From the President: The QTU and elections – why who governs Queensland is union business
Queensland Teachers' Journal, Vol 125 No 7, 2 October 2020, page no.7
The impact of politics and governments, at both the state and federal level, on public education, training and the teaching profession is so profound that it simply cannot be ignored.
With an election to be held on 31 October, all Queenslanders must engage in a thoughtful process of deciding who is best placed, should they be in government, to deliver positive outcomes for teachers, principals and students in schools and TAFE. After all, education in schools and TAFE will play a vital role in Queensland’s recovery from COVID-19.
For more than 131 years, the Queensland Teachers’ Union (QTU) has played a crucial role in Queensland’s education system and our community more broadly. During election periods, this includes analysis of the impact of political parties’ and candidates’ proposed policies on education and training and the hundreds of thousands of teachers, leaders and students who are a part of the education system every day. Our responsibilities at election time include using our professional knowledge and experience to inform our fellow Queenslanders on such education issues.
The QTU has changed in many ways since the last state election in 2017 – the most notable change has been the increase in membership to more than 48,000, up from 44,000 just three years ago.
The Queensland Teachers’ Union aims to be the most democratic and representative voice of the teaching profession in Queensland on industrial and professional matters, and in support of public education.
In our pursuit of members’ interests, the QTU is:
- member focused.
The QTU is not affiliated with any political party. The QTU does not donate money to political parties. The QTU works with a wide variety of politicians from all political parties who demonstrate genuine commitment to public education and vocational education and training to further the interests of QTU members and public education. QTU campaigns seek to help elect governments and candidates who support teachers, school leaders, TAFE and public schools and who promote workers’ rights.
One of the democratically determined strategic objectives of the QTU, tied closely to the election process, relates to the need for our Union and its members to have a strong influence over the state and federal education and training systems in which we work.
As a state registered union for which the state government plays the dual role of employer and regulator, it is even more critical that we scrutinise the policies of current and prospective governments, particularly in the areas of education, training and industrial relations. In the case of the 2020 state election, the QTU will assess the policies of the major parties and candidates in the context of commitments made during the election period, and align these to our campaigns. We must also assess the performance of political parties when in power to better inform considerations of policy – actions always speak louder than words. Members will be informed of the impact of proposed policies on the raft of issues deemed as high priority by QTU decision-makers, especially QTU Executive and State Council.
In the 2020 election, these issues include:
- funding for TAFE at 80 per cent of the state’s vocational education and training (VET) expenditure
- sustained workload reduction for teachers and principals during the term of the next government
- increasing state government expenditure on state schools to more than the planned 69 per cent of the schooling resource standard
- protecting teachers, principals and TAFE educators from occupational violence
- provision of more alternative learning settings for disengaged or persistently disruptive students
- a major capital works program, including using a share of COVID-19 stimulus funding to replace aging school infrastructure, upgrade ICT infrastructure and build more new schools in primary, secondary and special education sectors.
A full list of the QTU’s election issues and the policies and actions of the political parties in response will form a key part of the QTU’s information for members during the election.
Teachers, principals and TAFE educators may find engagement in the political process distasteful. Some members go as far as to say that their Union should play no part in elections, preferring that we stand by and allow things to be done to public education and QTU members, rather than being active and informed participants in the political process that has so much potential to influence education for good and ill. All these opinions have been debated and the QTU will, based on deliberate decisions of the representatives of the entire membership, continue to play an active role in helping members to play their part in determining who will govern Queensland for the next four years.