Modia Minotaur

Trawling the airwaves to spare you the agony!

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Young Labor's `National Service'

Boy, you can really pick a slow news day. Yesterday must have been one of them, if the hysterical misinterpretation of Young Labor's suggestion that all HSC students complete a compulsory period of community service is any indication - or the fact that a suggestion by Young Labor should become national front page news at all, actually.
For the record (Sydney Morning Herald, are you listening), the idea is NOT to reintroduce national youth military service of the sort that once existed in Australia, or that still exists in many European countries. It's simply to introduce a programme - much the same as already exists in many companies to help meet their Corporate Social Responsibility charter, and also in many Catholic schools - in which students can work for volunteer organisations within school time. Young Labor's idea does include participating in cadets as a volunteer option. This is hardly `national service' - or at least, not in the old understanding of the term.
Not only do I think the idea has merit, but I think it shows a great deal of political acumen. What a way to wedge the government! Those on the Right aren't going to oppose a plan which would potentially see more students joining cadets, while those on the Left are hardly going to stop something that assists volunteer organisations and places more youth into the community. The only caveat I'd place on the plan is the one the Federal ALP has in endorsing the plan today - making the plan voluntary rather than compulsory. As I said, similar programmes already exist in a compulsory form in some Catholic schools. I've seen this in action, and there's nothing less pretty than an unwilling student being dragged off to serve at an old folk's home or what have you ... though the idea was to expose people to volunteering who otherwise wouldn't have gone, in practise, it just didn't work. On the other hand, to those who are willing, a plan like this could be very beneficial.
But let's get this clear. To compare the plan to Vietnam era national service is not only ludicrous, it takes away from an idea worth considering. But maybe that's the point ....


At 12:09 pm, Anonymous Guy said...

Yeah, the misrepresentation aspect of it was out of control. When little ideas get spun out of proportion like this one has been, it's not hard to see why pollies tend to be a bit skittish about unveiling big policy proposals.

I think YL should have tried funnelling this one up to Macklin and got her to announce the policy instead.

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