You may have seen Federal MP Andrew Laming’s comment in the media recently suggesting that parents send their children back to school, regardless of the recommendations of the various Education Departments around Australia. The ABC’s version of the story is here.
“Essential workers are being second-guessed, cajoled and in some cases bullied by principals who are interrogating other parents, sometimes talking to children, to establish what hours families are working,” Mr Laming said.
“This is completely unacceptable.”
He said parents facing that sort of pushback should call the police to ensure their children received an education.
This certainly isn’t Laming’s first attack on teachers. Here’s one from May 2018:
Mr Laming said teachers would have a stronger negotiating position if they “regularised” their working week to 38 hours and their holidays to four weeks per year, like most other workers, reported Fairfax
“Teaching needs to operate like other jobs, with the same hours, days and weeks as the rest of the economy, rather than cluttered school hours where there it is little beyond the face-to-face time,” he said.
They shouldn’t work from home unless they are paid to do so, he said. But critics have said the MP has no idea about the realities of the working life of a schoolteacher.
Which just goes to show who really inhabits the ‘Canberra bubble’. It isn’t the school teachers who spend considerable time when not in the classroom doing professional development, marking exams, attending parent teacher interviews, extracurricular activities, school camps and the multitude of other things that teachers are expected to attend such as school fund raisers, school discos and formals without payment.
Laming is a member of the LNP and, like Home Affairs Minister Dutton, represents areas that are considered to be outer suburbs and adjacent rural/residential areas around Brisbane. Laming represents Bowman on the south east of Brisbane; Dutton represents Dickson on the northside. Dutton, who for some reason demanded to be given information the Queensland Government used to justify a partial school closure during April and May (he might have a reason if his portfolio was Education), leads us to the crux of the matter:
“I think it’s all about the Teachers’ Union playing the hand, trying to leverage some industrial relations outcome. They’ll try and squeeze some concession out of the State Government.”
For the record, the same report advises
[Queensland Teachers Union President Kevin] Bates said the union had concerns about the safety of staff and students but had no formal position, and had not put any case to the State Government on when all students should return to school.
If we’ve found out nothing else in the current pandemic, it is who our ‘essential workers’ are. Compare and contrast cancelling Parliament with the public servants who burnt the midnight oil to get the ‘JobKeeper’ and ‘JobSeeker’ packages together as well as contact tracers locating close contacts of those suffering COVID19, the people driving the delivery trucks and the people stacking the shelves in supermarkets, the people who are keeping the power grid and water supplies working and all those keeping the wheels of society operational as far as possible. And lets also include teachers who have been forced to completely redesign the way they work while delivering relevant and appropriate material to their students over the past couple of months. On the surface, each federal politician was told by their boss to go home and look busy until August, while keeping their $200,000 plus per annum salary, plus allowances – no JobKeeper for MP’s.
It’s very easy to make similar comments to Laming’s about the work habits of politicians because they are certainly not required to be in their respective Parliaments every day working a 38-hour week even when Parliament isn’t cancelled.
You can find the timetabled sitting dates for Federal Parliament here. Even if teachers only worked from 9 to 3 on school days, they are overworked in comparison to the number of days per annum Members of Parliament have to be in Canberra representing their communities. Recently there has been a few days of sitting under ‘social distancing’ rules to pass legislation for JobKeeper and so on, however not all Members of Parliament were required to attend. Don’t forget federal Parliamentarians collect a ‘living away from home allowance’, currently $291 per night (which is over 7 times the daily rate of the pre-COVID19 JobSeeker allowance) on top of their salary, just for doing something they knew they would have to do when signing up for the job.
Politicians do work far longer than the sitting days in Canberra suggest, as they (to a varying degree) get out into their community and ‘represent the Government’ in a number of ways at irregular hours. Constant travel is part of the job and is physically and mentally draining – just ask anyone who has done it for a period of time. In the past couple of months. politicians have probably been in their offices directing those needing assistance to the current additional support available, probably burning the midnight oil to keep up with the latest stimulus measures and the demand for information. So like teachers, politicians do a lot of work that is not seen by the majority of the community they live in.
Really, Laming and Dutton’s attacks on schoolteachers are purely and simply bashing the unions – a favourite conservative pastime. There is also a state election due in Queensland later this year, fodder for conservative ideological warriors trying to link the actions of a union to that of a political party in what is really a cheap but inaccurate shot.
Cheap shots against ideological enemies is never a good look, especially when it certainly isn’t business as usual. Hopefully in the ‘new normal’, those who frequently engage in the cheap shot to ‘score points’ will be told very quickly by those they ‘report to’ to desist. In this particular case, you can easily make the same argument about the time politicians spend at work as they attempt to make about teachers; a demonstration of the adage that those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
What do you think?
This article was originally published on The Political Sword
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