A quick, post night-duty reminder: in 756 days Victorians go to the polls – nurses and midwives, remember the fight we had, the fact that the Mental Health EBA (though close) still isn’t finalised, that the Baillieu government’s determination to stick to the appearance of a self-imposed 2.5% salary cap means bank + agency nurses got none of the CPD allowance, and then look around you.
Look at teachers, fighting for parity with other states, in a profession that’s nearing 40% casualisation (far higher for early career teachers). We need more, better equipped teachers, not fewer’; teachers who are supported and mentored by more experienced educators, not forced to compete. Our teachers need job security, not ten-month contracts that leave them penniless for a sixth of the year.
Look at the wholesale destruction of our TAFE network – a publicly funded vocational education system that allows the most vulnerable among us to improve their knowledge, skills, employability and careers – young people who have non-academic bents, women re-entering (or entering for the first time) the workforce, migrants, retrenched workers, among many others. That there were problems with previous funding is not in doubt, but privatising the VET sector not only puts education even further out of the reach of those who need it most, it also means even more of the rorting, tick-and-flick programs that leave a growing number of VET students not only unable to access more funding but woefully ill-equipped for the requirements of their chosen field.
Look at the savage cuts to CFA and MFB services, as we approach the worst bushfire season since 2009 – firefighters who’ll be forced to wear second-hand gear as they risk our lives to save ours, and a potential cost to life, limb, property and infrastructure far higher than the $million Premier Baillieu will save.
And that’s the crux of all these governmental decisions – short-term economies that will make the bottom line look good, that will let the Premier crow that the budget’s in surplus, as though money in the bank’s better than money spent of the support and services our communities need. And at what cost?
We know from the Kennett years that it took nursing and midwifery almost a decade to recover numbers back to pre-1992 figures, and that was with nurse/midwife: patient ratios. We know that it costs $100,000 to replace a nurse, far more than the annual salary of retaining a nurse (you can get two graduates for that!), and we know that we’re less than a decade away from a global nursing and midwifery crisis as the profession ages ever closer to retirement.
We know that the best among us, regardless of profession, can find work in other sectors, and other industries – leaving behind the teachers, midwives and educators who can’t do anything else. Buoyed by those of us who choose to do what we love, these professionals can rise – without us we get the health system we see in the UK, where nurses and midwives are so burned out their patient care falls, and falls, and falls.
I have no doubt the same is true for education – and without quality, committed, invested teachers the majority of students won’t learn, won’t be interested in learning, and we will lose a resource we cannot replace.
We know that selling public assets reaps far less money than repurchasing them costs – those buildings TAFEs are being forced to sell can never be regained. That infrastructure, the decades of experience, will be lost to us forever. And that’s before we even consider the wider socioeconomic costs of pulling education further away from those of us who need it most. At a minimum we know there’ll be more welfare, more drug use, more crime, more homelessness, more domestic violence, more single parents (particularly single mothers) and more teenage pregnancies – more poverty, and another generation trapped in the cycle of poverty.
We know that the costs of rebuilding communities destroyed by fire enormously outweighs the costs of maintaining – not even improving – the services we currently have. Just one significant fire this summer will cost our community more than the savings Mr Baillieu thinks he’s making. And that doesn’t come close to reflecting the pain, suffering, medical costs, lives lost, and the ongoing trauma of survivors.
We know, as the ambulance union embarks on EBA negotiations, that ramping at Victoria’s public hospitals in a steadily worsening issue. Every ambulance unable to unload a patient because of Emergency Department acuity means one vehicle and two officers off the road – increasing response times and contributing to burn out and officers leaving their industry. And we know that ANF’s offer to add another nurse to Emergency Departments, a move that would free up to three vehicles and six officers, was rejected by the Baillieu government because it didn’t constitute a nursing productivity gain. Apparently we’re all working in unconnected systems.
And that’s where the Premier and his Party are wrong. We are all connected. We are informed. We communicate. We remember. And in 756 days – we vote.