27 April 2010




Assumptions Underlying Julia Gillard’s Speech

Although Gillard entitled her speech  A future fair for all: School funding in Australia, assumptions outlined in her speech ensured that current inequalities will not only remain entrenched, but be exacerbated. This is because she guaranteed existing funding levels and refused to analyse the major reason for current funding inequities: namely taxpayer funding to the tune of billions of dollars of entrenched discrimination on the basis of creed, class, culture and geographical location.

Instead, she promised to enforce consensus rather than confront the reason why the question of school funding has been used to divide the Australian community, to pit school against school and school system against school system.

It is a pity that she does not have the intestinal fortitude to name and shame, not poor disadvantaged schools and their pupils on a MySchool website but those whom she claims to have argued against: those who she says have allowed Australia’s educational future

to be dominated by ideological questions that exercise only a small minority, or to use it instrumentally as a vehicle for a broader political agenda.

Ms Gillard is correct. Educational funding in Australia has been dominated not only by a small minority, but by many small minorities. These have banded together to undermine, attack, and privatise the public system that services the majority of children in this country. Ms Gillard is reluctant to be more explicit. But DOGS are prepared to name and shame the culprits: those promoting the division of children on the basis of religion have used and even since her speech have used political blackmail to protect the billions of dollars channelled into church bureaucracies. These include:

  • multinational religious corporations such as the Catholic and Anglican churches and lesser institutions such as the Presbyterian and Uniting churches.
  • The Pentecostal, Scientology, Brethren, Orthodox, Coptic, and even the Quakers from the Christian sectarian tradition.
  • Then, scrambling on to the gravy train come the Hare Chrisna, Muslim, Steiner and other religious groups.  

Ms Gillard gives lip service to her objectives. She says that, instead of giving in to the ideological proclivities of minorities we should be

Building community consensus around the educational needs of our community – of today’s school students and tomorrow’s.

Gillard leaves the words hanging in a vacuum. She fails to note that immediately to hand Australia has a wonderful inheritance, public education systems which have been attempting to bring communities and their children together for more than one hundred years. They have succeeded in doing this, against the odds, in spite of rival institutions that duplicate their worn out facilities; channel public funds from the public treasuries; prey upon the fears of insecure parents; and unmercifully poach their students and teachers.

Recognition of Criticisms of the SES

Whatever the possibilities inherent in Ms Gillard’s broad based introduction, the main text of her speech indicates that Australia is in danger of ‘more of the same’. She thinks that the ideological problem will go away if the public system is thrown a few crumbs from the aggressive private school banquet.

She believes that the ‘State Aid’ debate is dead. She assumes that the funding debate is about, not whether, but how funding is distributed to the myriad of private religious institutions that are now hanging off the Treasury apron strings.

Public school supporters might take heart from her criticism of the SES system which provides funding to non-government schools as a percentage of the average cost of educating a child in a government school.

DOGS have always criticised the use or rather the misuse of government school figures by the private sector. In fact, the last forty years of the history of State Aid has been one of misuse of statistics by the private sector, evidence enough of the lack of public accountability for public money. This is the inevitable result of privatisation and contracting out of essential public services. The use of the average cost derived from budget figures avoids the devil in the detail of incremental costs. Public school systems have always entered the expensive and uneconomic areas of educational provision. After all, their objective is the education of children, not profit margins.

Meanwhile, statistics quoted by the private religious sector avoids mention of the taxation expenditures in the form of taxation exemptions enjoyed by these institutions. Endowments, private donations and taxation exemption arrangements with parents and donors continue to be ignored. The reaction of the private sector to Ms Gillard’s speech indicates their determination that these figures should remain unexplored.

Mc Gillard has declared that

We must be prepared to examine the funding of all schools from all sources.

But when she refers to funding figures she only quotes the billions of taxpayer funds channelled through public treasuries.

The Rudd government is continuing to avoid the big questions. Instead, Gillard merely indicates awareness of the growing reaction within public school ranks. After all, they represent the majority of parents throughout Australia, and, even if their interests are not the ones articulated by the mainstream media, they do have a vote at the end of 2010. So, she gives them a nod:

In particular, public eduction advocates believe that because the system uses the average costs of public education as its base, every win for public education flows to non-government schools and public education can never make up ground.

They have also attacked the Rudd Government for sticking with a funding arrangement that they regard as flawed.

 What Does Ms Gillard Have to Offer Supporters of Public Education?

Ms Gillard is merely offering a Committee with pre-arranged guidelines and an invitation to make submissions to it to public school supporters. She must think those of us who were around when the 1973 Whitlam /Beasley Schools Commission made nonsense of the ALP ‘Needs’ policy, have remembered nothing and learnt nothing.

Public school representatives have been taken for a four year ride by the Rudd government. They have no guarantee that the ride will not continue down the slippery slope of privatisation of public education.

Political Problem for Supporters of Public Education  

Supporters of public education, although they represent the majority of children, parents and teachers throughout Australia have been politically sidelined by aggressive religious and private interests. Neither major party is prepared to stir sectarian interests since their anti-democratic networks dominate the political, administrative, legal and media establishments in this country.

But the Australian political system is not a two party, but a three party system.

Voters should analyse carefully what has recently occurred in Tasmania where 20% of the voting population voted for a third party, namely the Greens. Their strong representation in the parliament was made possible by the Hare Clark system, the system that operates in the federal Senate. They are keeping the minority Labor government in office and have two Ministers in cabinet. The Greens’ support base came substantially from parents and teachers in the public system as well as those opposed to the wood chipping of forests.

There is growing unrest at the blatant rorting of the public treasury and aggressive demands for ‘religious liberty’ by sectarian groups as they discriminate against children, parents and teachers on the basis of religious belief and ability to pay.

The High Court is once more being asked to consider the Section 116 and the issue of separation of religion and the state, and religious liberty now that Chaplains have been imposed on our State Schools.

DOGS suggest that if the major parties have abandoned the public school voting base in favour of minority sectarian interests, that base should leave them.



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