Friday, May 23, 2014

Budget grumbles - 2. Education and unemployment.

This is a continuation of the previous post: Budget grumbles 1.

Those protesting at the recent marches could have been apprentices, child care workers, nurses, firefighters, or people training to be paramedics. These are all valued and respected careers where course fees are likely to increase significantly. Protesters could be anyone deeply and negatively affected by the budget. Are they all ferals as the front page of the Daily Telegraph would like us to believe?  I seriously doubt it.
University degrees will cost up to three times as much under a deregulated fee system, leaving graduates with $120,000-plus debts, according to the architect of the HECS student loan scheme.

This is significantly more than the fees paid by current MP's. Many of whom enjoyed a free education! 

ThIs loud, demanding headline, and indeed most of the page, blithely disregards the actual facts about getting a job. But you wouldn't want to let a fact get in the way of an eye-catching smokescreen of headline.

Such inconvenient things facts. 

In February, there were a total of 140,800 job vacancies in Australia, and more than 700,000 people out of workHere and here

They are the official figures and don't account for those who are chronically underemployed, those on short term contracts who have no idea where there next job will come from, or the people barely able to make ends meet working a few shifts per week with no job security.

University students who are the target in the article above, study in a wide variety of areas. Most will work extremely hard to earn their degrees.  When they graduate they're understandably excited to have achieved a goal, and naturally would like to work in a career related to their field of study.  Instead, far too many are under-employed in unfulfilling, un-challenging jobs, not related to those years of study. 

Under-employment and unemployment is devastating for them, their parents and others who understand the challenges and difficulties of finding a permanent job in this climate, particularly one drawing on their specific training and skills. Is it any wonder they might be protesting at the budget? 

To nastily and falsely imply that all students are lazy spongers is disgusting. To encourage others to deride and vilify them is shameful. If anger is to be expressed, it should to be directed at those who manufactured this unfair budget, not those most affected by its consequences.

Some of the protesters could well be science graduates who've watched formerly respected and valued jobs in the sciences disappear with whirlwind speed before their eyes.

Until the current government gained power, science was generally respected in Australia. We have a long and proud tradition of innovation and inventions which have been celebrated the world over. Only recently has that changed dramatically.

Science graduates, particularly those with specialties in environment, climate, climate change adaptation, sustainability, oceanography and a range of other areas are unlikely to get a job in their chosen career in the near future in Australia. The jobs aren’t there any more. 

Our young people haven’t chosen these difficult courses on a whim, for status or for the money. They've chosen them because they want to contribute. They want to be involved in a positive and proactive way, to help Australia adapt responsibly and resourcefully to the significant and ongoing challenges we all face with our changing climate. 

When the current Minister for the Environment was writing passionately about saving Port Phillip Bay from dredging, (but doesn't apply the same logic or respect to the Great Barrier Reef), these students could have been choosing their demanding senior year maths and science subjects to enable them to get into high scoring, and extremely challenging courses.

They’ve been working towards their degrees for many years and are now seeing jobs that they would have aspired to in science gone, and whole departments and organisations disappearing. They've seen highly regarded world class scientists treated with derision and contempt by the Abbott government.  

And yet the headlines shout a very different message. Unpleasant headlines structured carefully to discredit and vilify students, the same students who are being lumbered with a budget and debt, designed to make their lives significantly harder. And if they can't find a job? Let's blame them, rather than looking honestly at the source of the problem or think creatively about solutions.

The unemployed go job hunting 
In Hobart this morning, Mr Abbott was unsympathetic about the prospect of people going interstate in their search for a job.

Really?! Is the PM so out of touch that he has no idea that without a reasonable job, or more than a few hours work per week, or without the luxury of a huge amount of savings, it’s a bit of a challenge to get a lease on an apartment? Where are unemployed people, moving interstate to find a job, meant to live? On the streets? Not to mention eating, transport, dressing suitably for interviews and paying for internet so you can actually apply for a job IF there's one advertised. The expenses of day to day living are high, as most normal people can attest to, and they go on, and on, and on …. and on. Living interstate to search for work is simply not feasible for many unemployed people. 

This ability for the PM to live so far removed from the reality of the lives of our students, the disabled, retirees, single parents, indigenous Australians and so many others, is astounding. This parallel universe reminds me of the much loved Enid Blyton book, The Magic Faraway Tree with the amazing revolving lands at the top of the tree. You never knew which land you'd end up in when you climbed the tree.

Unfortunately for everyday Australians it seems that the current government enjoys Fantasy Land where “everything is awesome” but they also regularly visit Topsy Turvy Land where lies are presented as truth, where integrity is passe, where less is more, and where it's good and proper for the weakest to support the strongest. 

Mere mortals, the bulk of everyday Australians, are stuck in Nightmare Land experiencing a callous, dismissive indifference to their concerns. Fearful about how they'll manage once the budget takes effect, their questions are flippantly avoided. Everyday Australians, my clients, my neighbours, my community, live in a very real world where wealthy parents may not exist to support you, and generous scholarships (and here) are the stuff of dreams.

But as a number of commentators are saying, what did people really expect ,when they voted for the coalition - kindness, compassion and tolerance?
Labor’s values 
We are all in this together. Where this means a community where everyone works towards the health and security of the whole community. The collective wealth of the economy serves this community. Not the other way around. 
Liberal’s values 
We are all in this together. Where this means a free-market economy where a person’s wealth determines their status, and in turn their status determines their privilege and their privilege determines their access to health and security. If someone can’t access health and security, this is their own fault and it’s not the free-market economy’s role to help them. So in fact, we’re not all in anything together. We’re all on our own. 
These values can be found in the true narratives of both parties, intertwined in every policy they produce, and every statement they make. To find them, you don’t have to look very hard. In fact, you don’t have to look for them at all. All you have to do is open your eyes. Australian voters have had our eyes opened for us. But I just hope that those who feel most let down, the ones who are suffering in silence now because they were the dopes who voted for Abbott, I hope they save some of their resentment for the mainstream media (see below) for so blatantly letting them down by feeding them to the wolves. (my bold)


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