From the President: We turned the tide, now to clear the hurdles

As the dust settles from the outcome of the US presidential election, the geopolitics of 2017 looms as a great challenge for the advancement of the QTU’s professional and industrial agenda on behalf of members.

Great progress has been made in the era of the Palaszczuk government. The delivery of 580 of the promised 875 additional teachers above growth has seen the denial of 519 teachers under the previous LNP government reversed and exceeded. Combined with the ongoing commitment of Gonski money through the “Investing for Success” program, the long-standing resource deficit in Queensland state schools has begun to be addressed.

Removal of the threat of contracts for principals and deputy principals was another of the first actions of the new government. Common sense decisions on curriculum such as decluttering C2C, slowing the pace of change in P-10 and allowing more time for senior secondary reforms, reflect well on a government prepared to listen to the voice of teachers and principals through their union. An EB outcome delivering much needed improvements in the salaries of beginning teachers, new salary horizons for classroom teachers and a promised review of the 30 year-old leadership classification system, among other achievements, demonstrates respect for our profession. There has been good news in the VET sector as well, with TAFE funding restored and achievement of a new EB agreement for TAFE teachers after a four-year battle. Major legislative changes in workers’ compensation and industrial relations focused on fairness caps off the highlights of the past two years.

Many of the highlights on this list were positions taken by the QTU prior to the last election, positions put to the political parties, adopted by some and rejected by others. What is certain is that the outcomes achieved resulted from actions taken by the QTU in cooperation with the government, through negotiation with the government and by lobbying the government. The specific nature of the outcomes stems in part from a shared set of principles which value public education, respect teachers and principals and focus on providing the resources needed to continue to build on the noteworthy achievements to date.

School visits over the staff development days in January revealed a high level of positivity. Teachers spoke of relief at the time available to prepare for teaching, for measures to address workload and improved salaries and conditions. The tide is turning, but…

What 2016 has demonstrated is that politics around the world has lurched further to the right. The apparent rise of One Nation, in spite of its regressive policies on issues such as human rights, education and industrial relations, signals hurdles for educators and their unions. 2017 will likely be a state election year in Queensland. The prospect of a four-year, fixed term of government by an LNP/One Nation coalition cannot be ignored. Both the 2016 federal election results and the forthcoming Western Australian election, to be held in March, provide key indicators of the potential for such an outcome.

Nothing in politics is inevitable. Almost no-one predicted the fall of the Newman government in 2015. We cannot know the outcome of the 2017 election. What we do know is that we must once again campaign strongly to protect the gains we have made in the past two years and to provide opportunities to continue to build on those successes. The alternative is four years spent defending decades of gains in the face of determined opposition.

The QTU stands with members, ready to take on this challenge. We will not be distracted from ongoing efforts to promote and protect public education and the teachers and principals who contribute so much to its success.

Have a great year in education and see you on the campaign trail.

Kevin Bates                                                                                                                   President

Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 122 No 1, 10 February 2017, p7