Sunday, March 19, 2006

ABC, one two three hundred million dollars – how not going to university was the best career move ever for Xer Eddy Groves

For me and many other Xers, the choice of going to university has proved to be a financial disaster. Three years ago, I wrote an open letter to Brendan Nelson suggesting a “degree buy-back” by government, a la John Howard, post-Port Arthur massacre, buying back the heavy-duty guns (acquired for fuck knows what purpose) that were owned by Gympie (et al’s) white-trash.

But times (and education ministers) change, and I now see that my original degree buy-back proposal was unduly modest (a fact which no doubt explains the lack of response to date from the government, who hardly want to be accused of shafting Xers, after all).

Hence, my new proposal is simpler – a complete renunciation of all my tertiary education, in return for being restored to the financial position I would now be in had I not gone to university. Previously, I have estimated this to be in region of hundreds of thousands of dollars, but again I wonder if I wasn’t rather short-changing myself here, when the similarly-aged as me *but not university-educated* childcare czar Eddy Groves (born 1965 or 1966) is worth some $300m. (My estimate, based on Groves’ BRW Young Rich List wealth of $170 million in 2004 and $146m in 2003.)

At this point, I stress that I’m quite serious. Readers may well be thinking that a university education is an intangible thing compared to, say, a gun or a commercial fishing license (the latter have lately been mooted for six-figure+ taxpayer-funded buy-backs). True, but this intangibility should not be confused with lack of good faith – that is, the scenario where someone buys a gun/fishing-licence/education purely speculatively. To reward (= de-risk) such speculation with a taxpayer-funded buy-back is obviously beyond the pale.

As proof that I obtained my university education in the 80s in utmost good faith, I therefore quote the words of Eddy Groves:

“[Private childcare is] really no different to what’s happening in health, except health is mainly the responsibility of state governments”, Groves says. “Look at all the new hospitals. Where are they coming from? They’re not coming from the government, they're coming from the private sector.

. . . [If ABC] hadn’t built 300 childcare centres, who would have built them? . . . They all expect the government to write out a big cheque to build more buildings, but they're just not going to do that.”*

Quite – in 2006, anyway. However back in the mid-late 80s, when I was at university, the prospect of ordinary (= not loony-Right) governments soon *refusing* to build standard public infrastructure, for ideological (not fiscal) reasons, never crossed my mind, or any of my teacher’s minds either, AFAIC remember.

In hindsight, I was educated in a vacuum, leaving me not only ill-prepared for work in the 90s – the decade of pillaging the public commons (most obviously in the former Soviet Union, but Groves is a textbook case** of pillage-by-privatisation in Australia), but also with a six-years-behind handicap in personally joining in the looting frenzy.

All in all then, Eddy Groves has had a very handy start in adult life – one that I was denied through no objective fault of my own. So I’ll take my $300m degree buy-back compo by bank cheque, thanks.

* Andrew Fraser, “Groves is a big player for little ones” Australian 18 March 2006 (no URL)

** Forty-four per cent of ABC's revenue ($237m in 2005-06) comes directly from the taxpayer, through childcare rebates. Had governments continued to build/operate public childcare centres on the same scale as ABC, it is highly debatable that the net effective subsidy would be anything like as high (i.e. $100m+). Certainly in the case of higher-education since the 80s, government has been able to substantially reduce per-head net subsidies, while the system overall remains mostly “public”. Groves himself rebuts accusations of pillage by pointing out that the privatisation of childcare was not effected through his (Liberal) political mates: “The ALP would be more pro-active - they introduced the private sector into childcare in 1991.” (penultimate URL; emphasis added)

Backgrounder “sidebar”

Perhaps simply because of sheer size, or perhaps because it has official policies to make its workplaces as Dickensian – and casualised – as possible, ABC has quite a history of regulatory infractions. In 2003, there was this (same URL) and this. Then recently, another toddler ran away from the same Hopper Crossing (Melbourne) ABC centre.

Coincidentally, it would seem, the latest incident comes at the same time that ABC has decided to fight the first Hop Cross Toddler case (for which it was fined a measly $200 out of a possible $5000) all the way.

In something of an academic lawyer’s wet dream, ABC’s case here actually involves overturning the ancient legal principle of vicarious liability: that an employer (here ABC the company) will generally be liable for on-the-job negligent acts by its employees. As opposed to the employee/s involved being personally liable for escaping toddlers, et al.

Personal liability, especially when the employees in question are so badly paid, does seem an odd thing for even Eddy Groves to wish for. Possibly, he envisages so many future cases of escaping toddlers, that all those $200 fines adding-up could make a noticeable dint in his $300 mill. Or maybe he just wants to remind the staff that things like taking a brief toilet break (the second factor explaining why the escape went unnoticed, in addition to casual staff on the day not being familiar with the Hop Cross Toddler’s proclivities) are strictly luxuries.

After all, if childcare staff necessarily piss their pants while they watch the kids, their rostered toilet-scrubbing jobs later that day will be just a tad lighter. Ah Eddy, for a slacker-gen born Xer, you’re such a stereotype-busting, considerate gentleman.

Nice to see you blogging again.

Personally, I generally find baby boomers hard to stand as well, and its nice to see someone having a go at them and the corruption and greed that they still think everone else should have to put up with and pay for (my suggestion is to work in countries where they are not so bad). However, I still can't understand why your generation = people born in the early 60s thinks you are so badly off. (In fact, I'm not sure why you consider yourself generation X. People born in the 70s are clearly far worse off by any measure).

As far as I realize, you're a white Anglo-Saxon male who didn't have to pay for his education at a time when universities were still actually trying to teach people something. All you had to put up with was a recession in 1982. If you'd done a degree in almost anything but law (which must produce 100 times the number of graduates as needed), then you would be almost retired by now. Now compare that with someone born in 1972.
ah ha, yes but someone born in 1972 is likely to have boomer parents....i know people born around that time and the advantages their parents have can provide a platform for them. of course this is not true of all 1972ers but certainly some i know...

I agree that in some ways things have got ever worse for each succeeding/younger cohort. House prices and HECS are two obvious illustrations of this: both have gone relentlessly up since the late-80s (barring a few years in the early 90s, for house prices).

Given the length of the housing boom, Xers who (though statistically unlikely to have gotten in at the very beginning) even got “in” quite late would have still made a packet. Therefore, I can understand the resentment of someone younger who feels that his/her own chance at a property-inflation windfall has been precluded by date of birth. As I personally don’t own property (having never had a secure-enough job to take the leap), however, my own resentment against property-owning co-Xers is mooted: the two-decade lack of secure jobs for Xers is hardly *their* fault (it’s boomer’s fault, of course).

With HECS, there’s more of a twist. At first glance, I should be crowing victoriously to the young’uns about my bargain Law(Hons)/Arts degree. As only my last year of study was HEX-ed, and 1989-year repayments were a flat $1800 (plus CPI indexation), maybe I look to you like I had a dream run. But I certainly don’t see it that way.

Were I 1972-born, and therefore starting uni, if at all, after the introduction of HECS, there is no way I would have gone, period (And so cue going into the workforce at 18, soon buying a house, etc). Okay, this is an unprovable assertion, but you need to understand just how fucked-over my generation was by the goalposts being moved mid-way through their studies.

Until 1988 here was no notice, no warning the fundamentalist Right in Australia was not simply a few think-tanks plus a probably-minority element of the Opposition (= Liberal Party). Then, with the announcement of HECS (no scholarships, no grandfathering, no exceptions), it suddenly became apparent that the fundamentalist Right and the federal Labor government were one and the same.

The goalposts for Xers had been moved overnight, to eye-of-needle width apart. Being 1972-born (like you?), seeing this actually happen, and then still choosing to play on such an unlevel playing field is one thing. But I didn’t choose this, the goalposts were flagrantly moved mid-game, in a gesture of open contempt for my generation.

For more background, on how the rug was abruptly pulled out from under the most highly-educated of my generation in the 80s (in the US), I recommend you read this article by Michael Lind (a strange bed-fellow perhaps, and one who doesn’t use generational analysis, but nonetheless does cogently capture the scale of boomer civic destruction since the mid-80s).
Yes, I was born in 1972, and I was just lamenting returning to Australia thinking that I had done the wrong thing, although it shouldn't be too hard for me to get up and leave again. I always recommend leaving to other youngish educated people -- especially if you don't have any problems moving due to fixed assets, children etc., which I'll just assume you don't, being heterosexually challenged and all. Why waste your life/talents subsidizing asset rich baby boomers whenever you work when you can get better pay and conditions elsewhere ?

Actually, since I paid very little for my degree and got paid to do my postgraduate studies, I don't think you had a dream run compared to me. I also got an Applied Science degree, which is useless in Australia but quite good overseas (much better than a law degree). In addition, the universities even back then were far better than now, which makes me suspect that the average 18 year old is even worse off, although presumably they'll be lucky enough to live a fair chunk of their life in a time of labor shortage (unless Australia becomes more like Argentina, which I guess there is some chance of).

As far my taking the expat plunge goes, obviously I have thought about it. And I am currently single, and without too many other types of tie to Oz. But at 41, it ain’t gonna happen. (As to why I didn’t get out when I was still young, here’s the executive summary: I had reasonable jobs in my mid-late 20s, and was in a long-term relationship for most of my 30s. So a cautionary tale for you there, young(ish) man.)


Some thoughts on having – or not – boomer parents.

I’m reluctant to concede the birth year of one’s parents as a strong determinant in the lives of the offspring. There’s a pithy Arab proverb that “men resemble their times more than they resemble their fathers”:

Presumably most boomer parents would have inculcated (post-1985) boomer values – greed, materialism, and workplace sleaze (aka “networking”) – into their offspring, but in turn this could have been counter-productive in creating rebellious (to boomer values) “Saffies”:

But I partly agree with Jem that, based on my own (born late-1930s) parents, boomer parents would have generally helped their offspring “fit” into the new economic order. For me, the introduction of HECS was a big psychic shock, but I’m sure others in my age group had alternative versions of the same fundamental experience – suddenly realising that there is one and only one tight, boomer-centric system, a system that treats Xers as sweated labour at best, and as disposable scum otherwise.
I realize that Melbournes a nice place (with an especially corrupt university sytem), but in the end, he who dares wins.

I don't see what you can lose by applying for stuff OS. I've worked in quite a few places around the world now, and to be quite honest, I find it easier to move overseas than interstate, as people will bend over backwards to help you if they really want you. In any case, if you don't like it, then you can move back anyway.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?