Tuesday, April 08, 2008

NSW Trains & Education Stupidity

For some time now we have had the "good news" announcements about the new rail metro line to Rouse Hill. But the Ministerial bloopers have kept rolling. Certainly, they have distracted the media, and possibly some voters, from the NSW Health / Hospital inquiry.

Metro bloopers
  • The announcement that the Metro line could start from a currently disused St James Station tunnel.
    PROBLEM: the very same tunnel was, days earlier, used for a Premier Iemma photo-op as ... a water storage facility. The story was that it could be used for holding rainwater for watering the Botanic Gardens, Hyde Park, and other areas.
  • the proposal is to have 1 line, from the city, terminating at Rouse Hill, a distance of about 40-45 km. This is a single-line, long-run railway.
    PROBLEM: Metro lines work best in cities with high population densities, usually over short runs of less than 20 km, and with frequent (5-10 min) intervals between trains. The Sydney metro proposal would be better as a normal train.
  • the NSW Government will almost certainly want a private investor, because it doesn't want to spend the money to provide the service, even though that's its whole reason for existing.
    PROBLEM: the history of private toll roads in Sydney is variable - consider the Cross City tunnel, and the Lane Cove tunnel - and voters are voting with their wallets, and using different routes.
The latest proposals are:
  • Tell teachers they cannot have any more than a 2.5% wage increase; at Treasurer Costa's insistence, so that his budget look good. This is less than inflation, and will drive more teachers out of the system.
  • Change the staffing (appointment) system, so that individual schools are responsible for hiring. That way, the voters can't blame the Government for the lack of teachers (see above), or because the school is not in a desirable area.
    PROBLEMS: Those teachers currently teaching in more remote areas, or areas of disadvantage, can now forget about transferring. Under the Government's proposal, if they want to move, they have to find a school willing to employ them. Those schools will find it even harder, if not impossible, to find staff.
  • Make Principals responsible for hiring (and firing). Again, this means that voters can't blame us (the Government).
    PROBLEMS: giving Principals the responsibility of hiring presents opportunities for conflicts of interest. Now, a number of current Government Ministers might think that a conflict of interest is not a problem, but a state-wide system needs to ensure this, and an independent appointment system does this. Further, will Principals be given a "staffing budget" and therefore be put into the position of deciding how NOT to employ teachers and staff that are needed, for "budgetary considerations"?
  • The Government proposals can only do to Public Education, and our children and grand-children, what road closures have done to residents and businesses near the Lane Cove Tunnel and Cross City Tunnel. They should be resisted by teachers, by Parent associations, by Principals, and by us voters.