Press Release 948







On Friday 12 August, 2022, state and federal education ministers met in Canberra to discuss the teacher shortage.

A recent survey found almost 60% of teachers in New South Wales plan to quit in the next five years. They have had enough of being taken for granted and treated unprofessionally.

Ahead of the meeting, numerous solutions  were offered by experts and advocates, including a teaching “apprenticeship”, and fast-tracking students or mid-career professionals in other fields into mainly public school classrooms.

DOGS contend that nobody has to date tackled the real, underlying problem of why public school teachers have been treated like tradesmen rather than professionals by Ministers of Education throughout Australia..

DOGS suggest it is because Ministerial responsibility for the education of Australian children have been turned upside down. Accountability for the $24.5 billion of direct grants in public money, more than $15.3 billion of which is spent on private schools has been pushed down the line to the principals and teachers. The gross inequities exacerbated by public funding of the private sector has been sidestepped in a side swipe at teachers.

 Numerous State and, in 2017, a federal Auditor General’s Report have questioned proper accountability for public money spent on the private sector.[1]

In response, Federal Coalition and Labor Ministers, with State Ministers in tandem, have re-defined accountability.

Since the 1960s billions of dollars of public money have been channelled into the private sector, attempting to shore up a bankrupt, divisive, sectarian system.  Since the 1980s,and the adoption by both major parties of the neo-liberal economic paradigm, Australian governments have preferred private to public enterprises, and, in attempts to privatise the public education system, forced administrative duties out of central bureaucracies down to the public school level, in ‘self-managed’ schools.

They have defined accountability as accountability of principals and teachers to provide data, data, and more data to a federal administrative body called ACARA – the Australian Assessment and Reporting Authority. Some of this data, especially that from the private sector regarding enrolments and direct funding, is enlightening.

 But in public, self - managed public schools based on the privatised model, the burden has been placed upon public school principals to find and pay their own staff.[2] And teachers are expected to evaluate themselves by administering NAPLAN (National Assessment program for Literacy and Numeracy)  and PISA (Program of International Student Assessment ) tests, as well as reporting on student development to parents.  Teachers and students, are reduced, not to tradesmen, but to a production line of data collectors. And the data is used against them.  If students’ results fall behind the International comparisons, teachers are held responsible.

Meanwhile, instead of well qualified public school teachers being given the time to plan and teach in the fields of their expertise, they are overburdened with ‘evaluation’ procedures. To add insult to injury they are then abused by politicians like the previous Coalition federal Acting Minister Roberts at a Conference of their more fortunate private school peers. 

Rather than accepting responsibility for unequal funding in favour of the private sector, and lack of accountability for this funding, Federal Ministers have blamed the ‘crisis’ in education on our public school teachers. If Australian PISA results fall down the international scale, DOGS suggest  the buck should stop with Ministers of Education themselves.

The blame game and teacher bashing is a dangerous distraction from the real meaning of Ministerial responsibility and accountability.

Byzantine Administrative Architecture Imposing Data Collection on Teachers:

Consider the following Administrative Architecture in Canberra  which has been established to push responsibility down the line to principals and teachers in our public schools.

In 2021-22 direct federal funding for government schools was $9.2 b while that for the private sector was $15.3 billion. This is projected to rise by 2025-26 to $11.7b and $18b respectively. [3] And, although the major reason for a centralised administration is accountability for expenditure of public money, a series of Auditor General Reports indicate that, at least for the religious sector, financial accountability is lacking.[4]

But since 1964, if not earlier, the federal government has influenced education policy through specific purpose grants. These are grants to the States, with conditions attached, under Section 96 of the Constitution.

This is not assisted by what appears to be the construction of an almost byzantine administrative structure in Canberra.

The Department of Education Skills and Employment

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment is answerable to Parliament through the Minister and is responsible for the administration of the Australian Education Act (2013) as amended in 2017. This includes accountability for the billions of dollars noted above provided through Section 96 specific purpose grants to schools.


But there is another piece of administrative structure which underpins the willing participation of all State government participants in Australian schooling enterprises. This is the Ministerial Council for Education, Early Childhood Development and Youth Affairs. (MCEECDYA). Membership of the MCEECDYA comprises State, Territory, Australian Government and New Zealand Ministers with responsibility for the portfolios of  school educationearly childhood development and youth affairs, with  Papua New GuineaNorfolk Island and East Timor having observer status. Although similar structures had existed since at least 1993, the current structures were finally established in what has been termed the Rudd Gillard ‘revolution’ of 2009/2020. 

Gillard was assisted in the creation of this piece of administrative architecture by Professor Barry McGaw, formerly from the ACER and the OECD who was appointed the first Chairman of ACARA. He was a major player in getting national curriculum reforms off the ground in the Gillard government and his work at the OECD enabled him to work with PISA data  and NAPLAN testing.

Terry Moran, who went from Department of Premier and Cabinet in Victoria to the Department of Premier and Cabinet in Canberra under the Labor Government was also influential.

And Peter Hill who was the Secretary of the Victorian Education Department under Kennett became the first Secretary of ACARA.[5]  In 1998, at an ACER Conference Hill promoted Charter schools.[6]

There are three co-operative structures dealing with data collection, curriculum and assessment under MCEECDYA.  These are :

ACARA : the Australian Curriculum Assessement and Reporting Authority is a Board with a Chair, Deputy Chair and 11 other members, nominated by the Australian Government and all education streams (independent, government and Catholic) across states and territories.

AITSL The Australian institute of Teaching and School Leadership is governed by an independent Board of Directors appointed by the Minister for Education and Training.

 ESA Education Services Australia is a national, not-for-profit company owned by all Australian education ministers. The company was established to support delivery of national priorities and initiatives regarding technology for education in the schools, training and Higher Education sectors.

There do not appear to be any public teacher union representatives on any of these bodies.

The Australian schooling systems, and most particularly the private systems, have developed an overwhelming thirst for money from a cashed up central Treasury and, in recent decades both State and denominational systems have agreed to a range of conditions which represent direct interference with matters not traditionally within the ambit of the Commonwealth. This has occurred with the willing participation of both the State and private sectors. Whereas in the nineteenth century the Catholic system rejected central control of their schools through inspectors by the State, their current situation is one of funding largesse with few quibbles. Some might argue the private sector has been annexed by the Canberra administration.

 The State certainly pays substantially for these schools. They cost the taxpayer in many instances more than the local public school which they duplicate. The story that they save taxpayers money – if they ever did – is a myth. But their public funding has undermined our public systems.

It seems that they are now only private in accountability for that public money.

The major group which are discontented with current controls are, understandably, members of the teaching profession. They complain of being scapegoats for lack of funding and declining standards; overloaded with administrative duties; underpaid and burnt out. Experienced teachers are either striking or resigning, while, to fill the gaps governments are resorting to placing university students in classrooms.

DOGS believe that Australia is returning to the pupil teacher system of the nineteenth century and is in grave danger of reverting to the much discredited denominational system of the 1830s.  

Those who fail to learn from history…..


[2] . In 2004, the Coalition Minister for Education, Brendan Nelson pointed out that the federal Schools Assistance (Learning Together – Achievement Through Choice and Opportunity) Act 2004  all  public school principals were to be given ‘significant say over staffing issues in their own schools’ and State and Territory governments and school authorities were to commit to providing ‘principals’ [with] strengthened autonomy over, and responsibility for, education programs, budgets and other aspects of school’s operations.’ Commonwealth , Parliamentary Debates, House of Representatives, 23 June 2004, 31206 (Minister Nelson)

[3] Budget 2022-23, Budget Paper No. 3

[5] Glen C Savage, The Quest for Revolution in Australian Schooling, 2021, p. 38






[2] . In 2004, the Coalition Minister for Education, Brendan Nelson pointed out that the federal Schools Assistance (Learning Together – Achievement Through Choice and Opportunity) Act 2004  all  public school principals were to be given ‘significant say over staffing issues in their own schools’ and State and Territory governments and school authorities were to commit to providing ‘principals’ [with] strengthened autonomy over, and responsibility for, education programs, budgets and other aspects of school’s operations.’ Commonwealth , Parliamentary Debates, House of Representatives, 23 June 2004, 31206 (Minister Nelson)

[3] Budget 2022-23, Budget Paper No. 3

[5] Glen C Savage, The Quest for Revolution in Australian Schooling, 2021, p. 38