Home » Page 6

‘A great friend to Australia’: Julie and Boris discuss Syria, Afghanistan

Boris Johnson and Julie Bishop catch up at 10 Downing Street on Thursday. Photo: Australian High Commission Boris Johnson listens as Julie Bishop speaks at 10 Downing Street on Thursday. Photo: Australian High Commission

London: The Taliban’s push into Tarin Kot, the Afghan city where Australian soldiers fought and died, has not weakened Australia’s resolve to stay in the country working for peace, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop says.

The situation in Afghanistan was to be a “subject of considerable discussion” between British and Australian foreign and defence ministers at a meeting in London on Friday, she said.

“Both the UK and Australia have been committed to the security and safety and prosperity and nation building in Afghanistan for many years now.

“A number of Australians paid the ultimate price, a number of Australians have been in Afghanistan defending the local people and working with the government to try and establish order in a very troubled part of the world.

“We will continue to remain in Afghanistan, we will continue to commit to building a better place for the Afghan people to live, and the Australia Defence Force will remain.”

Fifteen years after the war began and nearly three years since Australians withdrew from the southern province of Oruzgan, insurgent fighters have pushed into the provincial capital amid heavy fighting.

Forty-one Australian soldiers have died in Afghanistan, most of them in Oruzgan, where Australian forces were stationed at the large Tarin Kot base from 2006 to 2013.

Australia still has about 270 troops in Afghanistan, mostly training Afghan officers in the capital Kabul and the southern city of Kandahar.

The situation in Syria was also to be a major topic of discussion in London on Friday – not only the military situation, but the roles that Britain and Australia could play in political and humanitarian solutions, Ms Bishop said.

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson this week backed an opposition plan under which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would stand down within six months, paving the way for free elections.

However Syria’s foreign ministry called the plan an “aggression” against Syria, saying “statements of British Foreign Minister Boris Johnson reveal his complete separation from reality and his lack of realisation that the time of the British colonial mandate will not come back”.

Ms Bishop also revealed there have been promising signs in the push for more flexible visa arrangements for young Australians who want to work in Britain, and vice versa.

She met with British Home Secretary Amber Rudd, responsible for visas, this week.

“We had a very positive and constructive discussion about the opportunity to see more young Australians living and working in London, likewise young Britons coming to Australia under various visas,” she said.

Mr Johnson’s senior role in cabinet was a plus in pushing the negotiations along, she said.

“Last evening Boris Johnson related stories about his time as a young man in Australia and he hoped that those opportunities for young Australians and young Britons will continue.

“I believe that he is a great friend to Australia, he has a particular attachment to our country – he has lived in our country – and that augurs well for a very strong bilateral relationship.

“He is very good company but he also takes this relationship very seriously and I think that it will be to Australia’s benefit that we have someone of the calibre of Boris Johnson as foreign secretary of the UK.”

The venomous 10 – Australia’s most painful creatures, rated by the guy who knows

The venomous 10 – Australia’s most painful creatures, rated by the guy who knows [ONE] Box jellyfish | Sting description: Fry describes a box jellyfish sting as “like being wiped with acid”. The burning pain is so intense that it can put people into shock. There is a risk that the shock can cause death, rather than the venom. “You can be in so much pain the the body just goes ‘so long and thanks for the fish’,” Fry says. Survivors can experience considerable pain for weeks. Range: Box jellyfish are found in the warm coastal waters off northern Australia and throughout the Indo-Pacific.

[TWO] Stonefish | Sting description: The pain reaches extreme levels within seconds and can be so intense it makes you want to vomit, Fry says. The pain can put the body into shock, while the venom can lead to cardiovascular collapse.Range: Northern Australia and parts of the Indo-Pacific.

[THREE] Stingray | Sting description: The jagged tear of the puncture wound is the least of your worries. That’s “just a flesh wound”, according to Fry’s first hand experience. It’s the venom that causes the mind blowing pain. “It should be called a ‘give-me-a-gun-and-I’ll-shoot-myself-ray’,” he says.Range: There are about 50 species of rays in Australian waters. Most species are found on the seabed or on sandy or muddy substrate. A few live higher in the water column, in open waters.

[FOUR] Jack Jumper ants and bull ants | Sting description: Intense, localised pain. Fry says it feels like being stung by 200 bees simultaneously. Though he does point out that when he was bitten, it was on his left nipple – a super-sensitive spot. Range: Jack Jumper ants are most commonly found in Tasmania and southeast Australia, while bull ants are found throughout Australia.

[FIVE] Platypus | Sting description: A rare sting for humans to encounter but it is known to be immediate and long-lasting. The hollow spurs that deliver the venom are plunged so deep, a human would have to remove them by hand. The venom can paralyse the limbs of another platypus and seriously drop the victim’s blood pressure. Males use their spurs when fighting in the lead-up to mating season. “It’s an excellent example of male stupidity,” Fry says. “Two males go at each other and stab each other with this intensely painful spur spiked with venom. The female is probably watching form the sidelines and thinking ‘great, we’re going to go extinct’.” Range: The platypus is found in the rivers, streams and bodies of freshwater in eastern Queensland and New South Wales, eastern, central and southwestern Victoria and throughout Tasmania.

[SIX] Irukandji jellyfish | Sting description: Delayed, creeping pain builds to full-body agony with accompanying headaches, nausea, vomiting and sweating. There is an unusual psychological effect too: victims report experiencing an acute sense of impending doom. Range: Once thought only found in the northern waters of Australia, Irukandji have been found in waters as far north as the British Isles, Japan, Malaysia and the Florida coast of the United States.

[SEVEN] Redback spider | Bite description: You know that joke about ‘how do you know if there is a red back in the outdoor dunny? Because of the screams’? There is a reason why people scream so loud. The pain from this spider bite can become severe and lead to sweats, muscular weakness, nausea and vomiting. The venom acts directly on the nerves. But only the female bite is dangerous. Range: Redback spiders are found throughout Australia and are common in disturbed and urban areas.

[EIGHT] Yellow-faced whip snake | Bite description: Unusually painful for an Australian snake, the whip snake bite can be agonisingly painful and produces localised swelling, which isn’t typical of Australian snakes. Range: The yellow-faced whip snake is common throughout most of Australia, from coastal areas to the arid interior.

[NINE] Crown of thorns starfish | Sting description: Fry describes the crown of thorns starfish sting as “just straightforward pain”. But pain nonetheless. Range: Native to coral reefs in the Indo-Pacific region, this starfish is on the move, expanding its range and population as sea temperatures rise.

[TEN] Fire urchin | Sting description: The burning sensation at the site of the sting makes you catch your breath. Range: The fire urchin is found in the sand, shingle or coral rubble of lagoons and bays of the tropical Indo-Pacific. Photo: National Geographic

TweetFacebook FLICK THROUGH THE GALLERY for the venomous 10The stingray? Yep,Bryan Fryknows it well. He’s been stung multiple times. Though, speaking from experience, he suggests its name underplays the extreme pain a sting can cause.

“It should be called a ‘give-me-a-gun-and-I’ll-shoot-myself-ray’,” the veteran venom researcher says.

Not so the Australian death adder. Its venom leads to an almost out-of-body experience with a sense of euphoria overpowering any fear from the fact that the death adder’s bite can leave you paralysed.In Fry’s case, full-body paralysis put him in hospitalised and on a respirator for eight hours.

Bryan Fry rates the sting of the box jellyfish as the worst Australian wildlife has to offer. Photo: Supplied

So if you want the bites and stings of Australian wildlife rated on a pain scale, Bryan Fry’s your guy.

TheQueensland University venomologisthas been bitten more times than he can count. All in the name of science. He estimates 27 venomous snakes have plunged their fangs into his flesh.

His exposure to snake venom in the laboratory has been so high that he has developed allergies and now has to avoid it. Even breathing fumes from venom that has been freeze-dried and powdered for long-term storage will bring on the sneezes. Being bitten could bring on full-scale anaphylactic shock.


Sydney metro markets on growth path

152 Riley Street, Darlinghurst, was sold on a 5% yield. Photo: suppliedBuyers are now turning their attention to the city fringe and east Sydney markets, which are undergoing a seismic shift with pubs and bars closing and being redeveloped into residential and hotel towers.

This has occurred at Potts Point and Kings Cross, where the nightlife has changed due to the lockout laws. The area is being gentrified and the cafe society is switching the precinct into a day-time location.

According to CBRE, the city fringe yields range from 1.2 per cent, with 89 Crown Street, Darlinghurst, selling for $4.89 million, up to 5 per cent for the sale of 152 Riley Street, Darlinghurst, for $18.88 million.

This is due to buyers seeing the market as a “safe bet” in the long term.

Nicholas Heaton, head of metropolitan sales NSW at CBRE, said developers are also chasing development sites in the area where it is not uncommon to pay $450,000-$650,000 a unit site for raw development sites.

He said this is a result of the strong demand for new apartments in the area from downsizers, young professionals and investors paying $20,000 per square metre to $25,000 per sq m for apartments in the fringe.

“Developers would rather focus their attention and capital into markets like Darlinghurst where there is still a huge gap between supply and demand with very few development sites coming up,” Mr Heaton said.

Gemma Isgro,​ CBRE city fringe, said the last development site CBRE sold in Darlinghurst attracted local developers along with buyers from Brisbane, Melbourne and Hangzhou.

“This area has a national and global appeal due to the strong-performing end sales achieved in projects like Omnia sold by the CBRE project marketing team,” Ms Isgro said.

“Unlike greenfield development sites the majority of the development sites we are selling in the city fringe have current improvements on them that can be leased and cover holding cost during the DA process. This is very appealing to developers as it makes it easier to get finance from the banks,” Michael Khouri, CBRE city fringe, said.

The CBRE city fringe team has been appointed to sell 278 Palmer Street, Darlinghurst, which consists of two freehold buildings consisting of 840 sq m of internal area with development potential for a boutique residential project.

According to Colliers International research, while metropolitan locations can sometimes offer lifestyle upside to tenants, being close to the CBD remains an important tenant consideration due to the close proximity of business and financial services, public and private clients, suppliers, financiers and key decision makers.

“From a talent retention and attraction perspective, CBD proximity allows tenants to access a wider pool of recruits due to the central location of the business. In terms of cost management, tenants can enjoy the amenity advantages of a CBD-adjacent location at a lower rental cost,” Colliers International research says.

“From an investment perspective, there tends to be higher levels of domestic institutional and offshore investment given the dynamics of fringe markets tend to be similar in nature to the CBD and enjoy easier access to transport services.”

Sydney Opera House threat teen accused following ‘instructions of Islamic State’

The man allegedly said he was at the Opera House on the instructions of Islamic State. Photo: Brendon ThorneA teenager accused of making threats to attack the Sydney Opera House allegedly told security guards that he travelled to the forecourt of the iconic attraction with a backpack containing canisters of brake fluid on the “instructions of Islamic State”.

The 18-year-old man, from Narwee, has an intellectual disability and police don’t believe he had any capability to carry out an attack.

However, terrorism investigators felt like they had no other option but to charge the man on Thursday night after his behaviour had escalated in recent weeks.

The teen appeared via video-link in Central Local Court on Friday charged with threatening to destroy or damage property.

Wearing a forensic jumpsuit and looking at the ground, he broke down as he told Magistrate Les Mabbutt that he was seeing doctors recently because he was “not acting like myself”.

Mr Mabbutt ordered that the man be admitted to St Vincent’s Hospital for a psychiatric assessment.

His arrest came just two days after Islamic State released a magazine article urging “lone wolf” followers to stab, shoot, poison and run over Australians at iconic attractions including the Opera House, Bondi Beach and the MCG.

When Opera House security approached the man at 11.20am on Thursday, he allegedly said he was “here [on] ISIS instructions to carry out an attack,” the court heard.

His backpack contained two canisters of non-flammable brake fluid and an address book with details of deaths and injuries of “certain people,” the court heard.

Three weeks ago, the teen was given an 18-month good behaviour bond in Parramatta Children’s Court for a string of online hoax threats made against government buildings, public transport and schools.

He cannot be identified because he was underage at the time of the offences.

One of the conditions of his bond was that he not access any internet or telephone device unless under direct supervision of a handful of people, including his older sister.

He was also ordered to have a mentor from the Lebanese Muslim Association and engage in psychological assessments, counselling and treatment recommended by the LMA or Ageing, Disability and Home Care, part of the Department of Family and Community Services.

Mr Mabbutt expressed disbelief on Friday that none of the religious or welfare agencies looking after him had done a mental health assessment. Instead, it was only after his arrest that he was admitted to a facility.

“It has come down to this,” he said, adding that none of the man’s family members had turned up at court to give details on the man’s mental state.

The court heard the teen had recently been observed talking and laughing to himself and hearing voices. He had increasingly been staying at home playing video games, watching TV and not maintaining proper hygiene.

During proceedings on Friday, he squinted his eyes, looked at the roof, hunched over and licked his lips several times.

It’s understood police had cautioned the teen several times and worked closely with his family and his school in an attempt to change his behaviour.

The Terrorism Investigations Squad searched the family’s Narwee home on Thursday night and seized items including computers and phones.

Mum defends assistant principal Shane Matthews after he’s charged with indecently assaulting students

Charged: School teacher Shane Matthews has been accused of grooming and indecently assaulting students. Photo: SuppliedThe mother of a primary school teacher accused of grooming and indecently assaulting students has leapt to her son’s defence saying she pities every male teacher.

Shane Andrew Matthews, 29, allegedly groomed and indecently assaulted three male students at a primary school in Sydney’s south-west between 2012 and 2015.

He has taught at Wattle Grove Public School, and started a new role as an assistant principal at Woodland Road Public School at the beginning of this year.

A school newsletter announcing Mr Matthew’s departure to start in the new position described him as a “wonderful asset at our school for seven years”, and a teacher with “amazing expertise” in creative and practical arts.

“Mr Matthews has also proven to be a very popular teacher with the students in his care, with units of work on Super Heroes legendary,” the notice states.

“Mr Matthews has been an engaging member of staff with all of our school community, a great contributor to our school in so many facets and he will be sorely missed.”

He was arrested at his Bradbury home on Thursday and charged with with 10 counts of indecently assaulting a person under 16, three counts of grooming or procuring a child and one count of committing an aggravated act of indecency.

With family members at Campbelltown Local Court to support him on Friday, Mr Matthews was unsuccessful in his bid for bail.

Outside the court, Mr Matthews’ mother defended him and suggested the claims against her son were unfounded.

“How would you feel if you were a teacher just going to work and doing your job every day?,” she said.

“I pity every male teacher that is teaching in a school, from the day they walk into that classroom to the end of their life, wait for a knock on the door,” she said.

Police said Child Abuse Squad detectives launched an extensive investigation following reports an 11-year-old male student had been indecently assaulted by Mr Matthews.

Mr Matthews was heavily involved in extra curricular activities, running and co-ordinating performing arts concerts.

He is due to appear in court again via audio visual on October 26.

Melissa George reportedly treated for facial bruising

Australian actress Melissa George, left, and Jean David Blanc earlier this year. Photo: Michel EulerFormer Home & Away star Melissa George has reportedly presented at a police station with bruises on her face and “complaining of pain”.

French media are reporting the actor was transferred from a police station in Paris’ 8th district to the Cochin hospital earlier this week.

The 40-year-old “had swelling of the face and complained of pain, nausea and dizziness,” M6Info reported.

A source at the Paris Public Prosecutor’s office told Fairfax Media that police had responded to “an incident involving the actress and her partner that took place on Tuesday evening”.

George’s partner is French businessman and film producer Jean-David Blanc and they have two young children: Raphael, 2, and Solal, who was born in November last year.

The couple met at the BAFTA after party in London back in 2011.

She was previously married to Chilean film director Claudio Dabed, whom she divorced in 2012.

George has previously spoken about her relationship with Blanc while promoting her new medical drama series Heartbeat earlier this year.

“I have an amazing man, who is really supportive,” she said.

The pair are regulars on the local social scene and regularly walk the red carpet at Cannes Film Festival and the amfAR Cinema Against Aids gala.

They most recently attended an official dinner at the Elysee Palace in Paris with President Francois Hollande and Governor-General Peter Cosgrove.

George was recently back in Australia filming The Butterfly Tree, a low-budget film that focuses on a widowed father and his teenage son who fall for the same woman. It will premiere at the Melbourne International Film Festival next year.

The Perth-born actor rose to international fame with roles in Alias, Grey’s Anatomy and the TV adaptation of Christos Tsiolkas’ book, The Slap.

Fairfax Media has contacted George’s publicist and manager for comment.

with Nicole Trian

Family Violence Counselling Service 1800 RESPECT: 1800 737 732.

This picture of Barack and Michelle Obama is going viral

After eight years’ reign in the White House, US President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama will bid adieu in January, so everyone is clamouring to get some final shots of the historical POTUS and FLOTUS.

For the month of October, Michelle, 52, will appear on two magazine covers: solo for InStyle and embracing her husband, 55, for Essence.

While she kills it on both, it’s an inside shot of the couple in the latter that has gone viral and has social media shouting about relationship and real body goals.   A photo posted by ESSENCE (@essence) on Sep 8, 2016 at 10:25am PDT

No strangers to speaking openly about their affection for one another, the pair, who will be 24 years married next month, put their money where their mouth is as they posed lovingly hand-in-hand, while their silhouettes lit up by the backdrop of the window had others worshipping at the altar of Michelle.

“Yes, black love. Yes, Obama love. And with all respect, black body love,” one Twitter user wrote.

Reminiscing about his time in office, the president said he is proud of his legacy, but admitted there is still a lot of work to be done by his replacement – Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Yes, black love. Yes, Obama love. And with all respect, black body love. pic.twitter杭州m/ZVfrs5B1II— Nichole (@tnwhiskeywoman) September 8, 2016Barack and Michelle Obama are the most beautiful first couple the US has ever had. #RelationshipGoalspic.twitter杭州m/5uBpKKRjpk— Vero (@kikalavil) September 8, 2016I will not objectify the FLOTUS I will not objectify the FLOTUS I will not objectify the FLOTUS I will not objectify the FLOTUS I will not o— Ashley C. Ford (@iSmashFizzle) September 8, 2016

“I can unequivocally say that America is better off now than we were when we came into office. By almost every economic measure, we’re better off,” he said. “But having said that, we still have a lot of work to do.”

While some of his most cherished memories is time spent with his two daughters Malia, 18, and Sasha, 15, and the presidential pets, Bo and Sunny.

“Some of my fondest memories of the White House are just being with the girls on a summer night and walking the dogs around the South Lawn, talking and listening to them, trying to get Bo to move because sometimes it’s hot,” he said.    A photo posted by ESSENCE (@essence) on Sep 8, 2016 at 5:22pm PDT

Michelle also discussed the historic impact of their time in the White House.

“I think when it comes to black children, it means something for them to have spent most of their life seeing the family in the White House look like them,” she said.

“It matters. All the future work that Barack talked about, I think over these last few years, we’ve kind of knocked the ceiling of limitation off the roofs of many young kids; imaginations of what’s possible for them. And as a mother, I wouldn’t underestimate how important that is, having that vision that you can really do anything – not because somebody told you, but because you’ve seen and experienced it. I think that will be a lasting impact on our kids.”   A photo posted by instylemagazine (@instylemagazine) on Sep 7, 2016 at 4:37pm PDT

Canberra FC ready to seek revenge on Canberra Olympic in grand final

Canberra Olympic celebrate their win over Canberra FC in last year’s grand final. Photo: Melissa AdamsCanberra FC are seeking grand-final revenge against Canberra Olympic when they clash again on Sunday after suffering a heartbreaking loss in last year’s decider.

Canberra FC coach Zoran Glavinic is confident his side can turn the tide after four grand final losses in a row haunting the team.

Canberra FC and Olympic will face-off in the men’s Premier League grand final while Canberra FC will aim for a double title when their women’s side plays Belconnen United in the championship match on the same day.

“It’s always there, it’s one of those things that we are working on and concentrating on week by week,” Glavinic said.

“This is the one that we wanted and this is the one that everybody talks about who won the grand final. The title’s a good thing obviously but the [grand fina] is the one that you want.

“There’s a little bit there I was just looking at on the history for the last couple of years and this is our fourth grand final that we have made in a row and we have lost two to Olympic. I think it is about time it’s a Canberra FC one”.

Canberra Olympic coach Frank Cachia has had an interrupted couple of weeks for the team with “our routine” gone out the window.

“With all the FFA Cup games our routine has been mucked up a little bit, obviously we will take it, we have got other big games at the same time so we will be ready no matter what,” Cachia said.

Cachia says the squad is brimming with confidence after a stunning run through the FFA Cup. Olympic will face Green Gully in the quarter-final in the coming weeks.

“The squad’s been pretty confident for a while now, with 11 straight wins in all competitions, Cachia said.

“I think we are confident but at the same time we are very respectful of the quality and the ability that Canberra FC have and the players that they can call on.”


Sunday: Men’s – Canberra Olympic vs Canberra FC at Deakin Stadium, 4pm. Women’s – Canberra FC v Belconnen United at Deakin Stadium, at 1pm.

Fifty years on, Star Trek fan clubs bear the brunt of modern technology

William Shatner, left, DeForest Kelley, center, and Leonard Nimoy pose on the set of the television series ‘Star Trek’. The series has clocked up an incredible 725 episodes.The rise of the internet has been a double-edged sword for Star Trek clubs like Austrek, helping win over a new generation of fans but reducing their need to join a fan club in order to stay in touch with the adventures of Star Fleet.

As we mark 50 years since the USS Enterprise’s maiden voyage, Melbourne-based Austrek is also celebrating its 40th anniversary, making it the world’s second oldest Star Trek fan club. In that time interest in science fiction has boomed, losing much of its social stigma, yet fan club membership numbers have dwindled.

Austrek was born in a world where Star Trek fans could only watch the show when it screened on live broadcast television — an age before home video recorders, pay television, DVD box sets, catch up TV and subscription video services. This isolation drove Star Trek fans to seek each other out, says Austrek co-founder Geoff Allshorn.

When Star Trek wasn’t on the air you simply didn’t hear about it, says Allshorn — who formed Austrek in 1976 with fellow high school students after the arrival of colour television brought Star Trek re-runs to Australian screens.

“Fans were driven to make contact with each other to find out news about Star Trek, especially when they started making the movies in the late seventies,” Allshorn says.

“There was this whole fan network of letter writers passing news back and forth because, unless there was a tiny article in the TV guide, you just didn’t hear anything.”

The Australian representative of the international Star Trek Welcommittee, Diane Marchant, helped kickstart Austrek with the donation of 100 stamps so Allshorn could mail out the first newsletter via Australia Post — a far cry from the free yet powerful social media channels available today.

Austrek has experienced peaks and troughs in its membership numbers as each new series of Star Trek has attracted new generations of fans, while older fans have dropped away. Rather than Klingons and Romulans, today Austrek’s greatest foes today are Facebook and Netflix which ensure everything Star Trek is always at your fingertips.

Before the rise of the world wide web, the primary reason for joining a fan club was to receive the newsletter, while the social side of gathering with like-minded fans was a bonus, says Austrek club historian Darren Maxwell. These days Facebook plays the role of both newsletter and social club – Austrek has around 140 paid-up members, with roughly 40 people attending monthly meetings, while its Facebook page has more than 500 followers.

Social media isn’t solely to blame for the club’s struggles to attract new young members. While it’s become more socially acceptable to be a science fiction fan and even dress up at conventions, Maxwell says there’s still a stigma attached to joining a fan club.

Maxwell joined the club in 1984, after seeing Wrath of Khan at the cinemas as a teenager, and at that point most people in the club were in their 20s and 30s.

“Today those people are all in their 50s and 60s and the younger generation hasn’t come through as strongly,” he says. “There’s still a psychological line which means that, even while the Star Trek franchise might be gigantic, clubs like Austrek can struggle to grow.”

“The passion of Star Trek fans has kept the show alive for 50 years, and we want clubs like Austrek to live on, so we really want to encourage people to get away from the keyboard and meet up with other fans face to face.”

It’s war: why there is a new battle looming over public and private school funding

The debate over schools funding will heat up when Education Minister Simon Birmingham meets his state counterparts on September 23. Photo: Daniel Munoz NSW Minister for Education Adrian Piccoli has vowed to fight if money is cut from the state’s schools. Photo: Louie Douvis

Federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham wants one funding model for all states. Photo: Louise Kennerley

“Gonski is now history.”

That was Dr Ken Boston, an architect of the Gonski reforms, delivering a blunt and pessimistic account of the state of schools funding to education leaders in Sydney last week.

Five years, two federal elections and three education ministers after the landmark report was released,  “there is now no prospect of [it]  being implemented as recommended,” he said.

He reminded his audience what Gonski was about: social disadvantage is the biggest driver of poor education results, and it has been exacerbated by school funding arrangements for the past 40 years. Gonski was designed to fix that, to give every child a fair go.

“It is surely unacceptable that the 20 most expensive independent schools in NSW receive more than $111 million per annum in public funding, when the gap in reading performance between the top 20 per cent and bottom 20 per cent of our 15-year-olds is equivalent to five years of schooling,” he said.

If he is right, Gonski now represents a lost opportunity for a once-in-a-generation reform of a system where political partisanship, vested interests, ideology and inertia have for decades delivered perverse outcomes. A system that is still leaving hundreds of thousands of children behind.

Today Australia has a patched-together mess of 27 different systems producing irrational and unequal funding outcomes, and a policy debate that is as rancorous as ever, with the NSW Education Minister threatening “war” on his federal counterpart if they cut money from the state’s schools.

Boston laid the blame for the policy failure at the feet of both sides of politics, saying that while Labor delivered more money for education, it also implemented a “corruption of the Gonski report”.

“We had the chance to do away with this interminable money squabble between the sectors especially. Gonski had a solution, but now that chance is gone,” says Chris Bonnor, education expert from the Centre for Policy Development.

“The next conversation will be about redistributing the funding that’s available. That’s an unhappy conversation because no one will agree to what comes out of that.”

That conversation starts officially on September 23, when federal Education Minister Simon Birmingham is due to sit down with his state counterparts to hash out a new agreement for school funding that goes beyond 2017 where the current arrangements end.

The political forecast for the meeting is inclement.

Or, as Labor’s education spokeswoman Tanya Plibersek puts it: “The federal government will be turning up to this ministerial meeting, having cut $29 billion from schools, asking the states and territories to do more, and expecting them to be happy with that.”

Skirmishes have already begun among the stakeholders, with a shot across the bow from the Australian Education Union this week. It released analysis by education academic Dr Jim McMorrow that found on the current model, of the promised extra $1.2 billion only $450 million (38 per cent) would go to public schools and $750 million (62 per cent) to private schools.

The union’s federal president Correna Haythorpe said the analysis showed it was clear the Coalition had no commitment to needs-based funding and its plan would deny students the help they needed at school.

The federal government, Catholic and independent school sectors, all rejected this as a politically motivated report.

The complexities and politics of school funding make it almost impenetrable to the casual observer.

Most people just want to know that their child’s school is at least getting what is fair, what it needs to do the best for its students. But right now, depending on your school, that is just not happening. Similar schools in different states get different levels of support.

And now the clock is ticking, with states and individual schools uncertain about their funding allocation from the end of next year.

“Something needs to happen, some new deal needs to be done,” says Peter Goss, schools education director from the Grattan Institute.

“The government can try to take the high road, and take some tough decisions that ensure funding goes to where it will make the most difference. Otherwise, the government schools will continue in aggregate to be funded below their entitlement. The state governments will keep yelling about it, and we will continue an unconstructive, poisonous debate.”

The apparent moment of consensus, the famous unity ticket on school funding that Tony Abbott took into the 2013 election, fell apart months later when then education minister Christopher Pyne reneged on the six-year Gonski deal made by the previous Labor government.

He indicated the Coalition would only fund the first four years and funding after that would grow in line with CPI. That meant school funding would stay at the increased level but the funding gap between relatively privileged and disadvantaged schools would no longer narrow.

The final two years – that’s 2018-2019 – are where the bulk of the Gonski funds were supposed to flow. Ahead of this year’s election, and under pressure from Labor which was making gains with its popular schools funding policy, Education Minister Simon Birmingham announced the Coalition would commit $1.2 billion in additional funds for those final two years, or about one-third of what the original agreement had set out.

In a significant move away from the Gonski model, the federal government made that money contingent on the states and territories implementing the federal government’s education reforms designed to boost student literacy and numeracy, teaching and school leadership.

Some states have indicated an in-principle objection to tied grants. But in NSW, which has implemented many of the reforms already, it’s the distribution model – how they will carve up that $1.2 billion – that is at stake at this month’s COAG meeting. If past form is a guide, it’s going to be fiery.

“What I’m concerned about is that the federal government has made noises about redistributing money between states within the existing Commonwealth budget envelope,” says NSW Education Minister Adrian Piccoli. “And if that means they’re going to take money off NSW, then that’s war.”

Piccoli, who runs the largest school system in the country, has implemented the Gonski model in NSW, where funding for state schools is being distributed on a measured needs basis.

He rejects the argument, made frequently by the federal minister, that Australia has increased funding for years with no improvement in results.

“As the Productivity Commission report [this week] said, for that 10-year period before 2013, additional money was spent but spent in the wrong places. Gonski acknowledged that the funds had gone to the wrong places and recommended how you direct funding to the right places. Which was funding individual student need.”

He is furious about the federal government reneging on its agreement to fund schools on this basis in 2018 and beyond.

“We signed an agreement in good faith,” he says. “We made difficult decisions in NSW so that we could get money into these schools that desperately need it for their children. And if the Commonwealth think they’re going to take it away they will have to fight me for it.”

It may yet be fisticuffs, as Birmingham would not rule out NSW losing out.   He says he wants to replace the 27 different funding models with a simpler and fairer one for all states, and that future funding would be distributed according to need.

“Public school students receive significantly more total government funding per student than what goes to private school students,” he says. “On average, total government funding for a student going to a public school is over $16,000 per year, while the government support for a student attending a non-government school is $9300 – more than 40 per cent less.”

Labor’s line that there are $29 billion in cuts to education is not true, he says.

“There are no cuts to school funding and total school funding across Australia will grow from $16 billion in 2016 to $20.1 billion in 2020 and we will be working to ensure that funding is increased each year so that schools currently delivering valuable programs can continue to do so.”

Birmingham would not comment on Boston’s concern about the fairness of millions in public money going to the wealthiest schools in the country.

“I agree with Dr Boston where he says that Bill Shorten running around the country in 2013, signing premiers, bishops and the various education lobbies up to 27 different funding deals was a ‘corruption of the Gonski report’,” he says. “The Turnbull government is determined to right this corruption of the Gonski report and replace the patchwork quilt that Labor cobbled together with a new, simpler distribution model where special deals don’t distort real need.”

But if a state such as South Australia is to get “more” of the $1.2 billion under the new system, as Birmingham told an audience at the University of South Australia in June, even if you had a lousy STEM teacher in primary school, it is not difficult to conclude that other states will get less.

Boston’s solution to this infernal mess is, in fact, not to spend any more money. But it’s still unlikely as it involves what has so far been political kryptonite: taking public money from wealthy schools.

“The solution to Australia’s education problem is not pouring more public money into education, but redistributing the existing funding strategically, to address the things that matter in the schools that need it,” he saidin his speech.

“Far too much is spent in wealthy, independent schools where recurrent funding can be used to service loans on capital works, not necessarily to provide a better education, but to provide facilities to make the school more attractive than its other high fee-paying competitors.”

Gonski’s plan may well be dead, or at least on life support as long as federal Labor is behind it.

But in the incremental improvements that practical politics permits – it is after all, the art of the possible – Gonski’s legacy may at least be a shift to both sides recognising the wisdom of needs-based funding. Even if they can’t agree on who needs it.