General Secretary's visit
In introducing John Dixon at our September 12 meeting, Allan West, on behalf of the RTA, congratulated John on his recent election as General Secretary. John knows many of our members from their involvement with Federation over the years. He was elected unopposed and, after six weeks in the job at the time of his visit, he says he knows why! He remembers John Hennessey’s “most important” word (in response to financial requests) — No! He has symbolically moved Ivor Lancaster’s oak desk back into his office.
This is a difficult time for our union with the greater casualisation of teaching staff and an organisational review of the Federation planned. The Federation will be putting greater emphasis on school membership and support and directing funds towards campaigns. John is now the longest-serving Federation Officer, having served 28 years. He wished our association well in the future.
Work and risk-shifting
Terry Jones introduced Dr Michael Rafferty of the University of Sydney, whose address, “Work, working life and risk-shifting”, was subtitled, “Where does superannuation fit in?” He gave data showing teachers becoming older on average, jobs becoming less secure and household budgets getting tighter. Superannuation, at the moment, is a gravy train for the banking sector with more than $20 million being taken from consumers each year.
Ron Denham thanked Michael for the presentation. The donation will go to Stewart House.
Ron Denham reported that, at the August 18 meeting of the Combined Retired Union Members Association (CRUMA), it was mentioned that Telstra paid out $4.7 billion to its shareholders, the Australian Taxation Office and other statutory authorities shed jobs to offshore employees, CSR Gyprock at Wetherill Park had not paid its employees for several weeks and “flexible” agreements are affecting the jobs of nurses and midwives. As well, ABC cost-cutting is tuning out older listeners. Members are also concerned that business owners are getting two votes in the Sydney Council elections.
Day of Action on trade pact
Ian Massingham made available new AFTINet pamphlets from the Australian Free Trade and Investment Network (AFTINet). There is to be a Day of Action against the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) on November 8. Secret negotiations are currently proceeding in Hanoi about the TPPA; the US is claiming the right to approve other countries’ laws before they are enacted and Peru has already suffered as a result. A total of 41 submissions and 1100 letters have been received condemning the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS). In 2010, the Productivity Commission stated there was no economic benefit to be gained from the ISDS. India and 33 other developed counties have objected to ISDS as a threat to food security.
Push on pensions
Margaret De La Garde reported that there had been a joint meeting of senior organisations in Canberra on July 21 to discuss indexation of pensions; they wanted to gain an understanding of what organisations want to achieve and agree on common terminology and speak with a common voice.
There was a common concern over the CPI (which now includes computer costs as a household item and ignores mortgage interest so that CPI becomes a measure of pure price inflation rather than a true measure of the cost of living). The difference between CPI and Male Total Average Weekly Earnings (MTAWE) is usually about 1–1.5 per cent; MTAWE measures cost of living changes without any change in productivity. There was a consensus for the status quo (i.e. the better of Pensioner and Beneficiary Living Cost index and CPI) but benchmarked to 27.7 per cent of MTAWE.
Enid Hokin moved that the NSW RTA call on the Federal Government to immediately redirect the $240 million currently allocated to the school chaplaincy program to the employment of school counsellors. The funding arrangements for the chaplaincy program were struck down by the High Court.
The Federal Government is forcing religious advisors on students regardless of their parents’ wishes. There is no justification for employing untrained people to counsel students and to enforce religious influence on vulnerable students who are entitled to the very best support that can be provided. Questions of religion are properly the responsibility of families (three members against).
Move to rearm Japan
It was moved by Don Morrison that the RTA object to our Commonwealth Government supporting the rearmament of the Japanese Defence Forces (one member against).
The ‘guide by the side’
An article, “Dogma Taints Primary Teaching” by Justine Ferrari in The Australian on September 11 states: “Professor Dinham [President of the Australian College of Educators] rejected [the] belief that a teacher should be ‘the sage on stage’ but instead should be the ‘guide by the side’, facilitating student learning.”
Professor Dinham continues that effective knowledgeable teachers were needed more than ever to assist students to navigate the mass of material available online.
Patricia Hardwick-Campbell moved that Professor Stephen Dinham’s article and philosophy be seriously debated in schools, university faculties, state and federal parliaments and in parents and citizens associations.
It has come to the notice of the RTA that the NSW Government is no longer willing to contribute funding to the Neuroscience Institute of Schizophrenia and Allied Disorders (NISAD). This will almost certainly bring this internationally-renowned research body to an end even though it is the only institute specialising in schizophrenia research in NSW.
The son of one of our members had suffered from schizophrenia for some 18 years and, in June, took his own life. This member, and all our members, would like to see an increase in research into this dreadful illness that seizes young people in their prime and destroys their chance of a decent and productive life. We request that the Government reconsider this decision and, rather, increase financial support for schizophrenia research in NSW.
Gonski for six years
Enid Hokin moved that the NSW RTA is strongly committed to the Federal Government funding education for the full period of the Gonski proposals, particularly as the major funding was to apply for the later period of the plan.
We demand that the Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne, announce that funding of schools be based on the Gonski formula — based on the schools’and the students’ needs.
If the government insists on acquiring a new fleet of submarines, it is essential that the vessels be built at the facility in South Australia. If the government decides, as is widely proposed, to purchase these vessels from Japan, because they are cheaper, it can only be concluded that the Australian government is more committed to the Japanese economy than that of Australia.
We are witnessing the continuous closure of industries, with the inevitable consequence of loss of jobs, accompanied by a loss of skills, both of which need to be factored into the costs of closures.
Enid Hokin moved that the RTA advise the government that we demand that any new submarines be built in Australia.
Loss of super
Enid Hokin moved that the NSW RTA condemns, in the strongest possible terms, the disgraceful deal done by the Federal Government with the Palmer United Party to delay, by seven years, the implementation of increased mandatory superannuation contributions.
The throwaway lines of the Prime Minister and Treasury that it will lead to more money in workers’ pockets is an insulting lie directed at low-paid workers who are forced to spend all the wages they are paid, in order to survive; this is becoming more difficult with current wages on a downward trajectory, measured against inflation.
Allan West is the Secretary, NSW Retired Teachers Association and can be contacted on (02) 9484 5693. The RTA blogsite is rtansw.blogspot.com.