LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Exit signs needed

Politicians, like the rest of us, are mortal; when we leave this earth it nice to think that we will be remembered somehow. As a teacher it is rewarding to find out that you have made a positive impact on someone’s life.

Politicians, I think, also enjoy this. We have been reminded recently about all the good reforms that Gough Whitlam had achieved. The buildings we work in all have cornerstones that tell us about who funded it or opened it etc.

For that reason I think it is time that we should place cornerstones, or signs, on buildings for the opposite reason, “This school closed by”, “This TAFE closed by”. Maybe by these methods we can remind people of who has taken these things away from us, and we can vote accordingly next time.

Michael Downie
Ultimo TAFE Campus Branch 1

Tips from Putin?

The recently concluded G20 Summit held in Brisbane was possibly useful in more ways than one to the Federal Government.

Despite the public show of remonstration of the Russian President, it appears Vladimir Putin might have given our Prime Minister and Minster for Communications tips on how to deal with sections of the media whose behaviour doesn’t suit our Coalition’s policy plans.

We now see in action the start of a systematic destruction of the ABC and possible curtailment of SBS.

Bill Barwood
Retired

Response to bullying not good enough

“Workplace bullying more than an individual issue” (Education, November 17) refers to University of South Australia research that only 6 per cent of police claim to be bullied. The research talks about the need for resources; but these do not apply to teaching (notwithstanding the need for psychosocially safe workplaces).

About one in four DEC teachers in NSW public schools who responded to the 2014 People Matter Employment Survey reported they had been bullied. One afternoon at HSC marking I spoke to more than 50 teachers and all had a story to tell about their own or a colleague’s experiences with workplace bullying. Many of the stories told of one person or a small number of people who were the single source of the behaviour in a school; and how their removal resulted in a completely different climate without any other changes in the organisation.

The main thrust of the South Australian research paper is that the bullying is a product of “organisational risk factors including system or agency level demands on individual workplaces and individuals, and resources available to workplaces and workers to meet these demands”. While this might be true, it is also a cop-out by the union movement to avoid having to deal with people with inappropriate behaviour in the workplace.

Roundtable talks offer little assistance to those being bullied while Federation and the DEC stand back and fail to act in the workplace to curtail the behaviour they publicly condemn.

DEC has a Code of Conduct which operates to prevent bullying, it has the Complaints Handling Policy for people to complain about the bullying but the DEC cannot find workplace bullying has occurred in a school because it does not know what to do after that, so it covers the problem up with a “negotiation procedure” which basically allows bullies to deny they “intended” to bully.

Federation needs to work immediately with the DEC to formulate appropriate policies and procedures to manage workplace bullying when it occurs. It then needs to ensure the DEC properly investigates workplace bullying and works to re-educate those who think a lack of resources is an excuse for making other people’s lives hell. This needs to be dealt with now, not when politically expedient.

Celia Finnie
Killarney Heights HS

Senior Vice President Joan Lemaire replies: The Public Service Commission will establish the direction and framework for all public sector agencies to follow in terms of workplace bullying. The Roundtable discussions are, therefore, very important in terms of advocating for more effective strategies. Individual behaviour is an issue in terms of bullying. However, focusing only on the behaviour will not address the organisational risks that can contribute to bullying, including a failure of the employer to have appropriate policies and procedures to address bullying. This is why Federation has raised organisational risk factors including the need to review existing policies and procedures. The employer is responsible for maintaining safe workplaces. Federation will continue to provide assistance to individuals who believe they are bullied as well as advocating for fair and effective strategies to prevent and respond to bullying.

Ability, not popularity

The events which occurred in the Senate in the week ending November 22 bring back memories of a similar upheaval not seen since the turmoil in the Senate in 1975.

What is now becoming clearer is an existing paralysis of government, state and federal, caused by the overriding “loyalty” requirement imposed on elected members of
parliament, from all sides of the political fence.

It is obvious that many members of parliament are now finding it difficult to ignore their conscience when issues are being debated in Parliament.

Sooner or later it will be realised that “party politics” the current basis of government, along with the operation of the myth of “compulsory voting” have had their day.

The apolitical model which is seen to operate currently in many local government councils is exemplary. Members are elected on their merit and appeal to the constituents. Mayors are then elected by the councillors on ability rather than popularity. Likewise, a far more effective form of state and federal government would result in which members of the “Houses” would be elected in similar fashion, only on merit and appeal and not because of a party affiliation.

Prime ministers, premiers and ministers would be elected by the members of the respective parliaments. Government, opposition or cross-bench members of parliament would not be identified as such.

Bills would be voted on, for/against, resulting in a far more rational and effective outcome in the management of the nation’s affairs.

Knowing how entrenched the current system of government is in Australia, the above suggestion becomes purely hypothetical and is unlikely to ever occur or to be even discussed.

Bill Barwood
Retired

A towering figure

Maurie Mulheron’s “President writes” (Education, November 17) on the death of Gough Whitlam was a very good summation of the former prime minister’s achievements and the longstanding benefits Australia has experienced as a result.

It recalled to my mind the occasion in 1969 when, as a 24-year-old primary teacher teaching in the Green Valley, in Gough’s seat of Werriwa, I was involved in one of the Federation’s car cavalcades to Canberra aimed at securing federal funding for public education. Federation members would lobby NSW Federal MPs over this issue.

A group of about 4–5 of us from Werriwa were received by the then Opposition Leader in his Parliament House office. Gough was very personable and, after listening to our arguments, then proceeded to engage in a robust but respectful argument about two issues over which we had serious differences. One was the question of state aid where, as is well known, he had controversially steered the Labor Party away from its previous opposition to state aid to non-government schools. The other was over Gough’s view that the Federation should affiliate with the ALP.

I was reasonably well versed on both of these topics and Gough and I argued back and forth for some time. In hindsight, I’m a bit sorry we argued so long over points of difference as, in reality, we had more points of agreement than we probably realised. In the end, we spent an hour and a half with Gough. This actually demonstrated a certain respect for teachers and the subject over which we were seeing him.

Although I thought he was wrong about the view that the Federation should affiliate with the Labor Party (and I still do), I think now that his reasoning had more to do with expanding the base and appeal of the Labor Party than anything else.

Several weeks later Gough came to speak at the NSW Labor Council as part of the 1969 election campaign. To my astonishment, he remembered our discussion and greeted me warmly when he saw me there, demonstrating that, despite differences, he had a respect for teachers and our role.

Especially when we consider what followed, Gough Whitlam was indeed a towering figure in our nation’s public life and made a lasting contribution to it.

Richard Walsham
Life Member