LETTERS

Negotiate a better deal

I would like to express my concern for the plight of temporary teachers in NSW public schools. These teachers do the same work (or more) as permanent teachers, often for years or even decades, but with no job security. Some teachers are finally granted permanency after years on a waiting list. Others are not.

Temporary teachers in this position are often afraid to speak up against workplace bullying or stand up for our working conditions for the very real reason that they may not have a job the following year! (I do not write this as a reflection, in any way, on my school but as a response to the many reports of bullying and intimidation that I hear from teachers at association meetings and also from teaching friends across the state.)

This situation has a flow-on effect. It is divisive and detrimental to the morale of all teaching staff in schools where it occurs. Surely temporary teachers who do the same work and have the same qualifications as their permanent colleagues, should be given the right to tenure after a finite time period, for example two or three years of service to the Department?

Is Federation able to negotiate a better deal for our “temporary” colleagues? This is an issue we need to address.

Anne O’Hara
Federation Representative
Orange PS

Stop Abbott, save Medicare

Like education, free high quality healthcare is a human right, not a privilege for those who can afford it, however, healthcare in Australia is under attack. The Abbott Government is considering introducing a $6 fee for every visit to a bulk- billing doctor, with the possibility that this could be expanded to emergency room visitations. In response a campaign has been established to defend Medicare and unions are asked to join us in fighting for a free, fully-funded healthcare system.

Healthcare has always been a union issue, with unions playing a key role in the struggle to establish and defend Medicare. It’s time for unions to once again come out to defend our healthcare system from Abbott’s anti-worker agenda. You can join the campaign to defend Medicare by alerting your networks and supporting this ongoing campaign.

John Gauci
Taverners Hill Infants

The source of aggressiveness

I’ve been really impressed by the general media commentary surrounding what has been referred to as “alcohol fuelled violence”, particularly those commentators who have questioned whether tougher legislation will change behaviour. Some put it down to social media, others to a greater degree of bodily narcissism that has seen an increase in the use of steroids. Others point to the bikie culture or American gang culture where drive-by violence emerged and still others question the role of dysfunctional families.

All of these points have merit but nobody is completely sure how it all started. In light of this and where it might be headed I refer to my favourite ancient philosopher Lao-Tzu when he explains: “The beginnings of fortune are subtle, the origins of calamities confused.” He also makes a point that’s very basic: “When people are influenced by rulers, they do not follow their words but their actions.” One would have to say that although Federal Parliament hasn’t seen drive-by shootings or alcohol-fuelled punch ups the behaviour of those in it has degenerated since the turn of the century. Question time has reached new lows of aggressiveness and anger so one could ask is there a correlation between this and the increased aggression we’ve witnessed in society?

Lao-Tzu also explains: “If those above have virtue, those below will have humanity and justice. When those below have humanity and justice, there are no decadent and chaotic societies.” Arguably there hasn’t been a whole lot of virtue in Australian politics for a long time so those below, the voters, aren’t seeing any examples of their leadership conducting themselves with humanity and justice. In fact, public perception is that those in positions of power are just in it for themselves. “If leadership has no humaneness than commoners will fight,” as Lao-Tzu puts it.

I’ve become more concerned by leaders who claim that all problems are just a result of a loss of traditional values because this just pits groups of Aussies against other groups of Aussies. Unfortunately, it’s very Machiavellian but when leaders resort to running a country through scheming and cunning they lose the unity of the people or as Lao-Tzu puts it: “So when leaders lose unity, the resulting disorder is worse than having no leaders. Leadership must hold unity before they can form communities.”

Robert Wrona
Punchbowl PS

Carbon copy

Useful first step

Sydney Morning Herald

Why the apparent rise in the phenomenon of the “coward’s punch”? Young blokes and grog have always been with us! Or is there a deeper societal cause that we should research and address or face growing unexplained violence on our streets? American author, Joe Bageant, in his book Deer Hunting with Jesus describes the behaviours of alienated young men who “happily beat the living hell out of anyone they encountered. Period. For no reason whatsoever. Just drunk [sound familiar?]. It was anger born of ignorance … it was also about our perception of being lower class and of lacking any imaginable future”.

Are we creating generations of alienated Australians by allowing those from poorer areas to put up with lower educational opportunities and therefore perpetuating inter-generational unemployment, poverty and alienation? And do we further alienate them by branding them as “bogans” and “westies”? When the cards are stacked against them and they are excluded from access to many of the advantages of being born Australian perhaps we can better understand and hopefully address the situation before it becomes really serious. A commitment to the Gonski reforms would be a useful first step.

Phil Papworth
Life Member

Bleeding the economy

Open Road

It is difficult for many to understand why government perpetuates the view that the roads problem, state and nationally, can only be solved by spending more and more on improving the road system.

It has to be recognised that all road-works have to be carried out to cater for heavy vehicle needs, freight and passenger, long distance included. It also has to be recognised that the funding of roads is really a political issue which ignores the fact that the better roads are made the more they are used. There is a consequence to this — an increase in maintenance and other exponential costs to the economy is unavoidable.

When will rail infrastructure be repaired, including those many closed railway lines nationwide, such that their use will be not viewed as part of an economic enterprise?

At present the user pays for all costs associated with railway lines. Currently, closed lines have to be proven to be profitable from future use before any work is carried out or money is spent to re-open them. This contrasts markedly with funding the road system, which is always on a basis of need.

While this disparity in the view of transport infrastructure persists, the cost of roads will continue to bleed the nation’s economy.

It is strange that the NRMA doesn’t appear to recognise this dilemma either.

It will be even stranger if this letter were to be published in the NRMA’s Open Road.

Bill Barwood
Retired

Here are your results

Dear Premier, Leader of the Opposition, Minister for Education, Shadow Minister and Member for Heffron.

I have just finished reading this: http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/university-offers-atar-cutoffs-drop-for-teaching-degrees-20140116-30xty.html. If this is an accurate portrayal of the direction the ATAR required to enter a teaching course is taking, then the inevitable has come to pass. Most of you have been advised of this likely outcome if your policies continued in previous correspondence: the continued cutting of real and comparative wages of teachers, the ever increasing workload, the erosion of working conditions. These measures reflect the lack of esteem in which the teaching profession is held by you as our employers. Here are your results: students are turning their backs on teaching as a career. How could any other outcome be reasonably expected?

If as many of you have said, it is an important goal of yours that the “best and brightest” are attracted to a teaching career then you have failed. If any of you believed your own words you would resign in shame (perhaps not you yet, Shadow Minister or you, Local Member, as you have not yet had time to show your bona fides in this). But those of us who have followed the teaching vocation for many years have heard hollow rhetoric like yours for decades and would be astounded if any of you took such an honourable step.

Bob Fawcett
John Edmondson HS

Time to depoliticise

The Australian

It would appear that, no matter which side of politics is in power, each blames the other for poor education policies. Christopher Pyne is yet again flexing political muscle simply with the aim of discrediting the previous government’s policies.

The curricula presently being implemented were not formulated by left-wing unions but by panels of educators. Do Pyne et al. realise the costs involved for departments of education, schools, students and teachers if he is yet again going to make changes to curriculum documents?

It is time education was depoliticised. People like Kevin Donnelly should also opt out. Left or right wing, it is about power, not the benefits accruing to students.

Augusta Monro
Life Member