people. It just seems kind of rude.
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I once fulfilled my sole annual Mass attendance at Notre Dame in Paris, which is a pretty good place for bad Catholics to pretend they are actually quite holy for an hour.
Settled into my spot on the pew I started practicing my “mmmm, I understand” face, in preparation for a service entirely in French, from which I was sure to catch about three words.
Then in swarmed the busload from Malibu, with their large bottoms snuggly encased in khaki shorts, his-and-hers T-shirts, and enough happy snappy cameras to document a World War.
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