Wednesday, November 14, 2007

10 reasons why I'm preferencing Labor at this election: Part 3

They just keep coming and coming ...

6. Reconciliation Like his alleged environmental road to Demascus (more on that later), I don't buy John Howard's claim to have discovered the value of symbolic politics as part of the reconciliation process. I strongly believe his pledge to stick around for a referendum on recognising indigenous people in the Constitution preamble is just that - an opportunity for him to stick around and delay for as long as possible the handover to Costello that party chieftains have forced him to publicly commit to.

Labor has always been consistent in committing to a formal apology for past wrong-doings. Of course, this won't solve all the many problems in one statement, but it will be a positive starting point. Whether it will be a genuine 'sorry' or a John Howard sorry remains to be seen but the expression of goodwill and desire to work together, which has been lacking for the last 11 years and especially in the last 12 months with cowboy Mal Brough and his over-inflated sense of deluded self-importance that he's single-handedly saving the poor darkies from themselves, is vital.

Labor dropped the ball playing me-too on Howard's intervention media stunt earlier this year, but hopefully when they're in a position to be dictating rather than reacting to indigenous policy they won't be placed in this situation again. At an international level Australia's record on indigenous rights and living conditions is appalling - both parties have failed. I don't know if a Rudd government will do things any better than a Howard government but I believe the time is right to try something different, something other than a government that only determines its policies according to what is expedient for the PM of the time after years of putting it in the too-hard basket.

5. Education The Howard government has shown itself time and time again to be an enemy of intellectual thought and discourse. Every Higher Ed minister from Vanstone to Nelson to Bishop has been so obsessed with finding the reds under the bed at our tertiary institutions that they've forgotten the value of proper investment in the thinking industry.

It's not necessarily wrong that the Libs have prioritised developing trade schools - the country is experiencing an unprecedented skills shortage after all. But it's bitterly disappointing that over the last 11 years the Libs have so effectively devalued the inherent value of thought and education, that rather than being a nation of ideas we're a nation of trade jobs and corresponding degree factories.

Students' higher ed debts - which, yes, were started by a Labor government - have risen ridiculously exponentially. On a personal level, I don't see myself free from uni debt until my mid-late 30s - and such a burden only encourages further personal debt. When you graduate with 20k looming over your head, it's not such a big leap to think, 'what the hell, I'm already debted up to my eyeballs anyway, what's another 5-10k in credit cards gonna hurt?' Fee increases all implemented, by the way, by ministers who had the luxury of free degrees themselves. Thanks for that.

VSU has irreparably damaged student life and culture on campus. A one-size-fits-all user pays system sounds nice in principle but by definition renders sensitive student services, such as on-campus GLBTI support groups of which I used to be an active participant, 'unnecessary' because 'users' may be too nervous to pay up-front.

Again, I don't imagine Labor will reintroduce compulsory student fees or significantly lower higher ed debts (at best they'll plateau). But getting past the 'Education Revolution' cliche, the guts of their education policy thus far is sound. In particular:
When it comes to our Universities, the Leader Kevin Rudd, in the course of his address to Conference, referred to the lack of investment which the Howard Government has made, not discharging its central obligation as the Commonwealth to our public Universities. We must make that educational investment. It’s absolutely essential for our future prosperity, our competitiveness and our capacity to be a thoughtful nation.

Contrary to the Libs' charge, it is in fact they who are the fiercest ideologues in their education policies. Consider for example what is airbrushed out of existence in John Howard's history curriculum. We need a government that genuinely values education for its own sake, not just as a tool of economic growth, encourages independent thought and is not obsessed with re-writing history to suit its own agenda.

If you get caught between number 4 and number 3, the best that you can do ... yes, the best that you can do ... is read my next post.

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At 14/11/07 6:36 pm, Anonymous Rodney said...

Hey Sam, Your clock's not on DLS time!

At 14/11/07 7:09 pm, Blogger Sam said...

Erk, thanks for that Rodney! All fixed now.

At 15/11/07 11:03 am, Anonymous Rodney said...

Now for the other little problem of a growing imbalance between lots of very insightful policy analysis and very little "grossly inappropriate ravings men".


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