Extraction Industry Olympiad

When it comes to extraction industries, Australia is world class. From mining, to energy to rent, Australians punch above their weight.

In the domestic competition, in the rent extractions division, there is a real battle going on this year. Whichever group wins the 2017 Australian Rent Seekers Gold Medal, will definitely be deserving. The competition this year has been particularly tough. But this year, the competition has also gotten rough.

Where once the rent seeker would plead their case directly with the government using the magic words of fairness, investment and social justice, given the increasing political difficulty of bilking citizens with more and more taxes, the rent seekers are now making starting to make a case that their tax dollar grab is more virtuous than the other rent seeker’s grab.

This year’s finalists are the usual who’s who of Australian rent seeking:

  • the medical industrial complex represented by the AMA and the Pharmacy Guild;
  • the association of mendicant states with perennial contenders South Australia and Tasmania;
  • the hot air coalition which brings together wind and solar energy generators; and
  • the education social investment warriors, with the education unions, the childcare sector and the universities seeking to clip everyone’s tax dollar.

The competition has been tight, notwithstanding that these bodies are congenitally anti-competition, but one rent seeker has surged ahead. Perhaps with the Queen’s birthday honours coming, there is a hope that an award for Services in Efficient and Egregious Tax Dollar Extraction might be on offer.

Drum roll please ……

Dr Michael Spence AC, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of Sydney, please step up to the podium.

It is possible that Dr Spence has not been following the news because he received his AC in 2017 for leadership of the tertiary education sector, to the advancement of equitable access to educational opportunities, to developing strategic programs focused on multidisciplinary research, and to the Anglican Church of Australia. Does not Dr Spence AC realize that Australian Knighthoods are not currently available.

Anyway … writing for the Australian this week, Dr Spence, for a doctor he is, seeks
to make his case against the Commonwealth Government’s plan to take:

$2.8 billion in public funding from Australia’s universities during the next four years.

I have not read the specific proposal in the budget papers, but let us accept at face value that this assertion is correct.

Using the standards from the Rend Seekers Playbook, Dr Spence has suggested that any decline in tax payer generosity to the University Sector will wash directly and entirely into increased fees for students.

God forbid any of the funding impact be borne by the folk employed by the Universities, including a possible trimming of Dr Spence’s own $1.4 million annual salary – which has increased by more than 60% since 2010. You’d think Dr Spence worked for Australia Post or NBN for those kinds of dollars. How can it be that while university funding has supposedly declined, his salary has increased by an average of 10% per annum? The judges awarded bonus points for this.

It is also apparently and completely unacceptable that staff receive less than their current 17% superannuation when the rest of us Pay As You Go slobs receive 9.25%.  Or perhaps the 5 months of fully paid maternity leave.

And then there is of course the perpetually increasing ratio of academics and administrators to students. This is what is called anti-productivity; delivering less for more.  A strategy apparently borrowed from the schools sector. But when it comes to rent seeking, it is clear that mirrors are for others.

Dr Spence also suggests that:

Since the early 1990s, 3.5 million Australian jobs have been created in fields that require high-level qualifications and skills.

One wonders whether Dr Spence considers that qualifications in gender studies or sanskrit will contribute towards those high-level qualifications and skills?

Dr Spence also says that:

Australia’s future prosperity depends on our ability to strengthen our entire education system, from childcare, through schools and the vocational education and training sector, to our universities.

Way to put a word in for your rent seeking comrades, but perhaps, being the academic he is, Dr Spence might explain the correlation between ever increasing government funding and strengthening our entire education system.

Dr Spence closes his article with this:

Anyone who wants Australia to remain prosperous should consider closely what the government’s higher education reforms will mean for themselves, their families and friends.

On this, he seems absolutely correct.  We should consider closely what the government’s higher education reforms will mean.  Perhaps, like they just did with the banks, the Government should start with a prior vetting of senior university management and directors immediately followed by a Royal Commission into the spending and management of the tertiary education sector.

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26 Responses to Extraction Industry Olympiad

  1. Empire GTHO Phase III

    Sorry Sparty, nobody comes close to the ACTU and their constituent members.

    Wage fixing is the biggest rent con of all.

  2. Paul

    Fine work there Sparticus.

  3. Bruce of Newcastle

    Dr Spence is a worthy recipient. I am sad how my alma mater has turned into a green-left pesthole.

    But Spartacus how could you have missed one of the worthiest of rent-seeking finalists?
    A yummy $6.2 billion worth of rent seeking: ScoMo the Vampire Neck-Sucker.

    The bank never-to-be-called-a-tax levy is a most sanguinistic candidate in its best O-positive meaning. At very least Morro, Son of Dracula, should’ve received an honourable mention.

  4. chrisl

    WE ARE A NATION OF TICKET CLIPPERS!
    (Did that sound shouty?)

  5. Sinclair Davidson

    Or perhaps the 5 months of fully paid maternity leave.

    That’s a vicious lie – just typical of the anti-intellectual tone of the place.

    It’s six months paid leave.

    🙂

  6. H B Bear

    To quote Judith Please. $1.4m a year wouldn’t even keep Chrissy Pyne, ASC and Mainland Tasmania in paperclips and Commcars.

  7. Sinclair Davidson

    Overall it was a rubbish article – I couldn’t work out the relevance of the potato reference in the opening paragraph. Unless he wanted to argue it was all “small potatoes”.

    I was also particularly surprised to read that Australian students pay some of the highest uni fees in the world. I suspect North American students would love to pay our high fees.

  8. Chris

    I had a very satisfying slash at the University Sector in the Oz comment section over this.
    Seeing he is USYD I considered applying the famous David Stove comment about the ‘active disaster like an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in cattle, or a leaky nuclear reactor’ but I have already used it too often.

  9. Dr Fred Lenin

    I would love to be in charge of a budget trimming group wit the power to close down fundung instantly ,freeze bank acvounts and investigate waste . If you are found to have wasted public money you refung=d out off your entitilements and family assets .

  10. mundi

    Why don’t universities fall under that government policy of 2% PA max pay rises, and minimum award benefits? Everyone in NBN co, Aus Post, ABC , all of govenrment fall under it, but somehow the uni’s are exempt?

  11. Chris

    I would love to be in charge of a budget trimming group wit the power to close down fundung instantly ,freeze bank acvounts and investigate waste . If you are found to have wasted public money you refung=d out off your entitilements and family assets .

    Remember that point of professional liability – if someone acts in dependence on your advice, you may be subject to professional liability for their losses if it goes tits-up.
    I want to do that for those who advised Governments that dams would not fill and rain would not fall.

  12. Sinclair Davidson

    Why don’t universities fall under that government policy of 2% PA max pay rises, and minimum award benefits?

    Because contrary to popular belief universities are not government agencies.

  13. a Fred Leninism:
    ” refung=d ”
    Hope it’s not as painful as it looks.

    What am I saying?!
    I hope it is!
    🙂

  14. BrettW

    Perhaps somebody in the Uni sector can confirm the situation regarding PhD’s.

    I know somebody who claimed he was paid (or was it a grant ?) $30,000 per year for 3 years to complete his 2nd PhD. Is it correct that such funding is provided ? I wont mention his subject for the PhD but not one worthy of spending $90,000. Other than boosting his CV what is the gain to the system ?

    Would the bee PhD lady have received such money and what about the leftie journalist who is doing one about herself ?

    How many PhD’s are completed each year and at what cost ?

  15. Qley

    Because contrary to popular belief universities are not government agencies.

    All the pros and none of the very few cons

  16. RobK

    Don’t the university types also get generous long service / sabbatical leave?

  17. Sinclair Davidson

    Don’t the university types also get generous long service / sabbatical leave?

    It varies from institution to institution. For example, I have the same long service entitlement as does the general community. There is no sabbatical leave.

  18. .

    BrettW
    #2397627, posted on June 1, 2017 at 7:22 pm
    Perhaps somebody in the Uni sector can confirm the situation regarding PhD’s.

    This is probably some of the best spent money in the entire sector and you’re having a whinge about the pittance wages of Ph D candidates. Jesus.

    If you want a good target, try general inefficiency or ARC grants.

  19. I am Spartacus

    Sparty refers to the USyd Enterprise agreement. Very generous LSL IMO. You’d think they were members of parliament or something.

    Leave entitlement
    194 Staff (other than Casual Staff) are entitled to paid long service leave as follows:
    (a) three months’ leave on full pay or six months’ leave on half pay after ten years’ continuous full-time
    service*;
    (b) a further nine calendar days’ leave on full pay or 18 calendar days’ leave on half pay, accruing
    proportionately, for each subsequent year of continuous full-time service* up to 15 years’ service; and
    (c) a further two months and 15 calendar days on full pay or five months leave on half pay, accruing
    proportionately, for each subsequent period of five years continuous full-time service* in excess of 15
    years’ service.

  20. I am Spartacus

    I have not looked carefully, so am not sure if there is a helicopter allowance to travel between lectures or a bring your family on your international research trip because you work more than 3.75 km from the campus (as the crow flies).

  21. Pyrmonter

    Mostly fair, but …. this routine caviling with academic doctorates is tawdry. How many Cats have DPhils? Spence is a heavy-weight intellectual property academic, not some jumped up CAE bureaucrat.

  22. Jobsy

    Ned,
    Got a link for the list of departments?

  23. Ad Nausium

    “Universities are not public agencies” says Sinclair Davidson.
    I think it would be more transparent to say student courses are “loans” which indirectly find their way into the pockets of university staff.
    Sinclair, a few bigger cherries please!

  24. BrettW

    Dot,
    Unfortunately I am aware of the subject and if $90,000 was paid it was a waste of money for the rest of us and served nothing more than to boost his CV. I guess you think the Bees PhD was good value as well.
    .
    #2397658, posted on June 1, 2017 at 7:51 pm
    BrettW
    #2397627, posted on June 1, 2017 at 7:22 pm
    Perhaps somebody in the Uni sector can confirm the situation regarding PhD’s.

    This is probably some of the best spent money in the entire sector and you’re having a whinge about the pittance wages of Ph D candidates. Jesus.

  25. .

    You are indeed unaware. Look at the ARC grants Clive Hamilton etc get.

    There is always going to be a university somewhere that gives out Ph Ds in surfing and so on. There is nothing you can do about it until you accept privatisation as a solution.

    The Ph D research is meant to be 35 hours a week as a job. The 20k a year is your pathetic salary.

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