14 Use the NAPLAN results to identify the pedagogical areas most in need of improvement, and negotiate with the states to fund living experiments by implementing strategies to fix these areas through pilot projects in the states that are willing to undertake them.
15 Funding for state education should be partially tied to implementing programs which prove to be effective.
16 The national curriculum should be revised and pared back to focus on learning and acquisition of skills only.
7. Tertiary education
Higher education is training too many students, at too great a cost, for jobs that don't exist in sufficient numbers for them, misallocating national human resources, and creating false hope amongst a generation of young Australians. At the same time, government has a contingent liability of billions of dollars of HECS and HELP debt that will never be repaid, and which will ultimately have to be brought onto the government's balance sheet. There is a mismatch between the tertiary institute, the organisation that determines whether a student loan will be available, and the government, the organisation that bears the loss. There needs to be an alignment and we therefore recommend:
17 The tertiary institute that provided the educational service should be liable for any uncollectible student debt. This would remove the temptation to train students for work when there is no expectation that there actually will be work for them.
The Senate has set a challenge for the government with a select committee into the "obesity epidemic" which will almost certainly recommend a sugar tax. This will be useless as statistics show that while sugar consumption has been falling by more than a sugar tax would reduce it, obesity has been rising.
Obesity is our most conspicuous public policy failure, and tobacco smoking our most conspicuous success. But it's not the taxes that work with smoking, with little correlation between smoking rates and cost of tobacco, it's the social pressures. There is plenty of evidence that obesity is a social disease too.
18 The government establishes a prize competition to find ways of decreasing obesity using social solutions, rather than a price mechanism. A short list of entries could share the first round prize money, with each successful project being funded to conduct a pilot project. These projects could be then compared to judge the ultimate winner. Commercialisation funding could also be made available to the successful projects, if they have commercial potential. While some government money would be used in this, the amounts would be small compared to education programs like the famous Life. Be In It. campaign, which judged on the basis of a significant increase in obesity, must be one of our biggest public health failures.
Infrastructure is a significant cost. Some of this could be ameliorated by a decentralised immigration policy (see above), but in terms of transport, Australia dramatically underutilises the sea.
Sea transport is cheap and has fewer fatalities than road transport, and it doesn't require roads, apart from at the wharves. It is also low on CO2 emissions.
We therefore recommend:
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