We All Lose When we Separate our Children at the School Gate ( 26.05.2013)

Press Release 515

DOGS defend and promote public education because it is the only system which is open to all children. It is the cornerstone of a democracy. When it is encouraged with billions of dollars of taxpayer funds the private sectarian system cuts across and undermines the public system. It is the basis of a plutocracy, an aristocracy or worst of all, a theocracy.

Many of our public schools are inspiring.But the edge is taken off our pleasure when we observe the neglected infrastructure and the increasing indeed chronic unfairnesses of our Australian society.

What is the answer ?

Bill Scales, Gonski and Pussy Footing Around the State AId Issue ( 29.04. 2013)

Press Release 513

On 22 April 2013, The Chancellor of the Swinburne University of Technology and member of the Gonski panel, Bill Scales, discussed the reforms proposed by the Gonski panel with Emma Alberici on the ABC.

DOGS note the things this successful public figure was prepared to say - and those he avoided.

Tax Ruling on Use of State Aid for Church Buildings (19.04.2013)

Press Release 512

Since the introduction of State Aid to Church schools in 1964, churches have been using public subsidised school buildings for church purposes. Voluntary funds from pockets of the faithful dried up. Why give money to wealthy churches made wealthier by State Aid?
The Tax Office has finally made a ruling on church use of publicly funded school buildings for church purposes.

See Non-Profit News Service No. 0395 - School building fund taxation ruling. http://www.ato.gov.au/nonprofit/content.aspx?doc=/content/00346832.htm
On 13 February 2013, the Australian Taxation Office released Taxation Ruling TR 2013/2 Income tax: school or college building funds

So churches have used involuntary taxpayer funds to fill the shortfall. This became obvious in the Trial of Evidence in DOGS High Court case in 1979 when it was disclosed that the Roman Catholic church was using school buildings to hold churches services in areas like Churchill and Geelong. Since that time the practice has expanded to most religious groups. Church Planting teams in developing areas like Mernda for example, use Christian and Anglican school buildings for their services. But other groups have been even more ‘pro-active’ in obtaining public funds for church buildings and chapels within a school complex. Scandals have surfaced in the media when schools have wanted to reclaim their buildings.

The Tax Office has shut the door on a ruling that churches have been using to fund their building projects. It will no longer be possible for a church to gain deductibility for donations by setting up a ‘school building fund’ unless the building has ‘the character of a school building’.

Some churches have gone further and funded church buildings using tax-deductible school or college building funds, arguing that the premises were being used for education. It will be harder to do this under the new ruling from the ATO. This Ruling focuses on the extent and character of the use, and outlines the following factors as being relevant for the determination of whether a building is used as a school’:
a) The amount of time the building is put to school use relative to the amount of time it is put to non-school use;
b) The number of people involved in the school use of the building relative to the number involved in its non-school use;
c) The physical area of the building put to school use relative to the physical area put to non-school use; and
d) The extent to which the building has been adapted or modified in order to accommodate its school or non-school use.
For example, an auditorium used by a school, but made large enough to hold church meetings for more people than the school has students, will not be able to use tax deductible funds.

DOGS note that the Religious lobby has already thumbed its nose at the tax office. The lobby group, Christian Schools Australia believes schools will not be significantly affected by the new ruling. After all, the Tax Office can make rulings, but who is going to police them? (Reference Eternity, April 2013, p. 3)

Since the introduction of State Aid to Church schools in 1964, churches have been using public subsidised school buildings for church purposes. Voluntary funds from pockets of the faithful dried up. Why give money to wealthy churches made wealthier by State Aid?
The Tax Office has finally made a ruling on church use of publicly funded school buildings for church purposes.

Abbott's Brave New World of Privatised Public Education

Press Release 511

The most startling proposal in Abbott's book - Battlelines - is that the federal government should unilaterally take over state schools and state hospitals, and turn them into privately run institutions handed out by tender, much as he privatised employment services through the Job Network.

Trouble Down Under: The View from America

Press Release 510

Edd Doerr President Americans for Religious Liberty:

Toward the end of the 19th century Australia’s constitutional designers, consciously following the American example, incorporated into their 1901 constitution these words in Section 116:

“The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and [borrowing from Article VI of the US Constitution] no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.”

So far so good. But . . .

Some years after World War II, under Australia’s rather different national election system, the Catholic bishops began a push to get government funding for church-run private schools. Using a small religious political party, the bishops were able to get the two major parties to begin diverting public funds to the church schools. Alarmed, the supporters of public schools and church-state separation formed the Council for the Defence of Government Schools (D.O.G.S.) to offset this push but were unsuccessful. Finally, in the early 1970s the D.O.G.S. group, inspired by developments in the US, went to court to use Section 116 to block church school public funding. I might note that Americans Leo Pfeffer, C. Stanley Lowell and I were peripherally involved in the matter.

Public School Interest Groups Left out in the Cold in Funding Talks

Press Release 509

Public school interest groups have been largely ignored by the government in talks about funding models for disadvantaged students.

The funding for the 77% of low income students is held hostage to talks being held by Gillard and Garrett with the private school lobby.

Unfortunately, the public school interest groups (with the notable exception of the New South Wales Teachers Federation and some representatives in the Australian Education Union) were duchessed out of relevance thirty years ago.

Max Wallace on Advancing Secularism in Australia

Press Release 508

Max Wallace says that the great disappointment for secular activism internationally is that Christopher Hitchens died before he could never turn his mind to church wealth and their tax exemptions. Had he done so we would be much further down the track in terms of the public awareness of this issue.

Here, in round figures, are the net equity, and cash and bank balances, of the top fourteen religious organisations in New Zealand from the data bases of the New Zealand Charities Commission. I can’t give you the Australian amounts because religious organisations have been exempted from reporting to the new Australian Charities Commission.