Newcastle Herald letters to the editor Saturday, January 27, 2018

EVERY time I read a story like Ian Kirkwood’s (‘We can’t find apprentices’, Newcastle Herald, 25/1) I am struck that nobody talks of the reasons why candidates for apprenticeships are hard to find compared to those wanting to go to university. It has not been my experience that kids do not want to enrol, but rather that financial barriers are so set against them.

CUTTING THROUGH: Frank Ward argues that apprentices should have access to a loan similar to those offered to university students to help them during training.

CUTTING THROUGH: Frank Ward argues that apprentices should have access to a loan similar to those offered to university students to help them during training.

Compare what the Coalition government does for their kids that go to university, providing never-never payment of HECS fees and in most cases a student allowance, with the lot of the worker boy who wants to be a tradie like his dad. He has to pay his fees up front and is then left to survive on his apprentice pay.

Nowadays it is very difficult for a young person to take up an apprenticeship unless they have the financial support of their family. If a boy wants to be a carpenter he has to buy his tools over and above his TAFE fees as well as getting a car to get to work even if he is lucky enough to live at home.

If governments are genuine in wanting to train our kids for the skilled jobs instead of importing 457 workers, they must offer apprentices similar HECS fee arrangements to those offered for university study. Apprentices should have government funds to supplement their income, in the first year say a $200 a week loan then reducing as his wage goes up.

This would allow the apprentice to meet his living expenses and then repay once he is on tradesman wages. I am sure most the tradies I know would repay their loan much faster than graduates. 

Until apprentices are treated the same as university students we are always going to have a financial barrier restricting working class kids from following the trades. I believe this is the main reason that Mr Kirkwood had to write this story.

Frank Ward, Shoal Bay


SO the Fair Work Commission has ordered the Rail, Bus, Tram Union not to go ahead with Monday’s industrial action, so now what happens?

After all the meetings (not with the Transport Minister) with no quarter given and no result, do they continue? What about our Premier? I have not seen her while there was a chance of a stoppage, but as soon as the ruling fell in her favour she was front and centre. How do workers now put their case across? The removal of labour is the last option. We all hate being disrupted and disadvantaged, but sometimes it is the only option. I have not heard the Commission order the government to re-evaluate their offers, or to make the Minister sit down with the union. Times have changed, and the way that unions work is different to my day. Not all people believe unions are good but at least they try to stop people being taken advantage of. 

Ray Davidson, Birmingham Gardens


THE fact that a train driver’s overtime ban caused absolute chaos on the Sydney rail system raises some serious issues that need to be addressed by Transport Minister Constance.

It has been publicly acknowledged that the system is short 150 drivers at the moment, therefore the massive amount of overtime is needed to run the system. This raises the issue of fatigue on the drivers, the embarrassing fact that Mr Constance’s new timetable cannot function normally without the amount of overtime being worked, and that the drivers are seriously undermanned.

Mr Constance, I think you have some serious explaining to do.

Robert Green, Georgetown


DAVID Heslop has some valid points in his letter (‘Majority should rule on the road, not trucks’, Letters, 25/1). However a large portion of the majority fail to realise that it is not only trucks but larger passenger vehicles and those towing trailers that take more distance to stop.

Having driven trucks in my younger years and regularly towing a heavy trailer, I am amazed at the ignorance of drivers who want to zip into the space between the vehicle in front and mine, thereby reducing the amount of distance I have available to stop. Consequently, it is necessary to slam on the brakes and hope I can stop within that distance, but I also have to hope the drivers behind are alert enough to react to the situation and not run into me or cause an accident. 

As the combined weight of my car and trailer is almost double the weight of the car, I have undertaken a comparison of stopping distance with and without the trailer. Travelling at 60km/h, the extra distance is about 10 metres. In some cases it results in the trailer moving up to a metre into outside the lane.

Unfortunately, a large number of both heavy and passenger drivers are distracted by their phones or are only concerned in getting from point A to B in the shortest amount of time and forget what’s going on around them.

Ian Jackson, Edgeworth


CURRENTLY there are many leaders calling us to support them and their ideas – such people as Donald Trump, Kim Jong-un, and leaders of the Liberal, Labor and Greens parties. There are also historical figures such as Jesus Christ who calls us to follow his instruction to treat other people as we would like to be treated. 

He also calls on us to do our best to help those who are under-privileged. Unfortunately the view was recently expressed that our current ideas of Jesus are mythical and not historical. To support this view, it was published that the data regarding Jesus by the Gospel writers was contradictory.

Lee Strobel set out to substantiate his views that the facts regarding Jesus were mythical.  After a year he was overwhelmed by the evidence for the other view and published the book The Case for Christ.  His five year old daughter said to her mother, "Mummy, I want the Jesus Daddy has." When asked why, she said, "He's so different - he's so kind!"  The hard-nosed legal editor had become a kind, caring father.

Josh McDowell set out with the same intention as Lee Strobel, and in the face of overwhelming evidence, he produced a 700 page book entitled Evidence That Demands a Verdict.

Ron Gibbins, Waratah


THE pen goes to Helen Keevers, of Mayfield, for her explanation of why she flew the Aboriginal flag on Australia Day this year.


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