And looking at the list of award recipients this year: aren't we starting to run out of people worth congratulating when there are so many each year? Patsy Biscoe may have done a lot for the community of the Barossa, and I know nothing of the charitable efforts of Liza Wilkinson, but this type of work is its own reward, surely?
And, of course, how can I overlook the award given to "Groucho" Henry Ergas? Here's what he wrote in a piece kept at the IPA website since 2009:
The myth is that evidence-based policy is good policy: nothing could be further from the truth. The value of public policy does not depend on whether it rests on evidence, but on whether it seeks goals that are worth pursuing.Well, talk about your succinct summary of all that gone wrong in Right wing politics and policy over the last decade or so, particularly in the US!
To be fair to Ergas, even though he doesn't deserve it because those lines are such a poor explanation of what he is trying to say, his article is actually arguing more that statistics and "evidence" is malleable, depending on the end result desired. In the article, he later clarifies his position to:
Evidence is perhaps a necessary condition for sound policy, but it is far from being sufficient."Perhaps"! How generous of him to allow evidence to reach the heights of "perhaps" being important to policy.
And, strangely, the citation in the SMH says he is getting his OA partly for distinguished service to "higher education". Yet in 2014 he wrote a column in The Australian that complained:
That is not to deride our institutions of higher learning. But a stroll down the corridors of even highly rated universities would shock the most hardened of troopers. Entire buildings seem to have been struck by specially developed neutron bombs: the structures are intact, but the academics are nowhere to be seen.This prompted actual teaching academic Harry Clarke to write:
What teachers there are tend to be tutors, all too often foreign postgraduates struggling with the mysteries of the English language, and part-timers on short-term contracts.
No doubt many academics take their vocation seriously, but they are swamped by those too intellectually feeble to get employment elsewhere, too satisfied ever to leave and too young to retire.
Your views on inactivity in the universities are just wrong and outdated. Education and teaching are central priorities and have been for several decades. But that is just my claim just as your views are a claim. You provide no evidence to justify your impressions. Why do Australian universities do so well in international rankings if they are so poor? Why do we attract so many international students? Is this export success story based on wrong information? Your judgement about academics being intellectually feeble likewise reflects pure prejudice partly because many of them don’t take you very seriously. Most academics regard your politics (and your propensity to dominate verbal exchanges with long rambling monologues) with well-deserved disgust. You are wrong about professors regarding teaching undergraduates as only a burden. It is simply untrue – good researchers are invariably good teachers since the two things go together.Now, I don't know much about Ergas' contribution to infrastructure economics, and (to my surprise) economics journalist Peter Martin seems to think Ergas is a worthy recipient, but I'm pretty convinced that his getting this award makes for a great case that the country is giving out too many.