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V I E W P O I N T opinion letters

Contributions are not guaranteed to be included and may be edited for reasons of style or content. They will not be eligible for consideration if they contain defamatory material, or information of a personal nature which is not in the public domain. Name and address must be supplied. Letters should be no more than 250 words.

email: letters@bendigopublishing.com PO Box 324, Bendigo 3552

Fact injection The commentary in “Plan to thaw uni freeze” Bendigo Weekly, June 12 on the support provided to regional universities, needs an injection of a few facts. The facts are the government provides significant funding to support regional universities including those in Victoria to help them deliver their higher education courses. For example, this year, regionally headquartered universities throughout Australia will receive almost $1.7 billion in base funding for Commonwealth supported students. The government’s plan to freeze just one stream of university funding for two years still means universities can enrol more students by making use of that 15 per cent teaching funding they appear to have been diverting. There is no reason that universities could not tap into that 15 per cent of funding and put on more classes or tutors and lecturers or grow enrolments in courses they see as having strong student or industry demand. Reports show that in the last seven years Australia’s universities have also splashed $1.7 billion on marketing and advertising. Furthermore, universities could tap into that funding and grow enrolments in courses they see as having strong employment outcomes. From 2020, we’ll grow funding at the rate of population increases and tie it to performance metrics to ensure our universities are focused on tackling issues that have emerged such as declining completion rates and lower employer satisfaction. Lastly, our reforms don’t affect any of the specialist programs to support disadvantaged students at university like the regional loading worth $70 million each year, our 1200 regional scholarships or the $592 million Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program. The bottom line is this government continues to support regional universities so country kids have the opportunity to undertake further study and training, which ultimately boosts their job prospects. Senator Simon Birmingham, Minister for Education and Training

Long white clouds Mayor Margaret O’Rourke’s June 1 letter “In response” was deficient and misinformed. Marg was trying to counter Bill Collier’s letter, “Council’s waste” (May 25) – in part about a ratepayer funded trip taken by the mayor, CEO and others to Dunedin, New Zealand. Councillors approved the NZ trip

at the February 21 council meeting; two weeks after the visit. Not exactly best practice. Bill wanted to know the real benefits greater Bendigo gained. He observed the visit “was 15 weeks ago and still no public report to council”. Marg puffed long white clouds over Bill’s observation claiming media releases (which are not public reports to council meetings) and councillor briefings (closed meetings) were sufficient. Wrong. Bill’s call was correct. The February 21 council minutes show, “A further detailed report on the outcomes of the [Dunedin] visit will be provided to a future council meeting.” That has not happened. Be gracious Marg. No underarm bowling. Overcome the deficiency. Be accountable. Rally the trip’s participants. Professionally inform the public. Present a Dunedin report “to a future council meeting”. It’s that simple. Ted Coleman, Strathfieldsaye

Holiday planning In January this year certain councils caused consternation around the nation when they unilaterally decided not to hold their official Australia Day ceremonies on the January 26. As a consequence the federal government, responsible for designating national holidays stripped those councils of their right to conduct citizenship ceremonies. Those council decisions created a furore across the nation ranging from outrage, sympathy and outright support, in Bendigo our councillors voiced a similar range of views and opinions. The federal government has chosen to gazette January 26, 2019 as the official date for Australia Day celebrations as is its role under the constitution. But where do we all stand locally? Are we going to have a last minute decision by council hidden among the hype of the Christmas / New Year holiday season to withdraw councils’ support and participation in the official Australia Day celebrations? As I am unaware of any surveys or public consultations relating to this issue being undertaken by council among ratepayers I must assume that council has decided that it’s better to make no announcement rather than one that could create controversy. Council has an obligation as the community leader to give people time to react to any decision council may make, and alter any plans they have already made, with just over six months to go this is just a common

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curtesy council must extend to the community, and soon. This is a national day any decision to change it should be made nationally following a mature debate with input from all Australians, as we all share the one nation wishing to live in peace and harmony with one another. D. Arscott, Bendigo

Raising awareness The world is faced with its greatest refugee crisis in history with 65 million displaced people (UNHCR) seeking escape from war, violence and persecution. Australia has been shielded from most of this crisis but has welcomed a small number of refugees. However, the policy of indefinite detention has seen men, women and children trapped indefinitely on Manus Island and Nauru. They exist in limbo, with little prospect of resettlement and in increasing hopelessness. Refugee Week is to be celebrated next week (June 17-30). Its aim is to raise awareness of refugee issues both internationally and locally. A program of activities is planned in Bendigo and Castlemaine to celebrate the strength and resilience of those who have come here seeking asylum and the important contribution they make to our community. Bendigo is home to settlers from a number of countries, many are

former refugees and the community benefits from their rich cultural contributions to food, music, dance and festivals as well as participation in local employment and education. Loddon Campaspe Multicultural Services promotes cultural diversity and there are many groups working to raise awareness of refugee and asylum seeker issues as well as cultural diversity. The Bendigo Refugee Week program includes many activities for families and students. The program can be found at: www.ruralaustraliansforrefugees.org.au or for more details contact: rarbendigo@gmail.com. Pat Horan, Bendigo

Council submission One has to read the City of Greater Bendigo’s submission to the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources review of Regional Service Model and Strategic Directions for Regional Policy. Council claimed: “The drivers in non-metro areas will be fuelled by support services to local agriculture and resource production. That is, the localised aspects of off-farm or off-mine servicing of business inputs, however, the heavy lifting in terms of population growth is these areas will be in providing services to the local population. “This population will increasingly demand more services because of ageing.” This submission also claimed to

be “a vibrant, innovative, sustainable and connected community by building on our heritage, natural environment and agricultural landscapes.” Council’s declaration is at odds with its present hunger to grab and destroy good Marong farm land, and build an industrial park on our agricultural landscape. This is hypocrisy when council claims one thing and does the opposite. This submission was clearly designed with malarkey and spin, a great skill for funding from government. This submission also claimed, “Community led regional planning had advanced significantly... But more can be done to improve and grow this process”. Improve? You can say that again. Council cancelled a Marong residents meeting on the claim that a certain group might disrupt proceedings and cause problems with the hotel. Why did councillors lack the conviction to seek other available venues for a public get-together? Council can most certainly improve and grow this community led regional planning by listening to the people. Ducking a pub meet doesn’t help. As for the natural environment councillors, take a good look at the Bendigo creek infrastructure and surrounds which lacks care and maintenance, although one must say the bike tracks are good and well looked after. Bill Collier, Golden Square

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