Will Brumby’s new decentralisation initiative work?

The Ready for Tomorrow initiative announced by the Premier earlier this week is being sold as a way to relieve growth pressure on Melbourne.

Just why people would move to regional centres on a scale sufficient to ease the demands on Melbourne significantly is not clear, as there’s little in the announcement to suggest the Government has suddenly discovered the secret to growing jobs in the regions.

The track record of policy-driven migration in Australia is poor. The decentralisation schemes of the seventies, based on growing regional centres like Albury-Wodonga and Bathurst-Orange, were conspicuously unsuccessful in lowering growth in the major capital cities.

Decentralisation was supposed to be driven by manufacturing, which at that time was on the march out of the inner city. However rather than moving to regional centres, manufacturing largely moved to the suburbs and offshore. It now offers even less potential for underpinning decentralisation that it did 30 or 40 years ago.

I think the practical impact of Ready for Tomorrow is more likely to lie in enhancing the liveability of the regions than in giving respite to Melbourne. It is really a regional development program. As The Age’s editorial writer points out, even if the annual growth rates of the eight largest regional cities were to double, it would only relieve Melbourne of seven weeks growth.

Nevertheless, I suppose the prospect of cheaper housing and lower congestion in reasonable proximity to Melbourne may be sufficient to attract some new settlers to regional centres, especially if it is hyped as the sensible thing to do by the Government and regional councils. Read the rest of this entry »

Does My School have lessons for planners?

The brouhaha over My School is an important lesson for those of us interested in geography because it demonstrates how misleading a reliance on average values can be.

In a previous post, Limitations of My School, I pointed to some problems with the Index of Community Socio-educational Advantage (ICSEA) used on the My School web site. In particular, I was surprised to find that prestigious Melbourne Grammar scored much the same on ICSEA as nearby State school, Camberwell High.

This unlikely result was because each school’s ICSEA rating is calculated from the social and economic characteristics of the Census Collection Districts in which its students live.

Camberwell High School

The problem is that although the average socioeconomic status of Camberwell and surrounds is very high, there are nevertheless significant numbers of residents whose incomes don’t extend to finding upwards of $20,000 per annum in post tax income to fund a private school education for each of their children.

In other words, Camberwell High ranks highly on ICSEA because its students live in ritzy areas, not because the students themselves come from relatively well-off families (although some former students, like Kylie Minogue, have gone on to considerable financial success).

What this tells us is that not all households within a cluster of contiguous suburbs earn the average income – there’s considerable variability even though the suburbs might, on average, be quite affluent.

To throw further light on this issue, I looked at the incomes of families in Ivanhoe East at the 2006 Census to try and get a handle on the degree of variability in income within a small geographical area. Ivanhoe East is around the same distance from the CBD as Camberwell and has 984 families. It has about six times as many dwellings as a Census Collector’s District (Camberwell has 5,011 families). Read the rest of this entry »

Should bicycles be registered or cyclists licensed?

There was a major debate over the Easter weekend on the VECCI blog about whether or not bicycles should be registered and/or cyclists licensed. It was initiated by an online poll started by VECCI. As of Monday night a narrow majority had voted in favour of licensing (51:47) and mandatory education of cyclists (50:45). Not clear to me why you’d license a cyclist other than to educate/train her, but it’s not my survey.

My view is that registration is not a good idea. However there’s a stronger argument for licensing notwithstanding there are some real difficulties in implementation. Read the rest of this entry »

More on My School

Following up on my comments about My School on 5 March, Limitations of My School, there is great post by Sam Wylie on Core Economics today, School performance data. While he doesn’t address my issue of concern (the accuracy of the social profiling methodology used for comparison purposes), he makes a number of other good points. In particular, I thought his closing, where he addresses the issue of league tables, was well put:

“In the matter of school testing there is always the presentation of an argument that parents and the press will not interpret the data correctly.  The people can’t be trusted.  How often does that idea come up in different spheres?  We shouldn’t devolve power or information to individual households because they cannot be trusted not to abuse it.  Those types of arguments are always based on the protection of private interest (teaching unions) or elitism”.