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According to the New South Wales Teachers Federation Journal,  "Education" , 31 May 2004, p. 8, Federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson has announced another privatization measure and a first for Australia. The Howard Government is set to introduce a pilot reading voucher system which will represent a direct subsidy for private, for profit, unregulated coaching industry.

This development follows the recent Federal Budget increased funding in real terms for literacy and numeracy programs by $21 million. 81% (17 million) of that increase is to go to private schools and another $4.5 million to non-government centres. In the wake of the budget the Howard Government is now planning to hand over an additional $7 million to private tutors and the unregulated coaching industry.

Of course all citizens feel great concern for children who fall behind in the literacy stakes. Yet parents of potentially dyslexic children in Victoria have to pay large up front fees ($400 to begin with)  to private consultants to test their children for learning disorders. And pity help the children if their parents don't have the money to pay for their  diagnosis. They have not a hope of even getting to first base. Yet in the 1970s, this was a free service.

But Brendan Nelson and his church advisers know all about the tactics of "crying poor" in order to gather in the riches from the common Treasury!

We refer readers to the AEU Federal website at Media Release for 29 May 2004; "Principals Slam Minister's Reading Voucher" where they condemn the voucher concept.

In this Press Release, the DOGS wish to concentrate on the dangers to the public education system of this particular scheme. It is a "Thin End of the Wedge" proposal.

Unfortunately, the public education system has suffered grievously from many examples of special pleading in the State Aid used by politicians, priests, and representatives of sectarian/tribal interests.


By special pleading in 1956 State Aid was re-introduced into the Australian political life in the form of interest payments to secondary private schools in the ACT. The then Acting Prime Minister in Canberra claimed that the situation in Canberra was unique. This uniqueness consisted in the claim that the Federal Government had bought people from all states and territories to Canberra to work in the bureaucracy and therefore it was only fair to subsidize some of their schooling. This offer was not to be regarded as a precedent!

Yet later in the year, in an attempt to quieten concern in the Liberal Party, Prime Minister Menzies and the Minister for the Interior, Mr Fairhall, indicated that the aid for interest payments on schools must not be taken as a precedent for aid outside the ACT. Sir Arthur Fadden also indicated that it was only a small amount and did not endanger the adequate provision of State Schools. But in the next eight years, the introduction of the ACT interest payments was used by supporters of the State Aid to private schools inside and outside parliament.

For instance, outside parliament Archbishop Simmonds used the 1961 precedent while Archbishop Mannix did the same in 1963

Remember Sputnik and the Russian advance in science for the "Need" to have science laboratories in schools for the space age race?

In order to get this money, the private church sector used the ACT grants precedent to extend the breach of the principle of "No State Aid". or instance, the following Liberals used this argument: Messrs Cairns; Aston; Gibbs; Hanniford; Hannon; and ALP members Fraser and McKenna.


Who can forget the introduction of federal and state per capita grants in the late 1960s. One of the special pleadings used then was that aid to private schools should be given to enable them to return to their highest level percentage share of pupil population ever achieved to that time. Billions and Billions of dollars later, that share has been both restored and somewhat increased

Yet no-one is claiming that State Aid should be reversed to enable the public education systems to return to their highest historical percentage share.


Who can forget the "Needs" Policy- the paradigm of special pleading used by Gough Whitlam to open the State Aid floodgates. Many dollars followed the crocodile tears for "needy" schools in the inner cities, where showpiece parish schools were kept poor while more "needy" schools were built and the wealthy church schools became wealthier.

As "Needs" have quite obviously been transmuted into "Greeds" the public education systems have been pushed into dire funding straits. Barbara Preston has blown the whistle. The truth is out. The "poor Catholics" are in the State Schools. ( See AEU website above)

So where, in Christian charity, is the concern for the really needy children in the really needy public education systems?


Those interested in defending public education should resist at all costs the introduction of reading vouchers. They represent a thin end of the wedge for further tuition vouchers.

Any sort of tuition voucher, as USA precedents have proved, will severely undermine the public educations system and benefit sectarian institutions.

They represent a further funding drain, a further privatization of education in Australia.



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Last modified:Monday, 25 April 2005