“Private schools say Gonski studies wrong, prejudiced.” By Andrew Stevenson. Sydney Morning Herald. October 5, 2011. The private school sector has criticised the quality and assumptions of the key research projects commissioned by the Gonski review of education, while questioning the independence and accuracy of the work. In their final submissions to the review of school funding, the Independent Schools Council of Australia, the Association of Heads of Independent Schools of Australia, the NSW Parents Council and the Independent Education Union all rounded on work released last month by the Gonski review. The NSW Parents Council criticised what it termed a ”shameful attempt to develop class war debate”. Instead of recognising that parents make radical financial decisions in order to choose schools that support their philosophical approach to raising their children, the tenor of the reports was that they chose to go private merely because they “are blessed with greater, wealth, income, power or possessions”. Allowing only one month to respond to 700 pages of commissioned research was ”disgraceful”, the Parents Council said. Responding to calls for accountability in the use of taxpayer funds, the council also said non-government school parents are subsidising parents of children in government schools and are entitled to greater insights into the ”inefficient allocation and deployment of government funding for schools”. The funding review, headed by David Gonski, is scheduled to report to the federal government by the end of the year. Apart from releasing four commissioned reports – which it did not endorse – it has given little insight into its thoughts and directions. But the private school lobby has seen enough to be on its guard about what the Independent Schools Council terms a ”high stakes” funding review. ”A number of reports strongly reflect an inherent bias against non-government schools,” the council submitted.
“Catholic club to join pokie campaign.” By Leesha Mckenny and Tim Dick. Sydney Morning Herald. October 5, 2011. One of Sydney’s Catholic Clubs is seeking to change its constitution to aid its fight against the federal government’s proposed poker machine reforms. Dooleys Lidcombe Catholic Club will ask members to remove a constitutional ban on the club taking part in political activities so it can campaign against planned betting limits on poker machines. The move was revealed as the Australian Communications and Media Authority confirmed it would investigate whether criticism of the reforms by commentators Ray Warren and Phil Gould (a columnist for the Herald and Sun-Herald) during a Channel Nine league broadcast breached rules on political advertising. Yesterday Clubs Australia and the National Rugby League denied knowing that the statements would be put to air, after Warren said the statements were directed from ”up top” and he guessed they were paid for and came from the NRL. A spokesman for Channel Nine said the station was confident it had not breached the TV code. However the foundation of the authority’s inquiry is not the TV code but Nine’s broadcasting licences, which prohibit airing ”political matter” at someone else’s request without disclosing who requested it, regardless of whether the statements are paid. Whether Dooleys Lidcombe Catholic Club can join the high profile criticism of the poker machine changes will be decided by a special resolution at its annual general meeting on October 28. The current board unanimously recommends the proposed resolution to members, but ”does not envisage that the club would ever be overtly party political”.
“Brocks at war over plans to close foundation.” By Nick O’malley. Sydney Morning Herald. October 8, 2011. Plans are in place to close the Peter Brock Foundation, causing a deep rift within the extended Brock family and leaving the charity unable to use the thousands of dollars it expects to raise over this weekend’s Bathurst 1000 from the sale of Peter Brock Roses. Brock’s son, Robert, said he had asked auditors to go over the charity’s books and consider its future as a response to recent changes to regulations on governance of charities. The racing legend’s brother, Phil, who once drove at Bathurst with Peter, said he believed Robert wanted to close the foundation to gain further control over Brock’s legacy and the valuable copyright of his signature and likeness. ”Why would you close it down? There is only one reason and that is dollars,” he told the Herald. The foundation was established by Peter Brock in 1997 almost a decade before he was killed in an accident in 2006. According to Phil, it remains ”the most important legacy” of the nine-time Bathurst race winner. ”If [Robert] does not want to run it, why not hand it over to someone who does?” Robert Brock yesterday said the charity’s future was uncertain but denied outright he was seeking to close it to gain more control. He would not address his uncle’s comments, saying their disagreement was a family matter. Today there is only one other board member, Danees Denman, who was once Peter Brock’s assistant and has been the only full-time employee of the charity since it was founded. She opposes any move to close the charity. The charity’s auditors confirmed it is solvent, but it is understood Robert controls enough of the five shareholder votes to win any vote on its future. The vote will be held on October 20.
“Q&A: Carving Out a New Aid Order at Busan.” No by-line. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). 10-4-11. In late November international aid players will descend on Busan, South Korea to review past aid effectiveness commitments before writing the next chapter in the fight for better aid. At the forum, delegates will assess the world’s progress against previous aid agreements, the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness and the Accra Agenda for Action – before issuing yet another. The 2005 Paris Declaration laid out targets to improve the quality of aid and its development impact, establishing monitoring systems to assess progress and accountability. Three years later, in an effort to accelerate progress on the declaration, the Accra Agenda was drafted in the Ghanaian capital. The document proposed increased national ownership of development process, more inclusive partnerships and measurable impacts. These were a start but Busan’s outcome document must go further to ensure sustainable, equitable and inclusive aid, according to Tujan who also co-chairs the civil society platforms BetterAid and Reality of Aid. While the International Monetary Fund (IMF) uses the global recession as a rationale for continued conditionality, rising powers such as China, India and Brazil involved in South-South development cooperation may be unwilling to permit the continuation of a Northern-dominated aid architecture, he cautions. With the rise of South-South cooperation, now is the time to pen a more equitable future for aid, said Tujan.
“Will vote Congress out if Lokpal bill is delayed: Anna Hazare.” No by-line. Times of India. October 4, 2011. Anna Hazare on Tuesday put Congress on notice on the Lokpal issue, saying he will campaign against it in election-bound states if the Centre fails to get his version of the anti-corruption bill passed in Parliament’s Winter Session. To begin with, Hazare said, he will appeal to voters in Hisar Lok Sabha constituency in Haryana where bypolls are scheduled on October 13 not to vote for the Congress candidate as the party was “deliberately” not bringing the Jan Lokpal bill. “If the Jan Lokpal Bill is not passed in the Winter Session, then I will name the Congress and ask people not to vote for it in the Assembly polls scheduled in five states next year,” he said addressing a press conference in his native village, 50 km from Pune. He announced that he would begin his tour of five election-bound states of Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa and Manipur between October 13 and 15. Hazare, who had withdrawn his 12-day hunger strike in Ramlila Maidan following assurances from the Centre that three of his main demands would be considered, made it clear that his agitation would be intensified across the country in the coming months.
“Microcredit Fights to Regain Credibility.” By Manipadma Jena. Interpress Service (ipsnews.net). October 9, 2011. As microcredit institutions – once touted as the vital ‘last mile’ in extending credit to poor rural women -fight a government backlash that has encouraged honest borrowers to turn defaulters, hopes for revival hinge on a new bill awaiting passage in India’s parliament. Far from repaying their debts, borrowers are now demanding that microfinance institutions (MFIs) pay them back for charging interest at thrice the advertised rates. “The MFIs must refund us half of the loans that we took seven to 10 years back, because they have taken repayment twice over with interest,” says Vijaya Kasipati, 32, a woman borrower in the village of Lachapet in southern Andhra Pradesh state. “While offering a loan, MFIs often quote a 10 – 12 percent ‘flat’ rate of interest, which appears like a good deal. But, this flat rate of interest is not calculated on the new, reduced balance,” explains Jamuna Paruchuri, advocacy director at the Andhra Pradesh government’s Society for Elimination of Rural Poverty (SERP). “What the fine print says is that even after the borrower has paid a few instalments, the interest would still continue to be calculated on the initial sum borrowed, and not on the balance of the loan amount. The result is a hidden final rate of interest of around 36 percent,” Paruchuri told IPS. SERP, which works with more than 11 million women in 994,595 self-help groups (SHGs) in 22 Andhra Pradesh districts, is eminently qualified to comment on MFI operations. “The SHG women are not repaying. They say the MFIs have already taken repayments many times over by cheating them,” says Paruchuri, who, after a spate of suicides in 2010, was tasked with finding out from indebted women and their SHGs what went wrong.
“Big Society risks votes, says adviser to Cameron; Philip Blond says the Tories are ‘trapped in the economics of the 1980s’.” By Michael Savage and Anushka Asthana. Times of London. October 3, 2011. The disastrous execution of David Cameron’s Big Society project has left the Tories looking like a party that “makes excuses for the top” while having “no offer for people at the bottom”, one of the Prime Minister’s advisers has warned. Phillip Blond, an architect of the concept, told Mr Cameron that he risked haemorrhaging support from swing voters at the next election because the focus on the deficit has led to the Government “losing its positive narrative”. Last year, the Prime Minister used his conference speech to say that he wanted to build a country defined “not by what we consume but by what we contribute”. However, Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, has now backed away from the Big Society initiative, arguing that it was never intended to be a government programme. In an interview with The Times, Mr Blond said that ministers were misguided to distance themselves. The lack of an overarching strategy from Downing Street gave the appearance that “we are not all in this together”. He said: “The debt strategy has been so successful it’s essentially sucked everything up into it and the Conservatives can’t win a majority on deficit reduction There has to be a narrative, a policy and a strategy over and above that.” Mr Blond said that the Tories remained “trapped in the economics of the 1980s” in which they had “created a market that only works for the big players”. He added: “At the moment, there is no offer for people at the bottom. If you are at the bottom, all you are being offered is lower wages, less welfare and more insecurity. There’s no way out. If you’re in the middle, your living standards are being squeezed, you’re worried about the future of your children at university and how you’re going to fund that. “At the top, pretty much everything is fine because even the 50 per cent tax rate doesn’t affect you because you pay yourself through companies . . . We are not all in it together.”
Mr Blond said that Mr Cameron needed to “radically beef up” his Big Society idea with initiatives to promote growth for small business and the takeover of state services by communities.
“Conservative conference badge; Tories ditch political broadcast in favour of charity appeal; David Cameron and ministers will use allocated airtime to appeal for donations to charities working for east African famine relief.” By James Robinson and Patrick Wintour. Guardian. October 3, 2011. The Conservative party is to break with convention on Wednesday with a party political broadcast appealing to voters to give money to charities working to relieve the drought in east Africa. Ministers including George Osborne, Kenneth Clarke, Michael Gove, Cheryl Gillan and Andrew Mitchell are to deliver one-liners before switching tack, saying some things are more important than politics. They will then describe the famine in Africa. At the end David Cameron will appear, saying all the people appearing in this broadcast have given money to relieve the famine in east Africa, before urging viewers to consider doing likewise. It is understood that Steve Hilton, Cameron’s strategy director and “blue sky thinker” is behind the idea. He has long been turned off by the traditional party election broadcast, and has been an advocate of social action in which party politicians volunteer and donate. Viewing figures for political broadcasts have shrunk as trust in politicians has declined. All main parties are given airtime by broadcasters during the conference season, but the Tories have chosen to pass up the opportunity to transmit an overtly political message. The broadcast, starting in the traditional wood-panelled room, will also deliberately avoid explicitly calling for viewers to vote Conservative or setting out criticisms of the Labour party. The focus on aid to Africa could annoy those on the Tory right, who want aid spending cuts, but Cameron has been outspoken in defending the budget from its critics in the Daily Mail. The unprecedented move is likely to be dismissed as a presentational stunt by critics, and it may also prove controversial if the party is accused of exploiting the famine to bolster its compassionate image.
“What all charity trustees need to know; The crisis at the Poetry Society has important lessons for all charity trustees, particularly with the drive towards the ‘big society’, says Wendy Jones.” By Wendy Jones. Guardian. October 6, 2011. Last month, I resigned as a trustee of a charity. So did the whole board. There had been a vote of no confidence in us by the membership and departure seemed the only option. It was not my proudest moment but it was a chillingly instructive one. The charity was the Poetry Society. Our departure followed a sad and confusing episode in the 102-year history of one of the UK’s leading arts societies, an episode that almost destroyed it. There was much speculation in the literary world about what happened – speculation about ideological elitist v populist clashes – and much guffawing in the press that such (presumably) unworldly people as poets could get themselves into such a mess. The truth is more prosaic and the lessons for charities universal. A board of trustees proposed – on the face of it, not unreasonably – some changes to working arrangements for staff. But it overstepped the mark in the way it did so and lost control of the situation. Once in a hole, it continued digging. Decisions were sometimes made without consensus. Relationships soured, multiple resignations followed, lawyers’ letters flew around and the Arts Council froze funding until the society could prove it was once again a viable outfit capable of spending public money to good purpose. A new board is now in place and the charity looks set for regeneration. Post-mortems are rarely welcomed, but there are lessons to be learned – and lessons that seem increasingly pertinent in a (big) society wanting to delegate ever more activity to voluntary bodies led by part-time lay people.
“Charity created by Liam Fox axed after watchdog issues criticism; Atlantic Bridge dissolved by trustees after Charity Commission criticism raises questions over Fox’s link with Adam Werritty.” By Rupert Neate. Guardian. October 5, 2011. A charity set up by Liam Fox, the defence secretary, has been dissolved by its trustees after criticism by the Charity Commission. The Atlantic Bridge, which had already been suspended for promoting Conservative party policies in defiance of regulations, was founded by Fox and run by his close friend Adam Werritty. Fox’s relationship with Werrity was drawn into question when the Guardian revealed Werritty had visited Fox at Ministry of Defence offices 14 times in the past 16 months. Fox installed Werritty, his best man and former flatmate, as the executive director and sole employee of the charity in 1997. The charity was wound up by its trustees on Friday, following the commission’s demand last summer that its “current activities must cease immediately” because “the activities of the charity have not furthered any of its other charitable purposes in any way”. The trustees decided to dissolve the charity rather than address the commission’s concern that its primary objective appeared to be “promoting a political policy [that] is closely associated with the Conservative party”. A string of senior Tories, including George Osborne, William Hague and Michael Gove, have served on the advisory board of the charity, which was closely linked to neocons in America. Baroness Thatcher was the honorary patron. The charity said its mission was to promote the “special relationship” that flourished between Thatcher and President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.
“‘Adviser’ Adam Werritty ran charity from Liam Fox’s office; MoD’s top civil servant warned defence secretary over links to former flatmate.” Guardian. October 6, 2011,
“Email fraud came close to wrecking my life – and the charity I run; Margaret Owen’s Gmail account was hacked into and her friends asked to send money. Here she tells how a cyber-crime recently highlighted in Guardian Money almost wrecked her charity.” By Margaret Owen. Guardian. October 7, 2011. On the last day of our summer holiday in my Dorset cottage, my son shouted down the stairs “Mum, you’ve been hacked”. That sunny day, 25 August, saw the beginning of the most gruelling, frustrating and miserable period of my recent life. It lasted nearly four weeks, when I felt totally isolated from all my contacts across the world, and work virtually stopped as I had no access to my Google Gmail account. The phones, landlines and mobile, never stopped ringing as an endless list of people – friends, colleagues, civil servants (surely they should have recognised the money-seeking message as fraudulent?), people I had not spoken to for years – called to ask if I was in Spain, whether I had been robbed, or if it was a scam. Moreover, various elderly friends and relations (I am in my 80th year so it is not surprising that many on my list are as old or older) unwittingly fell for the trick, followed the instructions and sent off the requested money. I lost all the contacts in my computer address book. It meant I almost had to close the charity I direct, Widows for Peace through Democracy, because I had missed so many deadlines and our work was badly compromised. I am simply one of the many thousands of victims of the “mugged in Spain” scam. For Spain, substitute “Athens”, “Cyprus”, “Kuala Lumpur” or whatever destination the fraudsters care to use. Most of us, surely, can immediately recognise the message that urgently pleads for a loan of around £2,000 because I have been “attacked on my way back to my hotel …” as fraudulent. But many people did not. As far as I know some £5,000 has been sent, as if to me, as a “loan to be repaid with interest”. And during the month I was unable to use my Gmail account, I learned of at least six other cases where people had received similar emails as if from people they knew, and sent off large sums.