NSW Elections —
Major parties lack commitment to public health & education
Shocking revelations about the state of NSW schools and hospitals have been made on the eve of the State Election. And while Bob Carr has made grand promises for the future, serious questions must be raised about his government's last eight years in office. Public schools The size of primary school classes is one of the hot issues in the campaign. The Liberals have promised to reduce the size of kindergarten classes to an "average" of 21, the Greens have promised to legislate a maximum of 20. Labor has promised a kindergarten average of 20. However, Labor's commitment to this task must be viewed in light of the current class average of 26, and the highest teacher-pupil ratio of any state in Australia. A recent census of 1714 NSW primary schools revealed that many schools have kindergarten classes of 30. Muswellbrook South, Casino, Girraween and Dural primary schools have the ignominious honour of topping the state with 32. Accusations have been made that the results of the census, taken in August last year, were deliberately suppressed. The census also showed that some schools that attempted to keep class sizes down in the early years did so by sacrificing students in the later years. Umina and New Lambton Public Schools both topped the state — an unbelievable 37 students per class in years five and six. Large classes are not the only problem. Numerous primary schools are suffering from a classroom shortage. In some schools classes are being held in libraries and teachers' staffrooms. In Tuncurry a kindergarten class of 19 was taught for one month in a tiny audiovisual room with no chairs or desks. The problem is not that there is a shortage of funding but how the funding is allocated. There seems to be plenty of dollars to go around when it comes to subsidising private schools. What is lacking by the major parties is a commitment to public education. Public hospitals "Code Red" is the term used to describe when a hospital emergency is so overloaded that ambulances carrying patients with non-immediate life threatening illness are diverted to other hospitals. How that Code Red state is determined has been the subject of red-hot debate. Official Government figures stated that Nepean Public Hospital was operating under Code Red for 47 hours in October and 44 hours in November 2002. However a leaked document of raw data from the hospital emergency room concerned revealed a very different picture: 290 hours in October, 230 hours in November. Racing into damage control mode, the Government claimed the raw data was only used as a warning to the hospital that a situation was becoming serious. Senior clinicians would then adjust operations across the hospital to avert reporting a formal Code Red. "Quite often only minor changes are needed. It is therefore extremely misleading and irresponsible to rely on the raw data as an indicator of a hospital's status. To suggest otherwise is blatantly wrong", said Health Minister Craig Knowles. An emergency room Code Red was simply an indicator that ambulances should take the patient to a nearby hospital to receive quicker treatment, explained Mr Knowles. Yet it was also revealed that at least once in the past fortnight all three inner-Sydney hospitals, Prince Alfred, Prince of Wales and St Vincent's were simultaneously on Code Red — ambulances were left with nowhere to go. Amongst a number of serious accusations, the whistleblower — an emergency room doctor from one of the hospitals — claimed that at one stage patients w ere being treated in the hospital carpark as they lay in ambulances because there were no beds available inside in the emergency rooms. The doctor claimed that political pressure was being applied to hospitals not to declare Code Red. The unnamed doctor declared in a written statement to the Herald: "A culture of fear permeates the health system and swift retribution would follow anyone who challenged the Department of Health or the hospital administration". How to vote The Communist Party of Australia has decided not to stand candidates in this election but urges readers in NSW to vote for other left and progressive candidates. Look for candidates who put the interests of people first, who support the public health and education systems and are not tied to big business. The CPA recommends Vote No. 1 Greens, then Socialist Alliance, Progressive Labour Party, progressive independents and ALP. Make sure that the Liberal and National Parties, One Nation and its rival Group L (Pauline Hanson) are put last.