Elves sing for RTA
At our December 14 Meeting, Max Prince introduced the year 1 and 2 choir from Darlington Public School, dressed as Christmas elves. They danced and sang a range of songs from “Frère Jacques” and “Three Blind Mice” to “The Mexican Hat Dance”. It was delightful to see public education in action. After the performance the children were given bags of refreshments, and Max, on behalf of the RTA, presented the school with a cheque for $250.
Vale Mandela, Martin Sharp and James Roach
Ken Muir drew our attention to the passing of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. As Secretary of the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Australia Ken raised money to campaign for Mandela’s release with the strong support of trade unions and the ethnic communities, particularly the Australian Greek community. Ken met Mandela when the South African leader visited Australia following his release from prison. The meeting took place in the Crypt at St Mary’s Cathedral.
Patricia Campbell-Hardwick drew our attention to the passing of Martin Sharp, artist and teacher, who saved Luna Park. Margaret called us to stand for a minute’s silence. Chairperson Margaret De La Garde called us to stand for a minute’s silence for RTA member James Roach of Umina who passed away on November 29.
Aid for students on visas
Allan moved that the RTA send $200 to Holroyd HS to buy books and uniforms for migrant students on temporary protection visas.
Pyne must clarify
We received a reply from Federal Education Minister Christopher Pyne, about the ABS report that says half of Tasmania’s adult population is functionally illiterate. We had asked for information about the criteria upon which these results were based. Mr Pyne replied that there appeared to be no difference in literacy between the states and territories apart from higher results in the ACT. We presume the results referred to are from NAPLAN data. Is there any similar comparative data of adult literacy between the states and territories?
Not wanting a coffin
NSW MLC Melinda Pavey responded to our letter regarding cardboard coffins. Exemptions on the use of wooden coffins are allowed but we also want to know what type of requests are approved to have burials without a coffin.
Friends of the ABC
Ray McDonald reported that Jonathan Holmes spoke at the meeting; numbers in the FABC are down but this could be because the ABC is drawing so much public support. RTA should encourage its members to join individually ($15 a year for pensioners). The largest number of supporters is on Sydney’s North Shore and they do not want the ABC to be privatised. Country people rely heavily on the ABC, which leads advice-giving in times of emergency. ABC Chairperson James Spigelman’s recent address to the Press Club can still be downloaded.
Ian Massingham reported to the Australian Fair Trade and Investment Network (AFTINET) that talks are still continuing in Singapore over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement. Choice December speaks out against it: at the Bali World Trade Organisation meeting, it was suggested that the use of palm oil in food products could be concealed through the TPP. Further, our agreement with South Korea implies that foreign companies could sue the Australian Government for restriction of commerce: this affects the plain packaging of cigarettes and our whole Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. Ross Gittins wrote against the TPP in the Sydney Morning Herald on December 10. Ian moved that petitions and form letters to politicians about the TPP be posted on the RTA blog, rtansw.blogspot.com.
APHEDA chief introduced
Enid Hokin reported that Kate Lee, the new CEO, was introduced; she was formerly with United Voice. Meredith Bergman was the guest speaker. There was concern expressed at the meeting that due to the Federal Government cuts to foreign aid APHEDA will not receive the support it has relied on in the past. It’s important to note that while government aid is often given where there is political or physical benefit to be gained for Australia, APHEDA gives support where there are health, educational or economic needs.
It was moved by May Steilberg that the following letter be sent to the Prime Minister, the Minister for Social Services and the Leader of the Opposition:
“Prior to the 2013 election the Coalition announced that it would index the eligibility cut-offs for the Commonwealth Seniors Health Card (CSHC) to the CPI. The NSW RTA requests that you give priority to its implementation. The RTA has been concerned for some time that when the eligibility cut-off for the age pension exceeded those for the CSHC it would cease to exist, thus denying many seniors the access to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme that they currently enjoy. Your Government’s indexing of the CSHC to the CPI would ensure that this would not happen.
“There is another key issue. The gaps between the eligibility cut-offs for the age pension and those for the CSHC have continued to narrow over the years, excluding or removing many retirees from access to the CSHC. To restore accessibility, we request that Your Government makes a one-off increase in the CSHC eligibility cut-offs. If this were also done the CSHC would not only return to being the good public policy it was when it was introduced but would now be enhanced by indexation.”
Margaret De La Garde reported that Ken had sent the Canberra Executive information about the TPP.
Broken Gonski promise
Richard Fors moved that the RTA condemn the Abbott Government for breaking its promise to implement the Gonski proposals. The failure of Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne to implement proposals for education that would require additional funding by every State with new funding by the Commonwealth is an act of bastardry against children. Their intention to fund wealthy non-government schools to the detriment of those children suffering the greatest disadvantage in our country is a blinkered and ideological action not worthy of any decent government. It is obvious that this conservative Government has only one aim and that is the destruction of public education in this country.
As educators with an ongoing commitment to a fair, equitable and just public education system we deplore the actions of Messrs Abbott and Pyne and call upon them and the NSW Government to act honourably and keep their commitments to the Gonski proposals.
Pension age concern
Shirley Bains moved that the NSW RTA is opposed to the Productivity Commission’s proposal that access to the aged pension and superannuation be increased to the age of 70. Such a proposal would have a devastating effect on older people as very few employers would be willing to hire people in their late sixties, particularly if they are suffering from the many ailments of old age. Lifting the pension age to 70 would force the least well-off to work until 70 while the better-off could continue to enjoy being able to take retirement at any age.
Plea for childcare workers
Enid Hokin moved that the NSW RTA condemns the Federal Government’s decision to withdraw wage rises previously contracted for low-paid childcare workers. This is another reversal by Mr Abbott of a pre-election promise to honour all existing contracts. Additionally, the Government has demanded that the institutions that have already received the government funds earmarked for wage increases return the money to the Government. The Government’s statement that the money will be diverted to professional development for these workers is insulting to the workers and the public. We recommend that the Government members take a salary cut to pay for their professional development, components of which should be honesty and integrity.
Kakadu spill inquiry
Merv Murchie moved that in view of the recent breach of the decade-old containment tank at Ranger Uranium mine in Kakadu where a radioactive slurry of uranium and industrial acid escaped, we call on the Federal Government to set up an inquiry into the Ranger Uranium mine’s impact on the environment and on the Aboriginal community of Madginberri where Mirrar traditional owners could be affected. It is essential that environment laws are strengthened.
Worrying rail cuts
Patricia Campbell-Hardwick moved that RTA condemns the continuing loss of jobs in Sydney Rail, particularly the possible loss of the booking office at Kings Cross Station where those affected include boarders at St Vincent’s School and thousands of backpackers unfamiliar with the ticket machine and needing personal service at the station. The Opal Card has proved difficult for older passengers forgetting to tap off and having difficulty in accessing their next train. The current award for rail staff expires in March-April and they are concerned about their remuneration after this time.
Max Prince moved that the NSW RTA requests that the Federal Government pass a law allowing “marriage between couples” that will allow the marriage of gay and lesbian couples. Such a law will promote equality amongst all citizens and broadcast Australia’s promotion of fairness to all the world.
Praise for article on cuts
Enid Hokin moved that NSW RTA congratulates Elizabeth Farrelly on her article “Quick march out of the institutions” in the Sydney Morning Herald (December 5, 2013). This article, full of pertinent examples, condemned the Abbott Government for its reversal of its support of the Gonski reforms and the reduction in employment at the Australian Museum and CSIRO, and the O’Farrell Government’s job cuts in Community Services and TAFE.
Plea for Qantas
Richard Fors moved that the RTA calls on the Federal Government to resist any action that would allow majority foreign ownership of Qantas. In recognition that many of the airlines flying into Australia are either wholly or partially owned by their respective governments, the Australian Government should take a 25 per cent stake in the national carrier and ensure that it remains an Australian-owned company.
Allan West is the Secretary, NSW Retired Teachers Association and can be contacted on (02) 9484 5693. The RTA blogsite is rtansw.blogspot.com.