Labor has defended the Coalition’s $1.2 billion Catholic and independent school package it formerly labelled a “slush fund” after the Greens revealed a plan to shut it down. Source: The Guardian.
The Guardian Australia reports Labor will not support the Greens’ move to disallow the “choice and affordability” fund, with shadow education minister Tanya Plibersek instead welcoming the Morrison Government’s restoration of funding for Catholic and independent schools.
Greens education spokeswoman, Mehreen Faruqi, blasted Labor for joining the Government in “setting up a private school slush fund that has no justification, no accountability and no guarantee the cash won’t go to subsidising fees for wealthy private schools”.
Weeks after becoming Prime Minister in September 2018, Scott Morrison announced a 10-year $4.6 billion funding package to settle a dispute with the Catholic school sector, including the $1.2 billion fund which was not on the table before Dan Tehan took over from Simon Birmingham as Education Minister.
Labor and several states were highly critical of the choice and affordability fund, which Ms Plibersek said “looks very much” like a $1.2 billion “slush fund” for non-Government schools.
On Monday the Greens lodged a disallowance motion, providing the Senate an opportunity next week to vote down the regulation setting up the choice and affordability fund – a move now doomed to failure given Labor’s opposition.
Ms Plibersek said: “Scott Morrison’s highest priority should be restoring the billions of dollars he’s robbed from public schools.
“The Liberals have restored the funding they ripped from Catholic and independent schools, and we welcome that. But they should now do the same for public schools.”
Labor has been engaged in a robust internal conversation about its appeal with religious voters, with members such as MP Chris Hayes and senator Deborah O’Neill suggesting it was a factor in the surprise May election loss.
Labor frontbenchers including Michelle Rowland and Joel Fitzgibbon have suggested the opposition should consider supporting the Coalition’s religious discrimination bill to reconnect with religious voters, although Ms Plibersek has noted the “real problem” that it interferes with state discrimination law.