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Federal Politics

06 Jun 2017

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Turnbull cuts to Catholic education

 “… now Education Minister Simon Birmingham, sounding like an Australian Teachers Federation official from the early 1970s, is aligned with the green-left activists of The Age to demomise the Catholic education authorities. Oyvey!” columnist Greg Sheridan wrote in The Australian on May 25.

The 2017 Budget from the Turnbull LNP government included a prospective $22 billion cut to education. Labor says the original recommendations of businessman David Gonski for needs-based funding should be implemented.

What has surprised me to most in these cuts is the unexpected attack of Minister Birmingham and the Turnbull government on Catholic Education. This attack has continued in The Age newspaper. Several articles and editorials with misleading information on the impact this will have on Catholic schools and the quality of education they can offer in the future.

On Tuesday, May 2, I spoke out against cuts to Catholic Education in parliament:

“I was speaking to the Catholic Education Office in Victoria today. They pointed out to me that 210,000 students from 140,000 families attend one of the 500 Catholic schools in Victoria state wide. That is one in four Victorian children. Catholic schools pride themselves on the quality of the education they provide and they refer to their values based education. It is a distinction that many parents look for when they select a Catholic school.”

“There are five Catholic Primary schools in my electorate, St Aloysius in Caulfield, Galilee Regional in South Melbourne, St Columba’s in Elwood, St Mary’s in East St Kilda, St Josephs in Elsternwick and Christian Brother high school in East St Kilda. These cuts to their funding will affect the quality and availability of education to the Catholic parents in these five suburbs of Melbourne Ports.”

“Indeed, the infamous claims in The Age that these worthy, but by no means wealthy Catholic schools are making ‘windfalls’ are nonsense. What Birmingham and his megaphone at The Age do is project a number, based on the postcode of the school, that the federal education minister has given to his Green allies without any understanding of the local circumstances that govern these schools, such as large families, disproportionate number of health care cards, refugee families, etc.”

Many reading this will have children attending one of these local Catholic schools. It is my view that the values you have chosen to instil in your children through their education process should not see you targeted financially by the government while it gives banks and big businesses tax cuts.

As I also pointed out in my speech: “A decrease in funding will result in these schools cutting programs from their curriculum and reducing class sizes. A representative of the Catholic Education Office in Melbourne told my office just today that schools in the local parish will be forced to lift fees by $5000 a year over the coming decade. That is over $100 a week under Malcolm Turnbull’s and Simon Birmingham’s plan. Catholic constituents in my electorate simply cannot afford this increase in school fees. Many of the families have several children attending school.”

In the bad old days of the 50s and 60s when anti Catholic sectarianism was rife, one might have expected this campaign. Haven’t we moved past these attitudes?

Catholics are an important part of the Melbourne Ports fabric, and Catholic education forms a vital community role.

Like all schools in this electorate, I’ve attended all of these wonderful warm Catholic primary schools and I will not see them unfairly treated.

Tanya Plibersek and Bill Shorten have made clear Labor want the relatively inexpensive funding for all the Catholic system to be supported. Let’s not go back to the bad old days of sectarianism.


Hon. Michael Danby

Federal Member for Melbourne Ports

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