Oh please, oh please, oh please

Mr. Rudd, call Andrew Leigh.  Call him now.  Speaking on Indigenous policy, he writes:

  1. School attendance rates are appalling, and as Woody Allen says “90% of life is just showing up”. So pay Indigenous children to attend school.
  2. Literacy and numeracy gaps are large, and part of the difference may be teacher quality. So the federal government should promise bonuses of up to $50,000 to teachers who can get large improvements in performance in Indigenous schools. Teaching disadvantaged kids is the most important job in Australia – so why does no-one doing it earn a six-figure salary?
  3. Indigenous people are overrepresented in Australia’s jails, which do little more than warehousing. Since many are now private, why not rewrite the contracts, making payment conditional on post-release recidivism and earnings? Let’s create incentives for those who run jails to do more education, and less clock-watching.
  4. A major impediment to children attending school is drunkenness in communities. But a ban is a drastic measure. Let’s allow communities to set their own tax rates on alcohol, and keep the revenue (remember, a ban is effectively a tax rate equivalent to the cost of petrol to the nearest no-ban town).
  5. As many Indigenous policies as possible (including those above) should be subjected to rigorous randomised trials. Those that fail should be discarded without sentiment, and those that succeed should be expanded. We know from the headline indicators that many Indigenous policies haven’t worked; it’s time to start sorting out the wheat from the chaff.

Amen.

4 Responses to “Oh please, oh please, oh please”


  • I like 3-5 but I suspect education too easy to game.

  • On (1), if you’re going to be handing out money anyway, it seems sensible to make it conditional on school attendance. Here’s a piece from the latest Economist on the “Bolsa Familia” scheme in Brazil: Happy Families.

    On (2), I’ll grant you that it’s plausible to game the system when you’ve got middle-class kids in a well-stocked inner-Sydney school, but how easy would it be to do the same when you’re 300km north of Alice Springs? Either way, simply getting the teachers to go out there would be a moving in the right direction.

  • Your brother has a theory that it would help to reclassify Aboriginal “settlements” as “towns”, since they are the same size, but the latter has stronger bureaucratic mandates.

  • Are they really the same size? Wow. I guess to some extent the classification is really just an expression of how much independence of governance Canberra is willing to grant them. We tell them what to do = “settlement”. We step back = “town”.

    Not quite, since you could make a move from “settlement” to “town” conditional on the set up of a local decision-making process that was acceptable to Canberra. I.e. implement all of the Andrew Leigh’s ideas but somehow force local-council-style democracy on them as well.

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