2 APRIL 2009 


27-28 MARCH 2009


Supporters of public education discovered there was good, bad, and dangerous news for public education at the National Public Education Forum held at Old Parliament House, Canberra on 27-28 March 2009. This Conference was organised by the peak public  school lobby groups: ACSSO ( Australian Council of State School Organisations Inc.) the AEU ( Australian Education Union) AGPPA ( Australian Government Primary Principals Association) and ASPA ( Australian Secondary Principals Association). The Federal Minister for Education, Julia Gillard addressed those present on the evening of 27 March 2009.

The Good News:

Supporters of Public Education held an Alternative 20/20 Conference in 2008 because they were ignored by Rudd and Gillard in the  original 20/20 Conference. But  Julia Gillard was actually in attendance at this Conference. On the basis of their impressions at the event, as well as the contents of her speech, DOGS list the following 'good news'.

  • Julia Gillard, or her speech writer, finally used the term 'public education and appeared to distinguish it from  'private' education

  • She acknowledged the great advocates for  'public education' at the gathering.

  • She also  admitted they represented 'great schools' which were 'a foundation stone of our society'   *

  • She went on to acknowledge her own school, Unley High in South Australia, noting that such a school 'takes all comers whatever their wealth, culture or ability and gives them the chance to succeed.'

  • Julia Gillard was forced to recognise the concerted efforts of the advocates for public education : activists, academics, parents, teachers and principals throughout Australia.

  • Julia Gillard was further prepared to admit that she needed  the ' contribution and collaboration' of public school representatives.

  • Julia Gillard listed considerable sums of money allocated to maintenance of  schools, particularly those in the  primary sector. But she included private as well as public school funding in her figures.

  • It was possible that Julia Gillard is worried by the public school backlash to the preferential treatment accorded the private sector by the Rudd/Gillard policies of 2008, and, in the coming depression, are pleading for a quiet life for themselves on the educational front in 2009.

DOGS also noted the following:

  •  Not all those present were rushing to 'collaborate 'with Julia Gillard, particularly on the SES funding model for private schools or the performance testing of individual schools. When she mentioned these matters there were murmurs of dissent in her audience.

  • There did not appear to be representatives of the private sector present and there was no mention of an integrated system of public/private schools.

  • There were very strong advocates of public education amongst the speakers. Some were even prepared to take on the private sector, and most agreed that the inequitable funding of public education was a National scandal.

  The Bad News 

DOGS note the following bad news:

  • Julia Gillard appears obsessed with accountability and transparency, but these values are for principals and teachers in public schools, not Julia Gillard herself. The federal funding for public schools is masked in intergovernmental agreements and not immediately observable through legislation, schedules or parliamentary debates. They do not appear to be covered by Section 96 grants.

  • Cash strapped State governments are holding back public school funding, 'warehousing millions of dollars of Federal Government funding meant for primary schools and reaping interest on that money in the meantime'. (

  •  'Primary School Rip-Off ', Sunday Herald March 29, p. 29).

  • Representatives of peak interest groups are concerned that Julia Gillard is receiving out-of-date and inadequate advice from consultants ( See DOGS Press Release 156 at www.adogs.info/pr156.htm ; Press Release 239 at www.adogs.info/pr239.htm  and Press Release 241 at www.adogs.info/pr241.htm)

  • The $14 billion dollar upgrade funding for schools is welcome but it is not needs tested. It continues the grossly inequitable funding of the private sector at the expense of the public sector.

  • The funding boost fails to solve the investment gap between the public and private sectors in Australian education. It makes no distinction between the sectors.

  • The  former World Bank educational economist,  Adam Rorris, who addressed the Conference, has also been reported in The Age  April 1, 2009, p. 7 as saying: Under the program, money will be allocated on the basis of a school's size but the allocation does not take into account its existing resources. They've not distinguished between school when they're handing out the money, and as a consequence, they've not solved the investment gap between the public and the private sectors. If they'd had the political courage to actually not include schools that already have large capital expenditure programs, they would have achieved more equitable outcomes and they would have had more money available for poorer schools.

  • According to Rorris's figures, the estimated capital investment per private school student last year was $1774, compared with capital investment of $948 for each public school student - a difference of $826. This year, with the money from the rebuilding program, each private student gets an estimated $3020 compared with $2470 per public school student- a difference of $550.

  • The reasons given by the Government for the extra educational funding is 'economic'- the creation of 'jobs.' It is hardly educational. Once again, children from educationally disadvantaged backgrounds, those who have only the choice of a public school if one is even available, have to stand aside for private school students. Preference is still given to those destined for the first class ticket to heaven and the good job. They enjoy a feast before crumbs are permitted to fall from their educational table.

The Dangerous News

DOGS note the following dangerous trends exhibited by Julia Gillard and her advisers:

  • Julia Gillard is ill-advised by consultants clinging to an outmoded, disreputable ,market-oriented, neo-liberal ideology. They have made the mistake of believing their own rhetoric and visited casino and cannibalistic capitalism on our society.

  • The "Communiqué" delivered by the organisers of the Conference  avoids the State Aid issue. Yet it is the billions of public money leaking from the public to the private system which has led to the current downgrading of the public system.

  • The "Communique"demands a 'commitment by government to high quality public schooling, open to all without regard to family background or circumstances, essential  to making this genuine universal entitlement .

  • 'This definition of public education is dangerously deficient. This definition could be skilfully and easily exploited by the private sector. In the current political climate, it is essential that a definition of public education includes all the indicia of a public system, not just that dealing with access for children. DOGS suggest a definition that includes "public in: purpose; outcome; access for children, teachers etc; ownership; control ; sole public funding; accountability and provision. For further information o such a definition see our website  at www.adogs.info/definition.htm.

  • The Weekend Australian newspaper editorial and article on Julia Gillard's speech (The Australian March 28-29 'The Nation's. 3) was headed Gillard Canes Carping Lobbyists  and claimed that Gillard made no apology for the Government keeping an election commitment to maintaining the flawed model of private school funding ahead of a planned review. It quoted her as saying: ' Í would strongly counsel that now is not the time to be diverted from the relentless implementation of our current broad and deep reform agenda' and '2009 must be about delivering the 'mammoth and urgent building programs for schools, implementing national partnerships to improve teacher quality, literacy and numeracy, and combating disadvantage. ... delivering this reform agenda involves working together to confront hard truths and overcome a status quo that has accepted the underachievement of some children for far too long.' The speakers on 28 March were puzzled by the limitations of this report and enjoyed themselves playing with references to carping and carps and platypus models of educational funding, not to mention performance tests and league tables.

  • It was heartening to hear speakers comparing the public system of Australia with that in Finland and the Scandinavian countries, as well as complaining that Australia is insisting on making the mistakes of the United Kingdom even after they have been abandoned in those countries, it was disappointing that many speakers failed to bite the State Aid bullet. Nobody took on the Roman Catholic Church directly. However, it should be noted that in Finland and the Scandinavian countries they do not have the problem of our cancer in the body politic : a powerful  established religious lobby endowed with public money together with the inevitable entanglement of the Church with the State and its stranglehold on timid politicians.

DOGS suggest that Gillard wants a quiet year and believes she can 'buy off ' the public education lobby with sweet words and funding which makes up for some of the shortfall of the last forty years.

It would be a tragedy if she gets her quiet year and the public education lobby decides to 'collaborate' with the Labor Party as they did in 1973 and 1983. Public Education and its representatives are  in their current  unenviable position because they collaborated in the unequal funding and bottom of the schoolyard State Aid schemes of the 1970s and 1980s. By 2008 they discovered that the Labor Party considered them almost irrelevant. In the coming depression, as parents realise that privatisation is not the answer to their children's future, public school representatives should push forward and refuse to collaborate with Gillard. What price an uncertain career path and crumbs from the private school table? 

Now is not the time for compromises. Now is the time to fight for the future of a genuinely public education system in Australia.




12.00 noon  ON Saturdays.

* Please note that Julia Gillard said that public schools were A foundation stone , not THE foundation stone of our society. Public School supporters should ask her to remedy this misconception. Private schools for example are not and cannot be a foundation stone for any democratic society.



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Last modified:Thursday, 02 April 2009