Last week the Canberra heats of the 2006 Rock Eisteddfod were held and Calwell High school won with a performance the Canberra Times described as “a satirical look at the Federal Government’s controversial industrial relations changes”.
I knew nothing of this, having had to rely on RA for Canberra news last week, however I was intrigued by a letter to the editor in today’s CT (the last one on the linked page), which said the Federal Government has “once again shown just how out of touch it is with the youth of today” by saying the Calwell performance was “hijacked” by the political agenda of teachers involved.
A Calwell High spokesman, John Chisholm, told the CT the day after the Rock Eisteddfod that the students had put a lot of work into creating the performance, including analysing satirical shows such as The Chaser (if only I got to do that at school!) and looking at how the legislation affected workers.
“We had contract signing in our performance and one scene showing workers being manipulated by bosses and becoming devoid of colour,” Mr Chisholm said.
The precis for the piece, titled “The Devil’s in the Detail”, read:
Penalty rates … gone! Annual leave loading … So long! Pay rise … are you kidding! Public holidays … no way! Meal breaks … uh uh! Radical new industrial relations laws are being used extensively to axe hard won and long standing working conditions and cut the take home pay of millions of Australian employees.
The Australian reported that federal Workplace Relations Minister Kevin Andrews said the performance was “totally inappropriate, regardless of which side of politics is being targeted”.
Mr Andrews said it was one thing for the school to teach students about current issues, “but it’s another thing entirely for teachers to politically hijack a rock eisteddfod, which is designed to promote positive lifestyle messages for our youth”. He also said it was “difficult to believe” that students had come up with the idea on their own.
Calwell’s dance teacher, Cheryl Diggins, told the Australian pretty much what Mr Chisholm told the Canberra Times and added that because the school was concerned some parents might be upset by the show, an explanatory was sent home with all the performers but that they “didn’t get one withdrawal or complaint”.