This newspaper has already deplored the funding cuts made to the TAFE system not primarily because of the jobs lost to the sector, which are bad enough, but because of the long-term social ramifications, dwindling opportunities and career avenues these represent for Ballarat’s young people.
Already the worst of this city – its crime, generational unemployment, vandalism and trapped idle youth – represents a problem disproportionate to the size of the city because opportunities dry up too readily.
Further slashing the courses that provide vocational opportunities for those who are on the cusp of dropping out kills hope and self-worth, fosters welfare dependency and precipitates a whole plethora of social problems that any amount of bluster about “getting tough on crime” cannot solve or reverse.
The last week has also brought a new range of low level cuts which have raised the ire of the Ballarat residents. Community houses and community health services were next on the list and then in the grim twilight of the week’s end a great swathe of public sector job cuts that for all their “vaunted efficiencies” must affect service delivery. All will have their consequences.
While it may be easy to justify the ruthlessness at a managerial level, targeting duplication or a lack of market demand, in the real world where these services are most used and needed, availability just got a whole lot tougher.
If the temptation arises to dismiss the recipients of such services as loafers, losers or spongers it would pay to recall the scathing Ombudsman’s report, which investigated the tragic consequences of neglect of high-risk children, also highlighted the often ridiculous caseloads of the social workers expected to protect them. Cutting a further 400 jobs from the DHS is unlikely to help the cause outlined in the Cummin’s report nor stem the horrible cycle of abuse and violence that will come back to haunt Victoria in generations to come.
This list of regional grievances is long and growing. But even the hardest of hearts must be motivated by some degree of political expediency. Jeff Kennett’s obdurate razor gangs found easy prey in the regions but inadvertently ended his political career and put the coalition in the wilderness for 11 years.
The Nationals who have always prided themselves on regional representation and hold the bulk of the state government’s seats outside of Melbourne must be feeling as frustrated and uncertain as many of their constituents. The lower house margin is considerably narrower these days. Even in an age of austerity, listening may still be the most valuable commodity.