As I get older and look at what our leaders in particular are saying, it occurs to me that we get our knowledge from two different sources. One is from our experience which increases as we get older. In particular when something happens we tend to relate it to the same event which happened previously, or to a similar event, and look at it in context and against previous outcomes. The other source is from formal learning and this is the area which is probably far more important but in any case is particularly relevant. It comes from lifelong learning which I believe, hope, will get much more recognition, and have greater significance in the future.

Our Prime Minister and the heads of our states and territories are currently having their annual meeting to look at current problems and try to sort out a solution. The main issue is working out who provides, and pays for, different services. A major problem is that both groups collect different forms of taxes and provide and pay for different services.

One issue is that the State recently withdrew some of the money it provides to the states and territories to pay for education. There are two main suggestions from the states and territories to overcome this deficiency. One is to increase the GST and the other is to increase the Medicare levy which pays for health care and which is currently underfunded. The proponents of neither of these two suggestions appear to be able to illustrate what the result would be of either of these courses of action.

This is where the second type of knowledge comes from. It is formal learning which few, if any, of our politicians have been anywhere near for decades. If they had recently participated in any of this form of learning they would have known that for either of their suggestions to proceed the outcomes of such an action should be formally set out and costed.

It worries me that in so many countries the gap between the rich and poor is widening. This means that in these countries the poor are likely to have less access to either quality education, thus ensuring that this gap continues and the country misses out on the talents of a sizable section of the population, and less access to a quality health system which in turn can add to the health bill and a decline in population health standards. Both of these are negative outcomes.

This is why if we are to argue for either of the two proposals we need to know the outcome of increasing tax on them. This relies on formal analysis which neither side seems willing to provide. They are relying too much on what has happened in the past and assume that either of these are reliable steps to take, based on this past, unresearched experience.

Those who wield power and influence need to realise that both past experience and formal study contribute to successful decision making and outcomes. I can’t see this happening any time in the future. Meanwhile we’ll just stumble along missing out on opportunities.