Newsflash – Australia just pipped by the the UK (and in particular England) … not in rugby football or Ashes cricket, but for an AW global ‘rip-off nation’ award – and because of an educational rort which takes the cake
As the senior economic commentator for The Guardian (1) has noted, “The British are now world-beaters at paying other people to rip them off. We are number one at handing over cash to ‘investors’ who do no investing, to ‘entrepreneurs’ who run monopolies – and who then turn around and tap us up for a bit more on the way out.”. But Australia is not far behind the UK with a local commentator from The Australian (2) declaring that systematic rip-offs have ‘become the Aussie way’ also. The Guardian article gives an overview of the endemic rorts which helped pave the way for Brexit will ironically get worse as the UK leaves the European Union. The article covers a range of sectors and industries but especially utilities such as gas where government policy is to sell people out to be mercilessly ripped off, betrayed and driven to poverty and despair. This more or less also similarly applies to Australia in recent years – with utilities and local (especially rural) industries needlessly decimated (as we are covering in other items on this FB page and our related Blog). In many areas Australia simply beats the UK hands-down when it comes to grubby deals, shonky operators, and governments not just letting this happen but often giving support to the rip-offs and the crooks behind them. Both nations seem to be endeavoring to reach the standards of ‘society betrayal’ normally only applied by corrupt dictators and authoritarian regimes with little or no interest in their people.
The Guardian article makes particular mention of the example of domestic gas: “British Gas announces its electricity prices will rise by 2.5%. Just as the cold nights start drawing in, more than 3 million Britons will find their bills are more expensive. Never mind that the competition watchdog judged last year that British Gas and other energy giants were taking well over a billion pounds a year through ‘excessive prices’”. But I have to say that in this area (like the similar electricity price rorts) the Brits are left for dead by the sheer breathtaking stupidity-cum-crooked deals in Australia – which will be the world’s largest supplier of natural gas within the next few years. But the country will hardly profit and people are not just being ripped off with inflated prices but local supplies are failing as companies profiteer overseas at Australia’s expense. As journalist Charis Chang (3) put it, “Australia has been ‘uniquely stupid’ [or corrupt?] in allowing companies to dig up resources that belong to the Australian people and sell it overseas, without even ensuring there would be enough gas to cover our own use… It’s created the bizarre situation that sees Australian gas being sold in Japan for a wholesale price that is cheaper than the price it’s available for in Australia. Qatar, which is the world’s biggest exporter with 32 per cent of the market, also reportedly raises three times as much in royalties as Australia for selling the same amount of gas. [Australia will take over this mantle from Qatar by 2020 but still make next to zilch from being the world’s biggest gas exporter because of these rorts]
If it was just the rorting of utilities and local industries, Australia would have out-pointed the UK overall. However, the most pivotal, destructive and mindless scam of them all by a succession of British governments ‘wins’ the day (and loses a whole younger generation). Education is being privatized in both countries to the accompaniment of numerous rorts – some of which AW will focus on in the months to come and beyond. Formal learning is a critical sector-cum-industry as education is still ultimately a public good, and an investment in the future of our youth (and thus the future of society) – however much our politicians and bureaucrat fail or refuse to recognize that. When it comes to the creativity and extent of rip-offs against international students in many ways beyond the raising of fees to subsidise local universities in particular, it’s hard to separate England and Australia – although both are well ahead of the rest of the pack on this one. Yet when it comes to the systematic ripping off of local students, the cruelling or devastation of the future hopes of a younger generation, and the general effort to run-down and decimate a country’s greatest asset (the knowledge and/or passion of the young) then England has set new global low standards. No wonder this was a central platform of Jeremy Corbyn’s generally unexpected turn-around at the recent UK elections.
Similarly, the manner of how recent UK governments have raised students fees, generally failed to support students from mere survival as fees and living costs (especially rents) as well as fees have risen astronomically, and encouraged students to take on lifelong debts for often effectively worthless degrees – all the cynicism and destruction is exemplified by one new world-class nasty rort in particular. This is the terrible ‘student loans’ scam (6) – overseen by the private Student Loans Company whose unaccountable implementation of various rorts (jacking up of interest rates and changing contract conditions with impunity, imposing unfair penalties without fair processes of appeal, and generally hounding of students to despair and even suicide on occasions) is apparently protected and even sanctioned by the government. [The fact that they then justify this (6a) in terms of being the protector of tax-payer monies makes me recall how the debt collectors Dun and Broadstreet are let loose to terrorise people who can’t pay their unfair SPER debts in Qld – the result of the totally dishonest deals and general rort arrangement between the toll company Transurban and the Dept of Transport (see our related report at http://aussiewatchdogs.xyz/new-road-tollways-in-australia-a-rort/)]
This UK scam took place is in the context of skyrocketing fees also for local students and related ‘university debts hanging over students (7) for many years for most and perhaps for life for some – many of whom can’t find work even if they are able to graduate. A new report out this week (8) suggests that ‘half of [UK] students [are] experiencing mental health issues over money worries’, and another that 1 in 7 are being chased by debt collectors on top of struggling to pay the rent. In fact, in places like London ‘homelessness’ is increasingly affecting many students (9). Altogether this is why we have decided that England is just a bit better (only just) than Australia overall in systematically ripping off its people and betraying as well as selling their future down the drain.
Again, many of the rorts in education in Australia are also world class. Many of these are focused on international students with an accompanying general loss of quality educational standards for all as well as loss of interest in (indeed contempt for) the notion of positive outcomes for the wider society (10 and 11). However, there has also been the recent vocational education scam which saw many fly-by-nighters set up to ripoff the government with fake students and courses in many cases (12) – but also leading to college closures that also leave genuine students high and dry. But as in many other countries the greatest rort of all is the mass education policy that the young should all aim to complete a university degree and the related dream that all university degrees are still valuable 9(14). No doubt some are, but students are often being sold a dream and an expectation which will perhaps typically result in no job but only a big debt for a long time (especially as the government continues to jack up fees) (15). It’s too late for my son who graduated with law degree only to find (thanks to universities around Australia setting up surplus law courses simply to get student numbers for their funding survival purposes and often knowing full well that this was a cynical rort) that there are very few jobs going for solicitors as well as graduates in other fields. And I have tried to persuade my daughter that she might be better off doing a genuine vocational education course for getting a job but not a massive higher education debt – but she won’t believe me!
Note: AW will have a lot to say in coming months and beyond about the literally endless rip-offs now occurring in the global as well as national education sectors – also in light of our current report [Richards, C. (in press) Higher education privatization, internationalisation and marketization, Compare: A Journal of Comparative and International Education]