Devine Spinspiration

Miranda Devine doesn’t pretend to be much more than she is: a once-over-lightly agent provocateur for the Fairfax stable. One of her few redeeming qualities, in fact, is her tongue-in-cheek self-awareness of the brief. She rarely strays down the path of ponderous self-importance that often blights this genre. Quite often she’s just silly – and leaves you in no doubt that she’s OK with that. The outraged epistles of those who continually fail to ‘get’ this aspect of the carefully calculated Devine Madness, is all part of the entertainment.

But in today’s Sun Herald she goes for broke, over the top and down the other side. She uses an irate Ph.D student at the University of Wollongong, who comes complete with a very Islamic-sounding name – see? She does see worth in Australian diversity – to hammer away at the monstrous inequity in funding support for Ph.D students. Miranda’s battler is bashing away at a ‘boring but worthy’ thesis on some aspect of superannuation. He’s forced – like thousands of Ph.D students before him – to eke out a less than comfortable existence while he does so: part-time tutoring and other unspeakable horrors. Meanwhile 5 other students – all of whom appear to be drawn from – you guessed it – the Social Sciences are or have been engaged in Ph.D studies on topics ranging from the now celebrated ‘Jesus was Gay’ farrago from the University of Queensland, to tattoos, to blondes, to media coverage of Tom and Nicole’s breakup. Her point – if there is one – seems to be that if people didn’t do stuff like this there would be more money for blokes who want to rip into superannuation, and we’d all be better off. It’s a bow so long you’d need to be standing in Ulan Bator to draw it but great, soaring flights of illogicality are Miranda’s stock in trade.

I’m the first person to raise an eyebrow at some of the self-indulgent excess that academia gets involved in but any Ph.D ripped out of context, stripped of it’s rationale – even those hypothesising on aspects of super I’m sure – can be made to look more than a bit wanky. You kind of have to be there, and read in to it.

Miranda does grudgingly allow that there may be the odd bit of useful stuff happening on the Ph.D front – “somone might be working on a cure for cancer” – and also mentions that 30,000+ courses of Ph.D study were reportedly underway in Australia last year. She doesn’t mention that there could be 1,000 reasons as to why her bloke missed out on major funding support, none of which is likely to have the remotest connection with the specfic social science Ph.D’s she cited as somehow ‘responsible’ for his travails. She doesn’t need to. You don’t need need to justify your source material in a comedy act.

Comedy turned to broad farce when she then turned to a quasi defence of Malcolm Jones. Jones represents the interests of, well.. himself largely, in the NSW Upper House. Ostensibly there as rep of the Outdoor Recreation Party, he’s done this via the stratagem of dreaming up a bunch of pretty much non-existent political parties, registering them and then using the electoral system to ensure he’s on to a nice little earner with the best lifetime super deal in the southern hemisphere. Not content with this sweet number, Jones has also been rorting his out-of-Sydney living allowance, claiming that an unoccupied shed on a friend’s property in the Hunter – and not his home 8km from Macquarie St – is his actual residence. The Independent Commission against Corruption has just ruled that Jones is in breach on both these counts plus using his mailout allowance to recruit more suckers to his ‘parties.’ The sooner his sorry, greedy arse is chucked out of Parliament the better. It’s difficult to defend Jones allows Miranda, promptly proving her point by trying to do so.

Her defence rests on the fact that:

Bob Carr doesn’t like Jones – like, who does?

The Greens dobbed him in to ICAC, and

ALP and Coalition parliamentarians don’t get done for travel rorts only plucky little third party blokes and ‘outsiders’ like, yes! Mal Colston

It’s a total bloody disgrace and no mistake. Someone needs to do a Ph.D on it……….

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cs
cs
2022 years ago

I agree Geoff. Miranda’s an ignorant shocker, but she’s a professional ignorant shocker.

James Russell
2022 years ago

I must say “tongue-in-cheek self-awareness” is not a quality I would normally ascribe to Miranda’s writing…

Scott Wickstein
2022 years ago

30,000+ PhD’s in progress?

I thought we had an education crisis in this country?

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

Yeah, I must say that ‘30,000’ surprised me too Scott.

cs
cs
2022 years ago

And me.

cs
cs
2022 years ago

Then again, if we assume that 30,000 is the total cohort, and that the degree takes 3 years (they used to take an average of almost 5, but I think they’ve toughened that up), then we are only talking about 10,000 additional PhDs p.a., or half of a half a percent of the population (I think … numbers are not my thing), gaining a PhD a year, spread across many disciplines … which now doesn’t sound like many an all.

Tim Dymond
Tim Dymond
2022 years ago

A superannuation topic and a social/cultural studies topic wouldn’t even be competing for the same pool of funds. It would make more sense to find out what business/commerce topics were chosen over Subedar’s proposal.

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

Indeed it would Tim. Can’t think why Miranda didn’t feature that very salient point……….;)

Geoff Honnor
Geoff Honnor
2022 years ago

Your analysis looks more like it Chris. I’m assuming also that a significant proportion of them would meet Miranda’s ‘ more job-related’ whinge – medicine, law, science, commerce etc….

woodsy
woodsy
2022 years ago

What about me old mate Zaffar approaching AMP or NAB for a bit of help in funding his research ? Would private funding colour his thesis ? Who would own the IP resulting from his findings ? The whole matter of funding research, any research, must become more transparent. I know that ‘pure’ research is important but the teriary education sector will have to recognise, sooner better than later, that there’s no such thing as ‘free’ IP; and I personally think it a good thing that university research should be privatised where practicable.

Norman
Norman
2022 years ago

The real story isn’t that Miranda wrote this piece. It’s that there are students doing Honours degrees and PhDs, who, in the past, would have had difficulty even matriculating. Universities are an enormous drain on the nation’s resources. Little attention is paid to the question of whether [with many students/courses]it’s a rational allocation of these resources.
Barry Jones ‘whispers’ quietly about the disastrous Dawkins changes being too difficult to deal with; but the media has never dreamed of taking up the issue. That’s why Miranda and others are able to run bizzare examples every now and again. No one else will touch the scandal with a barge pole.

Stephen Hill
Stephen Hill
2022 years ago

Yes, Miranda doesn’t mention the results of this erstwhile Economics Honours student. This is rather important, considering the competitiveness in obtaining a PhD grant. If the student didn’t get a high honours pass (first-class honours or high second-class honours), what is he complaining about.