Wednesday, June 23, 2004

The aspirations of Jackie Kelly MP

I’m not sure whether to declare Jackie Kelly, the 40 y.o. former Minister, and now Parliamentary Secretary to the PM a GenX pin-up girl or not.

On one hand, the fact that her career (like me, she’s a former lawyer) has gone steadily backwards in recent years reasonates with me. Morever, when the MP for Lindsay, in Sydney’s West, baldy tells a journo "No one in my electorate goes to uni", you’ve seriously got to wonder if she has a death wish of Saudi suicide-bomber* proportions.

OTOH, as a Liberal member of a formerly strongly working-class area, her electorate has “aspirational” written all over it, and aspirational voters and the tertiary-educated are inversely correlated. Therefore, it's arguable that Kelly is simply doing what she’s paid to do – not to mention following her leader – when she utters clangers (for me, anyway) like this:

And university fee rises of up to 25 per cent do not rate on the political radar because, she says, no one in Lindsay attends. Asked if they aspire to, Kelly says no.

Predictably, some of the voters of Lindsay – as well as those from more salubrious point east – took umbrage at this. Rather bizarrely, the MP got a letter to the ed in herself, among the expressions of umbrage at the previous day’s story on her. Her interlocutory and pre-emptive defence went like this:

The last thing I want is for your readers to think it's not worth aspiring to go to university or that I do not believe that a university education is important. That was not the impression I meant to convey . . . Of course people in Lindsay aspire to go to university and that is why I have repeatedly said that UWS must become the No.1 choice for all western Sydney students.

Translated, I think that she’s saying it’s all right, after all, for the people of western Sydney to aspire to go to uni as long as it's to the University of of Western Sydney (UWS). Personally, I have little idea why Sydney westernites aren’t expected to have the same choice in tertiary education as everyone else.

One thought is that UWS’s degree parchment must look particularly good hanging on the wall of triple garages, right next to the mini-fleet of shiny on-top, toddler splattered-underneath 4WDs.

Another suggested reason for Kelly's keenness here relates to UWS’s being the graveyard of 10,000 books buried under its lawns - better than a rag atop a school flagpole even, UWS's ghost library is a monumental piece of installation art that celebrates government information-disclosure policy, post-“Children Overboard”.

Finally, with (AFAIK) UWS still not having announced its intentions apropos of the 25% HECS increases (that most other universities will be implementing from next year), Jackie Kelly’s enthusiasm for her local uni could soon be put to the test. According to UWS Vice-Chancellor Professor Janice Reid (in March), even if the uni chooses to raise its HECS rates by the 25% maximum, UWS’s financial position will still be dire . . .

. . . and going backwards, just like Jackie Kelly’s career.

* Saudi suicide-bombers (9/11) and snuff-film making terrorists (subsequently) have been 100% GenX, AFAIK

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