No laughing matter

It was in very bad taste to have a light-hearted cartoon accompanying the article about the cancer cluster at Camden High School.

Are you aware of the numbers of ex teachers and students who have died or undergone hideous cancer treatments — chemotherapy, radiotherapy, operations, the birth defects that have been linked to attendance at this school, etc? This is no laughing matter.

Christine McCue

Dennis Long responds: I was unaware of this background, which was remiss of me. I apologise unreservedly.

Worth so little?

I have just viewed the web story re the March 18 ‘Gonski’ “event” in Canberra. “Event” it sure wasn’t — there was no teacher mobilisation, unlike previous teacher gatherings for public education down there over many years.

In particular, there were no teachers, parents, or principals, as per the February 2014 council decision - even as limited to nearby Queanbeyan, Goulburn and Young associations.

Is Gonski now worth so little we can devote so few?

Did we settle for a below CPI pay increase, with the massive epoch concession to credentialed based performance pay favoured by the bureaucrats (regardless of Labor or Liberal regimes), only to now limit the supposedly more “strategically” important, “historic” ‘Gonski’ campaign to just two mini-vans and their limited load of the usual players?

John Morris
Kingsgrove HS (Relieving)

Maurie Mulheron replies: John’s negative view of the March 18 action in support of Gonski is based on misconceptions and incorrect information. The action on March 18 was organised by the Australian Education Union (AEU), not Federation. Its purpose was to gain maximum national publicity for the highly successful Vans to Canberra strategy. And this was achieved.

Members will recall that, from the beginning of the year right up to March 18, four Gonski vans travelled 23,000 kilometres, and were the focus of hundreds of community based activities right across the nation. Along with five other Gonski vehicles — that is nine vehicles in all, not two as John stated — the convoy descended on Canberra.

The day was the culmination of five to six weeks of publicity in towns and cities across Australia. On March 18 this publicity continued with high media exposure including a media conference held alongside the vans in Canberra by Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, a media conference held by Greens leader Christine Milne, as well as subsequent media conferences held by the AEU alongside representatives of principal and parent organisations.

The ACT AEU Branch organised principals, teachers and parents to be present on the day including at an early morning breakfast attended by the media at a local ACT primary school.

The Gonski campaign has mobilised members and supporters in the community in numbers that are unprecedented. During May and June, a number of Gonski events will be organised as endorsed at May Council.

Our ability to sustain the Gonski campaign to date is because we have remained united and focused.

Last chance for two years

Great to see an article re: the 2012 amendments to workers compensation.

The 2012 amendments are due for their two-yearly review in June.

I think it is vital that Education raises awareness on this issue and encourages Federation members to make submissions to overturn this savage and unfair legislation that everyone I speak to, unless injured, has no awareness of.

If we can’t make a difference in June we will have to wait another two years for any change and medical matters will continue to become costly legal ones.

Alina Loneck
Wheeler Heights PS

Falling behind

The Sunday papers ran stories on Sydney’s real estate and how the average house price has risen by $100,000 over the past year. When I was a third-year out teacher in the late 1970s I signed up for my first mortgage on an average-priced property in Revesby. The bank wouldn’t lend you an amount in excess of four years’ salary and they didn’t take your wife’s earnings into account. For that to happen today, I estimate a third-year teacher would have to be on about $190,000 a year. With salaries like that, there’d be no problem attracting the best and brightest into the profession. How have we allowed our salaries to fall so far behind?

R Linkiewicz
Woolooware HS

Little wonder

Robert Wrona (Education, April 7) demonstrates almost touching naivety in the trust he places in the words of Vladimir Putin regarding Ukraine (or anything else, for that matter). At the time of writing this, I hear of further provinces in Ukraine in which armed separatists are mounting staged calls for Russian ‘assistance’. Putin is a former senior member of the Russian Cheka (KGB or whichever set of initials applied when he served), a murderous secret police which rivalled the Gestapo in brutality, but unfortunately did not meet as rapid a demise. It provided the muscle for the Kremlin to suppress its own people and those of illegally annexed territories, of which Ukraine was one.

It is little wonder that most Ukrainian democrats (along with a rag-tag rabble of extreme nationalists, admittedly) mistrust him and his Russia, which may have elections now, but is an oppressive regime (recently in the news for its blatant homophobia). Putin is seeking to build his macho image by extending influence back into former Soviet colonies. Is this the “Eurasian integration” to which Mr Wrona refers? Ukraine is due to have elections in May; it should be left alone to see what these bring.

One should also recognise that many of the Russian-speakers in Ukraine (as in many former Soviet territories) were relocated there during the colonial period, as a means of securing Russian dominance. It is little wonder that many former Soviet colonies look to the West, including NATO, for protection, as the lesser of available evils.

Al Svirskis
Life Member

Stop the coal contamination

Teachers and students are bearing the brunt of the inaction of the Government in regulating the coal industry and their transport of coal.

Regions like the Hunter, the Illawarra and the north west of the State are being subjected to elevated coal dust and contamination affecting tens of thousands of children, their teachers and their families.

Communities have been calling on the Government to conduct a study of health impacts from the mining industry, and for the corporations to take some responsibility by covering coal wagons.

The Hunter community is under a new threat with the proposed fourth coal terminal that would double the amount of coal exported from the largest coal export port in the world. The impact of this on these communities would be immense.

We need to oppose the building of this new loader which will double the number of trains coming through our suburbs, near our schools and affecting the health of students, teachers and their communities.

Carrie Jacobi
Lake Macquarie TA

Guaranteeing Gonski

While we have successfully shifted public debate regarding needs-based funding for schools, we still await the delivery of our much needed funding. It is important we reflect on where we’ve come from in order to determine what steps we take next.

The 2010 AEU campaign to inundate the Gonski review panel with more than 7000 submissions resulted in favourable findings for public schools, a vast improvement on Howard’s unjust model.

The panel presented its findings to the Gillard Government in November 2011, and the Government released that report, along with its initial response, in February 2012.

An important finding was the immediate injection of education funding for public schools, however, the ALP cleverly manipulated this to suit their re-election.

The Commonwealth and states then deliberated over what to do with the recommendations.

Gillard said the Government’s final response would come soon — although it strategically delayed its response enabling it to tie the success of our campaign to a September 2013 ALP re-election. Worse still, the vast majority of urgently needed funding was cleverly delayed until years 5 and 6 — reliant on another ALP election victory in 2017.

The AEU’s unprecedented social media and lobbying campaign successfully shifted public debate on how our schools are funded, to the point where even Abbott and Pyne were forced to declare a “unity ticket” on Gonski funding. The AEU correctly exposed how the Coalition was deceitfully committing to only a third of the actual funds.

While we were highly successful in shifting public opinion, not enough importance was given to mobilising supporters across Australia. Indeed not enough importance was given to explaining why mass mobilisations are essential in supporting our campaigning. Smaller, local actions and our Community Day of Action in Tumbalong Park were organised but nothing like the enormous national mobilisations that took place during our Your Rights at Work campaign or Get-Up’s Day of Action for Climate Change last November.

Get-Up’s Day of Action saw about 60,000 participate at rallies held in capital cities and more than 130 towns and regional centres across Australia, with resultant blanket mass media coverage. The lesson — social media campaigning and mass mobilisation of supporters go hand in hand!

Any serious mobilisations need to happen now. We cannot afford our urgently needed funding to be highjacked by the ALP and pinned to their federal re-election.

John Gauci
Taverners Hill Infants

Carbon copy

For-profit foolery

Sydney Morning Herald
The debate around the participation of for-profit organisations providing funding for public education is long, long overdue (Editorial Sydney Morning Herald, April 3). In the US it is vigorously underway where protagonists such as Diane Ravitch are at the forefront of the debate. Post-war developments started in Western economies with the creeping pressure to change education from a social and public good into a consumer good.

With the support of conservative market oriented parties this has been quite successful as choice has topped equity as a driver of education funding at least until Gonski here.

However the pressure is not going to go away anytime soon. Whenever you see terms such as ‘voucher’, ‘charter school’, ‘public/independent’, ‘academy’ or ‘for-profit’ find an article on education in Finland for countervailing argument. Also have a close look at what has happened to the appropriate provision of TAFE courses in our State, include pre-school education as well to formulate some judgements about private funding.

Gus Plater
Life Member


Prime Minister
It is inexplicable that the Federal Government, steered by the Prime Minister and Treasurer, maintains an obsession over roads as being the only land transport infrastructure to be considered as policy for funding.

While maintaining this “head in the sand approach” to the existence of the other Australian land transport infrastructure (the nation’s rail network, most of which is unused) demonstrates a profound ignorance.

Australians can thank “Thatcherism” in Britain, when in 1994 everything rail; track, freight and passenger services were privatised.

Australia as usual followed suit, as with all overseas ideas, regardless of any likely benefit being assessed. The result is a hotchpotch in the organisation of Australia’s rail industry, varying from state to state including the Commonwealth, as to the ownership and control of track, freight, passenger services, suburban/country and privately owned tourist trains eg the Indian Pacific and the Ghan.

Except for suburban rail networks and passenger services, all the rest operate on a profit from use basis, while so many railway lines remain unused. Road use becomes cheaper.

What is ignored is the fact that currently, roads have to be built and maintained to carry heavy road vehicles, freight and passenger.

The belief that continuous road improvement will solve the problem of increased use, consequent congestion and maintenance is a myth. Road users now pay “Tolls” and are likely to have to pay a “road user charge” in addition.

Australians will soon begin to realise they will be actually paying for not having an efficient rail system, nationwide.

Bill Barwood