WE can probably live with the poor standard of our roads.
We understand that not every town in Victoria can have an accident and emergency hospital or a range of specialist doctors.
We know how expensive it would be to provide South Gippsland with a rail-based public transport system.
And we can appreciate that we’ll probably be the last to get reasonable access to the National Broadband Network.
Choosing to live in the country has its advantages and disadvantages. We know that.
But one thing we cannot abide is sub-standard education opportunities for our kids or policies which restrict access by our kids to further education and training.
That’s why the report on the poor outcomes for country students, released by the independent officer of the Victorian Parliament, the Auditor-General Mr John Doyle, is of so much concern.
Mr Doyle and his office are appointments under legislation, made to examine, on behalf of Parliament and Victorian taxpayers, the management of resources within the public sector.
And he has brought down a seriously bad report card for the Department of Education and Early Education (DEECD).
The audit found that rural students “continue to lag behind their metropolitan peers on a range of performance indicators, including completion rates, academic achievement and university attendance”.
“The gap,” he said, “in performance between rural and metropolitan students in Victoria has persisted and shows no sign of narrowing.”
The audit concluded that the Department of Education and Early Education has not provided access to high-quality education for all students.
“Rural students face significant barriers to educational achievement such as distance, lack of transport and lower aspirations. DEECD is aware of these barriers, but needs to do further work to understand how to overcome them,” he said.
It’s a damning indictment as is the revelation from the A-G that the DEECD is developing a new Rural and Regional Plan, “however, it has been delayed and there is no certainty that it will be completed on time or to a sufficient standard”.
This is an absolute disgrace and one must ask, where are our rural MPs on this question?
They should be just as outraged about this as we are.
Why, for example, has Wonthaggi and Phillip Island been kept waiting so long for an announcement on the redevelopment of state school secondary facilities that is so desperately needed in this area?
The proposal has been ready and waiting for the Minister to tick off on it for years.
We know the reason, don’t worry.
It’s because most country areas are safe conservative seats that are unlikely to change their voting patterns no matter how bad it gets.
Well, it’s time to wake up and unless we can get some positive statements from both sides of politics in the run up to the next election, we should seriously consider putting up our own local candidate and voting independent.
At least then they would know this area is on the map, the only map that seems to count, and that’s the electoral map.