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Supporters of Public Education need to be out in force to oppose the WEF. We in Australia are confronted with the privatization of our public education system and the favoured funding of Church schools. We need to lift up our eyes globally to realize that the private education model (run by one multinational corporation, albeit religious in nature) accepted, legitimated and funded to the tune of more than 3 billion per annum since 1964 will also legitimate the takeover of our public system by other multinationals in the never ending search for profit.

We know that the World Trade Organization deals with tariffs and trade in good, so we are used to manufacturing workers and farmers being upset. In Seattle they were joined by environmentalists and labour rights activists. But now we learn from Canadian and Australian education unionists, that the General Agreement on trade in Services (GATS) also applies to education.

As in Canada, our health and education sectors are in grave jeopardy.

The assault on public education is growing apace. The European Union recently announced that every public school in Europe must be twinned with a corporation by the end of the decade. Investment houses like Merrill Lynch predict that public education will be privatized over the next decade the way public health has been, and say there is an untold amount of profit to be made when this happens. The Lehman Brothers calls the education industry " the final frontier of a number of sectors once dominated by public control" and say that for every 1%"market penetration" achieved in public education, for-profit companies can add over $5 billion to their "top line".

We have already seen how the multinational religious corporation, which dominates our present private sector, has added at least $2 billion per annum of public money to their "top line". The example is there. Other multinational companies will be demanding similar opportunities for profit.

We have already seen the colonizing of our most prestigious tertiary institution by corporate interests.

Where are we really at in this development?

We are learning that the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS) also applies to education. The WTO has made decision which could mandate global education corporations to compete with government and private education institutions, demanding the same subsidies we give private bodies, on pain of penalties and trade retribution.

Secondary, higher and other education services were included in the list of GATS in Marrakesh in 1994 and further negotiations conducted in February 2000. Rob Durbridge, the Secretary of the Australian Education Union asks:


Did the governments of the day know or think to ask about the implications? Did they tell us? What is the current or alternative government policy? The answers are all unknown.

Well, they are not quite unknown. We have a good idea where Mr. Kemp stands on the issue of public/private education. And we know that our politicians see Australia as an exporter and importer of education services, bringing us into the scope of the GATS. The potential is certainly there for aggressive corporations competing for a slice of the $30 billion per year spent by the Commonwealth, states and private fee-payers on pre-school, school, TAFE and higher education.

And, in a faxed message we received 6.9.2000 from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade we read that:


"Despite the failure to launch a comprehensive new round of trade negotiations at Seattle, services negotiations began in early 2000 as mandated in Article XIX of the GATS. The special sessions have focussed on "negotiating guidelines and procedures"- the basic framework of how negotiations are carried out….

The Services, Trade and Negotiations Section of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, provides advice to the Government on all issues related to international trade in services. We seek to address, as directed by our Ministers, barriers and impediments that Australian service providers face in exporting their services to other countries!"



  • Individuals should inform themselves and obtain information on the state of play from their government representatives and from the Internet – and Public First
  • Individuals should make their own submissions and encourage their local school, Union branch, to make submissions to the Joint Standing Committee on Treaties which is presently conducting an enquiry into the nature and scope of Australia’s relationship with the World Trade Organization. (Contact, Parliament House, Canberra ACT 2600). Submissions should be received by 15 September. However, late submissions are accepted
  • Individuals should ensure that public education (primary, secondary and tertiary0 should never be part of the GATS negotiation and obtain a statement from all political parties that all education services are to remain fully exempted from the World trade Authority.
  • Individuals should approach the Dept Foreign Affairs and Trade and in particular the Services and Intellectual Property Branch regarding any discussions about Education in relation to the World Trade Organization and GATS



  1. Maude Barlow: "Trading it all Away" March 2000. Council of Canadians)
  2. Rob Durbridge, Federal Secretary, Australian Education Union, "Why should the Education Community Care about the World Economic Forum?"
  3. Foreign Affairs and Trade: Australia’s WTO GATS commitments for education:
  4. Telephone number 02 62 61 2741; Fax 02 62 61 3514

    Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade:

  5. World Trade Authority Web Page: ( We warn you that we did not find this one user friendly)
  6. Joint Standing Committee on Treaties Secretary: 02 6277 4002 ; Fax: 02 6277 4827
  7. Parliament House, Canberra, ACT, 2600.

  8. For issues on Public Education and State Aid question see DOGS web site on http://www.ozemail,
  9. We also have a radio program on 3CR, 855 AM dial at 1.00-1.30 p.m. Saturdays.











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Last modified:Monday, 25 April 2005