Monday, August 23, 2004

national day rally speech

really tired this morning -didn't get to sleep until two am because i cleverly picked up the third of Pullman's His Dark Materials series, The Amber Spyglass, because i had about two hundred pages to go and i wanted to read a little before going to sleep, then got sucked in, of course, finished the book, and then couldn't sleep because it was -terribly heartwrenching. (everyone should go and read it. i read it in three days. one day a book. with a day off in between because i was at work.) and this morning i picked up Card's Ender's Game, which i got at the library yesterday -yay!-, and got sucked in on the train ride, so expect more sleeplessness and blogging about science fiction/fantasy books soon. but on to the main meat.

i tried, really i did, to watch the entire thing. but when our new PM's maiden National Day Rally speech touches the three hour mark, and my attention span has an upper bound of oh, forty minutes or so, you can see immediately how impossible it would have been for me not to have dropped the ball on this one.

add that to the fact that i was counting on being able to read the press release in the office this morning, and therefore (a) didn't really bother myself about missing the last three crucial points of his list of things-to-be-talked about, all of which concerned, directly, me and my interests (education, getting youths involved, and babies -balancing the work-life scale - i like how that implies work isn't part of having a life, which, granted, for a lot of people it isn't) and (b) i didn't take notes on the interesting bits, despite having the iBook next to me in my parents' room. i was going to blog about it on the fly, but the wireless network let me down - their room is a dead spot. (thankfully, mine is not.) however, i have just learned there was no prepared speech; the man wrote a speech outline and then composed it on the fly. (it showed, but not too badly, and now i understand the awkward bits) i wonder if he knew beforehand it was going to be three hours? i made it through almost two hours before i lost it. [ed: there may have been no official press release through SPRINT, but there's a copy online at the ST here.)

however, some points for me, as a future civil servant, to dance around about:

  1. civil servants really are going to a five-day work week. now alex and various other people are expecting that we will have less paid leave and take pay cuts and so forth. but it seems that we will be working longer hours during the week (big deal, since most people have to stay late anyway) to make up the hours, and i'm not sure what else will happen. they lose just about 26x5 hours a year in time spent checking email, gossiping with colleagues, and going for tea breaks anyway. who works saturdays? (the people who actually do work on saturdays don't actually do any work on fridays that isn't life-or-death)
  2. changes in medical benefits schemes means that dependents of female civil servants now enjoy the same benefits as dependents of male civil servants. about damn time, on this one. it irritates me that they lump it as part of the baby bonus package, rather than a women's issues package, because dammit we are something other than baby-making machines. but despite being pissed off about the presentation, i'll take it. eating giant bears one bite at the time and all that.

i didn't think there was v much earthshattering in his speech (the ST says "Major Changes Ahead With PM's Bold Vision" but really, nothing terribly bold about making speeches; it's the execution we are all waiting for) in terms of policy-making. yes, i'm happy about the above changes to a civil servant's life, but really, it's nothing that shouldn't already have been in place. after bitching about women's issues for so long, to have something finally done about it but trumpeted as part of making your role as a mother easier is simultaneously a victory and a loss -because while you get the benefits you've been fighting for, it sounds like you only got it because -guess what? it makes it easier for you to go be a mother. bah. and frankly, talk is cheap. saying things like 'we must change our mindset' is great! but how the hell do we make it happen? mindsets cannot be forced into change. we can but wait and see if it happens. the government can say 'cut workload on kids, trim back syllabi and let kids be kids', but if the parents and the teachers don't see it as a good thing, who is going to protect the kids?

not to say that it's all bad news and pessimism. just -temper your expectations, and wait and see what happens. this PM is, after all, in it for the long haul, and he has just begun.


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