Grattan, Ashman and the Legislative Council Inquiry

Last year, Victoria’s Legislative Council Legal and Social Issues Committee launched an “Inquiry into the state education system in Victoria“. As we wrote last year, it was never clear what the purpose of the inquiry was other than to stir up trouble for the Labor Government. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing. The inquiry wrapped up its hearings a couple weeks ago, with the intention to report in October, and a couple things seem worth noting.

We didn’t look carefully at who appeared before the Committee, we didn’t read their submissions and we didn’t read carefully more than a couple of the hearings transcripts. Unsurprisingly, there was a strong focus on readings and phonics and, perhaps consequently, little focus on mathematics, even homeopathic versions such as “numeracy”. There was little concern for VCE and absolute zero concern for the Deloitte debacle. In particular this meant that DoE apparatchiks Atta and Howes were let off the hook, again, which is a shame and an Opposition screw-up. Still, Bennett is now the prevailing climate, what will occur will occur, and so perhaps it’s no big deal.

Most of the hearings seemed waffly and meh, with occasional strong notes of silliness, but we didn’t look carefully. Perhaps there were gems or anti-gems that we overlooked. Two hearings that seemed noteworthy, however, were those of Jordana Hunter, who appeared for the Grattan Institute, and Greg Ashman.

It is tiring to have the same officially anointed but dubious experts get the guernseys time and again, and I’m sick to death of hearing about cognitive load theory as if it’s revolutionary insight rather than plain common sense. But good is good. Hunter was strong on explicit teaching, decent standards and proper testing, even if she was pulled her punches to nothingness on NAPLAN. Ashman was strong on everything, a really solid performance.

Hunter‘s and Ashman‘s transcripts are embedded below, and are well worth a read.



13 Replies to “Grattan, Ashman and the Legislative Council Inquiry”

  1. Ashman’s submission was very impressive. I too was disappointed with the “little concern for VCE and absolute zero concern for the Deloitte debacle” and that the “DoE apparatchiks Atta and Howes were let off the hook, again”. I think the Bennett Review was considered sufficient heat and it would be flogging a comatose if not dead horse.

    I’ll add the VIT to that list of disappointments (if ever there was an organisation that deserved close scrutiny for unconscionable conduct it’s the VIT).

    Nevertheless, the “Inquiry into the state education system in Victoria“ served a very useful purpose with respect to VCE (less so with Deloitte and less so squared with the DET) – it allowed submissions outlining the VCAA’s many, many screw ups and cover ups in a forum that was virtually certain to be carefully read by the media (*). And since these submissions were protected by Parliamentary privilege, no (direct) retaliatory action could be taken by the VCAA, DET etc against people who made these submissions.

    All things considered (and not withstanding the apparent lack of concern about the VIT), the Inquiry exceeded my hopes in terms of outcomes.

    * My thanks to the journalists – you know who you are and should be proud of your contributions – who did this and then applied the blowtorch.

  2. The absence of this fellow may explain some of the lack of proper questioning –

    Personal opinion: we need to be careful about getting any hopes up as the big picture is pretty hopeless at the State level. The Labor Govt appears to be heading for oblivion, unable to face reality and cancel nonsensical Big Builds, instead proposing savage health cuts (which no doubt will extend to education). They have managed to repeat the 90s debacle with debt over again (unfortunately without the redeeming features of the Cain Govt, including integrity and actually believing in some principles, rather than rainbow-washing). Hard to get much done in this lame duck scenario – the sense of doom under Kirner was palpable (classic putting a woman in charge when it’s a disaster – what a surprise!). Imagine being able to hear Bracks or Brumby speak honestly – they must be livid, given all the work they did to fix Labor’s financial reputation (and run a very competent Government). The Liberal opposition is dysfunctional. Didn’t like Kennett at all, but he did lead a competent Government, even if we are still paying much of the price.

    The bureaucracy is not what it once was (which is never amazing, but used to fumble through).

    Every little bit helps though – good on Greg Ashman!

    1. Thanks, JJ. Bach was not brainless and not useless, but he would have made no difference here. Bach had his agendas, and maths was definitely not one of them.

      I take your warning about Labor being on its last legs, but I’m not sure that is totally relevant. Most of the aspects of education that I hammer on this blog are not about a lack of money but a lack of sanity. True, Labor will not be looking to pick unnecessary fights with teachers or whomever, but Bennett is there, and is plain common sense, so it’s not going out on a long limb.

      Yeah, three cheers for Kennett. Mussolini made the trains run on time, but Kennett simply ditched the trains.

    2. Off topic: Well done on the Nurses and Midwives for getting their new award (although I’m still dubious what “compounded” in “28.4% compounded” actually means).

      The Nurses and Midwives thoroughly deserve their pay rise as well as the better working conditions. I wonder how the Govt will pay for it (and where it sits with the inevitable savage health cuts. I suppose getting a pay rise is moot when you’re made redundant).

      And yes, education is a soft and easy target (has been for many years now). But one hopes that the inevitable cuts to education start with making most of the fat cats at the top and middle redundant. “Victoria the Education State” – the great lie.

      1. Hi John – I googled it – “Victoria the Education State” was a 2014 election promise to put it on number plates – that seems to be the extent of prioritising education. And I’m sorry but the cuts never happen at the top.

        1. Thanks for taking the time to do this, JJ. “Repeat a lie often enough and it becomes the truth”, is a classic propaganda tactic and seems to have been used here.

          And yes, I know that the cuts will never happen at the top. But maybe they’ll happen in the middle … There is plenty of dead wood that could be pared away.

        2. But maybe cuts will be made in the payment of lucrative consultant fees:


          See page 23 (as an aside, I can’t find an item for the Deloitte Review into the 2022 maths exams. This most likely means I’m either blind, that the cost was less than $10,000 or it was absorbed into some other cost. Potentially still a lot of money but nowhere near the amounts being charged for other things. It is mind blowing).

            1. “Details of consultancies valued at $10,000 or more.
              In 2022–23, there were 24 consultancies where the total fees payable were 10,000 [dollars] or more. These consultancies incurred a total expenditure of 3.35 million [dollars] (excluding GST) and are detailed in the table below.”

              1. I don’t understand. There’s not a snowflake’s chance in Hell that Deloitte cost less than $10,000.

                1. I agree. The propaganda value alone was worth way more. But there’s nothing in the 2021-2022 DET Report either (p28):


                  Then I thought that maybe DET consultancy and VCAA consultancy are separate. But we have the 2023 VCAA Annual Report:

                  stating on p38 that there were no consultancies 2022 – 2023.

                  And p30 of the 2021-2022 Report:

                  states only one non-relevant consultancy.

                  It’s a mystery. Maybe I \displaystyle am blind? Maybe it was accidently omitted? Maybe the snowflake got lucky. Anyway, someone who loves finding and sifting though reports more than I do might find something.

                2. I couldn’t see it either when I tried Same thing happened on an Ombudsman annual report where they had accidentally left a big 4 logo in the annual report but there were no consultancies published. It appears to be widespread. One dodge was to classify them as contractors. Interesting if you can find out. For every transparency measure there is an equal and opposite force of cover up.

                  1. I doubt there’s a cover-up. A cover up would mean skullduggery or moral embarrassment. But surely using tax payer money to buy a report whose terms of reference are rigged to maintain a lie is not skullduggery or morally embarrassing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The maximum upload file size: 128 MB. You can upload: image, audio, video, document, spreadsheet, interactive, text, archive, code, other. Links to YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and other services inserted in the comment text will be automatically embedded. Drop file here