Wednesday, May 26, 2004

Life as a displaced academic

In eight days' time, I give my last class for the semester, and rejoin the dole queue, for an unknown period of between six weeks and 25 years (the old age pension, assuming it's not abolished in the mean time, is going to be best (by monetary value) birthday present I've ever got). It's a strange feeling when the end-of-contract thing happens - not because it's unfamiliar (quite the contrary) - but because it's not supposed to happen. I'm a highly educated "knowledge worker", and all that.

Googling for "displaced academics" and "displaced academic" produces just a few dozen hits, most of which refer to the situation of Jewish academics in 1930s Germany, and its historical legacy. There is a single Australian-specific reference - occurring, odddly enough, in a recent NTEU draft Enterprise Bargaining document (clause 27). Predictably, academics on contract cannot come within the definition of "displaced academic".

Meanwhile, PM John Howard shows a curiously selective interest in his concern for displaced workers. For the thousand or so Mitsubishi employees who will - in 18 months time - be losing their jobs, he has made a pledge to look out for them.* What's the difference, eh John? Presumably that the making could-be-made-anywhere oil-fuelled cars is of greater national importance to Australia than the dissemination of high-level knowledge. Priorities can be funny like that - all the more so when governments have just tipped in tens of millions of dollars into Mitsubishi's soon-to-be obsolescent factories, while at the same time starving universities - which are a future-looking industry, by definition - of funds.

* "PM makes jobs pledge" AFR 25 May 2004 (no URL)

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