Friday, 21 June 2013

Day 192: Off to the nation's capital

Day 192 (16 Jun) Sunday. The 'early' flights on Sunday are not that early. I'm heading out on  the 8.30am flight to Canberra for a special National Council of the Union to discuss new strategies. Higher ed is largely unwell and we're feeling a bit taken for granted as a sector. The national councillors are meeting to discuss and debate what it is we might do...

The in-flight service of aeroplanes is, well, slipping, to say the least. Where once an 8.30 flight might have meant something reasonable for breakfast, I doubt it now. That means that breakfast is to be had before leaving and so it is. At 6.12am, it is breakfast while packing and thinking about the conference forthcoming. 

Pre-departure breakfast,
at 6.12am
At the airport (I usually arrive in reasonable time), I see my flight appears to be populated by hundreds of children and their parents...goodness, the plane is not big enough! Turns out, most of the parents aren't going, it is just one of the many annual trips to Canberra that school children make...I know, I should be pleased that these children will be introduced to the institutions of our modern democracy, sense the history of how we came to be, discover some of our great art institutions. It is a good thing overall. Other colleagues heading to Canberra are also there so it is not a bad trip. Glad I had breakfast before we left: I'm offered a biscuit and a coffee. Seriously Qantas?

About seven of our contingent were on this flight so with some time still available before registration, we head to the hotel and  then on to the venue, ANU's University House. We've enough time to head down the road to the cafe at the national film and sound archives building and a good chance for everyone to discuss the matters as hand. Even the views amongst our small group suggest it is going to be an interesting few days. 

Arrival, at 6.12pm
Back to the uni, discussion gets underway. These sorts of meetings are always interesting as the key players place their pieces on the table. It is not uncommon for us to make reference to chess in these instances. I quite like the Japanese game of 'go' which similarly enriches the Japanese language with analogies and imputations. We spend the afternoon placing our pieces...they're not exactly falling where everyone wants them to go. The federal minister for tertiary education (and other things) presents his reasoning for the massive cuts the tertiary sector has had to cop recently...there is much debate about the reality of the cuts, of the is such a 'political' moment. 

By evening, we're back to the hotel where the council dinner is being held. It is one of those quaint seventies refurbished hotels out on Northbourne; it has probably passed through the hands of countless multinational hotel chains; it is a bit tired but it is adequate. 

Of course, under the influence of reds and whites, the placing of pieces continues in an 'informal' but as we operatives know, 'key' is in these ways the deals get done, not unrelated to what I am to speak to my colleagues about tomorrow. And this being Canberra, inevitably the same sorts of deals are being played out further down the road, across the lake, probably in and around Kingston, my spiritual place in Canberra. The games being played there however, have bigger stakes in a way. It's about the nation's leadership. 

Still, education matters, we're told...we need to solve those problems too. 

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