A quick word about Universities.

Universities in Australia can be divided into two categories. Red-brick and Sandstone.

Sandstone Universities or the Group of Eight (Go8), are the long established universities, and most were built in the 1800’s hence the name.

‘Red-bricks’, a disparaging term applies to all others.

All offer a first class education which is why so many international students choose to study in Australia. Sandstone Universities however, like to give the impression that their courses are superior to those on offer at a Red-brick as are their academic staff.

Simply not true.

The fact is that many of Australia’s leading academics work at Red-bricks. For example, Colin Mackerras one of Australia’s leading experts on Asia works at Griffith University. Others, such as Malcolm Fraser and John Howard’s favourite historian John Hirst, worked at LaTrobe as did Joe Camilleri (no, not the Joe Camilleri of music fame – the other one), both experts in their field.

Damien Kingsbury, a leading academic on Indonesia works and teaches at Deakin University, while Phillip Deery a highly respected Cold War historian teaches at Victoria University.

Bill Mitchell, one of Australia’s leading proponents of Modern Monetary Theory teaches economics at the University of Newcastle.

In short, no matter whether a student undertakes study at either a Sandstone or Red-brick, the tertiary system is now standardised to the point where a quality education is guaranteed. The real difference between the two is funding.

Sandstone’s are better funded and offer more resources due to their Alumni network, while most Red-bricks struggle.

It should be noted at this point that the staff in both Sandstone and Red-brick, are overwhelmed, over-worked and underpaid, due to savage cuts made to tertiary funding by the Howard government in 1996, and carried on by successive governments both Liberal and Labor.

On the other hand, and in the best Neo-liberal tradition, the administrative staff especially those in Sandstone’s – Deans of Faculty and Vice-Chancellors, have watched their salaries steadily grow to a point which could only be described as bordering on the obscene.

Both Red-bricks and Sandstone’s award honorary doctorates and fellowships. Some are given to individuals for their contributions to research or for contributing to the betterment of society but just as many are given to celebrities.

Kylie Minogue, Reg Grundy, and Shane Warne are recipients of honorary doctorates, as are Germaine Greer, Clint Eastwood and Kermit the Frog.

The reasoning behind these awards is that the University feels having an on-call celeb to give the occasional talk adds lustre to the institution’s reputation, especially during student recruitment drives.

Honorary Fellowships are little different in that they may last only for a year or for a period of time determined by the Vice-Chancellor. Unlike honorary doctorates which allow the recipient to refer to oneself as ‘Doctor’ and very little else, Honorary Fellowships are sweet little Bon-bons and usually carry a salary of around $100,000 per year.

The recipient does not need to have written a Doctoral dissertation or even an graduate degree as is the case of Maxine McKew.

Ms. McKew former journalist and host of Lateline and The 7.30 Report, is perhaps best remembered as the ALP candidate who toppled John Howard from his seat of Bennelong.

McKew served only one term in Parliament before losing the seat to Liberal candidate and former tennis player, John Alexander in the 2013 election.

Since her retirement from politics, Ms. McKew has served as an Honorary Fellow at Melbourne University’s School of Graduate Education where the heady aroma of Cab Sav, Camembert and leather elbows on tweed jackets seems to have eroded her working class origins as the daughter of a Boiler-maker, and seduced her into a world where the abolition of free tertiary education in favour of the HECS system is seen as; Earning the Labor Party’s reputation as the party of higher education reform.”

Ironically, had she not dropped out of university, McKew like many of her journalist and parliamentary colleagues would have received her education at no charge.

Like many neophyte Neo-libs, McKew feels “concern about mounting student debt levels if universities were allowed to set their own fees” but is convinced that; “the system is outdated and universities need to find added revenue to avoid a decline in quality.”

McKew is so concerned about this situation that she has called on Labor leader Bill Shorten to compromise the ALP’s stance of no tertiary fee rises and to take a less negative outlook by allowing the Prince of popinjay puff-adders, Education Minister Christopher Pyne to push forward with his proposals to abolish the cap on tertiary fees and allow universities to charge up to $100,000 for a graduate degree.

One would surmise that as a Walkley Award winning investigative journalist McKew would be aware that governments which operate under a fiat currency system such as Australia, have no difficulty in finding funds to invest in education.

Ms McKew should also be aware that the reasons why they are reluctant to do so rests on an ideological premise and not fiscal restraint. It’s not that the Abbott government is against education, it’s just that they consider that it should be available to only the privileged few who can afford it.

For McKew to claim that the Hawke government’s abolition of free tertiary education was a triumph of reform beggars belief in her abilities as an investigative journalist, and illustrate the lop-sided dangers of self education seduced and hood-winked by snob appeal. Not to mention the lack of political nous in allowing the opposition a free kick.

Perhaps when her term as an Honorary Fellow comes to end, McKew could resume her career as a giant slaying politician and campaign for the blue ribbon Liberal seat of Kooyong.

However, as McKew lives in Sydney this would necessitate a move to Melbourne. The Post suggests that the leafy upper middle class suburb of Kew may suit Ms. McKew’s needs.

As we say in Melbourne; that’s not the the near Kew, that’s the far Kew, Maxine.

Postscript: This edition of The Mugwump Post marks the site’s second anniversary.

As I wrote last year, writing may be a solitary pursuit but no blogger is ever really alone and I would like to extend my sincere thanks to all readers, regular and casual, for your support and comments.

Special thanks go to the following; Michael and Carol Taylor who not only work so hard in providing a forum, the AIMN, for the citizen journalist to air their views as a credible alternative to the dross of the MSM, but who are also prepared to put their money where their mouth is by providing the necessary funds to keep it running. With over 6 million hits, and ranking as third behind The New Matilda and Independent Australia they must be doing something right. A dip of the Mugwump lid to both of you.

When searching for both inspiration and an example of how a good blog should be written, once again I extend my thanks to Ross Sharp of ‘Smelly Tongues’. Sharp easily writes as well as Bob Ellis or Guy Rundle, and what’s more he seems to whip ’em up in his lunch break. I have to admit that I’m both in awe and a little jealous of your ability to do this Ross, and as I said last year, for Chissakes don’t stop!

To Deknarf: The Australia Blog whose Graphical Manipulations are both witty and pointed; keep that Bloody Rat fed mate!

Lastly but certainly no means least, once again I extend my heart felt thanks and deepest appreciation to John Armour whose patient mentoring and ceaseless dedication to advancing the cause of post-Keynesian economic theory (MMT) coupled with his warm friendship is priceless beyond words. Thanks, John.

Finally, to all readers past and present, remember when the coming leadership spill for the LNP erupts in a few months – or perhaps sooner – that you read it in The Post first.













  1. 1. When honourary doctorates start being given out to fucking sock-puppets, you know the human race is doomed.

    2. McKew … A staunch Rudd supporter. She can go fuck herself with a stick.

    3. Congrats on 2 years, and thank you again for the kind words.


  2. 1. You’re absolutely right.

    2. I think she already has. Rudd handed her ‘the special advisor’s’ role after he was elected and just by coincidence, Rudd happens to be good mates with Glyn Davis, Vice-Chancellor at Melb. Uni. Nepotism? Nah, couldn’t be.

    3. Thanks, and credit where credit’s due.


  3. Congratulations on the two years Edward! Long may you thump the drum of bloggery!!

    Thanks also for the kind words about my blogthingy. We shall certainly keep the rat well fed and liberally supplied with a nice red to help it all go down!

    As for “free” university education! Don’t get me started on that one! The greatest infrastructural asset that this country has is it people. You can stick in your roads, and your fancy buildings and your railways, and so on and so forth — but without people you’ve got nothing! Zilch! Nada!
    Providing the best education free for everyone, and providing that education up to and beyond university is the best investment a country can make in its infrastructure. People are the receptacles and utilisers of your Intellectual Capital! I suspect that this government has absolutely no idea as to what that term means! These are the people that design your roads and buildings and keep the processes and the machines of industry running. They drive your economy, they provide the smarts for your technological/scientific advances. Without people you don’t have a bloody economy!
    Educating your people is an investment in the future not a cost, as this half-baked puerile bunch of neo-con, pirate capitalist LIberal/Neutered Puppy losers seem to think!! The best that I can say about these trogdolytes is that they are the epitome of “sexually congressing rectal orifices of gargantuan proportion!” And I say that with FEELING!!


  4. Thanks for the kind words D, not to mention the support and the laughs over the past two years. I couldn’t agree more with your comment especially as someone who was able to get off the factory floor and get an education at mature age. It’s never wasted even if you don’t find a job in your chosen field, and its the one of the few things in life that can never be taken from you under any circumstances.
    What really raises my ire about McKew’s comments was that not only does it play to the social snobbery myth that a Sandstone education is better than a one gained at a Red-brick, but that McKew never bothered to get one at either. As you, I, and thousands of student’s undergoing tertiary study know – its bloody hard work. They don’t hand out degrees on street corners and they certainly don’t hand out post-grad study awards because they like the cut of your jib.
    The really evil thing – and there is no other word for it, is that its not that this sexually congressing rectal orifices of gargantuan proportion don’t understand this – it’s that they understand it all too well.


  5. Ditto for me. From the printing industry (now largely defunct) because of changing technology to a “new” university Murdoch, that actually encouraged ‘mature age’ students to have a go, to a long and (dare I say) successful career in research and development and intellectual property management after acquiring a PhD. All of that thanks to Gough and his ‘free’ education. We still paid for our books, etc and earnt a bit of money on the side to pay for things like accommodation, food etc — you know the essentials to maintaining a brain!
    And what did the country get from all this largesse? Someone who used what he was taught to contribute to the economy of the country — and continued learning while he did so. Someone who paid more taxes into the system — because the ‘freeby’ education he was given allowed him to work for better wages and salaries.
    As for the ‘honorary’ degrees. Never felt comfortable with them as I see them traducing what, as you say, is a journey of learning and hard work to achieve qualifications judged critically by your peers and measured against others. Not some piece of largesse thrown at the feet of some populist for political reasons. Basically the honorary degree debases the whole learning process as well as the University that gives them away!
    As for McKew — about what you’d expect from today’s politician! About as deep as a puddle on my driveway!


    1. Well said, D. It’s not the honorary doctorates that irk me so much as it is the honorary fellowships. There are hardworking academics who have to fight to get one and as you know its six months hard slog to write one on top of the workload of researching and teaching – not to mention the angst of marking undergrad essays, while the likes of McKew have them handed to them. $100, 000 pa for giving the occasional lecture on ‘How I rolled John Howard’ is a travesty when there are young (and not so young) PhD’s who can’t get a job.


  6. A bit late with this comment but I’ve been waiting for the swelling to come down (my head)

    Yes, the dogs are indeed pissing on Tony’s swag. It can’t be long now.

    The Hon Member for Dunsinane was heard mumbling “if it were done when ’tis done, then ’twere well it were done quickly” reflecting the feelings of quite a few backbenchers sitting on narrow margins.

    On the subject of McKew, there’s an old saying in the ‘burbs that if you “put a few bob in a Labor voter’s pocket they’ll vote Liberal”. How McKew now votes is of little interest but her stupid remarks, inasmuch as they might cause ignorant fence-sitters to think Pyne Gap might have an argument is a betrayal of her former constituency and factually wrong.

    When former vanguards of the left catch neo-liberalism we’re in deep shit.


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