Labor could find $5bn for schools

Labor could find $5bn for schools

HOW to pay for the fairly modest $5 billion extra a year that the Gonski report recommended for schools in Australia and which Labor won't commit to ("Victoria wants guarantees on school funding", The Age, 21/2)?

Gina Rinehart's wealth doubled recently to $18 billion. Tax that. A minerals resource rent tax applying to all minerals would raise an extra $10 billion on average a year, more than enough to fund the Gonski increase. The rest could pay for a public dental scheme.

Lopping off some of the tens of billions of superannuation tax benefits that go to the top 10 per cent of income earners would add even more. But I forgot, taxing the rich and big business isn't part of Labor's neoliberal agenda. Pandering to them is.

Finland's schools are the best in the world because they value their teachers and pay them well, and are built around cooperation and equality.

John Passant, Kambah, ACT

Follow UK model

IN THE UK, independent schools are not financially supported by government but can be classified as charitable institutions to receive tax concessions. Why is it not the case here?

Phillip Lodge, Frankston

Kids in KPI race

HOW fortunate Australian educators are to have their assumptions turned on their head by the Grattan Institute's gushing report on Asian education (Focus, 17/2). The report's main author uses educational measures as

if they were workplace KPIs. It is a dismal view of children being engaged in a race to meet measures of economic productivity before each birthday and the implication that childhood spent on childish things is childhood wasted that in my mind overturns more than educational assumptions. Before this report set me straight, I laboured under the delusion that a successful community could be measured by the overall quality of childhood afforded its children. Was I alone?

Dr Andrew Brookes, faculty of education, La Trobe University

Insult to humanity

OFTEN, the first criticism of atheism from the religious is that atheism itself is a religion. This myth has now been perpetuated by Alain de Botton ("Why atheists still need churches and consolation", The Age, 21/2).

Atheists seek the truth. Nothing more, nothing less. Mr de Botton's fear that "if we don't teach religion, how are we going to teach kids to be good people?" is an insult to our humanity. Our morality comes not from religion, belief or faith. Morality in our society has evolved over the centuries, based on secular debate, discussion, reason, reflection and enlightenment. If anything, religion has obfuscated the progression of the advancement our collective morality. As an atheist, Mr de Botton should be cognisant of this.

We teach our kids to be kind to others because this is the right thing to do, not because they might one day be rewarded in a mythical afterlife to teach otherwise is in itself immoral.

Louise Phillips, Wantirna

Out of the loop

LAST month the Australian Nursing Federation launched a campaign featuring unscripted clinical nurses expressing their concerns about the changes proposed to our public health system. The Victorian Hospitals Industrial Association recently filmed a response ("Executives defend nursing moves", The Age, 21/1). I was surprised by the statement of Northern Health's chief nurse Robynne Cooke, who is advising VHIA in its negotiations. She says she "does not want to go back" to a system of caring for "10 and sometimes more patients on night duty". She seems to be unaware that level 3 hospitals such as Angliss, the Eye and Ear and Sandringham, and country hospitals such as Bairnsdale, Swan Hill, Sale, Echuca and Castlemaine, have a 1:10 night duty ratio, with a 1:15 ratio on aged-care wards.

Tara Nipe, Hawthorn

Remember needy

WATCHING the Telstra union rally on Friday brought to my mind the problems we are facing: the offshoring of jobs, attacks on the right of workers struggling for conditions (such as the nurses), companies going to the wall and spiralling youth unemployment.

We need to identify with those who are unhoused, are without work and are suffering economically from the privatisation of essential services.

It brings to mind the famous quote from Pastor Martin Niemoller in Nazi Germany: "First they came for the communists and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist. Then they came for the Jews and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the unionists and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a unionist. Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak out." All Australians need to think carefully about this quote.

Marion Harper, Reservoir

Lure of prosperity

IN ITS attempts to preserve territorial integrity, the Chinese Communist Party is using immense investment in its volatile Tibetan and Uighur-populated regions ("China's promise of easier living herds Tibetan nomads into jobless penury", The Age, 20/2).

The idea is to lure the rural people to trade in their subsistence living for some sort of newfound prosperity. But such policies are substandard and culturally destructive.

Unlike Australia with its multicultural attitude, China insists on the "Han" being the central identity of all Chinese. Such unity has helped hold China together for 2000 years. Nonetheless, it is this strong belief in their superiority that results in such disrespect towards minority groups. The anticipated outcome of such policies is simple: by diminishing other culture, the likelihood of separatism is also diminished, and Chinese sovereignty and economic development are sustained.

Gerard Papas, Balwyn North

X-ray push insulting

I HAVE been working as a radiographer for two years, after completing four years of study, and I find it insulting that nurses in Lorne can work in my field with only four days of face-to-face training and a 10-week online course ("Turf war on X-rays heats up", The Age, 21/2). I have to maintain professional registration and complete mandatory professional development to keep my licence, whereas they have no requirements once licensed. Can I do nursing after such short training too?

Alyce Linke, Highton

Inhumane options ...

A DYING woman chooses to shorten her life by several weeks to avoid horrible suffering ("Police euthanasia inquiry", The Age, 21/2). She is legally free to do this in Victoria. If she goes to a hardware store and buys a length of rope and dies unpleasantly by her own hand, no one is investigated, especially not the store's sales assistant.

But if the woman chooses medication to fall asleep and die peacefully in her own bed, there are investigations and possible charges. The intent is the same, the outcome is identical, but Victorian law is inconsistent in its application, and it is inconsistent in favour of suffering. The dying person who makes the hardest decision about their own death has legal options just not humane ones.

Janine Truter, The Basin

... exacerbate pain

WHENEVER the speed of social change outstrips the capacity of governments to adapt, we end up with laws that no longer reflect public opinion. Such is the case with the laws on voluntary termination of life. Experts agree that palliative care cannot ease all end-of-life suffering, and public opinion overwhelmingly demands changes to archaic laws, yet governments repeatedly hide.

It is time the government revisited its own moral values and its commitment to act upon the will of the electorate. More compassionate laws could release police to pursue genuine crimes rather than manufactured ones, while a better range of options would relieve suffering rather than exacerbate it.

Bob Thomas, Blackburn South

Wider role of police

I WRITE in response to the editorial "We don't need more riot police" (The Age, 17/2). Public order response teams were formed to tackle a range of incidents, such as mass gatherings, out-of-control parties and demonstrations.

We currently have 50 PORT trained members and will train another 60 over the next six months. These members are not dedicated to the role they will be drawn from the operational response unit and not police stations or other work units. They will continue to perform frontline duties when not assigned to PORT operations.

Last weekend, for example, they helped local police in Oakleigh disrupt a drag racing meet, where 300 people had gathered and set off smoke flares.

Assistant Commissioner Andrew Crisp, Operations Support Department

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