10 FEBRUARY   2009 






The letter from the ex-Prime Minister, John Howard's to The Australian, January 2, 2009,misleads readers on both the State Aid issue and the part played by Robert Gordon Menzies. He simply does not acknowledge how Kim Beazley was far in advance of the Liberal-Country Party in relation to wrecking the concept of separation of Church and State and public schools. 

Howard's Account of Menzies Wrong:

According to John Howard, Sir Robert Menzies as Prime Minister in 1963 introduced State Aid and ended a hundred years of discrimination against Australian Catholics with his policy of direct federal funding of science blocks in all Australian schools, government and non-government. This interpretation of events is wrong because

  • Howard's claim that Menzies policy was carried out with the policy of direct federal funding is a nonsense, for it was not done directly but indirectly through Section 96 grants to the States.

  • Menzies gave State Aid in 1956 to ACT church  schools through federal payments of interest for loans by church schools.

  • In fact, it should be noted that the Menzies government in the 1950s provided early support through changes to federal tax laws. In 1952 laws were changed to allow school fees up to an amount of fifty pounds as a tax deduction. This taxation deduction was later increased.

  • A further amendment in 1954 allowed taxation deductions for gifts to schools for building purposes to be similarly claimed.

Claim of Hundred Years of Sectarian Discrimination Wrong:

Howard's claim that Australian Catholics suffered a hundred years of discrimination is offensive for the following reasons:

In his letter to The Australian Howard peddles an offensive lie, namely that Australian Catholics were discriminated against. All he is doing is repeating the lies promoted by the Roman Catholic church school faction for the nineteenth century until the present.

  • Funding was withdrawn from all church schools, not just Roman Catholic schools. Simply, the Roman Catholic schools were not discriminated against. The withdrawal of State Aid was non-sectarian. It was done in order to protect a non-sectarian system, namely the public school system.

  • The Roman Catholic system is sectarian and discriminates against children on the basis of both creed and class. The Australian men of the Enlightenment in the nineteenth century decided to build up a non-sectarian system of education open to all children, Roman Catholic or otherwise.

  • A very high percentage of  children from poor Roman Catholic families have always attended public schools. They still do so.  It has often been the Roman Catholic sector itself that has discriminated against such children. The public system is available to all without any discrimination whatever, whether it be colour, creed or class.

Howard's claim of one hundred years of discrimination against Australian Catholics can be judged by the fact that State Aid begun in earnest in 1964, yet, for example Victoria withdrew State Aid in 1872, New South Wales in 1880, Tasmania in 1885 and Western Australian in 1895. The Roman Catholic bishops decided to do without Aid because they refused to permit State inspection of their schools wanted complete control over the curriculum. They expected it to be only a short time before the Treasury doors were open to them again, and, in the long run, after they had flexed their political muscles, their calculations proved correct. The Roman Catholic hierarchy now sets the figure and the politicians assist in their rorting of the public purse.

Puffing up of Robert Gordon Menzies

Howard puffs up Menzies as an enlightened, generous, non-discriminatory leader of the Liberal Country party coalition. Menzies real  position was clearly stated in the Hansard in the House of Representatives, 30 August 1960 p. 514. DOGS quote:

Mr James: My question is directed to the Prime Minister. Will he inform the House whether his government favours the provision of financial assistance for denominational schools throughout the Commonwealth?

Mr. Menzies: The Honourable Member puts to me a question that is outside the jurisdiction of this government.

Note that there is no mention of discrimination, enlightened consideration of Roman Catholics in his statement other than Menzies acknowledgement of the power of Section 116 of the Constitution.

The Blackmailing of Menzies:

Howard portrays Menzies as an altruistic politician. This is rubbish. Menzies bowed to sheer political blackmail. The truth of the matter is that Menzies scraped into the Treasury benches by one vote in 1961. His majority depended on the combination of the DLP and Communist preferences for Jim Killen's entry into Parliament. For the next election Robert Gordon Menzies gave the federal science grants to church schools in order to capture the Roman Catholic / DLP vote.

Bolte and Santamaria more Up-front about the Blackmail

If Howard wished to give a more accurate portrayal, he would have referred to the historical account given Santamaria on the interchange between Santamaria, Chamberlain and Bolte in Tom Prior: Bolte by Bolte, Melbourne 1990 pp 52-54. To set the record straight, DOGS quote the 'fixer' Santamaria himself:

 Federal Liberals :

┴fter surviving by one seat in 1961, the Liberals were worried nationally. They feared they would lose the next election (in fact they won it very easily_. I told Harold Holt, Menzies' s deputy PM, that there was no question of us pretending to bargain with DLP preferences, as we couldn't give  them to the Labor Party anyway.

Nevertheless, it was important to stress that, in the post-Korean war inflation, the Liberals could lose office if they didn't get all the DLP preferences. The way to ensure this, I said, was to do something to help State Aid in advance.

Holt told me he'd talk to Menzies about it, and Menzies came up with the Science blocks proposals.'' ( p. 52)

Bolte and Santamaria's Blackmail:

Santamaria relates the following about the Victorian "blackmail"

There was no occasion for bargaining available to us until the 1967 Victorian elections.

Then George Moss, the Victorian Country Party leader, a strange character in some respects, announced that he was going to oppose Bolte in quite a number of seats. When I looked at the seats I saw that the DLP preferences, if given to the Country Party,  could reduce Bolte's majority to a single seat. From a 20 seat majority to one seat; now that was a prospect which would give the Liberals something to think about!

We planned our strategy, and decided our first move; we 'leaked' a story to The Age that the DLP was considering giving its preferences to the Country Party. Bolte got in touch with Mick ( later Sir Michael) Chamberlain, Victoria's leading Catholic layman the same day, and said he wanted to talk to him. He agreed to a meeting at the Chamberlain home, which was in Studley Park Rd, not far down the road, on the opposite side, from Raheen, which was then the palace of Archbishop Mannix, not Carlton committeeman, Richard Pratt.

I was in the foyer with Mrs Chamberlain when Mick opened the door. Bolte just stood there. He didn't say goodnight, just looked at me and said:

' Do you think you can blackmail me?

I said:


Then he said:

'Well, we'll soon find out about that; let's sit down and talk, let's get down to the nitty gritty.

He'd done his homework and knew all the figures; it was all very pragmatic, facts and figures, not emotion. We got down to discussing the per capita scheme, and I think it was Victoria introducing the per capita scheme which led to its introduction throughout the Commonwealth.

So there you have it. Out of the mouth of Bartholomew Augustine Santamaria of the National Civic Council. The resumption of per capita State Aid in the 1960s was political and financial blackmail all the way.

Kim Beazley Senior in front of the Liberals in Proposing the Destruction of Church / State Separation

In his letter to the Australian on 3 January 2009, John Howard gives the impression that Kim Beazley Snr trailed behind the Liberals on the State Aid question. DOGS invite the readers to contemplate the following extract from a speech to the federal Parliament of Kim E. Beazley ( Parliamentary Debates, Hansard,  House of Representatives 12 October 1971 at p. 2215:

Any 'independent' school one can name is attached to some church. As far as Catholic schools are concerned their undoubted intention is the promulgation of the Catholic faith. It seems to me that realistically, if the increasing burden of education is to be carried by such private bodies they will have to come to accept what was once offered, I understand, by a former director of education in Western Australia. He said: 'If you cannot carry the burden of teaching because you no longer have enough people in the orders to staff the schools, why not assume control of certain State schools, which we will allow you to do? We will appoint only Catholic teachers from the State schools service to those staffs additional to whatever from your orders you are prepared to put there.'I understand that this was rejected by the Church in that State but that the German Pallottine order accepted it because it had parallels with their experience in Germany.

A Catholic priest in my own electorate who is a Yugoslav ( Croat?) says that Tito, to unify his country against Russia in case of a Russian attack, has arrived at much the same solution. He said to the jesuits, to the De la Salle order or to the Marist Brothers, whichever order it was: 'Here is a state school. You staff it. You will be paid by the state. Those people who want their children to have a religious education may send their children to this schools.' This seems to me to meet every requirement of those who are primarily concerned about the Church teaching a faith but not primarily concerned perhaps about its independently owning property.

It seems to me that if the church has difficulty - and I am quite concerned that people should have freedom to give their children the education which they want to give them - one of the solutions may well be that those Catholics who are part of the State school teaching staff should be free to teach in church schools. The Commonwealth cannot arrange that in the States but it could make that arrangement in the Northern Territory. If it set up as it should in the Australian Capital Territory an independent education authority, it could make such an arrangement in the Australian Capital Territory. I do not know whether such a process would be objected to today as it was some years ago. I doubt whether it would be in view of the difficulties that there are in finding staff in the non-government sector and in the church school sector.

So Kim Beazley, as early as 1971 was proposing that State school should be handed over, lock stock and barrel to be the plaything of the Roman Catholic Church and other churches. If you read it again, and consider the full implications of what he was proposing, Beazley was prepared to hand over public schools and public teachers of a particular religion to a sectarian interest group.

So Kim Beazley Snr, beat Tony Blair by thirty years, and Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard with her League Tables and potential 'failed schools' are following the English example.

 But way back in 1971, in an effort to placate the sectarian interest, Beazley threw  all considerations of separation of Church and State alongside essential elements of the  public system out the window.


John Howard's letter to The Australian in relation to the history of State Aid is seriously flawed. Unfortunately most comments and articles written since the 1960s on State Aid, like that of the ex-Prime Minister, is incomplete account of the activities of the Roman Catholic DLP faction since 1954 in the political, legal and administrative arena. A clear example  is ┴ History of State Aid which was funded and promoted by the Coalition Government in 2006.



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Last modified:Thursday, 12 February 2009