Tuesday, June 28, 2011

TOEFL not much better: Charging Australia 25% more than other nations

Following on from our IELTS Ripp-Off testing espose (It has produced nearly as many hits than the Snedden 15 year old bikini model issue). We are pleased to announce that the Australian Labor Government has acted to recognise TEOFL (The American based English language testing system) as an alternative test in terms of foreign students visiting Australia or immigration. Although some assessing authorities such as CPA are slow to adopt competition.

The TOEFL test costs Australia $200 per test and is some $117 dollars cheaper the the IELTS, which currently ripps off Australia by charging $317. (The cost of the same IELTS test in other nations such as the US, UK or Thailand is much cheaper costing around $180).

TOEFL is not better in the comparison stakes.

Whilst overall cheaper then IELTS, TOEFL charges Australia 25% more than does in other countries. For example in the UK, Ireland, Thailand and the US the TOEFL test is around $160-$165.

Why is the cost of both tests so much more expensive in Australia than in other Countries?

The Answer is because there is no real competition and Australia has not questioned the costs charged overall. It costs more to leave Australia then it does to pay the overpriced and inflated test fees.

Why is it important you may ask?

Well Australia, Melbourne in particular, has become dependent to the Overseas student market.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported, back in February 2011, that "Student visa applications from outside Australia fell 32 per cent in the last six months of last year compared with those of the same period in 2009, which in turn had fallen 22 per cent compared with the same period in 2008. The drop is frightening for universities because they have become dependent on fee income from foreign students to subsidise domestic students as the real value of government funding has declined."

We have been milking the student migration system for a decade ripping off students. Its not small bikies either. With hundreds of thousands of people sitting English languate testing in Australia each year it is big business a 100 million a dollars a year industry. It not just the test ot is the support, pre-testing and training that adds to the profit margin. It is surprising the media have not picked up on the excessive dispartity charges, but then they also have a stake in the pie though sponsorships, endorsements and advertsing as do politicans, political parties and the like., Foreign students do not have a vote but they do vote with their feet and their wallets.

The English threshold level has been set much higher, making it that much harder for migrant applications to succeed.

With the slowdown in Immigration and the tightening up of the skill assessment, English testing has become a means of discriminating against foreign students wishing to migrate to Australia.

Students are very much aware of the price comparisons between Australia and overseas. They are foriegn students after all. The fact that it is more expensive to sit the same test in Australia then else where sends the wrong message about Australia. It leaves a sour taste and ever lasting impression on the foriegn student experiance of living in Australia a message that is being projected beyond our shores.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Clarke calls it quits as he takes on the design of greener pastures.

Melbourne City Councillor, Peter Clarke, has called it a day and has given notice of his intention to quit the Council having served just over one and a half terms. Peter Clarke has accepted a generous offer from his good friend and Premier of Victoria, Ted Baillieu, to head up the Urban Renewal Authority. A position that comes with twice his salary as a Councillor, his own office, secretary and plenty of opportunity for international travel. Why would you hang around a powerless and non influential City Council when you can enjoy the trappings and benefits of a plum position that has little accountability or oversight?

Clarke's pending resignation, which takes effect in three weeks time, will cause grief for the City Council and the Victorian Electoral Commission (VEC). The VEC must contact all candidates within 14 days of the vacancy occurring to ascertain who is willing and able to continue be elected in a count back of the 2008 City of Melbourne Council ballot. They then have a further 14 days in which to determine the winner and results of the election.

This sounds fine and in theory should be a straight forward exercise given that all the preference votes were transcribed and recorded electronically, but it is not as straight forward as some might think. It is unclear if in fact the VEC has designed, developed and tested its software to process the count back as required under Schedule 3A of the Local Government Act .

The method of calculating the results of a count back are messy in deed.

Analysis of the provision of Schedule 3A has highlighted a number of discrepancies in the way the Count back is to be counted. With votes being redistributed at an overall higher value then should be. Some votes will be counted twice in the process of determining who is elected.

The problem lies in the drafting of the rules and the formula used to determine the transfer value of ballot papers deemed to have contributed to the quota that elected Peter Clarke back in 2008. How ever drafted the rules should be sacked and never allowed to get near the legislative drafting computer again. The main problem being the interpretation of clause 12. Another problematic clause is clause 10 (3) and the definition of "necessary".

It will be interesting to see what changes the VEC will try and implement to facilitate an electronic count and if those changes are in fact necessary or just desirable. Of course if it can be established that the changes implemented were not necessary in order to conduct a computerised count then they cannot be adopted without causing a jurisdictional error - which could lead to possible challenges in the courts.

Preliminary Analysis indicates that there are two main contenders for the vacancy that will be created. First is Dr Jackie Watts, who was second on Peter Clarke ticket, the other possible contender is a second Green's candidate - Rohan Leppert.

We will wait with baited breath to see just how open and transparent the recount process is and if Candidates will have the same rights to appoint scrutineers to oversee the recount process. A scrutineer can only do their job if they are given access to the detailed information records and transfers of the votes. Thankfully copies of the preference data-files were published back in 2008 so it should be possible to independently verify the results of the count back election before hand.


It depends on how much the Victorian Election Commission will charge the City of Melbourne for the recount. This is another issue that is worth watching more closely.

Given that the VEC is the only organisation that can conduct the count they can overcharge the City of Melbourne, as they did when the rate payers were slugged $200,000 to develop the counting software in the first place back in 2002.

Thanks to a poorly negotiated contract by Alison Lyons, the City of Melbourne retained no IP rights or value for its investment. It was just money transferred from the General Rate Revenue to the VEC developers pockets.