Budget puts big business ahead of education

Federation welcomes Labor’s commitment to restore, in full, the $17 billion cut from schools by the Turnbull Government.

In his Budget Reply speech, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten acknowledged that these cuts hit public schools the hardest with $1.9 billion stripped in 2018 and 2019 alone. That represents 86 per cent of the total funding cut by the Coalition Government.

Federation also welcomed the Opposition’s commitment to invest in TAFE through a two-thirds guaranteed share of federal training funding.

The hundreds of millions cut from TAFE by Malcolm Turnbull shows his ideological opposition to public education and his government’s determination to privatise vocational education in order to line the pockets of for-profit private providers.

Federation had earlier condemned the Turnbull Government Budget for failing to deliver fair funding for public schools, and yet again prioritising big business over our children and their future.

Federation President Maurie Mulheron highlighted the unfairness of the Budget and the Turnbull Government’s priorities.

“This is a Budget designed to make wealthy people wealthier at the expense of the future of children and young people,” Mr Mulheron said. “There’s no restoration of the cuts to schools funding and the VET sector takes another $270 million hit.”

In his Budget Reply, Mr Shorten recognised the public education system did the heavy lifting and reminded the community that public schools teach 82 per cent of Australia’s poorest children, 84 per cent of Indigenous children and 74 per cent of students with disability.

While the latest Guardian Essential Poll revealed 88 per cent of Australians want the Federal Government to either increase education spending or keep spending the same, Turnbull’s Budget delivered $65 billion in corporate tax cuts, while maintaining the $17 billion cut to schools funding outlined in his replacement to the original Gonski funding plan.

The Budget also contained a number of specific omissions, in which the Turnbull Government had chosen to ignore areas of immediate need. In particular, cuts to disability funding in five states and territories, which were first delivered under the Turnbull schools funding plan, have not been addressed.

The Budget also failed to address the ever-worsening crisis in the TAFE sector, as the Turnbull Government failed to reverse the $177 million cuts made to TAFE in the 2017 Budget.

Federation believes Labor has its priorities right; investing in high-quality public education for children across the nation is the best way to build a stronger, more prosperous and equitable nation.

It stands in stark contrast to the commitment of the Turnbull Government to undermine public education at every turn and prioritise private education and the interests of big business.

“There is now a clear distinction between what the Government announced on Budget night and the Opposition’s response,” Mr Mulheron said.

“Malcolm Turnbull is compromising young Australians’ future by prioritising massive tax cuts to huge corporations over funding public education. Alternatively, the Opposition has committed to restoring the funding to public schools and guaranteeing funding to TAFE.

“What should be the nation’s priorities? It’s a simple choice Australians now face. Does the community support large cash handouts to banks or the funding of all public schools to the national schooling resource standard and secure funding for the TAFE system?”

Mr Mulheron also pointed out that the Budget allocates permanent funding for the controversial school chaplains program.

“Federation has always opposed funding for school chaplains, and it is a great concern to see this budget commit to permanent, recurrent funding to employ individuals in a poorly defined ‘pastoral’ role,” Mr Mulheron said.

“We remain committed to seeing an increase in the number of qualified school counsellors available for students, and a return to effective anti-bullying and support programs in schools.”