Not dead

I was most surprised to hear a speaker at Council claim that the campaign of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) “was dead in the water” in Britain. On the contrary, BDS is alive and well in Britain, especially in the union movement — just read the policies on the TUC website. It is TUC policy to boycott all companies in Israel that profit from the occupation — in effect that means all Israeli companies.

Many individual unions also support BDS. Britain’s largest union, UNITE, with 1.42 million members, has just voted to “develop a UNITE campaigning and leverage strategy around BDS” and stated in its national conference resolution (July 2014) that “the Israeli government continues to govern as an apartheid state and is guilty of the crime of apartheid”.

Also in July the UK’s largest Sodastream store closed its doors following a sustained two-year boycott campaign. Sodastream kits for making fizzy drinks at home are manufactured by an Israeli company with its main factory in the illegal Israeli settlement, Mishor Adumim.

Britain’s largest retailer, John Lewis, also announced it will no longer stock Sodastream products.

Britain and 16 other European Union states have formally warned businesses that there are “clear risks related to economic and financial activities in the settlements” which “are illegal under international law”. This follows previously published guidance warning of the problems and risks associated with doing business with illegal Israeli settlements.

The large Coop chain of supermarkets not only banned all products of illegal settlement from its shelves but was the first major European supermarket group to announce that it was “no longer engaging with any supplier of produce known to be sourcing from the Israeli settlements”.

Only last year, Stephen Hawking, the world famous physicist, joined the academic boycott of Israel in response to requests from Palestinian academics.

Amnesty International UK has called for a military embargo of Israel, London’s Tricycle Theatre has refused to host a film festival which receives funding the Israeli state and Sinéad O’Connor, the internationally renowned musician, has cancelled a planned performance in Israel, emphasising that her decision was made in order to support the Palestinian call for a cultural boycott of Israel.

This does not sound to me like a campaign that is “dead in the water”.

Sonia von Bornemann
Councillor, Inner West TA

Lateral thinking

There has been a deal of controversy relating to the potential sale of the lovely heritage Education building at 35–39 Bridge Street, Sydney. At the same time there is also a strong need for more public schools in the city. Let’s have some lateral thinking. Why not give something back to public education and convert the building into a public high school? If the Anglicans can sustain a school at Town Hall it should not be beyond the capabilities of this government to show it has some commitment to public education and give us a school that reflects the historical background of public education. If needs be it could, given its position, be linked to the Conservatorium or even become a senior school; the possibilities are endless. All it needs is a positive attitude.

Nola Tucker

Supporting BDS

Federation has a very good policy supporting the Palestinian Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel’s on-going brutal military assault on Gaza and elsewhere. As South African Nobel laureate, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Federation should be congratulated for taking such a principled stance.

The international BDS campaign is an opportunity for Federation members to show solidarity and pressure Israel to end its regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid. Boycotting Israeli products and businesses such as Soda Stream and Max Brenner helps generate this pressure. This was the case with our support for the campaign against the South African apartheid regime.

Is it possible for Education to provide information to members on how they can actively support the BDS campaign?

John Gauci
Taverners Hill Infants

Fine print

Those of us who have been members of “our” Health Society over many years have seen many changes in the ways in which governments run health systems and how rebates are paid. We have come to accept the annoying limits which often mean that we are denied rebates in our areas of need while allowances in other areas are used scarcely, if at all. Admittedly this appears to be the case with many, if not most, funds these days.

But recently I discovered that there are other regulations applied which mean that the decisions of our professional medical providers are ignored. The item may, indeed, have a rebate, but it will not be paid in certain combinations.

In my case a check with the Australian Dental Association confirmed that the combination of procedures was warranted and common. But a request for an explanation from Teachers Health Fund told me that this regulation was in place to save us from rising premiums. (The event occurred the day after we received notice of a 7.6 per cent increase in our premiums.) I was also advised to get a benefit quote from the fund before proceeding with any treatment. Surely they are kidding! I have a dentist whom I trust, I have top insurance cover which I have paid for just short of half a century, and I am advised to get a quote as if I could choose not to have a lost filling replaced.

This appears to me to be USA-style health insurance. I fear that this may gradually creep and grow until so many procedures have no rebates or, worse, rebates have non-medical restrictions that prevent a successful claim; that our insurance will mean very little. The decisions of your trained and trusted medical providers will no longer matter.

Co-payments are already very high in more and more medical claims. Should current Budget proposals be passed, they will be even higher. My husband and I now have a number of conditions that make changing funds a chancy option, which the fund knows very well. I would like to warn younger teachers to check the fine print carefully before assuming that Teachers Health will be their best choice. With all the tiny regulations, our lack of coverage may more frequently take us by surprise.

Kathleen Chivers

Will they ever listen

Thank you Maurie Mulheron (“Teaching is rocket science”, Education, August 4) for quoting Lee Schulman (over three decades Stanford University Professor of Education). I quote Sidney Freedman, the Army psychiatrist, in one telling episode of MASH: “Ah Sigmund... there’s the rub.” I don’t know who Sigmund is (our course didn’t go into that much depth) but I think he’s quoting Bill someone, whom I believe wrote some plays long ago. Sorry, my six week teaching course finished before we got to them. Anyway, been teaching now for a fortnight and I get the ‘challenging, demanding and frightening’ bits. Oh boy, do I ever! As for the complexity, the subtlety and whatever that nuancing stuff is, well, sorry. I’m lost.

Name and training course details withheld (for fear of libel... or Christopher Pyne, whichever attacks first).

This letter is supplied with the name below with no fear of retribution, mainly because I retired quite a while back after over three decades of university-trained teaching and, though no-one in schools or governments seems interested in listening to us anymore (did they ever?) — that’s the complexity bit — I’m still and always searching for subtlety and nuance.

If I could also put in a plug for the West Wyalong Festival on October 17–19. The festival theme this year is Mexico In The West.


Charles (Carlos) Kingston

Right to resist

The attack on the Sydney school bus carrying Jewish children, which recently received just and detailed publicity, can only be described as appalling and proves the saying “that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”.

For members of the community to react in such a way towards members of the Jewish faith demonstrates how ill-informed and ignorant they really are.

Israel is a political system and by its action towards the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, then definite parallels can be drawn with the action of the Nazis toward the Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto of Poland in the 1940s.

A further parallel can be drawn, Hamas with the Maquis (the French national resistance) during the occupation of France during the Second World War. Hitler also viewed the Maquis as terrorists.

There are many of the Jewish faith who are also appalled at the action being taken against the Palestinians and appreciate their right to resist.

Bill Barwood

On the back burner

I am writing as a retired teacher and ex Federation Rep living in the Shoalhaven and still actively seeking employment as an on-call casual. I am voicing not just my concerns but those of others that have retired, looking for casual work.

I retired from the rigours of full time teaching at Raby High School on my 60th birthday (2011) and moved to Greenwell Point near Nowra. In 2011 I earned $85,000 and 2012 $55,000. This income made retirement comfortable.

When the government handed over all financial management of schools to principals in 2012/13, a speaker at our Federation meeting stated “we might as well cut our throats”. How prophetic this was; in 2013, my earnings took a dive to $14,500 and in 2014 tax year only $9500.

With 40 graduates coming out of the University of Western Sydney each year in my faculty area (English and History) the older, higher-paid teachers are being put on the back-burner at the expense of the budgetary constraints on schools.

I know of colleagues earning far less than myself and we feel it’s time to ask for a fair go from the schools.

Most of the casual Grey Army are only asking for 2–3 days per week to enable us to live and pay our bills. We don’t want to detract from the chances of younger teachers furthering their careers: we simply ask that schools strike a balance.

In addition many of these incoming teachers are not Federation members and are being employed purely on an economic basis, over experienced staff. It seems bums on seats are being used at the expense of duty of care.

We would ask that this matter be discussed at district level and that administration head teachers be made aware that retired teachers can make a valuable contribution to their schools.

Ross Barker