Letters to
the editor

Outsourcing of NSW prison education

One more to add to the list that Mike Seccombe includes in his article on privatisation by the NSW government (“Baird guy”, June 11-17) is prison education. It was announced in mid-May that all but 20 of the 150 teachers and education officers are to be replaced by clerks and external private providers. Currently each jail has an education team, employed by Corrective Services NSW, consisting of highly qualified, experienced and dedicated professionals, who teach literacy, numeracy, English as a subsequent language, art, music, IT, communication skills and other subjects. The plan is for private training providers to perform a service at arm’s length and in a piecemeal way. Teaching depends on goodwill and trust between student and teacher, even more so in the prison environment. The daily routines of prisoners are subject to interruptions and cancellations so continuity of contact for prisoners with professional services is hard won. And ongoing communication and co-ordination between the disciplines of education, psychology, welfare and Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD) workers is essential for any services to be meaningfully delivered. Prison education staff are incensed that their experience and abilities are being overridden by an ill-considered plan to cut costs, at the expense of quality education. Shamefully, the most vulnerable of prisoners – Aboriginals, those living with disabilities, the aged, those whose first language is not English and women – have not been given proper consideration in this proposal. Finally, the prison population is increasing, while this proposal decreases the number of education staff available to inmates seeking rehabilitation. 

– Kit Shepherd, Corrective Services Teachers Association, NSW

Baird’s proud lineage

Mike Baird is exposed as yet another power-mad state premier. He thus follows in the footsteps of the first NSW premier, Alexander Stuart Donaldson. When Donaldson did not get his way over the future for the Royal Botanic Gardens, he proposed that the land be subdivided and sold to private developers. So Baird is just walking in the footsteps of this predecessor. The waves of privatisation washing away our state’s public assets, under Baird’s premiership, would have made even Donaldson happy. Politicians such as Baird act as if the debate over privatisation is won for all time. Yet Australian academics, such as Professor John Quiggin, have exposed such hubris as a real danger to the financial viability of the whole economy. 

– Greg McKenzie, Chatswood, NSW

Fact check needed on commission advice

Parallel importation and the attack on local publishing (Michael Heyward, “Closing the books”, June 18-24) highlights the Productivity Commission’s enthusiasm for sacrificing Australia’s national interest on the altar of competition. Snug in taxpayer-funded security, the commission announced its visions of a world of market perfection to an uncritical audience of bureaucrats and politicians. The commission’s nostrums have resulted in fragmented, expensive services and increased foreign ownership (with associated tax losses). Any benefits to citizens from “efficiency gains” are negated by the imposts of rent seekers and the finance industry. We need a review of the Productivity Commission’s advice outcomes over five- and 10-year periods in order to judge if it is using our money for the benefit of all.

– Neil Hauxwell, Moe, Vic

Acupuncture claim an undeserving hit

A political debate should not require anatomy lessons or discussion of the principles and practices of Chinese medicine, but I cannot allow Max Opray’s claims to pass unchallenged (“What’s NXT?”, June 18-24). He presented a balanced report, until repeating the rubbish about genital acupuncture. There is no such thing. It appears that it only takes one sensationalist headline to create a meme that then gets passed on from newspaper to newspaper and becomes sanctified as public knowledge. This is lazy journalism. For the record, the paper this headline was based on makes no claim that any single acupuncture point treats infertility. It simply describes, in the traditional academic manner, a case of a woman presenting with infertility who subsequently gave birth to two healthy children. However, my paper stressed that a single case study in no way can be regarded as evidence on its own of a correlation between treatment and outcome. This issue was raised not because the political pundits care about the details of Chinese medicine. The real intent is an easily recognised political hit job, designed to damage the Nick Xenophon Team and to take attention away from the urgent reforms required of our system of governance. 

– Damian Carey, NXT candidate for Kingston, SA

PM must step in on live exports

Watching the footage on the ABC of Australian cattle being sledgehammered in Vietnam made me ashamed to be a human being. But I am so deeply grateful to the courageous souls who continue to risk their lives to bear witness to, and expose, such evil. On this occasion, they were assaulted, threatened, and their cameras smashed. Government and industry have known for years of the barbaric cruelty in non-approved slaughterhouses. They have chosen to do nothing. No prosecutions, clear breaches of regulations, but still exporting to Vietnam. CCTV systems not operating. Cattle being illegally transported across the border to China. As long as there is live export, there will be cruelty. Despite this, Barnaby Joyce, and his agriculture department, are actually increasing live exports to Vietnam. This behaviour is shameful. The prime minister should intervene, and suspend live export to Vietnam – it would be a promising start. 

– Cheryl Forrest-Smith, Mona Vale, NSW

Letters are welcome: [email protected]
Please include your full name and address and a daytime telephone number. Letters may be edited for length and content, and may be published in print and online. Letters should not exceed 150 words.

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on June 25, 2016.

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