Morning mail: Australia's education spending is 'lower than average'

Morning mail: Australia's education spending is 'lower than average'

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Good morning, this is Eleanor Ainge Roy bringing you the main stories and must-reads on Wednesday 13 September.

Top stories

Australian primary schools have larger class sizes than the developed world average and the country has lower than average public spending on education as a percentage of GDP, according to a new report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. It examined education metrics across 35 countries and found that Australian primary schools had an average of 24 students, compared with the average of 21. Total public spending on education was just 3.9% of GDP, below the OECD average of 4.4%.

The Australian Education Union federal president, Correna Haythorpe, said the below-average public spending showed that “there is no doubt that our schools are under-resourced”. Haythorpe said that trend was “set to continue” because the Gonski 2.0 package cut $3bn in funding over two years, compared with previous needs-based funding agreements. In 2016 Programme for International Student Assessment results showed a long-term decline in Australian year 9 students’ results in maths, science and reading literacy.

The independent board overseeing Australia’s $5bn infrastructure agency is again under fire over potential conflicts of interest that now involve half of its directors as a result of mining industry links. Fresh potential conflicts involving two Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility directors, including its chair Sharon Warburton, emerged after the body was approached about funding a Western Australian iron ore venture.

Florida Keys is facing a potential humanitarian crisis in the wake of Hurrican Irma with millions remaining without power throughout the state – a situation that could could last for weeks. The most powerful storm in Atlantic history caused 10 deaths in the US. Our reporter Ed Pilkington asks survivors who rode out the storm why they stayed put. Meanwhile chaos and panic are starting to grip parts of the Caribbean islands, with people in the British Virgin Islands facing threats from rats, raw sewage and looting while thousands continue waiting to evacuate in Puerto Rico. Almost a week after the storm first made landfall the number of dead is still unknown with many people still missing or stranded due to serious injuries.

The Turnbull government’s unwillingness to take rising inequality seriously means it is increasingly at odds with conservative global economic institutions like the International Monetary Fund, Australia’s peak union body has warned. The Australian Council of Trade Unions has released a new report on rising inequality, warning Australia is at risk of becoming an Americanised society of working poor if people are not given a pay rise. The paper shows income inequality in Australia has been steadily rising in recent decades, “since neoliberal approaches began to dominate economic policy in the 1980s”.

Centrelink’s phone system returned 100 engaged signals in three hours when tested by staff of the independent MP Andrew Wilkie. The agency’s phone system has come under significant criticism in recent years. In 2015-16 about 42% of the 68m calls made to Centrelink were blocked. Another 7.12m calls were abandoned. The remaining calls had a wait time average of 15 minutes and nine seconds, although the clock is reset when a call is transferred, which happens to 26% of calls on average.

Sport

Manchester United have beaten Basel 3-0 in the Champions League after manager José Mourinho said he was happy to be back in the club’s “natural habitat”. It’s just finished so read what happened here. Less good news for Celtic who were walloped 5-0 at home by PSG.

The Matildas are preparing for their sold-out game against Brazil in Penrith this weekend with some fans who initially missed out on tickets willing to pay a markup of 500% to get in on the action. “This is a great way to show [my daughter] strong women in action,” one fan told Guardian Australia. “I thought it would be an inspiration for her. Whatever happens it’s going to be a bloody brilliant experience.”

Thinking time

Taylor Mac in Chapter 4 of A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, which is coming to Melbourne in October 2017



Taylor Mac in chapter 4 of A 24 Decade History of Popular Music, which is coming to Melbourne in October. Photograph: Teddy Wolff

“Someone like me doesn’t normally get to represent America.” This year’s Melbourne festival is headlined by its most ambitious ever act: a 24-hour show split into four six-hour nights, in which musician and drag performer Taylor Mac retells the last 240 years of American history through the medium of song. And cabaret. And burlesque, puppetry, pageant and poetry. A 24-Decade History of Popular Music has only been performed once in full with no breaks, in New York in 2016 – and the Guardian’s Alex Needham was lucky enough to be in the crowd.

We asked you to help us track dubious claims and misleading material being distributed in the leadup to the same-sex marriage survey. Sadly, we got a big – and bleak – response. Supporters of a no vote are peddling homophobic lies through unofficial leaflets and posters pushed through letterboxes, left on cars and stuck to bus shelters, research by Guardian readers shows. Almost all the material is unsigned and anonymous.

With the same-sex marriage postal survey under way, opponents are focusing their efforts on what a yes vote would mean for children of same-sex partners. Jacky Hewitt, a paediatrician, writes that both the research and her experience show same-sex parented children are among the most wanted, loved and cared for. Of 79 research studies on the topic, 95% support no difference between same-sex or heterosexual parents. Those outlier 5% studies were mostly led by non-expert authors, including an economist with a particular interest in religious matters, and an academic whose stated expertise is in faith and religion.

What’s he done now?

In the midst of dealing with two major natural disasters – Harvey in Texas and Irma in Florida – Donald Trump has returned to his favourite topic on Twitter, wedging his usual outrage at Fake Media snugly between messages of condolence for the battered state of Florida and the victims of 9/11.

“Fascinating to watch people writing books and major articles about me and yet they know nothing about me & have zero access. #FAKE NEWS!”

Media roundup

Front page of the West Australian on Wednesday 13 September.

The West Australian splashes with an exclusive, revealing WA taxpayers have sent $71,299 per person to Canberra over the past decade as “almost every other state and territory has enjoyed an economic free ride on the state’s coat tails”.

The Courier Mail reports on a housing boom in Brisbane with prices hitting a record high in the city’s “unbeatable unmarket”. Some suburbs in the sought-after inner-city ring increased by more than 20% in the last year, with the desirable suburbs of St Lucia, Ascot, Auchenflower and Wilston increasing by $150,000.

And the ABC talks to a researcher who has made a breakthrough in discovering why some babies don’t make it in the womb and result in a stillbirth. The team at the Hunter Medical Research Institute has found that many stillbirths are triggered by a deteriorating placenta, with some placentas ageing more rapidly than others. “It certainly is the most exciting project I’ve been involved in so far, with the potential to influence people’s lives around the planet,” Professor Roger Smith told the AM show.

Coming up

Both the House and the Senate sit with question time at 2pm. The Senate will consider the media reform bill and the higher education reforms.

A judgment on damages in Rebel Wilson’s defamation case against Bauer Media is due to be handed down in the Victorian supreme court.

A judgment in Eddie Obeid’s appeal against his conviction for misconduct in public office is also due to be handed down at the court of criminal appeal in Sydney.

Climate scientist Tim Flannery will speak at the Wheeler Centre in Melbourne on Rays of Hope, the technological breakthroughs that offer the prospect of cutting carbon emissions and solving the problems of climate change.

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