Mike Baird, history-maker gone wrong

Mike Baird is the first NSW premier to record a budget surplus of $2.1 billion, after having already made his mark on history by his legacy of destroying TAFE in favour of supporting private providers who are running to the banks to deposit the federal government’s VET FEE-Help monies flooding in courtesy of the taxpayer.

Historically, the state governments of the 1960s and even earlier, in the 1880s, realised the vital importance of having a skilled workforce and made engineering courses easily affordable and available in most technical education/TAFE colleges in NSW. The colleges also encouraged people who left school early to go back to TAFE to be retrained or to complete their Higher School Certificate. As a baby boomer I was encouraged, after completing my Electrical Trades course, to do the TAFE Electrical Engineering Certificate (Certificate IV) in the 1970s. The course fee was only $26, a year which is equivalent in today's money to $300. While doing the course I was encouraged by dedicated TAFE teachers to go on to university. The course gave me the skills, knowledge and desire to complete an electrical engineering degree at the University of NSW.

Under Mike Baird’s TAFE Smart and Skilled program the fee for Certificate IV in engineering has gone up to $20,000 while the fee to do a trade course is $11,830, and 95 per cent of TAFE colleges are not running the Certificate IV in engineering. This hike in TAFE fees has resulted in a drop of 30,000 in student intake this year — and consequently the sacking of 2500 TAFE teachers. The NSW government’s preferred training option is for young people to seek private providers. These firms are conducting mass advertising campaigns to sign up disadvantaged students on the pretext that they don’t have to pay fees upfront but can access VET Fee-Help.

I was recently contacted by a private provider asking whether I would like to do a course but when I told her I was 67 years old she hung up. One private provider is offering a course to become a licensed builder in three months.

As revealed on a recent television current affairs program, the number of private providers able to offer HECS loans has jumped from seven in 2008 to 247 in 2014. One private provider enrolled 38,213 students but only had 2058 complete their course.

Would it be much better for the economy for the 20 per cent unemployed youth to be trained at TAFE instead of hanging around Centrelink looking for a menial job or seeking the dole?

Tony Morrissey (sacked TAFE teacher)

Fund wastes money on homeopathy

I notice that the Teachers Health Fund still includes homeopathy among the services for which it provides benefits. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) website states that, “Based on the assessment of the evidence of the effectiveness of homeopathy, NHMRC concludes that there are no health conditions for which there is reliable evidence that homeopathy is effective.”

When I asked the Teachers Health Fund why it was still continuing to pay out on ineffective services part of its reply was, “As a large proportion of our membership base does claim for alternative therapies consultations and attest to their effectiveness it is unlikely that Teachers Health would ever cease paying benefits for these services entirely.”

I had thought that teachers were educated people with at least some knowledge of science and the way it works: it seems, however, that I am wrong. Would anyone like to join me in “snake oil service” or maybe a “bitter pill that cures all ills”?

Alan Torrens

Tokenistic over Indigenous recognition

I do support efforts to give Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples constitutional recognition, and anything that can further put to rest once and for all the legal fiction of “terra nullius” is very much appreciated.

What shape it eventually takes and how it is worded remains to be seen but if opinion polling is anything to go by the prospects for this overdue constitutional reform look very promising.

I do have some complaints about the process, and that has more to do with the backdrop against which these consultations are taking place.

On one hand, it looks like the federal government and Opposition are helping Indigenous reconciliation with these proposed constitutional amendments. On the other hand, both have overseen drastic cuts to Aboriginal health and legal services. Reconciling these conflicting messages is difficult, to say the least.

The commentary surrounding constitutional change for Indigenous people makes it clear that those most interested in it do not want the changes to be merely symbolic. That’s understandable and that’s something that Indigenous people are best placed to answer.

All I’ll add is that constitutional recognition will be in increased danger of being symbolic if budget cuts keep being made to Indigenous services and further attempts are made to close down Aboriginal communities.

Robert Wrona

Carbon copy

Victims of politics of greed over need

Sydney Morning Herald

It is time for everyone to open their eyes, read the evidence and start believing what is happening to school funding (“Public schools may lose out on federal cash”, Sydney Morning Herald, July 17). It is time for the voice of public schools to be heard. It is time for all public school parents to demand the funding that public schools require.

Researchers have been proving for more than 10 years that private school funding has been increasing disproportionately to that of the public system, distorted by the use of Index of Community Socio-Educational Advantage data.

It has been and still is an excuse to deliver more and more to the wrong areas of education to appease a vocal minority — a cynic may say, to capture the private sector vote. Both Labor and Liberal governments are guilty.

For years, public schools have seen their funding dwindling and been told to do more with less. More and more specialist and consultants have been cut out of the system. Parents are fund-raising to supply basic needs like reading schemes. Schools fund-raise to supply equipment and needs for their students. That should not be happening if public schools were properly resourced.

Every time I drive past a private school with an indoor heated swimming pool, floodlit tennis courts, an underground secure car park, to name just some of its assets, I wonder how the local primary and high schools, which have none of those, could have used the millions given to that school.

No, it is not the politics of envy; it is the politics of greed versus the politics of need.

Augusta Monro
Life Member

Climate change in the Senate

Dear senators,

I listened with interest to the proceedings in the Senate on June 17 broadcast on ABC News Radio, particularly on the issues of renewable energy targets, climate change, renewable energy systems and fossil fuel, electricity generation.

It is generally accepted that cycles in climate from aridity and high temperatures to ice ages have occurred frequently on Earth over many millennia to the present.

At no time in the past has a climate change cycle imposed itself on an equivalent current level of over-population of the earth by a totally consumer-dependant species (Homo sapiens) which, since the Industrial Revolution has exploited the earth’s non-renewable resources — fossil fuels and minerals — and overtaxed almost to extinction the replacement processes of renewable resources; soils, water, vegetation and natural food sources e.g. fish.

The problem the world is now facing is being conveniently ignored, with a “head in the sand” approach encouraged by climate change sceptics who believe the impending cycle of climate change, whether it be global warming or cooling, does not count as a problem for life on earth.

Bill Barwood

Be afraid, be very afraid

Sydney Morning Herald

Until now I have reluctantly endured the Laura Tingle position that we are being governed by “fools and idiots” (the ALP is not excluded) and are bumbling along unencumbered by fiscal probity, vision, foresight or long-range planning.

Sadly, paranoia has asserted itself of late and I quake because I fear that a sinister Coalition agenda is emerging across the spectrum almost by default. The school system is already privatised and commodified, it goes without saying that the industrial relations and union movements will continue to be under relentless attack, the superannuation and financial sector is being warped towards the advantaged, renewable energy support is a joke and legitimate green groups will probably lose their tax-exempt status.

The clincher, however, has been the creeping awareness that the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) could well be the vehicle to end our “socialised medicine” programs, Medicare and the PBS — something that would not be dared through any other means. Join me and be very apprehensive.

Gus Plater
Life Member