17 September 2009





The Age editorial of 10 September 2009 moralised about ‘Schools cash going where it is needed least’, and romanced about the original reason for state aid to private schools in the 1960s. The editor wrote:


Ms Gillard is fond of saying that key tenet of the Rudd Government’s so-called education revolution is that schools should be funded, not systems. In other words, old enmities between public and private, and between denominational and secular schools should be consigned firmly to the past. And so they should be. But the reason for state aid to non-government schools, which began as a trickle in the final years of the Menzies government and became fully established under the Whitlam government, was to eliminate inequities in educational opportunity. The present system of funding private schools, however, is aggravating inequality. It can only aqccelerate the drift away from government schools, a trend that some may celebrate as the exercise of choice but which threatens to transform those schools into institutions of last resort.

That is not a propsect a society committed to equality of opportunity for all the children should contemplate. The first obligation of Australian governments, federal and state, in educational provision should be to ensure that public schools are adequate funded, so that no family choosing the public system need fear that their children will be deprived by that choice. Beyond that primary obligation private schools too, have a legitimate claim on public funds, but those funds should be allocated on the basis of need: the poorest schools have the greatest claim and the system used to distribute funds should reflect that priority.


DOGS note with interest the Age’s ‘holier than thou’ concern about the way state aid has progressed. Two points should be made.

1.                 The original “Needs” policy proposed by the Interim Committee of the Schools Commission never got off the ground, but nobody appears to want to remember the deals done at that time between the Whitlam government and the wealthy Roman Catholic and Protestant schools.


2.                 The ‘bottom of the schoolyard schemes’ manufactured by various religious systems under the Schools Commission and the Howard Government system of funding have rarely been mentioned by the Age. The DOGS were forced to place full page Advertisements in the media, including The Age

1.  What happened to the original proposals of the Karmel Committee in 1973?

The following is an excerpt from the book Contempt of Court, a draft of which has been placed on this website. This is an excerpt from an interview with a previous President of DOGS, NSW:

As a group we (DOGS) made both written and oral submissions to the Karmel Committee. We got the extensive written submissions together in a week, and trawled through Peter Karmel’s own South Australian Report for relevant ideas. I remember the Tasmanian evidence on the uneconomic duplication of schools in the public sector by the Church schools. We also addressed the accountability issue.


There was Ray Nilsen from Victoria, Marion Sturges and George Wilson from Tasmania. And Jean Ely and Ernie Tucker from NSW. We all flew to Canberra on March 21, 1973 to put our case. [1]  We were treated very courteously and provided with a room to discuss our oral submission together.


Karmel was an academic-economist remaking his career as an education mandarin. He twinkled at us over his glasses, putting us at ease with a smile on his balloon-cheeked face. Jean Blackburn was his assistant and note taker. She was a well-known educationist and asked interesting questions. But the final Interim Report avoided historical issues and forced contradictions into tandem.


Some members of the Committee were interested in our duplication and accountability arguments. But Karmel and Blackburn were taken aback by my suggestion that Church schools should be accountable for public money on exactly the same terms as public schools. One Committee member pointed out that this would mean that churches would have to reveal sources of revenue other than government grants. So…? The information was shrouded in complex skeins of charitable trusts, or corporations set aside for the eyes of the hierarchy and initiates alone. That issue received a hasty burial. In 1973 Karmel passed the buck. He said that his Committee was not the inquisition and full accountability was a matter for the government and the Auditor-General.


Karmel and Blackburn wanted to get emotional mileage on the equality of opportunity issue. But they were not prepared to make schools equal with the abolition of fees and entrance tests. Karmel ducked for cover.


That said, it should be remembered that Karmel did categorise the schools and recommended that those in the wealthiest category should not get Commonwealth money. He pointed out that they already had their library and science grants. There were 140 schools in Category A that Karmel recommended should receive no more aid. Karmel further recommended that another 100 schools in categories B and C have their per capita grants reduced. Roman Catholic ‘systemic schools’ remained sacrosanct, and many Protestant schools fell into the categories facing cuts.


It looked as if The Protestant /Catholic alliance might not survive the strain.


Category A schools started crying poor and demanding re-categorisation down the scale. Some wealthy Catholic schools jumped over into the systemic system. Then Kim Beazley Senior, the Minister for Education and, when he collapsed and was ill, Lionel Bowen,[2] led the Labor party cave in. They gave the lame excuse that ‘The Commonwealth needed to have an interest in every school and this was necessary before the Schools Commission legislation could pass through the Senate’. Beazley’s re-categorisation of Church schools was a joke. Any realistic categorisation has long since been buried.


 I believe the rejection of the original Karmel ‘Needs’ categorisation by Beazley and the Labor Party was a tragedy for the history of the Commonwealth funding of education in this country.[3]


Federal aid flowed to all schools in the private sector, in greater proportion than that to public schools. The public school share of federal funding was downgraded every year. Yet none of the people appointed to the Schools Commission to represent the public sector submitted a dissenting report until 1984.


Mark Latham, the leader of the Labor Party in the 2004 federal election, attempted to shave back even a little bit of the money from the wealthiest schools, but they demanded their ‘rights’. Latham lost the election, and since that time nobody has dared do anything about it. There isn’t even a Schools Commission to gather data. Public schools don’t even seem to be on the political radar any more.


There you have it. The Catholic/Protestant alliance, together DOGS believe with the influence of the Fabians or the ‘Participants’ in the Labor Party were never prepared to look after ‘needy’ schools at the expense of wealthy religious schools.If you want to find out about the ‘Participants’ and their part in the introduction of State Aid, read further in the draft of the book Contempt of Court on this website.

Julia Gillard and Rudd are in denial that there is any difference between public, private, or needy and greedy. The Auditor General has made some noise about the lack of public accountability for the billions of dollars going to religious schools See Press Release 303 at without proper data checks, but the silence in the media and Parliament is deafening.

3.                The Australian Media Ignored the Truth About State Aid.

For many years DOGS issued statistics and Press Releases and wrote letters about the inequitable funding and bottom of the school yard schemes in the administration of State Aid to private religious schools. There was nothing surprising about what happened and is still happening. It is what happens when you entangle churches with the state through the public Treasury. It is what Section 116 was inserted into our Australian Constitution to prevent.

The DOGS believed that the public should be informed about what was going on, even if the media would not print their material. So they inserted Advertisements in the Newspapers. Here is a list of those that dealt with the rorting of the original Labor Party ‘Needs” policy.

 The Age: 12 November 1970; 27  November , 1972, 4; 16 May 1973, 10;  12 July 1973, 14; 12 December 1975, 12 ; 23 June 1977, 16; 2 December 1977; 5 December, 1977, 12; 3 May 1984, 18; 28 November 1984, 20; 1 May 1985; 30 August 1988, 22-23; 2 March 1998, 11; April 26, 2005; 27 March 2006;  The Herald:  1 December 1972, 11;  11 December 1975, 38; The Australian : 10 December 1975, 5;19 July 1985, 7;  Canberra Times: 18 December 1980; 4 November 1983,11; 6 April 1984, 9. There have been Advertisements since this time but they did not deal with the Schools Commission.




DOGS are consequently amused by the Age editorial which expresses concern at what is happening to the public system in Australia because of the billions of dollars going to schools ‘where it is needed least.’ Over the last forty years editors like Perkin and others refused to give the DOGS any publicity but were willing to take their money for Advertisements. And when the DOGS took the media to the Press Council on this matter they received no joy.


The good news is that the public can hear the truth about the Needs policy and what is happening in the public/private debate from this website and on 3CR every Saturday.









Listen to the DOGS program

3CR, 855 on the A.M. dial

12 Noon Saturdays



[1] DOGS Newsletter, May 1973.

[2] The Memoirs of Kim E.Beazley :Father of the House with Annotations by Kim C Beazley and John Bond, Fremantle Press, 2009, 197, 201, 202.

[3]  Beazley Snr. had even put forward the proposition that the Roman Catholic Church should be prepared to assume control of certain State schools, with Catholic school teachers from the State school service appointed to teach alongside members of the monastic orders in such institutions. Hansard 12 October 1971, 2214-2215. Beazley said: ‘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 Palatine order accepted it because it had parallels with their experience in Germany’.