Banning ads the answer to image obsession?

Recently, L’Oreal has had their UK ads, featuring highly airbrushed images of Julia Roberts, banned from being used in the UK (The Age also had an Australian perpective article, here). While I completely understand what the regulators are trying to counter – an obsession with youthful perfection at the expense of reality, which, many contend, has contributed to poor body image, increasing cosmetic surgery, the list goes on. As someone who grew up facing an endless barrage of these airbrushed images, I understand first hand what they are trying to stop. But is this the way to do it?

Many other companies have and will continue to produce highly airbrushed images for the advertising campaigns, in the UK and all around the rest of the world. Unless you ban airbrushing all together (and how the hell are you going to even begin to try to enforce that?!) ultimately, you’re making subjective decisions about how much is too much airbrushing. And who makes those decisions? The same problems with any kind of censorship – who decides, and how do they decide? And, more fundamentally, does this censorship achieve what those who censor are aiming to achieve?

I would argue that censoring airbrushed ads is counter-productive. Yes, advertisers are in part responding to what people want, and also setting an ideal in people’s minds about what is desirable (that which they advertise becomes desirable because they say so). But I think, in discussing censorship of ads, those arguments become background. Without advertisers telling us so, there are many many other pressures for people to look young, and perfect. And advertising is one part of that.

Unless we can move towards addressing the causes of what we value – youth, perfection, etc., then banning ads is just a bandaid over the huge, ingrained social issue. It is bigger than just advertising and simply blaming advertisers and ignoring the rest of the dynamic of the issue won’t achieve anything. Further, perhaps allowing this ad campaign to run would have left L’Oreal looking stupid. As the regulator says, the ads are obviously airbrushed. Companies can’t sell cosmetics which look to be promising more than they deliver – maybe consumers would have called the company’s bluff in this instance.

Instead of censoring advertisers, lets talk about why they might be motivated to deliver a campaign with a scary-perfect image of Julia Roberts in the first place.


Victim-blaming and “yes means yes”

Ok, this one comes with a trigger warning for discussion of sexual assault, and a rant warning because I’m not going to be particularly diplomatic or reserved with this post.

I work in a big, corporate organisation. Most of the time, politics is not on the work discussion agenda, but current affairs (which of course are political) are a constant topic of conversation, particularly with the people I work most closely with.

Over the last few days, there are have been more and more comments made about the Lovett rape case (I won’t provide many links as I haven’t been following the case at all closely). Apparently, he was acquitted yesterday. I know nothing of the evidence, or happenings of the case; I have completely disengaged from keeping up to speed with footballers accused of sexual assault or rape in Australia for mental health reasons. I have absolutely no opinion about whether or not Lovett should or should not have been found guilty in this case, and, actually, that is irrelevant to this blog post.

The discussions I’ve had thrown at me in relation to this case are so so heart-breakingly frustrating, and infruriating. Women I work with have expressed their support for Lovett because apparently, women shouldn’t put themselves in a situation where this could happen to them. Classic victim-blaming. I have also heard another woman say that her husband thinks Lovett deserved to be acquitted – since when did deserve become a factor in our justice system? Another comment was made about a friend who manages a club where “all the same girls always go and get drunk and hang off footballers and then get upset when this happens”. Very reminisce of Spida Everitt’s “cup of milo” bullshit in October last year.

Yes, all classic, text book victim-blaming. Did I expect more of my workplace? Well, kinda. As an Employer of Choice for Women, and an organisation which promotes safe workplaces and has strong policies against sexual harassment in the workplace. I don’t hear anyone saying, well you were working with that man, so what did you think was going to happen? Of course, that doesn’t mean that everyone employed here uphold such feminist values, and it doesn’t mean that my workplace is to blame. I feel that we have enough employees in Melbourne office for it to be a fairly representative sample of (white, middle- and upper-class) Melbourne more generally, and of course, this view is not unheard of in the general population, far from it. And that is the problem.

Despite my gentle, working-relationship-preserving challenges to such abhorrent, crappy attitudes, I am left with people who genuinely believe that women deserve to be raped in certain circumstances. The whole episode has highlighted a fundamentally important thing to me – “yes means yes” has to be central to overcoming this disgusting rape culture supporting attitude. Many people have said this before of course. But, once consent is taken to be the presence of “yes” rather than an absence of “no”, by everyone, then we can get rid of ideas like, “she was asking for it”. Because, unless she said yes, there was no asking. Simple.

The getting to that society part? Yeah, not so simple.

Activism and pragmatism

Activism is a messy thing at the best of times. Often people from a range of political beliefs and backgrounds believe that something is worth taking a stand for, and the group that gathers, protests, agitates or advocates for that thing can be made up of people who may vehemently disagree on many things, aside from the issue that has brought them together. For me, this aspect of social change is fascinating, and has made me think long and hard about the value of pragmatism, as well as it’s negative aspects.

Clinic Defence – a gathering of pro-choice activists on the fourth Sunday of each month, outside the East Melbourne Fertility Clinic – is organised by Radical Women, a radical socialist women’s organisation. People (often myself included) gather to defend the space directly outside the clinic – to ensure that the fundamentalist Christians who pray for the ‘dead babies’ have to stand on the opposite side of the road. And I often agree with the politics of Radical Women, in that I am concerned about many of the same issues as they are. But from what I know of their organisation, I disagree often with the how – how to work to achieve the change they believe in. This isn’t surprising of course, because I don’t identify as a socialist. But what continues to surprise me is that many of the social issues I am concerned about, socialists are often working to achieve the same ends, but through very different means.

All of this has led me to really consider the idea of pragmatism, and whether this is the only (?) uniting factor among people working for social change. There are so often so many serious conflicts of political outlook and ideology, but people continue to unite in spite of these differences to work for the change they believe in. The Equal Love rallies are a classic example – there is pretty much every political persuasion represented from socialism through to absolutist libertarians, who for almost completely opposite reasons, believe in exactly the same change to the system. I have, for the last couple of years, been searching for a framework, and ideology that could bring people from disparate political beliefs together to work for social change without the conflicts which can occur. Maybe it’s human rights (but whose rights?)? Maybe it’s sustainable development (but development for who?)? Freedom (to do/have what?)? But the same ideological conflicts occur because there are always definitional issues, as well as the issue of how the ends should be worked towards, what society should look like when the issue has been resolved. Pragmatism isn’t perfect either, but for now it seems to be the only thing we have that even functions to unify the fragmented politics of social change activists across the globe.

Homelessness and hopelessness

I spend a lot of time in Melbourne’s CBD. Part of spending time in the city is being asked for spare change by those who are in serious need of money; for housing, food and other basics. I have strong conflicting feelings about giving money to those people who as for it… am I supporting a system which neglects people’s basic needs, plugging a gap that a proper welfare system would fill, or am I doing the right thing by providing a little of what these people lack so badly – money? I’m not particularly wealthy, but I am comfortable, can pay my bills and rent on time, and don’t have to scrounge for coins to shop for food in the days before payday (unlike my full-time student days). Life is good for me, and I give to charities as well as, at times, those who ask for money informally on the street. Another kind of charity. It is so sad that there are people who are so neglected and ignored by society and our social safety nets. But what to do, and how to prevent this from happening in the first place?

Through the time I’ve spent in the city, and my interactions with those who find themselves living in the streets of the city, I’ve come to know a few all too familiar faces. I get alarmed when there is a new face I haven’t seen before, and watch in moments of sadness, hopelessness, as their health and general outlook worsen. One particular character I’ve come to know a little is a friendly guy who doesn’t fit any of the priority categories for homelessness services – he doesn’t have a mental health problem, a drug abuse problem, he isn’t under 25. He’s not a woman experiencing domestic violence. Of course, none of these factors guarantee assistance when it’s required, but currently, he can’t find many services that can even consider helping him. Probably, even if he did fall into any of those categories he would still face long wait times for assistance. I think this is his second Melbourne winter on the street, and he has aged markedly in this time, unsurprisingly. For me, his story highlights the need to ensure not only that we prioritise service delivery to those who are most in need, but to all of those who need it. Homelessness, in and of itself, should be a priority category all on its own.

Victim blaming and DSK Rape Case

And, Bingo. As many others have noted, it was only a matter of time before the victim blaming spiral got to the point where this woman would be accused of having accepted cash for sex in the past. Because that clearly means she can’t ever be raped. Yeah, right.

Ted Lapkin, the IPA and Human Rights

Ted Lapkin of the IPA has written a scathing criticism of the Victorian Charter of Human Rights, just as the consultation period after the first 4 years of operation draws to a close. As someone who identifies as a libertarian in many respects, I must voice my dismay at the essentialist arguments posed by Lapkin in opposition to human rights protections. The Charter is an instrument which allows courts to declare a law incompatible with human rights. It does not allow judges to ‘make law’ or usurp the sovereignty of Parliament, as Lapkin suggests in his article. (You can also read the IPA submission into the Charter’s review here.)

The IPA states on their website that they “[support] the free market of ideas, the free flow of capital, a limited and efficient government, evidence-based public policy, the rule of law, and representative democracy.” It is disappointing to see a think-tank that self-identifies as being pro-economic and political freedom advocate against an instrument which allows for a check and balance to be placed upon the exercise of legislative power. This surely should fit within the realm of political and economic freedom. Do we really have a pro-free-market think-tank advocating for the government to be able to wield unchecked power? How confused the IPA must be. Perhaps I can see, from a purely libertarian stand point, how another layer of bureaucratic oversight is negative in the quest to keep the government small, however this is an integral part of ensuring the wide powers of government are not used to crush individuals.

Lapkin argues that the intervention of “unelected judges into the business of our elected legislature entirely distorts the political dynamic”. If Lapkin, and many others who use this line of argument against the Charter, knew the structure of our Constitution and the function the judicial power within the context of the separation of powers, he would see that such interventions are precisely called for by our system of governance. This is part of the doctrine of responsible government, designed specifically to prevent the over-reach of the legislative and executive arms of government. He would also know that there is little if any protection for the individual against the might of the state written into this document. Mr Lapkin, are you really suggesting that every law the Parliament enacts reflects the will of the people?

Lapkin also refers to the way the Charter allows judges to look to decisions by courts outside the jurisdiction of Australia. Here I refer Mr Lapkin to the well-established principles of legislative interpretation, which Australia inherited from Britain along with our common law. When interpreting legislation, judges may, and routinely do, look to decisions made by courts outside of Australia, with particular consideration given to courts near the top of their own hierarchies. This is a standard practice in our judicial systems, and does not undermine the sovereignty of Australia – judges can work only with laws made by Parliament.

I am not a member of the so-called “left-leaning human rights industry” which Mr Lapkin refers to. Political debate in Australia needs to mature beyond this right-left divide and towards an analysis of policies and practices on their outcomes. The outcome of the Human Rights Charter is to limit the exercise of legislative and executive power, and protect individuals in the very unequal relationship between the individual and the State. I would have thought this fitted precisely within the IPA’s vision for the role of the State and the role of the individual in a well-functioning system. Instead, the IPA has reverted to classic right-wing popular sound bites about “unelected judges” and the having “legal fads and fashions” “foist” upon us. One of the cornerstones of legal systems the world over is that they move very slowly, often lagging decades behind the consensus on many issues within society. Mr Lapkin, if only our legal system could be so nimble as to keep pace with society so easily.

Most concerning though, is Lapkin’s assertion that human rights are not a universal concept. Before Magna Carta, there are a number of historical documents, including the Cyrus Cylinder, which declare human rights as early as the 6th Century BCE. Human rights are not merely a “Western concept” that we thrust upon others, or an invention of “the left” in the recent past. Let us ask the brave protesters in Tahrir Square, or those fleeing the Syrian regime what they think of human rights.

Human rights at times pose situations that call for difficult balancing of competing rights; the case Mr Lapkin cites of a convicted sex offender using the Charter to avoid the Extended Supervision Orders is one such example. This does not mean that human rights are a broken concept, it means that the operation of both the Charter and the Extended Supervision Orders need to be reviewed. The Charter was the first working human rights instrument in Victoria; let us work to strengthen it and ensure it is operating as we intend it to, rather than throw the baby out with the bath water and allow government to exercise power without regard for individual rights.

Bisexuality, invisibility and erasure

I’ve just read this blog post about Dan Savage, and horrible comments that he’s made, basically saying that most people who are bisexual either grow out of it, or end up in relationships with opposite sex people. There have been a bunch of responses to these comments, and I don’t want to rehash them all. Most people can see how erasing, belittling and biphobic his comments are. Many bisexual people, myself included, already feel invisible, trapped in the definitions of whatever relationship (same- or opposite-sex) we are in at the time.

What seems to be missing from the debate, perhaps because it’s framed in a male context, is sexual fluidity (see for example Lisa Diamond or this blog post, and I specifically mentioned the male context because Dan is referring to gay men, and many theorists think sexual fluidity is more prominent in the female population, though this is a contested fact). Really though, all of these words are just labels for how we feel, what we do, and how we conceive of ourselves. Sexual fluidity is a concept which describes how a person’s sexual attractions and feelings, desires, likes, dislikes, etc., may change over time. Many people describe “coming out” as gay/lesbian and then “coming out” again later as straight, or moving from bisexual or pansexual to another identity. Part of this is about identity politics, but part of this, I think, is about the way some people have a multiplicity of sexuality and sexual identities across their life span, and perhaps our current lesbian/gay/bisexual/pansexual type identities aren’t adequate to describe this. Probably, in some kind of utopian existence, we wouldn’t need all these damn labels (I know, we’re nowhere near there). I’m not trying to say that identity politics has no place, the GLBITQ rights movement(s) would have gotten nowhere without the use of identity politics; when I read comments like this from people like Dan Savage though, I can’t help but think that the time has come to move beyond such labels towards something else? But what?

Motherhood, femininsm and dichotomy

Last week, I attended an exhibition of art inspired by birth and the discourse which surrounds it. The art is brilliant, I was so moved by so many of the installations. I particularly enjoyed the “Hey Hetero” collection, highlighting the heterosexist assumptions which underlie much birth discourse and indeed the health system which is supposed to support women through pregnancy and birth. I won’t detail everything I liked, as it was all fantastic, and I encourage Melbournians to get on down and check it out! There is a good discussion of the exhibition and related culture/concepts at The Age.

What struck me though, and was a little disappointing, was the speech, welcoming and introducing the exhibition. And it wasn’t even all of the speech, just two tiny turns of phrase. I arrived late and heard only the last half (or so) of the speech. I am fairly sure the woman who was speaking was Rachel Power, a writer and editor, with interests in feminism, art and motherhood – clearly a perfect choice for such a launch. And I loved almost all of what she said and how she said it.

But! Twice that I heard, the idea that women have been reduced to only porn-subjects was raised. I can see that pornography (most especially bad porn that reduces women to passive objects) can contribute to the way women currently are disconnected from the reproductive functions and processes that their body is capable of. I do not reject this idea – but when we talk about this, lets not reduce the whole argument to black and white assertions of porn = objectifying women and therefore women aren’t connected to their bodies, and it’s all the fault of porn. Lets talk about this issue in the context of women as being a multiplicity of things – mothers, sexual beings, colleagues, friends, aunties, grandmothers etc etc etc etc etc, and from this, lets talk about the complexity. There are many things which contribute to the situation we currently have, where women often experience pregnancy and birth as something that happens “to them” rather than a positive, connected, embodied experience.

It is time that feminists, including the fabulous feminist mid-wives I have the pleasure of knowing, acknowledged that that pornography is not a black and white world of good and evil, and that contributing the whole of a problem to porn is not a helpful strategy. Lets talk about reembodiment of women, what that means across a spectrum of issues, and how that might look.

**Disclaimer: I’m sure not all midwives are anti-porn, or that all midwives don’t know there are many things that lead to women being disembodied. I’ve had many discussions with midwives about how there are many other factors, like the body-mind dichotomy which contribute to this. What I’m talking about here is lumping all pornography together and blaming all of a problem on that.

Repression and sexualisation: connected opposing phenomena?

Over the last few days, I have been reading Lipstick Jihad, by Iranian-American Azadeh Moaveni. It is a beautifully written book, and what has struck me recently is how universal, though different in nature, oppression and repression can be. I want to be clear – I AM NOT conflating the kind of oppression and repression that happens in Iran with any repression that happens in the West, that is a ridiculous notion. However, I believe there are some similar effects of repression which can be observed where repression occurs.

Moaveni describes the stifling atmosphere of the Iranian regime’s compulsory Islamic dress for women, and segregation of the sexes. She explains the way no Iranians have social skills for interacting with the opposite sex, and how her American ‘frendliness’ – smiling, engaging men in conversation, is taken as a sign of her sexual availability, because all Iranian women have learnt to be stern to avoid such issues. She paints a clear link between the two things – the banning of interaction between men and women leads directly to her ease of interaction to signal her interest. Moaveni also illustrates the effect of the compulsory covering of women; she describes the way it sexualises everything, suddenly everything is about what people cannot have, that which is forbidden. It is a classic example of why prohibition (of anything) will eventually fail.

All of this was spinning through my mind as I finally watched Kinsey a few nights ago. I’m not sure of the historical accuracy of the film, but what struck me was how we have simultaneously, since Kinsey’s time, found more out about human sexuality, yet also in many ways we are not any more comfortable with it. Our society is paranoid about so many ‘bad’ kinds of sexuality, but most particularly what I was thinking of was how we are so scared about the “sexualisation” of children. As Kinsey saw it, the problems with people’s sexual expression came from the repression of sexuality in general. Perhaps there is a link between what Kinsey saw and our current hysteria about children and sexuality.

The so-called “sexualisation” of children concept starts from an assumption that children are not at all sexual. Let’s unpack that. Children are inherently curious about everything, including their own and other’s bodies. There are a lot of people who have written about child development, so I’m not going to go into a lot of detail about that, however I think it’s worth noting that maturity is a continuum, and our young people do not suddenly wake up, at 13, turn into adolescents and become aware of their bodies, sensuality and sexuality. There is such a thing as age-appropriate exploring of bodies and sexual expression at all ages, and it’s important to keep this context when we consider children and development of sexuality. It is also very important to keep in mind that diversity exists among all people, including children, and that such diversity will also exist in sexuality itself, as well as the way it is expressed, developed and understood by young people.

With this in mind, let’s now consider the dominant view of children, and “sexualisation of children” within Western societies like Australia. See for example, Melinda Tankard Reist. This view is not only quite hysterical, it’s also denies that children have the right to self-expression. Of course, this should be within an age-appropriate developmental stage, and much of what people like Melinda Tankard Reist are concerned with, essentially, is the way some of this may be rushing development, or imposing a certain kind of expression onto young people. I think this is a concern that many people have, I personally am concerned with age-appropriateness, as well as the accuracy of information we give young people about sex and sexuality. I am also concerned with the messages young people get from society about these things. Being hysterical about any kind of sexual expression from young people though, is completely counterproductive.

Let’s now consider what a denial of all self-expression of curiosity about bodies, sexuality, sensuality, and sexual development means for young people and children. What can Moaveni’s descriptions of the forbidden being all one can think about, and of Kinsey’s linking the taboo nature of sexuality with the lack of understanding and acceptance of sexuality tell us about how our society currently views and understands children?

Sex and sexual expression are generally uncomfortable, taboo topics in Western culture, and many parents still do not feel comfortable to talk with children openly and honestly about sex and sexuality. It’s possible this reflects their own level of comfort with their own sexuality, or that this is a symptom of expectations of parents – it is not considered something that should be discussed openly with children as it’s viewed as inherently damaging and private. Particularly for children. This repression and black-and-white view of children as completely innocent, non-curious beings, completely without sexuality or sensuality – could this be contributing to the current situation where children are being “sexualised” by society? The thing we are supposed to have covered, the thing we are not supposed to talk about, the thing society tells children they are not. Does this lead to it being expressed in the last way possible? And, does this uncomfortableness lead to the expression being in an inappropriate and unsocialised way, similar to the expression of male desire in Iran, as described by Moaveni, or shown in the Kinsey film through a society uncomfortable with sexuality and sexual difference.

What if adults were open, honest, and age-appropriate in their discussions with children about sex and sexuality? What if we could start to break down these taboos in order to allow children’s curiosity about themselves and others’ gradually develop into healthy, well-informed, empowered sexuality as they move through adolescence and towards adulthood? This kind of open-ness would also allow adults to have conversations with children about what is not appropriate – preventing or opening a dialogue to intervene in situations where children are being taken advantage of or abused.

This kind of honesty could also create an opportunity for real sex and health education before people reach the shock of experiencing puberty without knowing what is happening to them, and create a society where adolescence isn’t viewed as a horrible marginalised experience, but one which is embraced as a natural developmental step; of course adolescence poses many difficulties, but does not have to be as difficult as it often is. Who knows the impacts this may have on the way adolescents engage and contribute to the world.

Tertiary Education and Structural Barriers to Participation

After a massive week of work (full-time) and uni (part-time), I’ve been continuing my reflections about the tertiary education sector in Australia. What a complex beast.

I must say right from the start, given the presence of HECS/FEE-HELP I’m going to stay right out of any discussion of fees etc at this point, though this is something which I am equally interested in. For now, I want to focus on the way tertiary education is structured in Australia. We have TAFEs and Vocational Education providers. I know many of these operate only in ‘business hours’, similar to what I’m about to discuss with undergraduate education. I have to admit my knowledge gap about the Vocational Education Sector, and will focus mainly on Universities, though I understand many of the same issues are being experienced in the Vocational Sector.

I have been a perpetual uni student for some time now. I’m still an undergrad, though I have now studied more than 3 years of full-time equivalent load, from 3 different degrees. Yes, much of this is down to my own personal choices and some indecision about what I wanted to do, and how I wanted to get there. The transition from year 12 to university is often not smooth, and this was compounded for me by having to relocate to a city when I had grown up in a regional area. This was all expected.

What I didn’t expect was how difficult it can be to get a semi-decently paying job while at university, how classes sprawled in one or two or three hour blocks and bits across at least four days of the week… This made work-uni balance very difficult, particularly when there was rent to pay. A part-time job would have entailed working business hours – the exact hours that classes are scheduled in, all be it very short segments of them. So, work has most often meant something casual, with no security, often low pay, often less-than-desirable conditions, and often at night. I remember my law lecturer telling me that any work which took more than 10 hours a week was considered excessive by the law school… needless to say my marks weren’t very good and I wasn’t really engaging with the material being taught.

But this isn’t a poor me story. I’ve finally found a way to fit almost everything in – it involves lots of compromises and has made me into an old-lady-undergrad, but I’m very happy. What was striking at university, when I was actually attending on-campus classes, was the disenchantment with the system, from all sides. Lecturers and tutors would make comments about how little time they felt they had to teach, or conversely to write and research, and how teaching loads meant sustaining research through semester was nigh on impossible. Even students living at home (with much less expense to meet) felt frustrated with the lack of options and opportunity to engage in meaningful, rewarding work. Their parents wanted them to work, in many cases needed them to work to cover their own expenses like books, food, clothes, drinks etc, however many felt it was a waste of time during semester, and that it was a constant trade-off. Then, we would all sit almost idle over the semester breaks, for somewhere near 4-6 weeks in winter and often up to 3 months in summer – either working the same 10-25/30 hours in the same job, or trying to find a job we could work ful-time hours, but only until uni started… It all seems rather contradictory and quite unbalanced.

Many universities offer flexible classes for post-grad students, recognising that many already work full-time, and might prefer or in fact need, night classes, intensive weekend classes, or classes delivered in totality in a week or two, in order to condense the content delivery into managable chunks for people who have other things going on in their lives. This flexibility is not generally extended to undergrad subjects or degrees, as undergrads are presumed to be living at home, not in need of ‘real work’ and not in need of flexibility. In a perfect world, society would support undergrads to undertake their first degree in a model like this. However, we have a system which expects undergrads to be something they are not.

Lecturers too would benefit from an opening up to alternative models of material delivery, allowing greater work flexibility, greater freedom to engage in research and professional development, and hopefully such flexibility would also lead to innovative ways of ‘doing’ education – using emerging technology and allowing education to be more inclusive.

Of course, the structural barriers disproportionately affect those already disadvantaged and marginalised in society. We have so many methods which are supposed to foster greater diversity and inclusion at universities; scholarships, access and equity units, income support, quotas for under-represented populations, the list is quite long. These are all admirable, and hopefully have some impact. However it is quite clear that universities are still dominated by people who are more privileged. Perhaps one of the most effective ways of addressing this is to build flexibility and inclusiveness into the structures of the university model, rather than make corrective, affirmative action type adjustments after the fact. What if we needed less scholarships and programs and support units because people could just access university because the model was flexible enough to be inclusive and foster diversity?

I’m not pretending I know the answer to the current structural problems, far from it. However it is becoming increasingly clear that the current model is quite broken and is in dire need of an overhaul. As far as I can see, it’s a relic from the “good old days” of students being the elite of society, supported by mentors, family, philanthropy, or in the 1970’s for a while, the state. These kinds of student support are still useful and most welcome of course, however it is clear that they are not enough on their own any longer, and that reform would be beneficial to the central aims of the tertiary education sector.

We know that our society is becoming more stratified along class lines, and it seems that one of the only effective ways of achieving class mobility in today’s society and market, is to ensure all people have access to a good education. Therefore, the tertiary sector represents an important social justice tool for Australia. Retaining people in high school is very important, but people who have the ability and the desire to study at a tertiary level should not be turned away simply because they have to work to earn money and support themselves. The neo-conservative free-market types should encourage this, as well as encouraging people to be able to have ready access to tools to better themselves with. In the long-term, this also insures society against a large unemployable population.

Gillard wants to build an education revolution and the tertiary sector is ripe for a revolution now. It would be a fantastic way to ensure Australia can compete in the global markets as they increasingly move toward ideas- and service-based economies, rather than resources and exporting materials. It seems everyone but the university management-types, and government bureaucrats can see that real structural reform of the sector is long overdue.