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India the new world provider for cricket

THE reason cricket is one of the world’s most popular sports is mainly due to the influence from India.

Cricket is played by 10 nations with Test status and 35 associate countries. But it is India that provides nearly 80 per cent of the world’s cricket revenues. And cricket-playing countries and players around the world are a lot wealthier because of that revenue generated by India.

Generally, people who have the most money get what they want. India is no different, and it is very protective of its power and very shrewd when it comes to using it. Many fans and cricket leaders think this is a bad thing for the game. I don’t.

Over the past few years, the Board of Cricket Control of India has not won too many friends with its directions and opinions on the game. It wasn’t long ago that India was easily bulldozed by the boards from England and Australia. Not now.

Let me be completely transparent here. I work for many media companies that the BCCI has some command or authority over. Nevertheless, I believe it has every right to make decisions in its own interest, as England and Australia did during their reign of more than 100 years of cricket.

The Indian authorities are the ones who have invested heavily in cricket, and ultimately they are the ones who pay the invoices. The BCCI really knows how to maximise every commercial deal it has entered and this polarises people’s opinions. Other countries just hang onto India’s coat-tails. Today, India always has a massive audience and it brings along a massive bank cheque. Money speaks all languages, and India’s power has made all cricket nations bow to the needs of the BCCI.

This shift of power has come from the fact that India is booming economically. The BCCI has been very clever in how it maintains that power. The board has a full understanding on how to control bureaucracy. The British taught it that over many years. Strategically, the BCCI has placed many board members throughout the International Cricket Council committees and now the ICC cannot do anything without the BCCI’s approval.

The two most dominant figures within the BCCI are Sharad Pawar and Narayanaswami Srinivasan. Many of the board members are federal ministers, who are powerful people in their own right.

Over the past five years, India has really started to use its power. Its broadcast and media rights have been sold for staggering amounts of money. India recently refused to come under the World Anti-Doping Agency code, and it was the only major country that opposed the decision revision system.

The board has copped a lot of criticism for its strong stance against DRS and its opinions of the WADA code. In hindsight, maybe the BCCI got its strong stance right against the DRS. It’s great for TV, but with the many weird and funny cases over our summer, perhaps there is a strong argument that the Indian board may be right after all.

Is the BCCI’s control of everything a bad thing? It has become so dictatorial and protective of its control of the game that it chooses commentators for any series in India. The BCCI has just recently stopped me from commentating for a Twenty20 Indian universities tournament. I am led to believe the BCCI is still upset with my involvement in the creation of the Indian Cricket League in 2007 without its approval.

The ICL was created by Zee Sports as part of their bid for Indian cricket TV broadcast rights. They instructed Kapil Dev, Ajay Kapoor (a television executive for Zee Sports) and myself to come up with a tournament. The ICL was created, but was quickly listed as an ”unauthorised league” by the BCCI. The Indian board was furious and banned all ICL administrators, players and staff. The ICL disbanded not long after, and the Indian Premier League is now a mirror copy of what we invented. It was only recently that my great friend Dev was allowed back into the board’s arms. Thankfully, time does heal some wounds. I hope to be back in the fold soon.

Recently we have learnt that the ABC won’t broadcast from India after refusing to pay the high broadcast fees demanded. I know many fans in Australia are upset with the BCCI’s stance, but it is the board’s right as to who it wants to do its broadcasts and what it wants to charge. If you cannot pay, then bad luck.

While massive tantrums and power plays are happening off the field, it is what is happening on the field that makes things interesting. The Indian board will not allow any Indian player to play in any of the Twenty20 competitions outside the IPL – competitions such as the Big Bash League, Bangladesh Premier League, Sri Lankan Premier League and the Pakistan Super League. Not one Indian player has played in these competitions. You must ask yourself why. Does Mercedes-Benz sell some of its spare parts to help construct a Mini? The BCCI is just being smart in protecting its brand.

The IPL today is one of the top six sporting brands in the world. It has really put India on the world map. Companies are flocking to the IPL just to be part of it.The Indian board ploughs most of its money back into grassroots cricket, where there are more than 55,000 matches played in India every day. It pays out millions every year in player pensions for former players. India also helped South Africa return to international cricket and helped Bangladesh reach Test status.

When the Indian board isn’t part of your income, people tend to have a point of view that it is ruining the fabric of the game. Then there are the players, officials and media outlets that are commercially involved with the BCCI. These people only have good words for the board.

Since the board has started to be the major powerbroker of the game, has world cricket benefited? Yes, and more power to it.

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Hepburn keeps pursuit title on another golden day

AUSTRALIA’S Michael Hepburn retained his pursuit title at the world track championships on Thursday with Ireland’s Martyn Irvine claiming silver.

It was 21-year-old Hepburn’s second gold medal of the championships, coming a day after helping Australia win the team pursuit title.

Teammate Alexander Morgan, 18, just missed the bronze medal, losing to 19-year-old Swiss rider Stefan Kueng.

Irvine later won the men’s scratch race to give Ireland a first world track gold medal.

Andreas Muller of Austria was second and Australia’s Luke Davison was later given the bronze medal despite the original decision having gone to 2011 world champion Kwok Ho Ting of Hong Kong.

Great Britain retained the women’s team pursuit title, beating old rival Australia.

With Olympic gold medal-winning Laura Trott and Dani King joined by Elinor Barker, the British were too strong for Australia’s Annette Edmondson, Ashlee Ankudinoff and Melissa Hoskins in a time of three minutes, 18.140 seconds.

Canada beat Poland for the bronze.

Germany defeated New Zealand to win the men’s team sprint gold, but only by 0.49 seconds. France took the bronze medal.

Hong Kong’s Sarah Lee Wai Sze won the women’s 500-metres time trial, beating Germany’s Miriam Welte. Britain’s Rebecca James was third.

■ Australian Caroline Buchanan went to the London Olympics with the weight of the nation on her shoulders. Despite entering the final of the women’s BMX as one of the favourites, Buchanan placed fifth.

”I was pretty devastated and it was just a lot of disappointment within myself that I didn’t pull off my goal,” she said.

Buchanan is back on her bike – just in a different discipline.

The 22-year-old has returned to her home town of Canberra this weekend for the women’s downhill 2013 mountain bike Australian championship.

Buchanan will go into the national championship race on Sunday in peak form, having won the two previous rounds in the national series at Mount Buller and Thredbo.

But the one-off downhill national title race is the one that counts most, and Buchanan will need to win if she wants a ticket to the downhill world championships to be held in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, later this year.

■Another of cycling’s biggest races will start in Britain next year after organisers announced on Thursday that the Giro d’Italia will be flagged off in Northern Ireland.

The 2014 edition will begin in Belfast on May 10, kicking off three days of action that will also include a stage finishing in Dublin.


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Dons the love of Killer’s life

Essendon legend: John ”Killer” Kilby has been a part of the scene at Windy Hill since starting as the under 19s’ trainer in 1968.I HAVEN’T reached John Kilby before he introduces himself and reaches for my hand, saying, ”John Kilby, Martin. The players call me ‘Killer’. I don’t like the name, but they gave it to me 45 years ago.”

At 77, tall, lean and tanned, Killer looks like the athlete he once was when he ran cross-countries and threw the discus for the Essendon Amateur Athletic Club. He’s lost a lot of his hearing, but, in his grey-haired vitality and the way he leans forward bright-eyed to further impress his meaning upon you, he is slightly reminiscent of Doc from the film Back to the Future.

Killer was an only child – he says that explains a lot about his life. He was born in Tasmania and came to Melbourne when his father tried to enlist in the army during World War II. The family settled in Essendon. Two of his Tasmanian uncles, Duffy and Boy Plummer, had played for the Bombers so the family quickly became ”Essendon people”. Killer’s parents travelled to away games in the back of a truck belonging to a fruit shop in Glass Street.

In 1968, the Bombers couldn’t get a trainer for their under 19s, and Killer, an aircraft examiner, got the call. ”I was the head trainer,” he says leaning forward, his face scored with humour, ”I was the only one.” Killer was very happy with the under 19s, watching the young fellows progress, but eventually duty called. He was asked to be head trainer for the reserves, then the seniors; in time, he was the head trainer for the Victorian state team.

His best day at the club was the 1984 grand final when the Bombers won their first premiership in 19 years. ”It was this feeling of joy at being involved with a great team, a great coach, a great administration. It was just a great day for my footy club.” Killer’s a great believer in the power of good administrators and, when asked to list the club’s three greatest personalities in his time, he names two presidents, Greg Sewell and Ron Evans.

The other name, not surprisingly, is Kevin Sheedy. It was Sheedy who appointed Killer head trainer of the Essendon Football Club. ”Because of him I got to stand on the MCG on grand final day and be part of four premierships. When he left I went into his office and told him I was very sorry to see him go. I’m a sentimental man. I had tears running down my face.” His emotion is still visible.

Killer dates back to the time when the trainers organised functions for the players such as tennis and golf days, when they went on the end-of-season trips. Of all the Essendon players he’s dealt with over the past half-century the one he remembers most fondly is the late Merv Neagle, a wingman from the 1980s. ”He was rough and tough, but that’s how footy was played then. He was a character.” Neagle used to take Killer with him when he went home to watch the Horsham league grand finals. When Neagle was late for his wedding, Killer found him in a pub. ”I said to him, ‘Merv, they’re waiting for you to get married’. ”

Killer still hears from Neagle’s former wife each Christmas. He even gets a Christmas card each year from Billy Duckworth, as rough and tough a character as Neagle. Paul Van Der Haar, the Maddens, the Danihers, Paul Salmon – the list of former Essendon players Killer has stories about goes on and on. A lot of them used to ring him but, being hard of hearing, Killer’s not much good on the phone these days.

The low point of his time at the club has been the drug scandal, which Killer dismisses, with feeling, as ”hogwash”. But, he adds, he was very pleased that not one Collingwood supporter made a rude remark about it during last weekend’s NAB Cup round. ”And,” he says, leaning forward as if to divulge a confidence, ”I’ve never been a Collingwood person.”

Killer never married. ”I don’t have a wife, my mum and dad are dead, I was an only child.”

He has a dog – a Jack Russell called Rusty – that was bought for him by players David Hille and Chris Heffernan. ”They said, ‘Killer, you need company’. At the time, I thought I needed him like a hole in the head but he’s a lovely little feller.”

Hille visits Killer and Rusty at least once a week. Sometimes, they go for a walk in the Botanical Gardens or go for a meal. ”We seem to have something special,” says Killer. ”I would love to have had a brother like him.”

Hille says their friendship comes from having the same feeling for the game and their club.

The Essendon ruckman is a thoughtful young man. He says footy’s changed a lot even in his time. ”It’s important that we don’t lose people like John and others in that process.”

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Stackhouse would jump at chance to ride at ‘Bool

Easy does it: Apollo Creed coasts to victory under a hold from Daniel Stackhouse.STROLL into the weighing room at Caulfield before the Blue Diamond is run and inquire if any of the jockeys preparing for the $1 million scamper would be interested in schooling a few jumpers next week with a view to riding one in the Grand Annual at Warrnambool.

Chances are that there would be very few takers. Yes, Glen Boss did once express an interest in partnering champion hurdler Black And Bent, although nothing came of it, while it would not surprise if lanky Steven Arnold might once have thought that obstacles were where his future lay. But one hand – belonging to one of the youngest and least experienced jockeys in the big race – would shoot up straight away.

Daniel Stackhouse, who partners two-year-old filly Quest For Peace for champion trainer Peter Moody in the Diamond, would be equally at home pushing, shoving and cajoling an aged gelding over the marathon Annual trip at the ‘Bool in May if given the chance.

Why wouldn’t he? After all, the 22-year-old had done something very similar earlier in his career. For one so young, he has crammed in plenty, riding feature-race winners over jumps in his native New Zealand as well as winning apprentices’ championships and senior riders’ premierships where he grew up, in the South Island.

He has even given away the game for a while, working on his parents’ farm, when he thought rising weight would get the better of him.

”It has been an interesting journey but I am really enjoying it now,” says the Kiwi who first came to Australia in late 2010 when he won a scholarship to ride here. ”I knew a girl who was working for Pete so my bosses, Tommy Hazlett and Pam Gerard, got in touch and I came here. I was undecided about coming back, but Pete said if you come in and ride work you will get a chance. And he has been true to his word.”

Stackhouse is certainly a jockey in a hot vein of form. On February 15 he rode five winners for the first time in his career, and the following day he piloted Golden Archer into third place, sealing a Moody stable trifecta, behind Black Caviar and Moment Of Change in the group 1 Black Caviar Lightning.

”That was an amazing feeling. She is incredible,” said the jockey, who rode his first group winner in this country the Saturday before when There’s Only One scored for Moody in the group 3 Bellmaine Stakes at Caulfield.

With a background in farming and equestrian, Stackhouse is certainly grounded as a horseman.

He credits his time as a jumps jockey with making him a better rider. His headline success was in the Hawkes Bay Steeplechase aboard Youretheman at only his third ride over obstacles, in the winter of 2010.

”I did showjumping when I was younger. I then went to Mark Walker at Matamata but I got too heavy so I thought my time was up,” he said. ”I went home to the family farm and worked for dad. Then Tony and Pam got hold of me and encouraged me to become a jumps jockey. I found after working on the farm that my weight stabilised and dropped down and I can do 54 [kilograms] now.

”I won around 30 races over fences and hurdles. I finished second in the Grand National Steeple and then rode three winners on the flat. Riding over jumps has taught me a lot and improved me as a horseman.”

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Colt ran his race before hitting the track



Race 4, No.5 HIGH SHOT

Mick Kent will be expecting sharp improvement from his highly talented colt High Shot after everything that could have gone wrong here first-up did go wrong. The horse was in a playful mood in the pre-parade area before the race and knocked his head. A vet inspection passed the sore and sorry colt fit to run, but it was clear by the sweat on his flanks and his general demeanour that he had run his race before stepping onto the track. The fact that he was able to hold on and run sixth in a strong field was remarkable, and the step up to 1800 metres plays to his strength and stamina. He proved his fitness with a soft barrier trial win at Traralgon earlier this week.

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Jason Warren is throwing his smart, listed-winning sprinter in the deep end for this race but based on his form over the last six months it is a task that needed to be set. Freereturn graduated from a handy off-season, Saturday-class sprinter to a genuine listed-grade performer in the spring. He has a very strong fresh record and will get plenty of room to move from a middle gate. If Craig Newitt can get him into clear running from the 400, he can run on strongly and threaten the placegetters.


Morphettville, Race 7, No.7


Normally, Last Day would need at least 1100 metres to get over the top of these but there is plenty of pressure in this race, which gives him a chance to finish off strongly. David Jolly can certainly find a good sprinter and he looks to have another one here with this unbeaten three-year-old, who has been really impressive in his two runs to date, finishing powerfully to beat good fields on both occasions. This is clearly his toughest test, a strong listed race with some good quality leaders to run down, but if each-way odds are available, he is well worth a bet.

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Praying for Miracles in Diamond

LAST November Clare Lindop was quietly excited that she’d found a smart two-year-old who could have a promising career. Lindop, one of South Australia’s premier jockeys, has always been a hard marker and has trained herself not to become overwhelmed by a one-off gallop.

But this time the youngster gave her the right feel and the two-year-old was entered for a barrier trial at Morphettville to get a guide on the depth of her talent.

But Lindop admits to being astounded after another filly raced past her in the middle stages to win the trial comfortably.

When they had pulled up, Lindop couldn’t help herself and leant over to Lauren Stojakovic, quizzing the mature-age apprentice about the nuggety but brilliant two-year-old.

”With a broad smile, Lauren said to me, ‘This is a filly called Miracles Of Life and, yes, she is very good,’ and I said, ‘You’re not wrong,’ ” Lindop said.

But Lindop was convinced the Morphettville trial wasn’t the first hint that Miracles Of Life had ability. The two-time premiership winner in Adelaide knew plenty of work had gone into Miracles Of Life before that day.

At Caulfield on Saturday, Miracles Of Life is the $2.90 favourite to win Victoria’s most important two-year-old race, the $1 million Blue Diamond Stakes (1200 metres).

It is no secret that argument rages on whether a two-kilogram apprentice at the age of 29 is capable of taking on the best jockeys in Australia in a group 1 event.

Lindop, a tough judge at the best of times and who sees Stojakovic in action every Saturday at Morphettville, is convinced connections have made the right decision.

”It’s funny. Whenever a good horse comes from Adelaide … the call is to put a Melbourne jockey on when you’re going to Melbourne, and perhaps in some cases that is correct but not this time,” she said.

”Lauren has a perfect and complete feel for Miracles Of Life. She’s been with her every day and understands every little quirky part of her make-up.

”In the case of major two-year-old races like this, connections have made the right decision. It’s a two-year-old race where horses can be erratic because basically they’re very new to what they are doing and an intimate understanding of a horse’s habits is just vital, whereas tactics aren’t as important.

”It’s a different story if you’re coming over for a race like the Caulfield Cup. That’s when you’re riding a seasoned racehorse and you’ve got to plan tactics and perhaps have a ‘B’ plan if things don’t go right. But in a Blue Diamond, it’s over 1200 metres and your main job as a jockey is to make your horse comfortable and relaxed more than other races when they get older.”

Each week Lindop sits opposite Stojakovic and believes the challenge that awaits her is an exciting one, not a daunting one.

Lindop points out that, like herself, Stojakovic is meticulous in her form study and believes she will know where each rival will be when the race is on.

”She sometimes outdoes me on studying the form. Actually, I’m really excited for her,” Lindop said.

Asked if she had given Stojakovic any advice, Lindop said: ”I think she’s had more than enough advice. You can get too much information. I’ve just said, ‘You know your filly and enjoy the moment.’

”OK, there are some big stables involved in the Blue Diamond and they’ll pull a few sneaky gear changes, which happens every year, but as an outsider she can use her barrier one to glide up and just sit on the pace. OK, she’ll need a little luck on the turn into the straight to get a run, but again we can’t forget they’re two-year-olds who more than likely will roll or fan off the track. That’s why the importance of having them relaxed and happy for you is more important than what the ones around you are doing.”

Lindop, as usual, has a full and exciting book of rides at Morphettville on Saturday. She has notched four group 1 victories and has won nearly every major race on the South Australian calendar, so she knows what she’s talking about.

Lindop is hoping Stojakovic keeps her feet on the ground and enjoys the moment.

”I’ve got great confidence in her. Sure, things can go wrong but things go wrong for the very best jockeys in Australia at times, so full credit to all those involved keeping Lauren on in such a race,” she said.

At 4pm on Saturday, Lindop will be glued to coverage of the race at Morphettville. She will be hoping that not only can another woman bring a major race trophy home to South Australia but that it is also her good friend who has worked hard for this day.

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Positive manner proves a boon for O’hAilpin

SETANTA O’hAilpin knew he was in trouble the moment he came to earth and heard a massive crack in his knee.

The Bankstown-born Irishman, playing his first game for Greater Western Sydney against his old club, had been in a ruck contest with Carlton’s Matthew Kreuzer but a tangle of legs knocked him off balance in mid-air.

Unfortunately for O’hAilpin, his left knee was not braced to cope with the pressure of his 105-kilogram frame and it buckled on landing, badly damaging his anterior cruciate ligament – and sparking fears for his career.

”At 29, doing my ACL and being out of contract, they’re the things that go through your head,” O’hAilpin said as he prepares to make his comeback this weekend against Sydney and Carlton.

Those fears were allayed by a chat with Giants football manager Graeme Allan, who reassured O’hAilpin he had not reached the end of the road.

That O’hAilpin, a fringe player for much of his eight years and 80-game career with the Blues, has been given another one-year deal by the Giants is testament to the big man’s character.

Despite his dire circumstances, O’hAilpin refused to spend the rest of the season wallowing in self-pity. Not only did he throw himself into a rigorous rehabilitation program, but wanted to do everything in his power to support his young teammates, many of whom were in their debut season.

”I couldn’t change what had been done,” O’hAilpin said. ”It would have been selfish for me to put my head down and worry about myself. These kids, it was their first season and getting around them as much as I could was vital.”

So he worked with the Giants’ reserves side, pushed his teammates in the gym and even hit the road with Kevin Sheedy as the master coach spruiked the club around the state.

”It’s easy to do your weights and rehab and stay in the gym all year round, but when you’re out there you get a fresh lease of life,” O’hAilpin said.

He has recently been appointed an AFL multicultural ambassador, which involves visits to schools, community football clubs and government and multicultural organisations.

It has given O’hAilpin another reminder of how privileged he is to be involved in professional sport – a message his mother has constantly drummed into him.

”You get caught up in football but outside there’s a real world and you see how real people live,” O’hAilpin says.

Back in Ireland, which O’hAilpin still calls home, many of his friends have been hit hard by the global financial crisis. He has mates who have lost their jobs and been forced to move back in with their parents.

”You hear stories about jobs being cut and it’s really tough,” O’hAilpin says.

”I really feel for them. If I hadn’t had this opportunity, I’d be in the same boat as them.

”My mum always told me sport is something you dream of doing … but you have to understand it will come to an end.

”I’m a firm believer of respecting and being humble to everyone because no matter what you do in life, we’re all the same.

”No matter if I’m a footballer, you’re a builder or a plumber, we’re all the same.

”One minute you can be a footballer and next minute you can be delisted and not have a job.”

That could have been O’hAilpin’s plight this year had the Giants not recognised his value to their young list.

”Sure there were times he was beating himself up at home but the way he came to the club with the energy and excitement, it showed to our young kids you can have the worst day in the world but you still have to do the job,” says Giants welfare manager Craig Lambert. ”He’s such a caring person, he makes you a better club before he even plays.”

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Swan scooped up RBA’s $500m to shore up budget

TREASURER Wayne Swan defied objections from the Reserve Bank governor and siphoned half the central bank’s profits into the Budget bottom line to fulfil his political commitment to achieve a surplus.

The Reserve Bank governor, Glenn Stevens, told a parliamentary inquiry that he wrote to Mr Swan, asking him to direct all of the bank’s $1 billion 2011-12 profit to its critically short reserve fund, needed to absorb changes in the value of the bank’s foreign currency holdings. Normally worth around $6 billion, the fund had dwindled to $2 billion.

”It’s a key part of our capital. It has been depleted considerably by the effects of the rising exchange rate,” Mr Stevens told the inquiry. ”I believe the prudent course is to rebuild it as quickly as we can but I am not subject to the other pressures that the government is.”

Mr Swan denied the request, and insisted on taking half the profit as a dividend to help achieve his promise of a budget surplus this financial year.

That promise has since been dumped, leading to the opposition mounting a sustained attack on the government’s fiscal credibility.

”In the end it was his prerogative,” Mr Stevens said. ”He made a judgment, and I had to accept that judgment.”

The federal government has come under fire for its management of the budget amid revelations the mining tax has so far raised only a fraction of the predicted $2 billion in revenue this year.

As revealed by Fairfax Media, the government was also warned by the Industry Department and the Tax Office that its $1 billion predicted saving from slashing the research and development concession for large corporations was also dubious.

Even so, the governor backed Mr Swan’s decision to walk away from the commitment on the budget surplus, saying if the Treasurer had persisted he could have damaged the economy.

”I think the surplus was always going to be hard to achieve this year,” he said.

”You could imagine a world where the intention to achieve a surplus led to further cuts in spending and increases in taxes in the next few months. That would have hurt the economy. There would have been nothing we could do with interest rates to offset that in the short term.

”We would have ended up with a weaker economy.”

Mr Stevens doubted that the Prime Minister’s decision to call the election early had done any economic damage, saying such claims were rarely backed by evidence. If needed, he would move interest rates during the campaign without regard for the consequences, as in 2007.

Mr Stevens told the inquiry the next move in interest rates was far more likely to be down than up, but said he wasn’t in a hurry. ”There is a good deal of interest rate stimulus in the pipeline. It is having an effect. Housing prices have been rising since last May. Share prices have also risen quite significantly, and if anything by a little more than in comparable markets overseas.”

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National school reform in tatters

VICTORIA has torpedoed the Gillard government’s school reforms, announcing plans to introduce its own plan for education funding amid fears the Commonwealth proposal would leave many Victorian schools significantly worse off.

The federal government has said states would receive no extra funding if they refused to sign up to the federal plan, warning Victoria would miss out on $1.2 billion over five years.

But the Victorian Premier, Ted Baillieu, says there was a better way to improve his state’s schools in line with the principles of the Gonski review.

Despite Ms Gillard’s repeated pledge that no school would lose a dollar under the Commonwealth’s proposals, Mr Baillieu said some schools would lose their anticipated funding over the next decade and many schools would receive less generous indexation.

”More concerning, the Commonwealth government has linked increases to funding with greater intervention in the decision making of schools and school systems, stifling schools’ ability to respond to parents, communities and local school system leaders.

”This one-size-fits-all approach to funding and standards poses a significant risk to the achievements of, and ongoing improvements to, the Victorian school system.”

So far the NSW government has maintained in-principle support for the reforms, but has repeatedly expressed frustration that a funding model has not yet been finalised. ”NSW remains committed to the Gonski principles but we are still waiting on details and an offer from the Commonwealth,” a spokesman said.

The Association for Independent Schools of NSW this week said 40 per cent of independent schools in NSW would be worse off under the most recently discussed model, while others would gain significantly. It threatened to start briefing schools on confidential discussions if a model was not made public soon.

The consequences of opting out of the federal model were formally presented to state ministers at a meeting on February 1. They were warned they would receive no additional funding, that National Partnerships’ money was not guaranteed and that they should expect a lower rate of Average Government School Recurrent Costs.

Victoria plans to phase in its own new model from next year, which it says is consistent with the Gonski recommendations that funding should be needs-based.

The model includes extra funding for disadvantaged students – similar to a voucher system – where the money follows the student to whatever school they choose to attend, regardless of whether public or private.

The Victorian government has suggested the other states and territories could adopt a similar approach, with specific funding reforms to target their areas of greatest need.

The Victorian government intends to put its alternative model, which would cost an extra $400 million a year to implement, to Ms Gillard before the Council of Australian Governments meeting in April.

The announcement comes as Ms Gillard told the Australian Education Union’s national conference on Friday that ”the big test” for the biggest reform to schools’ policy in 40 years would come at April’s COAG meeting.

”I hope the premiers will rise to the challenge,” she said. ”I can say we are much closer to the end than the beginning. In fact, we’re at the pointy end.”

Under the Commonwealth ‘s proposed reforms every student would be allocated a base level of funding – known as the Schooling Resource Standard – with additional loadings for indigenous students, students with a disability and those from poor backgrounds or with limited English skills.

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Kevin 13?

THE problem with this story is no one knows how it ends. Not the protagonists, who are still writing it. Not the pundits, stenographers to a car crash. Will Kevin Rudd come back to the Labor leadership? Will Julia Gillard – the toughest cookie we’ve possibly ever seen in The Lodge – see the threat off once again?

In times such as this, where anything could happen, it’s best to stick with some knowns. What can we say of the present? Internal trust and cohesion in the government is badly fractured, if not broken.

Proponents and opponents of change are briefing against one another apparently without restraint. Someone this week thought it reasonable to leak against the $1 billion industry plan that was meant to be a building block of recovery ahead of the election campaign – a potent signifier of the extent of the current dysfunction, if one was necessary.

The media cycle is thundering out of control. Labor must not only manage the complex truths associated with the difficulties in which it finds itself but also manage the perceptions of the current state of play; some wild and blatantly mischievous, some devastatingly accurate.

”Ruddmentum” appeared unstoppable at the start of the week, an inelegant, squalling panic prompted by a bad Nielsen poll, which exploded into the news cycle. Timing was everything. The bad poll was only the sum of recent parts: the scrappy opening to the political year, the underwhelming performance of the mining tax, which served to reinforce perceptions that Labor can’t manage the economy despite strong fundamentals. But it dropped like a portent of looming, irrevocable disaster.

By week’s end, cabinet figures had rallied to balance not only the public messages, but the internal sentiment. Camp Kevin yanked its head in, concerned about the consequences of too much undirected chatter too soon. The Labor ship was drifting in a sea of irresolution, but not listing quite so violently.

Yet the central problem persists. What to do, whether there is anything to do, and if there’s something to do, how and when to do it? There are also deeper questions to be considered, and these are sometimes overlooked in the rush to parse who said what on The Project. Principally the question is: what are the consequences of acting versus not acting? This is a question the party comprehensively failed to ask itself in the June 2010 leadership coup. It has paid the price ever since.

Given his enduring popularity, his strengths as a performer on new and old media, his power and potential potency as a circuit-breaker, the logic of a return to Kevin Rudd seems unassailable, until you imagine what is actually required to execute it, and the ultimate consequences for Labor if peace can’t be declared, finally, once and for all; if leadership change became just another stuff-up.

A GRAND bargain. That’s the scale of ambition in the most considered quarters of Camp Kevin. Not simply cosmetic change – a new figurehead presiding over the old, riven fundamentals – but a game change.

The game-change scenario is a co-ordinated move against Gillard at the cabinet level: a majority of Gillard backers, not just the oft-mentioned Bill Shorten, switching camps and being prepared to make the shift decisive. By that they mean the obvious: Julia Gillard goes and really goes, agreeing not to recontest at the election; and Wayne Swan too.

”The consequences are there. Julia can’t stay. Wayne can’t stay,” insists one Rudd man. Labor would also likely lose its Senate leader: it’s hard to imagine Communications Minister Stephen Conroy serving in a Rudd ministry, given the extent of their mutual antipathy. Possibly there would be other departures, and, of course, elevations. Chris Bowen is said to have been promised Treasury if Rudd returns. Presumably the new-broom philosophy would be applied liberally.

The point of this transaction is drawing the line. Someone wins and someone loses, and agrees they’ve lost. The situation since the last leadership battle has been irresolution and cycles of retribution, some of them petty, some spectacular. The two combatants have remained on their feet, and like that quaint yet powerful Harry Potter scenario, neither truly lives while the other survives.

But the idea of Gillard and Swan departing the field for Rudd is, to put it mildly, hard to get your head around. A third candidate maybe, but Kevin? Colleagues close to both laugh at the prospect. Talk is swirling at the moment of a deal to accommodate the two. Without concrete details, it’s hard to assess how serious or viable that proposition actually is.

Colleagues close to Gillard and Swan insist the current talk of accommodation is deliberate, dastardly misinformation. As one person puts it: ”People don’t ride off into the sunset here while the knight rides on. That’s not how this happens.”

Gillard supporters also insist the current activity is centred on building a credible illusion of momentum both with the media, which plays along in brainless hourly blips in order to feed the insatiable 24/7 beast that prioritises immediacy and ”newness” over the coherence of the story, and to create panic in the caucus. One Gillard loyalist declares proponents of the Rudd comeback are ”constantly on the phone stampeding people, telling lies to create panic”. Left unsaid in the critique is the obvious: the nasty habit of panic becoming self-fulfilling.

People on both sides of the Gillard/Rudd conundrum can agree at least conceptually that a shoulder tap followed by the dignified exit could be a mechanism to make leadership change a genuine circuit-breaker rather than a hypothetical one. But it seems unlikely to occur in the real world. Whether a majority of influential ministers with divergent relationships, loyalties and personal ambitions would switch in concert to Rudd (a person who even fervent supporters are not convinced can change his governing spots). Whether a duo as pathologically tough and uncompromising as Julia Gillard and Wayne Swan could suddenly accept Kevin is the answer to Labor’s problems, given their (and others’) abiding belief that he, in fact, created many of the problems during the chaotic first term.

What of the Kevin factor? His loyal supporters say Rudd could lift Labor’s vote by as much as 15 per cent. His popularity with the public has been extremely resilient, and he’s a nimble communicator capable of playing the game in an era where left-field and off-Broadway delivers you a guarantee of centre-stage. Almost uniquely among our current political class, Kevin Rudd intuits how to speak to voters in an era when the conventional modes of political communication are breaking down.

Research done by Nielsen last September suggested Rudd could boost Labor’s primary vote by 10 per cent (taking votes from the Coalition, Greens and independents) – but pollster John Stirton heavily qualifies the number.

He says the boost applies only in a ”magic scenario” – a bloodless coup where everyone agrees leadership change is necessary, Kevin Rudd is the only viable candidate, and everyone rallies behind the leader. In this case, the leader would have also needed to have learnt a thing or two from past mistakes.

Magic sometimes happens. It happened when Alexander Downer handed over the leadership of the Liberal Party to John Howard in opposition. That was precisely the scenario. Asked whether history is likely to repeat itself in 2013, Stirton sounds dubious. ”And in the absence of the magical transition, it’s hard to imagine leadership change not doing significant damage,” he says.

High risk it is. Fresh in a number of minds is the horror show of the 2010 election campaign, which was characterised by acts of deliberate destabilisation. The fear is history would repeat itself – a new cycle of retribution, another slide backwards.

There are other practical problems. Rudd would no doubt position himself as a leader capable of taking on the various cancers afflicting the party – a desirable development given the radioactive murk leaching out of the corruption inquiry in New South Wales, and the Health Services Union imbroglio. That culture of institutionalised abhorrence needs to be rooted out, and Rudd is sufficiently independent-minded to want to see it done.

Electoral plus, plus for morality, necessary for Labor to sustain itself as a viable movement into the future – but then the obvious conundrum: how to campaign without the comfort of guaranteed institutional support. Would trade unions kick in the cash and resources for a leader intent on a post-election jihad?

The Australian Workers Union made a great show of public support for Julia Gillard this past week. AWU boss Paul Howes pledged 110 per cent support for the current occupant of The Lodge, then escalated, not exactly helpfully, given the internal tinderbox. ”Nothing upsets me more lately than opening newspapers on a daily or weekly basis and reading anonymous quotes from ‘senior Labor sources’ undermining our Prime Minister, undermining the leadership of our movement and this country. What a bunch of gutless pricks they are that they can’t put their names to what they are saying,” Howes declared in a closing address to a union shindig on the Gold Coast.

Prime Minister Gillard this week genuflected to Howes and to powerbroker Bill Ludwig. Not a great look from the vantage point of the general public, to be sure, a deep curtsy to the faceless men, but a gesture reflecting some basic realities of the relationship. (Some Rudd folks, of course, counsel journalists too inclined to take people at their word that union leaders professing undying loyalty to Labor leaders have been known to turn on a dime.)

And then there’s another issue: concern in some quarters that the problem isn’t so much the messenger but the message. Some ministers have looked on with concern as the strategy has contracted to rallying the base. Says one: ”Class warfare isn’t modern Labor. Is it the Scot [Julia Gillard’s communications director John McTernan]? Is it Swannie [Treasurer Wayne Swan]? Narrowing the perception of what we stand for isn’t the way to win. We need the bolder agenda. Why aren’t we talking the language of the modern economy?”

Gillard this week publicly eschewed a ”progressive” agenda, asserting Labor’s historical ties with working people. The tit-for-tat with the Greens prompted by Christine Milne’s decision this week to end the formal agreement will doubtless exacerbate a trend we have seen open in the past few days: both parties narrowcasting to the base. Not everybody is happy with that direction, but the answer to that question may not be Kevin Rudd. Not necessarily – not without gestures of contrition that mean something. Not without a decisive sequence of events rendering the status quo untenable. Not without a decisive shift that could yet happen, but hasn’t yet – not on the balance of the evidence.

One minister says: ”Is the problem the leader or the leadership agenda? I don’t know where it ends – all I know is it can’t go on like this.”

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