Julian Harniess was on ATV's Newsline yesterday. Amazingly, he wasn't the most entertaining guest - that honour when to Damien Vance, an Australian who is chairman of the Native English-Speaking Teachers' Association. It wasn't clear why Mr Vance had been invited on to the program, unless it was to make Julian Harniess look good, because he professed to know nothing about ESF salaries and conditions and didn't even seem to be sure whether he sympathised with ESF teachers or not.
At least Julian Harniess knew why he was there - he wants the world to know why ESF teachers are (to paraphrase Howard Beale) mad as hell and are not going to take this anymore.
He argued that it was unreasonable to recruit teachers in May 2005 and then announce pay cuts a few months later, which sounds like a fair point until you realize that the pay cuts will not take effect (for those staff) until September 2007. Yes, teachers who joined earlier will have their pay cut this September, but they are getting far more warning than most people in Hong Kong who have had their pay cut over the last few years.
He also defended their ludicrous advertisement from earlier this year, describing it as a "fact box". Except that many of the so-called "facts" were contentious or just plain wrong. He even defended the alarmist prediction he made last year of an "exodus" of ESF teachers even though the turnover is actually a little lower than last year. Never let the facts get in the way of a good argument, eh, Julian? To his credit, Frank Ching did give him a hard time about this, but mostly he was able to waffle away unchecked.
The only sensible person on the panel was Katherine Forestier, who is not only the Education Editor of the SCMP but also has three children at ESF schools (though this was not mentioned). Why not let her go head-to-head with Julian Harniess rather than cluttering the place up with the others?
As for the ESF, somebody needs to bang some heads together. TVB showed "Billy Elliot" last week - I wonder if Heather du Quesnay or Julian Harniess watched it and whether they learned anything from it.