Shooting for the stars with super

Who knew?

“What is evidence based policy?” Janine O’Flynn from the Melbourne School of Government tweeted yesterday. CMM suspected she knew the answer and followed her link to a media release  promoting a paper by Paul Jensen from the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research. Apparently, the “ultimate objective of ‘evidence-based’ policy is to use actual evidence on what works – rather than relying on simple ideology.” Who would have thought it? What was surprising was the absence of any mention of further research being needed.

 Rocket fuel

ANU announced it was shooting for the stars yesterday, announcing it will host the federally funded Space and Spatial Industry Innovation Partnership.  Apparently the university is world-class when it comes to the assembly and testing of space-based instruments and small satellites and the new university-industry deal will deliver jobs, exports and revenues of $12.5bn in a decade, impressive indeed given the government is only kicking in “up to” $6m. As far as CMM can follow, ANU’s very own space program is part of the Australian Innovation Partnerships program, which began life as the Industry Innovation Precincts, when Greg Combet was innovation minister. No, I have no idea why they changed the name. But will the program ever take off? The Opposition (at least for a week and a bit) was scathing about the program when it was announced. In contrast innovation spokeswomen Sophie Mirabella thinks well of cooperative research centres, which she has said have had 20 years of bipartisan support.
While ANU star gazes (sorry) the University of Queensland is rocketing ahead (no more, I promise) with its scramjet. This long running research program is sending a test vehicle to a rocket range in Norway where scientists expect it to reach eight times the speed of sound for three seconds. No I do not have a clue how it works but UoQ has worked on the project for years with support from universities and aerospace companies and government agencies in Europe and Australia. CMM has a suspicion which one of the two ventures will burn up more than money.  Oh, how was ANU’s $12.5bn in revenue figure arrived at? A cynic might suggest it was plucked out of, well space, but what can you expect from cynics?

Pundit of the day

Despite “the expected moderate swing against the government in Victoria” Monash’s Zareh Ghazarian thinks McEwen is safe for the government.  This is another well-reasoned case from a Monash academic, following Nick Economou’s prediction Sophie Mirabella will hold Indi, CMM Wednesday. These blokes absolutely understand electorates. CMM will be back after the election to see how they went.

Best he can do

The University of Ballarat has effectively abandoned negotiations with its unions and unilaterally announced a pay rise of 3 per cent per annum for the next three years. While a spokesman said that bargaining would continue on other issues it is hard to see how – management has nothing more to offer and the unions have no incentives to concede anything on condition in the hope of extracting more money.  That management has also dropped proposed outsourcing could reduce rank and file union members appetite for the fight.
But why now, just days before a change of government could reshape the bargaining environment? Vice Chancellor David Battersby says it is because there is a lot to get through with the merger with what was Monash Gippsland to bed down.  Perhaps, or maybe he has just had enough and worries the longer talks drag on the more argumentative everybody becomes. Whatever the reason, he has now issued the unions a challenge – accept that this is the best deal they can get or fight on fruitlessly. The case for the former is clear, the argument for the latter is that today’s announcement is more of a directive than a deal and as such reduces union relevance.  Last night a National Tertiary Education Union spokesman told me there was no agreement and that “senior management are still fighting the key staff claims.”  There would be an update next week, he said.

The Swinburne Saga, chapter 327

If Ballarat union officials use the weekend to talk to their comrades at Swinburne Professor Battersby may not have bought peace in his time. Back in June Swinburne management tried to pre-empt enterprise bargaining talks by paying staff a 2.6 per cent pay rise.  If it was meant to break the year or so long pattern of largely fruitless enterprise bargaining it failed. Yesterday the NTEU’s Josh Cullinan announced a day-long strike at the Hawthorn Campus on Wednesday in protest at the absence of a deal on anything other than leave for victims of domestic violence.  “The campus will be shut, no classes,” he said. It will be interesting to see how shut it turns out to be.

 Lambs nearly out of the woods

CMM thought work on selecting new and renewed Cooperative Research Centres would be on hold for the duration of the election, but evidently the process of preparing a list for the minister to choose from grinds on.  I know this because the Sheep CRC, which wants a five year extension, has  announced it is through to the second round. I  thought this was supposed to be confidential under caretaker conventions, but I am obviously wrong about that as well.

Beautiful numbers

According to DFAT the Indian Government wants to provide 500 million people with skills training by 2025 and by 2030 the number of middle-class households will grow four-fold to 91 million.  That’s a lot of people who will want education and training and the local system seems swamped already. India isn’t the easiest country to do business in – but it has to be worth the effort. So where are the next term Labor and Liberal party responses to the Chaney Report on international education – which called for a ministerial council on education exports? The word is that Labor is inclined to go forward on almost everything in the proposal. Only problem is nobody has said it.

 And complicated ones

“Pensions: the final frontier” may not sound inspiring but CSIRO is displaying a Captain Kirk like enthusiasm for the exploration of superannuation. The national research agency is joining with Monash, plus other universities and industry partners to crunch the numbers on the state of super; where the $1.62 trillion honeypot is invested and how it will shape the economy. CSIRO chair Simon McKeon sounded a bit defensive in announcing the Superannuation Research Cluster yesterday, saying CSIRO provides advice “on many of our nation’s most profound challenges.” Not to worry, with all the algorithms involved it looks like science to me. But another function, not so much. “It will also investigate what other products and services could be made available to retirees, and how can super funds continue to assist their members post-retirement,” McKeon also said. I am sure this is not meant to sound like coming up with ways to help people spend their super money because this is one area  the funds management industry needs no help with.

It depends who you ask

The University of Melbourne fundraising campaign includes a direct mail appeal to graduates from VC Glyn Davis. Standard stuff, that works best when the mailing list is well targeted. Which it wasn’t in the case of a letter to a student association official long gone. His successor wrote to let Professor Davis know this and suggest the VC could cut his pay by 80 per cent instead of soliciting donations from poor students. “While you are at it can you please use some of that money you are fundraising and use it to increase staff wages? The current amount offered in enterprise negotiations is below inflation and hardly conducive to supporting staff who have made our university the number one university in the country.”  I’m guessing that’s one less name on the prospects Christmas card list.

Know something the world needs to know? Anonymity guaranteed but lots of questions asked, stephen4@hotkey.net.au