2019 Federal Election – Response from ALP

On behalf of member schools CSA has contacted the major parties seeking responses to our key policy priorities as we head into the coming Federal Election. In addition to commitments regarding religious freedom we sought commitments from the Education Minister and Shadow in relation to:

  • Funding for Distance Education Students
  • Capital Funding
  • Funding for “Year One – 2” Students
  • Cutting Red Tape for schools.

You can see our letters in our earlier briefing here.

The ALP have responded indicating that –

Distance Education Funding

Only Labor is committed to fair funding for schools that will ensure every Australian child has access to the very best education, regardless of their postcode. Labor believes distance education should be educationally and social inclusive and funding should be needs-based.

Labor understands that by the time the election was called in April 2019 the Government had not taken necessary steps to implement improvements for non-government distance education students which were promised in December 2018. Required regulations were not prepared for tabling in the parliament, nor were necessary consultations undertaken with the Education Council to reach agreement on a new regulation. This means that there is no arrangement in place under the Liberals to increase the base funding amount for distance education students.

Labor will consult non-government distance education schools on the most appropriate policies and mechanism to achieve the very best outcome for schools, students and families and Labor will act quickly to meet our commitments.

Capital Funding

Commonwealth funding for non-government school capital expenditure is provided through the Capital Grants Program (CGP). … Labor in government will maintain the commitment to capital funding through the CGP.

Funding for “Year One – 2” Students

Labor will establish a new $1.7 billion National Pre-School and Kindy Program, which will guarantee every three and four-year-old will be able to access the quality, teacher led early education they need for the best start to life.

Labor will work with all relevant stakeholders including the states and territories and non-government sector to deliver the program. We are mindful that the program will be delivered across a range of contexts that vary from state to state. We are committed to ensuring all children can access preschool in every setting in every state and territory.

We are determined to ensure this policy benefits all three and four-year-olds in non-government as well as government and community run preschools and kindies, long day care centres and school site located early learning centres.

Parents and carers will be free to choose the setting that best suits their child’s needs.

Cutting Red Tape for schools.

The Commonwealth’s funding arrangements are intended to ensure that the Australian schooling system provides a high quality and highly equitable education for all students. States and territories, and nongovernment education authorities are required to comply with the Australian Education Act 2013, related agreements and other relevant state and Commonwealth legislation in the delivery of school education.

Religious Freedom

If elected, a Shorten Labor Government would consult with the ALRC about the most efficient timeframe in which they can complete this review, with a view to the ALRC providing advice to government in a timelier manner. Specifically, Labor would request that the ALRC work to provide its recommendations on how best to remove the exemptions from discrimination against LGBTIQ students and teachers contained in Commonwealth legislation as a priority.

In the ALP’s National Platform we declare, “Labor supports the appropriate protection of the religious freedom of all people.” The Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Tanya Plibersek, made our position on the rights of religious schools very clear in Parliament when she stated, “Schools are also entitled to have rules that ensure staff – and I’m quoting one of the organisations that wrote to me – don’t ‘deliberately and wilfully behave contrary to the values of the school.’” (Hansard, 16 October 2018, p.35).

I would add that Labor is not proposing to amend the indirect discrimination provisions of the Sex Discrimination Act that allow educational institutions to impose reasonable conditions, requirements or practices in accordance with the doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings of a particular religion or creed.

At the same time, Labor is committed to reducing discrimination in Australian society where it can be done in a considered way that respects freedom of belief and conscience.

We do not believe that freedom of religion and freedom from discrimination are mutually exclusive.

Consistent with our respect for religious freedom and commitment to remove discrimination, we would ask that the ALRC consult on and provide recommendations for legislative amendments to remove discrimination in a manner that continues to allow educational institutions to impose reasonable conditions, requirements or practices in accordance with the doctrines, tenets, beliefs or teachings of a particular religion or creed.

A copy of the full ALP response and letter from the Shadow Attorney-General can be downloaded below.