Is Australia heading towards a “Minsky moment”? - Peter Bain

RECENT communication from the Education Department shows an intent to punish teachers for a third time by docking their pay.

While the QTU (Queensland Teachers’ Union) has been notably silent on this issue, the TPAQ (Teachers’ Professional Association of Queensland) launched into action arguing on all major mainstream media platforms the moral issues around punishing a person two and sometimes three times for the same ‘offence’.

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Our frontline professionals were unquestioningly the heavy lifters of the pandemic. While bureaucrats and white collar workers had the luxury of working from home during, then, unknown covid conditions.

No vaccines, no PPE and in some instances not even hand sanitiser or soap in the bathrooms. Of course the mainstream media and politicians expected teachers to turn up to work and keep working in these conditions. This, while they shut down parliament and media headquarters to protect themselves, because after all, we may be all in this together – but some animals are more equal than others.

Without complaint, teachers underwent the mammoth task of rewriting an entirely new ‘remote’ curriculum. All while, I might add, remote curriculum content already existed, had been used for decades and was considered good enough for our bush kids – school of the air.

This of course was not provided to teachers despite request from TPAQ, for reasons known only to the Government.

Despite TPAQ pleas, the department was afraid sharing that content, they would lose their intellectual property.

Fast forward to the invention and provisional approval of the new jabs.

Political and societal norms were turned on their head over new mRNA vaccines. Health Minister, Greg Hunt referred to the rollout as the world’s largest phase three clinical trial. Many teachers chose to take part in the trial for the greater good and promises of immunity (woops), prevention of hospitalisations and death (woops) and even stopping the spread (woops). Of course with benefit of hindsight and data these benefits didn’t eventuate. Some teachers chose instead to wait until they had more data, some were rightly sceptical of Government and bureaucrats and also chose to wait.

Those that chose to wait were vilified for ‘selfishness’. They were treated appallingly by some of their more radical colleagues, pollies and unions culminating in being stood down without pay since 23 January 2022. That’s a docking of 6 months worth of pay or tens of thousands of dollars. First punishment.

Some were evicted from their regional, state-owned rental houses – and still forced to pay rent to the department. Second punishment.

Now this; the icing on the cake. Just as these teachers return to a frosty staff room (many teachers have been led to believe the stood down teachers had 6 months off paid – I wonder where this rumour started?), thousands of teachers face being dropped down a pay band for many weeks for failing to comply with a diktat from the omnipotent and supremely benevolent Education Department. Teachers again face the prospect of losing hundreds of dollars. How many times must they be punished? Are they right to fear that further punishment could be down the line?

In Australia, you cannot be punished twice for the same ‘crime’. The Queensland State Government is attempting a third. When questioned, Grace Grace said:

“They’re lucky they weren’t sacked.”

I’m sure by this stage some are wishing they had been sacked rather than endure this nightmare. This of course from a Minister that was elected on the back of being right behind the worker. Codswallop!

Grace Grace would do well to remember the Human Rights Act that her government brought in in 2019. Although to be fair to her, the entire Government seems to have forgotten this Act since the start of the pandemic when they brought it in.

Section 34 of the Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld) states that: A person must not be tried or punished more than once for an offence in relations to which the person has already been finally convicted or acquitted in accordance with the law.

The TPAQ team are currently exploring options to rebuff the Government by filing actions in the Human Rights Commission.

Further, teachers may apply to the QIRC for a public service appeal, fairness review. Although, the Commission have already shown a penchant for vindictiveness towards those they perceive as “anti-vaxers”.

TPAQ members can rest assured that their union will leave no member behind and will fight in every last avenue until justice prevails for members – like a good union should.

Why a teacher would remain in the QTU while the TPAQ has quite clearly been active on many fronts during, and post pandemic defeats me. What more do these committed TPAQ officials need to do?

Deconstructing ScoMo

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Jack McGuire is the CEO of the Red Union Support Hub*, the service provider behind the drive for more competitive, non-partisan trade unions in Australia. Jack has also served in roles as the State Secretary of the Teachers’ Professional Association of Queensland and the Assistant State Secretary of the Nurses’ Professional Association of Queensland, which is now Queensland’s 10th largest union. Jack started out in student politics where his electoral group was elected 7 times consecutively and served as both president of QUT Guild and board member of QUT. Jack used this platform to set up a competitor to the radical National Union of Students.

*Red Union is an occasional sponsor of The Good Sauce. To receive a discount on your initial membership fees, use code GOODSAUCE.

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