AUSTRALIAN COUNCIL FOR THE DEFENCE OF GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS

PRESS RELEASE 375

WHEN WILL THE AUSTRALIAN MEDIA BLOW THE WHISTLE

ON THE BIG PUBLIC ACCOUNTABILITY PROBLEMS ?

15 April 2010

The Australian newspaper (8-13 April 2010) is taking credit for blowing the whistle on the $16.2 billion Building the Education Revolution program. Their reporters in ongoing opinion pieces claim that Julia Gillard has gone from political villain to political heroine overnight.

Not for the wily Deputy Prime Minister was the anguished but inevitable wait for a humiliating capitulation on the, as there was on the $2.45bn roofing insulation debacle that killed one cabinet minister's career and the Rudd government's management credibility.

The Education Minister has stepped up to be heroically martyred at a time the government has decided to pile all its bad news and policy backdowns into a concentrated period well before the election.

The aim for Labor is to pursue the single election issue of health, which is seen as a positive for Kevin Rudd, and sideline or kill off all other contentious issues including the emissions trading scheme fiasco, the roofing insulation disaster, the Prime Minister's overseas travel, the arrival of boatpeople, population targets and, now, the school building debacle.

Gillard has given in to a public clamour to ensure taxpayers get value for money for the biggest single element of the Rudd government's emergency economic stimulus spending, and probably should have done it sooner.

It's an admission of failure.

But, as late as it may be, as embarrassing as it is and as politically painful as it will be in the short term, Gillard has recognised that further resistance to public demands for someone to look at the possibility of systemic billion-dollar rip-offs and waste - as well as why a school canteen can be built without a pie warmer - was self-defeating.

It's some cold comfort for taxpayers that there is still 40 per cent of the $16.2bn program to be spent that will be subjected to extra scrutiny before it is outlayed.

The Australian and most other newspapers have perhaps missed the point. It was principals and teachers in public schools that blew the whistle on the inadequate public accountability for billions of public money being spent long overdue as it was on their schools. They are used to a culture of proper accountability.

There were few if any complaints from the private sector. There were no religious men concerned that already well endowed schools were receiving millions of dollars to extend their already luxurious facilities while disadvantaged public schools went without.

There have been few if any principals of religious schools demanding that their enrolments be checked and doubled checked by bureaucrats in Ms Gillard Commonwealth bureaucracy before they received billions of dollars in per capita funding every year. If the bureaucrats cannot monitor billions of dollars provided to private construction contractors what reason do taxpayers have for thinking that they can account for the billions of dollars handed over to private education contractors and religious property trusts?

DOGS will take the whistle blowing of the Australian media seriously when the big questions surrounding the billions of dollars in taxpayer funding of private sectarian schools are addressed. Then, and only then, will the public understand that the funding of myriads of uneconomic schools that divide our children on the basis of culture, creed and class had never worked and never will in the interests of citizen, the taxpayer or our democratic state.

 

DEFEND PUBLIC EDUCATION AND STOP STATE AID TO PRIVATE RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS.

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