Letters to the editor - May 19

School funding full picture

I wish to express my disappointment with the article “Row Over School Funds” (The Standard, May 13) which fails to provide the full picture on funding and by doing so misleads readers about this complex issue. It is the figures that aren’t included that provide the more complete picture. While the story acknowledges state schools receive the bulk of their funding from the state government, readers who only looked at the table may be under the mistaken impression that Emmanuel College receives vastly more funding than Warrnambool’s government colleges. When you look at the total of funding from both levels of government it is clear Emmanuel College does not receive more than its government school equivalents and fees are necessary to make up the shortfall.  To acknowledge that government schools receive the bulk of their funding from the State Government only after making an unfortunate comparison between Emmanuel and Warrnambool Colleges is misleading. Comparisons like these in the absence of robust and complete information misinform the public and create an artificial “them and us”, or worse, “them versus us” landscape. That is certainly not my experience of working with my principal colleagues in Warrnambool, all of whom strive incredibly hard to provide quality schools and learning. The story states that schools were contacted for comment, but they “did not want to comment on the new funding model until they received more information”. As a school principal I do not comprehensively know what impact the “Gonski 2.0” funding model will have upon my school. I wait, a little less patient each day, to know the precise outcome and I suspect my colleagues feel the same. That information may yet be some time away with the passage of legislation through parliament required before anything is finalised. I am committed to quality education for all young people irrespective of the school or system their family chooses. In this region we are well aware of the low school retention rates, the lowest in Victoria, and the need to reverse this trend. But I am saddened that the majority of political discussion and media coverage of education in Australia is either funding-related or a dubious comparison of Australian student achievements with international test results. Where is the discussion about quality learning, learning for both the present and the future in a globalised, competitive and rapidly changing world?  For the sake of our young people we need to get the funding of Australian schools right. But we won’t achieve this goal by pitting school against school or system against system. Let’s not allow governments the opportunity to make education a political football anymore than it already is, and let’s make sure the information provided through the media to the public stands up to scrutiny. If The Standard wants to provide readers with details of school funding then it needs to provide a complete picture of the allocations from all sources, state and federal. The least I would expect to see is a table outlining state government funding to state schools, and in the case of my school, acknowledging we are a fee-paying school and the reality that fees are necessary to fund the difference between what we receive from both levels of government and the real cost of running a school in 2017.

Peter Morgan,  principal, Emmanuel College

Fund road upgrades

I note the article (The Standard, May 16) quoting Assistant Commissioner Fryer of Victoria Police asking to reclassify roads and impose 70/80 kmh speed limits. What Commissioner Fryer does not address is the deteriorating condition of state-funded roads in the region. The fact is that the state’s arterial road network in the region has been underfunded for many years. The escalating road toll is another indication that the state, under successive governments has underfunded road maintenance, to the extent that it is now impacting on the road toll. Mr Fryer should be talking to the fleet operators, transport and logistic operators in the region. Vehicle maintenance costs for operators in this region are two thirds higher than their city counterparts. Damaged tyres and rims, suspension damage and stress fracturing, and driver fatigue are a direct result of poor pavement management. If we were to accept the VicRoads and Police approach we would ultimately end up having a man with a red flag walking in front of our vehicles. There is no doubt we may have safer roads but the productivity for the region would negligible. We have far safer, newer and better maintained vehicles now than has ever been the case. Unfortunately our road network has not technologically kept pace in the regional areas. If you are not fortunate enough to live in the metropolitan area or a swinging seat, then the reality is that you are driving on substandard roads. Mr Fryers of Victoria Police and Mr Merritt of VicRoads are advocating a regressive strategy for the economy of our region. If we wish to travel on safe roads and have a vibrant economy then we require a network of roads and rail to provide safe and efficient connectivity. We need a network that matches the technical capacity of the vehicles using it. The knowledge and ability to build better roads exists and is readily available. The regions require a commitment from government and its agencies to do something about it. Of the current fuel tax only a tiny percentage is returned to road funding. The rest disappears into the black hole of consolidated revenue. If the regions were getting an equitable share of this revenue there would be sufficient funding to upgrade the regional network. Governments of all persuasions prefer to hold the electorate to ransom and hold out piecemeal one off payments and pork barrelling exercises in marginal electorates to win political favour at the next election. This approach is costing lives.

Cr Neil Trotter, Corangamite Shire

Support for horse training area 

I write with something of a wry smile to remind people where the idea for the training track on Viaduct Road came from. This paper published my idea with a story back in November 2016. The idea seemed to have been buried amongst the noise about Killarney and Mills Reef but I am thrilled to think that it has been revived despite the opposition from moneyed interests who would see the area covered with holiday apartments. I still believe a Viaduct Road training ground would give Warrnambool a brilliant Racing and tourist facility with little adverse environmental impact.

Richard Ziegeler, Warrnambool

Opposition to training facility

Warrnambool and district has so little habitat for native wildlife yet here is another proposal to hand over habitat to a commercial activity. Yes, it is reclaimed, revegetated land. But in this part of Victoria, where nearly all native vegetation is gone, every remaining piece is precious. The horse racing industry has no shame. Despite already having control of a huge parcel of public land in Warrnambool (the racecourse), they now want more. We say, develop your sand track on the land you already have and keep your greedy, gambling eyes off more public land. Horse racing is a gambling business that occurs the world over, including in a huge number of places that are not beside the sea. It can survive without taking over our publicly-owned coast.

Bruce Campbell, chairman Warrnambool Coastcare Landcare Network

Gardens debate 

In Saturdays edition (The Standard 13/5) a series of articles attempted to explain in a fair manner the current status of the Gardens Committee attempts to close our Camperdown caravan park. I for one agree completely with Botanical Gardens Trust Secretary Janet O’Hehir the way forward is garden tourism. I suggest a levy on all our rates to fund the CMP conservation plan.

We have noticed a huge increase in visitors to Camperdown of late, the cafes are full, accommodation is at a premium, the Commercial might even return to the good old days. Imagine that all on the back of some tree huggers. Close the Caravan Park, get rid of those smelly fishermen and family orientated tourists with children who have a nasty habit of running wild through the gardens and trampling the grass. Let’s put up a high fence so we can pretend that we are the only ones here. Janet, a bonus might be with high cost of firewood we could fell the odd tree and sell it to the locals, I am sure the Lions Club would even help with delivery to those that are without a trailer.

Frances Arrouet, Naroghid

Waste fee rise questioned

It is noteworthy that the recent furore over the City of Yarra's bin levy has caused a re-think by the Council and they are going back to the drawing boards.

One can only think that the 7.8% increase in waste management fees imposed by the Warrnambool Council is nothing more than such a levy in disguise - designed to get around the State Governments cap on rate increases.

Perhaps the relevant Minister should take a look at this.

Ian Marr, Allansford

Pensioners need winter allowance

The promoters of renewable solar power need to wake up. To say pensioners should lose the government $75 winter allowance to reduce the cost of gas ignores the fact many have no option to switch. But this can only be considered if you own the premises you live in, not rent from another party, so you are bound to accept what is provided. This includes owning your own units in a complex of units with common grounds when any changes need common agreement with other unit owners.

James Judd, Colac