First of all congratulations on producing such a fantastic new paper.
The point I wanted to make however was the need for Green Left to be conscious of always using the most accessible language, or explaining where possible the meaning of the various political terms used. An example is in last week's issue, when C.F. from South Australia asked the origins of the terms left and right. The answer given made reference to a Third Estate. Not many Australians would have a clue who the Third Estate were in feudal history, as this detailed study of history is only done through university courses or independent political study.
There is a crying need for a paper in Australia to reach out to the general mass of people, not just those who are "already in the know". Green Left must learn how to become everyone's paper, so it needs as many people as possible writing for it, on as diverse a subject range as possible. But its editors and regular writers should also be aware about using the clearest language possible.
It would also be good, as Green Left becomes more and more a "people's paper" to see some articles on things like sport — particularly women's sport. It would be great for Green Left to help fill the hole in sports coverage. It may sound weird for a political paper, but the ANC's paper has sports pages, and it works very well!
Australia must have some of the cleverest politicians in the world. George Orwell must be turning in his grave at the latest variation of Doublespeak from Downunder.
Admitting that he told conservationists before the last election that he would not guarantee timber to pulp mill operators, the Prime Minister gave this explanation:
"I did that in totally good faith because it was my understanding that it would not be necessary ... "
I'm no expert at decoding Doublespeak but I think this means either: (a/) "I lied" or (b/) "I'm breaking my promise".
Apology for Labor
I was surprised to read Simon Marginson's piece on the RMIT and the Victoria University of Technology in your March 12 edition. I'm not sure whether the educational opportunities that he writes of, being opened up for the West by VUT, are the same ones students at Footscray Institute and Western Institute see each day.
Today at FIT, I found out that another unit that I enrolled in has been cancelled — all three units for second semester for me were going to be cancelled, though one has since been resurrected. Maybe he hasn't wandered around "tutorial" groups with 25 students in them recently, seen a user pays classroom being established or been an overseas student forced to return home for industrial training — and had to pay over $3000 for the privilege.
I was surprised because I didn't think that GLW would run a piece that apologises for the Labor Party's policies for higher education. Most readers would remember that amalgamations came from the White Paper released by Dawkins, along with tertiary fees and partial privatisation. There was also a small portion of the White Paper that talked about access for underrepresented groups. The VUT has been trumpeted as the good side of Labor's education policies.
At Footscray and Western, what the Labor Party means by access is being made clear: a user pays system of increasing class sizes and declining resources. Access to what? is also a pertinent question. Humanities at FIT is being cut each year, and additional humanities places within the VUT growth profile are few. So the access to a collapsing system that VUT represents is certainly not access to a socially critical education. If the University was to mean more money, then maybe it would be useful — but in fact funding per new student unit across the university and particularly at FIT was a significant cut, all as part of the amalgamation. It's even worse when all the hidden and unallowed for costs are taken into account.
So why write positively about VUT amalgamation? For some academic staff at high levels, and some general staff there have been pay rises. But at FIT for example, the general staff union was bought off by pay equity with RMIT but only for white collar staff! The moves of conservative forces at RMIT to scuttle the university have come with sighs of relief for those on the left at VUT who support the university. Finally VUT looks good because the right does not like it. The price of supporting the university has been high though, mainly through allowing the right to pose as the opponent of bureaucracy.
When the progressive students at Footscray fought against the amalgamation and for a "People's University" they gained significant support and were re-elected to the students representative council by a strong majority. When the Left Alliance leadership at RMIT SRC did not fight the amalgamation on principled grounds, they were chucked out of office by Centre Right Independents. Now National Civic Council front groups are signing up students to "fight amalgamation" in the political space left for them by inactivity. The "Bosses University" which VUT will be is nothing to celebrate.