Gender equity: insistence on fairness helps everyone

Amidst some gratuitous sneering, Paul Winter (“I am woman, hear me roar”, Letters, September 7) seems to propose that society should accept sufficient progress has been made by Australian women towards equality and to go further would somehow interfere with biological determinism.

He also apparently believes that campaigning for equality in pay and other workplace issues here somehow takes insufficient heed of the appalling treatment of women in other nations and cultures.

Both propositions are false.

Women, and men who support equality, have achieved significant reforms in developed nations such as Australia that include equal pay by law (if not in practice), the right to vote and hold public office, remaining in public employment after marriage and equal rights to education.

These certainly are beyond the rights enjoyed in some other societies — a point extensively addressed in Joan Lemaire’s article about the UN conference (“Power and privileges: equity sticking points” (Education, September 7) to which Winter refers, without acknowledging this point.

Fighting for female rights (to education, safety, respect) in more oppressive regimes is not undermined by seeking to extend rights in more progressive societies any more than campaigning for better pay in Australia undermines poorly-paid workers elsewhere. On the contrary, global insistence on fairness advances everyone.

Within Australia, equal pay by law has been achieved quite recently. The 1963 teachers’ decision was something of a breakthrough.

In private enterprise in the late 1960s, I worked alongside women doing exactly the same job being paid less, by law. Assumptions about careers and promotions created an expectation and culture that this was as it should be.

This culture has receded but not disappeared; when it does, we might idly speculate whether women are “intrinsically” less career-oriented than men.

Al Svirskis
Life Member

One aim

I retired in 2004 and enjoy reading Education. My ears pricked up when the term “Local Schools, Local Decisions” appeared.

Federation rightly opposes this so-called “reform” and it looks as if the only thought the Department had when it was introduced was how to save money. I don’t think they considered which factors could be taken into consideration when local decisions are made. I won’t elaborate but I’m sure readers will catch on.

Frank Tweedie

Equality campaign takes no prisoners

Marriage, and its redefinition, does not just affect homosexuals and it is not fair that we allow them to always be “victims”.

Tim Blackman’s article, “Fighting the good fight on marriage equality” (Your Say, Education, October 26) discusses the concept of equality but I hope that students anywhere would be able to determine that, in spite of Tim’s claims, being shot for pursuing an education and living in racial segregation are not “exactly the same” as having freedom of speech, of movement, of assembly, of association and religion, as well as protection against discrimination, all of which homosexuals currently enjoy.

Tim says that he “truly respect(s)” the convictions of his students but in juxtaposition to those convictions he then lines up “equality”, “support”, “safety” and “care” as if they are direct opposites. Then he starts on about harassment and vilification and, by the end of his article, he is calling for the use of the suspension and expulsion policy. On whom? Those same students? For what?

Can anyone truly respect the right of another to “hold convictions near and dear” if they then threaten them with suspension? He would not be the first person in this debate to support an individual’s right to conscience as long as it agrees with his own.

The debate over changing the definition of marriage has to be honest, open and fair. (Has the Federation removed that possibility?) You have to learn to live with those who oppose your point of view, not silence them. Otherwise, it is not respect at all.

Paul Treacy
Denistone East PS

No struggle, no progress

According to the Reserve Banks recent monetary policy statement, Australia is experiencing its longest period of low earnings growth since the early 1990s.

The RBA says, “Low wage growth has been spread broadly across the public and private sectors, industries and states, with all experiencing increases below their decade averages. Unions and companies have indicated that they expect wage growth to remain low “for some time”.

History demonstrates a direct relationship between levels of industrial action and wage growth. During the September Budget Estimates Hearing, NSW Treasurer and Industrial Relations Minister Gladys Berejiklian proudly announced that, “NSW is enjoying historically low levels of days lost to strike action.”

Clearly, wage increases are not granted from the magnanimity of a government employer. Our previous two salary agreements failed to break the grossly unfair 2.5 per cent salary cap while living expenses and workload continued to rise.

In July, the Commonweath Bank’s State of The States report confirmed NSW as the strongest performing economy for the fourth consecutive quarter. While the NSW Government is boasting our economy is number one again, working people are not receiving these benefits.

At October Council, our President encouraged Councillors to defy unfair laws and quoted US playwright and social activist Howard Zinn explaining that the history of social progress was forged by disobedience. We heard more inspiring songs of struggle and rebellion from our President when Federation presented the Joe Hill Centennial Concert in November.

These insightful quotes and inspiring songs are, however, reduced to disingenuous platitudes unless our leaders transform these heroic messages into action. In the words of former slave and abolitionist, Frederick Douglass, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.”

John Gauci
Taverners Hill Infants School

Compulsory vote: fact of fiction?

It is hard to understand the perpetuation of the myth of compulsory voting peddled by all and sundry.

Nobody seems to relate the call being currently heard that young 18-year-olds should be encouraged to register their names on the Electoral Roll. It is not compulsory to do so: in fact, anybody can have his/her name removed from the roll at any time.

How can it be claimed that voting is compulsory when placement on the Electoral Roll is not required by law?

What is compulsory is the fact that if your name is on the electoral roll you must have it marked off on polling day. Fines are imposed if a satisfactory explanation is not provided, that is, if you did not attend a booth on the day. Nobody can be forced to mark a ballot paper or penalised for not doing so.

Work that one out.

Bill Barwood

Gender history

Here is a task for the research officer.In the Education of October 26 it was asserted that women had to resign on marriage 50 years ago and that 20 years ago they had to resign if they had a baby.Are these facts accurate? Sometimes oral history has to be checked for accuracy.

Fred Rainger

Carbon copy

Stark evidence of two-tier system

Sydney Morning Herald

Why on earth should we be surprised at the outcomes of the landmark national study Educational Opportunity in Australia 2015: Who Succeeds and Who Misses Out by the Mitchell Institute (“Students miss the grade”, Sydney Morning Herald, October 26)?

For whatever reason, Australians have decided that they are comfortable with at least a two-tier educational system that makes no pretence to foster excellence and equity but panders to selectivity, fragmentation, exclusion and — class war spoiler! — social and religious stratification.

The fundamentals of funding differentiation are stark and the results obvious, as the report identifies. As a nation, we seem to be satisfied with being at the top of the (public-funded) privatised educational OECD rankings and second-last as public system providers.

The results of such acceptance are there for all to see, whether they are social outcomes or international performance figures.

It doesn’t have to be so: we can start on the road back and one small step would be the full implementation, across all states, of the Gonski program. I am not holding my breath.

Gus Plater
Life Member

Social cohesion it is not

Daily Telegraph, Sydney Morning Herald

A major report issued recently on multicultural and social cohesion statistics is worrying (Mapping Social Cohesion 2015: The Scanlon Foundation Surveys Report by Monash University, October 2015). After 100 years of progressively developing inter-racial and inter-religious understandings, Australia is now systematically developing the preconditions for a widespread breakdown in social cohesion.

It has consciously and deliberately pulled apart a public schooling system and largely replaced it with publicly-funded but separated religious, ethnic and socio-economically layered schools.

It is now commonplace for school students from ages four to 18 to attend schools where students are collected based on their likeness: children of the wealthy, privileged and powerful with children of the wealthy, privileged and powerful; Jewish children with Jewish children; Muslim children with Muslim children; Catholic children with Catholic children; Anglican children with Anglican children; Ananda Marga children with Ananda Marga children; Seventh Day Adventist children with Seventh Day Adventist children, Plymouth Brethren children with Plymouth Brethren children … and so on.

There are no good educational reasons for this separateness. There are no good financial reasons for it — but there is an overwhelmingly strong political reason why we should replace “schooling separateness” with schools that support and encourage social cohesion.

Yet we Australians encourage this separateness politically. We permit both major political parties to encourage and bankroll this separateness. This is a recipe for social disaster — a breakdown in social cohesion.

Dr Van Davy
Life Member