As I type, RDNS nurses are completing their EBA ballots (remember to tick, sign, seal and post – hint: vote YES).

We’re twenty months and a couple of days into Premier Baillieu’s government and so far we’ve seen very little in the way of positive change for Victoria, and a whole lot of short-term thinking. Here’s an off-the-top-of-my-head, far from complete list: the closure of hundreds of TAFE programs; the inevitable closure of TAFE centres, including many in rural communities; the promise of knock-on effects due to both the decrease in related revenue (staff, students, maintenance, infrastructure) and the diminished options for vocational-education oriented potential students, once again most drastically affecting rural communities; the attempted introduction of a performance-based pay scale for teachers, which would undermine the essential collegiate relationship currently encouraged; an intent to cut the 10% lowest-performing teachers every year, with no process to determine this; a breach of the Premier’s promise that Victoria’s teachers would be “not the worst-paid but the best paid”; Victoria’s largest ever teachers’ strike, with an even big one forecast for next month; a threat to the very limited funding assistance SES volunteers currently receive (which supports the purchase and maintenance of a vehicle); an eighteen-month-and-counting pay claim from the few employed SES staff supporting and coordinating the volunteers; and the longest, bitterest, most industrially intense nursing and midwife pay and conditions dispute in this country’s history.

In 850 days (or two years, three months and four weeks) Victorians will go to the polls. Some time in the next fifteen months Australia will vote. In both cases I would ask you to think about the track record of not only the candidates but also their parties – do they have experience? Are their broadcast policies firm or hypothetical? Are they costed? Have they been considered, or are they spur-of-the-moment, made-on-a-podium promises? What are their track records on health,  education, essential services, social welfare, infrastructure? Do they stand with  integrity and commitment? Do they seem more interested in service to their electorates, or to special interests?

I knew from my (very peripheral) involvement in a media-sensationalist case several years ago that what I read, hear and saw in the media didn’t reflect reality, but it’s easy to forget that. We now all know from our experiences during the past year that media reports often fail to deliver the whole picture, in favour of a version that panders to sensationalism or is ideologically skewed; until Lisa declined to give interviews to journalists who didn’t include ratios in their coverage, every single mainstream media report made our campaign sound wholly pay driven, and our bed closures were repeatedly referred to as us being on strike, though no nurse or midwife left the bedside during that time. “Nurses on strike over pay claim” is a far more dramatic headline than “Nurses [and midwives] defend ratios, skill mix and a CPI-driven pay increase” – it’s not untrue, but it’s far from being the whole truth, and further still from telling the whole story.

I clearly believe that the state government we have does not serve the best interests of nurses, midwives, the public health care system, or the communities we serve. I am significantly concerned that this is how the Baillieu government acts when they have a one-seat majority, and an opposing party in power Federally – and when I look at NSW and Queensland, who came to power with far greater swings, and who have made far more savage and wide-reaching cuts, I am genuinely afraid. It’s not my place to direct votes (and a reminder – I do not speak for the Australian Nursing Federation, on either a state or national level, and ANF is not affiliated with any political party). All I ask is that you think about these issues before deciding who you’ll cast your ballot for on November 29th, 2014, and that you remember when voting in the Federal election that Victoria does not exist in a vacuum. Enjoy your day.

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