Opinion- 24 January 2007


pdf file-available from Australasian Science



Those Pesky Selected Statistics Keep Poking Through Like Weeds in Fallow Soil


    As for dealing with the federal government's higher education and research policy, the themes are laid down by the Prime Minister, John Howard, and the variations on the themes are orchestrated by the minister in charge of the portfolios, currently Julie Bishop.


Ms Bishop seems to have trouble in developing the variations and her counters to the data produced to hold her and her government to account for their decreasing support for public education, and specifically tertiary education, and research are dismissive and insubstantial.


Her rejoinders to the latest compilation of accusations by the leader of the federal Labor opposition, Kevin Rudd, of inadequate resourcing include the accusation of inappropriate selection of statistics to make his case.


Certainly Mr Rudd has made selected use of the statistics he presents to make his case but that of itself doesn't deny their validity. And it ought to be kept in mind that what had been presented in Mr Rudd's directions paper in the main comes from the OECD. From an objective viewpoint it seems reasonable to assume that OECD data presentations are less likely to be bias for or against any one  of the OECD nations than that produced by any one member.


In the past Ms Bishop has accused the OECD of producing misleading data and assessments with regard to Australia, the implication being that we are at a disadvantage compared to the rest of the OECD. She has yet to make a compelling case for her charge.


Below we present the charts that Mr Rudd produced in his directions paper together with their sources. They are followed by a media release for Ms Bishop in rebuttal issued on January 25.


It is true that Labor has still to articulate the policy initiatives it will introduce should it obtain government toward the end of this year, but that does not absolve the federal coalition from either declaring that the position we hold is satisfactory and we need not attempt to elevate it or alternatively to convincingly demonstrate that the assessments produced are wrong and we are in better shape than indicated.


Note: The Groningen Growth and Development Centre (charts 2 and 3) describes itself as a research group of economists and economic historians at the Economics Department of the University of Groningen. It was created in June 1992 within the Economics Department of the University. The group carries out research on comparative analysis of levels of economic performance and differences in growth rates in the world economy. This research programme is one in which Groningen has developed a comparative advantage since the mid-1970s.















The year's at the spring/ And day's at the morn/ Morning's at seven/ The hill-side's dew-pearled/ The lark's on the wing/ The snail's on the thorn/ God's in his Heaven/ All's right with the world!

Robert Browning