Unleashing the madness

Eight months before World War 2 NSW wharfies refused to load pig iron for Japan saying it would return to Australia as bombs. Bob Menzies used troops against them, and the leading seaman who refused to break the picket was sent to a psychiatric hospital.

Unlike the shameful history of abuse of psychiatric patients with lobotomies, shock treatment and life imprisonment without proper assessment, Australia’s political misuse of psychiatry is little known. We hoped campaigning had ended those terrible abuses, but governments simply closed hospitals and slashed funding. Now the use of shock therapy without consent is skyrocketing, especially in Queensland, with 400 cases last year. And the targeting of Left political activists for psychiatric treatment is resurfacing. In Queensland, a JP can authorise a compulsory psychiatric assessment.

In August, some days after a Queensland-based friend had a win in court over a person in authority, a mental health assessment team arrived, unannounced, under police escort at my friend’s door. My friend was entitled to neither legal representation nor a witness. He was not entitled to know who had made the assessment request. Under threat of imprisonment in a psychiatric hospital, he was compelled to answer questions about his mental state and his relationship to the person in authority for more than an hour.

Meanwhile, psychiatric theorists are increasingly using subjective political terms like totalitarianism, dogmatism and extremism, as medical terms. Coupled with an erosion of democratic rights, this is dangerous territory.

History is littered with governments using psychiatric abuse to control those who stood against them. Are we to go back to those days?

Lindy Nolan
Wiley Park GHS

Enter the ‘second’ dimension

I would like to congratulate the organisations and the members which comprise the Public Education Alliance for their strategic and persistent work in promoting and lobbying for the Gonski reforms. In particular, Federation and the Australian Education Union deserve high praise for their leadership in a most effective campaign to support public education.

While this campaign has reaped great dividends, there is a “second” dimension which now needs to be considered to give public education a voice in public policy decision making. It seems inconceivable that very small minority special interest groups, such as the Hunters and Fishers, are able to form a political party and hold the balance of power in the Upper House of the NSW Parliament, when such an important institution for the public good — public education — with nearly 70 per cent of the state’s students in attendance, does not have a formal parliamentary voice. Of course, this is not to denigrate the fantastic work of our advocates, as described above.

I believe that it is now time for the supporters of public education to enter the ‘second dimension’ with the establishment of a political party to contest the NSW Upper House. Now is the time to consider entering the decision making arm of our society.

Glen Stelzer
Berala PS

I’d like to see…

I have been a member of the Federation for around 30 years and am proud to say that I am doing one of the most important jobs in the world — educating young people to become valuable members of society.

I regularly read Education and am always interested in finding out what are the most important issues facing the Federation membership.

After reading the past few issues of Education I am left wondering what the general membership may be thinking at the moment.

Obviously there are major issues including salaries, permanency and workload amongst others but I am disappointed at the lack of articles that reference these and other areas that are of most concern.

What has happened to the campaigns regarding fairer release time for primary teachers, particularly executive staff, the sad fact that our salaries have been capped at 2.5 per cent (thank you Dick McDermott for your direct comments October 28 issue), the timeframes in implementing parts of the national curriculum, the lack of external support due to the cuts in regional staff and so on.

Whilst I applaud Maurie’s ‘feel good’ piece ("All the World’s a Stage", October 28) I do think he needs to use this space to keep us up to date on issues that members need to know about and should be discussing in the workplace.

I’d like to see articles from Regional Organisers discussing some of the issues they come across in their work.

I would really like to see more members use this journal to express their views and concerns on where the teaching profession is headed in this country.

I can remember a time when letters to the editor took up two or three pages of the journal. The letters were always heartfelt and gave us all an insight into what issues our colleagues were facing.

What do you think?

Greg Costello
Figtree Heights PS

Weakening the bond

Federation members who are members of the Teachers Mutual Bank will have received notices of motions to be moved at the bank’s annual general meeting on November 23. Agenda items 7 and 8 propose changes to what is known as the Common Bond. They may seem like technical amendments, and it’s true that their short-term effect would help some members.

The long-term effects may be less benign, however. The concept of the Common Bond in a mutual organisation is the link that members have in common, which, in the case of the Teachers Mutual Bank, is an association with education. The proposed changes represent yet another weakening of the bond and, in turn, another weakening of the reason for the bank’s existence as a mutual organisation.

I would urge members who are going to vote by proxy to think carefully. By all means vote for or against if you have a clear opinion, but please do not give an unallocated proxy (one that allows the chair to cast your vote how he or she chooses) if you are not certain. The chair of every AGM I’ve attended has used these votes to vote in favour of any motion proposed by the board of directors.

Norm Neill


Step back and reflect

Sydney Morning Herald
Now is a good time to step back and reflect on public service and public servants. Next time there is an incoming government leader, a self-serving business panjandrum, a frothing shock jock or media columnist holding forth self-righteously about the wicked waste generated on ‘inefficient’ public servants (anything is always done better by the private sector!) and their unions let them show pause and reflect on the likes of Shane Fitzsimmons, his colleagues and their performance. Of course the volunteers earn equal respect but leadership, example and sustained service by competent professionals make it all work. Chief Fitzsimmons, measured, loyal, articulate, empathetic and professional exemplifies what public servants do, have always done and will continue to do well. Nurses and other health workers, teachers, the police, transport personnel and workers from across the public sector continue to deliver the services required for the safe and smooth operation of a modern, civilized state.

Gus Plater
Life Member