Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween poison

Does it strike anyone else
as completely insane 
that Australia sends large, ungainly ships laden with coal
through the beautiful, fragile, world heritage Great Barrier Reef 
all the way to China and India 
so that this finite resource can power dirty factories, 
employing people in appalling conditions
to make
tatty plastic products.

Returning - using more fossil fuels -
for a "festival" with no relevance in our culture?

Where children pound on doors demanding sweets,
and the tawdry, mass produced crap
ends up in landfill
and waterways and oceans,
where marine creatures will choke
or be poisoned by minute, disintegrating plastic particles. 
Plastic pellets found in a few minutes on a beach
in Port Phillip Bay. Victoria.

a Drabble is a story told in 100 words.  No more. No less.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

"We'll soon be sending our children to China to be educated"

That's a comment I never thought I'd hear from a staunchly patriotic Aussie bloke.

It was uttered with anger after hearing of the latest exodus of teachers from the TAFE colleges in Victoria, and sadly seems to hold a grain of potential.

Watching (thankfully from afar), the decimation of the once proud TAFE system has been painful in the extreme. A death by a thousand cuts, slow, piece by shameful piece, and horribly, horribly stressful for staff and students alike.

It's been like watching a visionary pioneer family who have been highly regarded and respected in their community. Who have provided jobs and hope to those in need but who have fallen on hard times. One family member now holds sway.

The powerful older brother has distracted his trusting family and is selling off their assets to shore up their crumbling fortune. He'd been entrusted to safeguard the family treasures, invest wisely, but instead has decided the quick way to maintain a veneer of credibility is to systematically and steadily sell off the family heirlooms, right down to the silverware and cutlery. It's easier after all, than facing the fact that he's mismanaged their inheritance. He'll take the money and run as soon as possible.

This brutalizing of communities reeks of frantic desperation. The repeated mantra that this is a sound decision, fools only those who want to be fooled. The TAFE sector is described in the TAFE Directors blog as being in "continuing crisis" (link here)

There is no wisdom in selling education to the highest bidder. That's not in our best interests or in the interests of our children and grandchildren. Our students aren't a commodity, no matter what spin is put on that fact. Our government should safeguard our children's future - protect, nurture and celebrate the teachers and institutions who help them find a meaningful role, to enable them to contribute to a vibrant, equitable and caring society.

This wanton destruction is being conducted without discussion, without consultation, and in complete disregard to the pleas from councils and community groups throughout the state. The response is callous, sneering contempt for those who can see the damage that is being done.

The Australian Skills Quality Authority "detailed that after almost 850 RTO* audits in its first 13 months of operations, some 25% of RTOs were blocked from various activities, warned or deregistered." So, here we have a sector which was travelling relatively well in the form of TAFE colleges, being sold out to private providers - some of whom are exceedingly ill equipped and disinterested in maintaining even a semblance of adequate standards. *(Registered Training Organisation)

Overseeing the operation of private colleges comes at a price over and above poor training and qualifications being granted to students who haven't seen the inside of a classroom.

Unfortunately, it's the taxpayer who is (understandably) being kept in the dark. It's estimated that the costs of the Australian Skills Quality Authority and the bodies who regulate the sector have exceeded $500million - that's on top of the $180million for the 11 industry skills councils.

That's an obscene amount of money to waste. The system worked, and on the whole it worked well. We now have a shambles of disconnected, poor and substandard courses and "graduates" who have qualifications on paper only, being let loose on the public.

Some "graduates" who can afford it, have chosen to retrain at a TAFE, but this comes at considerable cost both financially and in time. Some are working. How confident are you feeling when you're receiving treatment, hiring a tradie or seeing people handling food? Was their training thorough? Had their organization passed muster, or did it slip through the system?

The result of this debacle, of course, will be an increase in disengaged, disgruntled and at times downright angry citizens. We're already seeing this with marginalised groups. The government treats us like gullible fools who are somehow incapable of seeing the stupidity of their actions.

But an action that stinks, still stinks, no matter what offensive cloying perfume is sprayed around.


Monday, October 8, 2012

Advertorial: Oz celebrates new era of franchises!

Sometimes you wake up with a thought, sparked by a recent news story about local politics and the possibilities cascade joyously. You can see the cover captions which inspired this post here
To clarify for international readers, this is a very tongue in cheek look at one of our politicians - aka the leader of the opposition, who is trying to improve his image and appeal to women. He regularly comes across as a pugnacious misogynist and recently the women in his family rallied around telling us that really he's very sensitive.

Within months of its launch, the New Franchise #sensitivetony, has become a sensation, making a splash across all states and territories of our wonderful nation.

#sensitivetony, reportedly owned by Big Mal, provides door to door, blue ribbon, household services to the domestic market.

You may have seen the friendly, fuel efficient little vans pootling around the suburbs with their fetching logo and tasteful colour scheme. Attractive in the extreme, these have been seen popping up everywhere, dashing hither and thither … some say a bit like an over-excited flea.

All applicants to represent the #sensitivetony franchise are put through a rigorous selection proceedure. Some high profile media identities have been refused a position even though they are desperate to improve their overall community standing after reportedly falling out with some segments of their formerly one-eyed market. Their strident, dismissive and arrogant attitude towards women and divisive and insensitive cultural comments are decidedly at odds with the values of the eco-friendly, ethical, warm hearted franchise.

Whilst #sensitivetonys aren’t selected for their looks (no eye candy here ladies!) they are expected to be able to hold intelligent conversations on a range of social issues with the most discerning of householders.

Unfortunately the occasional #sensitivetony has blundered publicly and exhibited a lacklustre performance, potentially tainting the reputation of the franchise. This occurred due to the initial scarcity of #sensitivetonys and early teething problems, resulting in awkward attempts at covering up by those with closest involvement to the humiliating episode. (In the interests of public awareness and "buyer beware" this is shared here.)

#sensitivetony plugged on bravely despite the very public prime-time gaff, however he was required to undertake remedial training in how to "Comprehend and Discuss Complex Issues". This module has now become a core competency for all #sensitivetonys, with a pass grade of 90% being the minimum standard acceptable.
The range of services offered by the franchise is comprehensive. They include, but are not restricted to: cleaning those hard to reach places such as ceiling fans and light-fittings, turning and flipping heavy mattresses, shifting and vacuuming under awkward furniture and installing energy saving devices - all as a standard service!
#sensitivetonys regularly show their warm and fuzzy side and will evict hunstman spiders from behind paintings and curtains, and relocate them into the garden gently and humanely. The more distressing catching and removal of mice is an optional extra.

Sustainability is the catchphrase of this franchise! 
All cleaning products used are environmentally friendly. Where palm oil is an ingredient, it’s sourced from rigorously vetted, sustainable plantations. This is a service you can trust!

Some families are fortunate to have a #sensitivetony at their beck and call, and whilst they rarely brag publicly they’re quietly proud to have him around. For the rest of us, however, we’re able to share the love, thanks to Big Mal’s new #sensitivetony home help service.