With only 9 days to go until election day, here’s a handy round-up of the key education policies from the major political parties.On April 11th, 2019, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced that the 2019 federal election would be held on May 18th, bringing months of speculation to an end. For much of the last year, the Coalition, the Labor Party, the Greens, and a multitude of minor third parties, have been carefully, unofficially campaigning, but we are now in the midst of the final run - in less than a fortnight we will have a result, and potentially a new federal government.
While there have been a number of key election issues that most parties have chosen to focus on this year - among them climate change, housing, health, and economic management - education has received somewhat less attention in the headlines. No party has yet announced a sweep of policy reforms that would fundamentally change the Australian primary and secondary school system, but it’s the small details that are often most important to pay attention to in politics.
As these details can easily be lost in long policy documents or buried in articles that focus on big ticket announcements, Compass has assembled this guide to the 2019 federal election and how the promises made by each party might affect you.
As the governing coalition, the Liberal-Nationals are fighting this election on the basis of continuing the work of their government. The Coalition says they have delivered ‘record funding to schools’, with a predicted increase ‘from $17.5 billion in 2017 to $32.4 billion in 2029’. This is a result of the introduction of needs-based funding for schools by former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull in 2017, under the Quality Schools reforms (commonly known as Gonski 2.0). These changes were unpopular with the Catholic school sector in particular, leading Scott Morrison to pledge an additional $4.6 billion for Catholic and independent schools.
The Coalition are also promising:
- $247 million to continue their school chaplaincy program through to 2022The establishment of a Local School Community Fund, providing $200,000 to each federal electorate to spend on projects in schools that benefit students and the local community
- A $200 million Indigenous Youth Package to fund additional scholarship, mentoring and support for young Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander Australians
- $2.0 million to increase awareness and understanding of Australian democracy in schools
- $5.7 million over five years to support arts programs in schools
- $9.5 million to support the development of online resources for mathematics and phonics education
Analysis: The Coalition will continue to pursue the policies they have done for the last six years in power, with some tactical revisions on issues like funding which have caused them headaches.
Australian Labor Party
Labor leader Bill Shorten has vocally opposed the changes made to school funding by the Coalition, particularly the lack of funding pledged for public schools. To address this, the Labor Party propose an additional $14 billion to public schools over ten years, and $250 million to Catholic schools within the first two years. As the party of opposition, and one with strong support in the public sector, Labor has more scope for outlining a vision of changes they would make to the education system should they form the next government, and propose that these reforms should be funded by higher taxes on multinational companies and closing tax loopholes.
Labor policy for primary and secondary schools also includes:
- A review of NAPLAN to ensure it is “serving students, parents, and teachers as best it can”
- The establishment of a National Principals Academy focused on developing “advanced leadership, teaching and learning”, for both existing and future principals
- An additional $300 million to support students with disabilities, which will be spent “individualised learning for students with disability by paying for more teachers, teacher aides, teacher training, updated technology” and more
- The establishment of an Evidence Institute for Schools, designed to ensure “teachers and parents have high quality research at their fingertips.”
- An $8 million investment in community language schools
- $32 million to strengthen Asian language education in schools
Analysis: Labor occupy the unique space of relatively strong popular support, perhaps bolstered by public annoyance with Coalition in-fighting, and six years in opposition in which to develop federal policy and strategy. This has been a clear strategy in Labor’s campaign - for example, reuniting Julia Gillard and Kevin Rudd, to signal an end that Labor is now a united party.
Their platform on education is designed to appeal to the public sector while remaining supportive of the Catholic sector, and proposing a number of reforms that would further support teachers in their position.
The Australian Greens
Richard Di Natale’s Greens propose going further than Labor in rejecting the Coalition’s school funding formula. Their policy would see public schools receive 25% of funding from the Commonwealth government - with the rest being made up by state contributions - and $20.5 billion of funding over the next ten years. Additionally a school capital grants program worth $400 million would be established, with public schools receiving $320 million of this fund. The Greens propose this increase in funding for public schools should be supported by an end to income tax cuts and higher taxes for gas and fossil fuel companies.
Additional Green Party policies include:
- Modifying NAPLAN to focus on student outcomes rather than competition between schools
- An increased focus on arts, music, drama and physical activity in the primary and secondary school curriculum
- Additional support for students and schools during the transition between primary and secondary schools
- New or upgraded schools in areas of population growth, without closing smaller local schools in these areas
Analysis: The Greens are unlikely to win large scale support, but are undoubtedly hoping that good polling results and retaining and expanding their seats in the Senate will push Labor to the left across the board. As the Greens know they will not be the party of government, they can more readily support ‘radical’ policy proposals, which may then be watered down and reworked. For example, their policy on ‘modifying’ NAPLAN is reflected in Labor’s more restrained policy proposal to conduct a ‘review’ of NAPLAN.
Third Parties Summary
While the Greens are arguably the most prominent third party across Australia today, there are a number of other parties that have significant regional support or are likely to either retain or gain a place in the senate. The most notable include:
- Clive Palmer's United Australia Party - It's been almost impossible to avoid Clive Palmer's advertising over the last year, and having spent 'at least $50million' Palmer is no doubt hoping it was a worthwhile investment. Pundits seem to think it could be, despite some controversies miring his campaign. As a populist party UAP have few substantial policy proposals when it comes to education, except to oppose both the Coalition and Labor's legacies.
- Katter's Australia Party - Bob Katter is likely to retain his Federal seat for Kennedy, while his political positions remain an anomaly in the Senate: deeply socially conservative, while broadly supportive of government expenditure and state involvement in the economy, particularly insofar as it supports those in rural and agricultural regions. While the official website for Katter's Australia Party contains a range of policy documents on everything from regional areas to firearms, there are no policy statements on education matters.
- Centre Alliance - Previously the Nick Xenophon Team, the Centre Alliance will be hoping to retain their single seat in the Senate, held by Rebekha Sharkie. The Centre Alliance states they are committed to "realising the full potential of education in Australia to propel all learners to be the best that they can be now and in the future so they can further their individual aims and assist in lifting Australia’s competitiveness and innovation."
Remember, your vote is your choice - and you have an opportunity to make that choice on Saturday 18th May.