Backlash against Shorten's private school gaffe

Bill Shorten was caught out, inadvertently perhaps, on his attitude to public education.

Labor leader Bill Shorten's October 5 “defence” of penalty rates so totally missed the mark that he was quickly on the receiving end of a backlash from his own party.

Shorten said that the extra income from penalty rates could be the difference between parents being able to send their children to private schools or not. What makes this even more embarrassing for Labor is that this was not a slip up due to an off-the-cuff comment. It was part of a prepared media statement.

Most working people, who rely on penalty rates to make ends meet, are more worried about being able to pay the rent, put food on the table and pay their bills. For most parents in this situation private school has never been on the radar; and why should it be? Isn't properly funded public education something that all parents should have a right to expect for their children?

Just this year, public primary schools in Victoria out performed private schools on the NAPLAN test, and some of those schools are in disadvantaged areas. Our public education sector, if properly funded, could provide much more. So why aren't they receiving the funding they need?

According to the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority, between 2009 and 2013, funding grew by 23% per student for independent and Catholic schools, while funding for public schools grew by just 12.5 %. This takes federal, state and territory funding in to account.

The Gonski funding promised by the previous Labor government was a start to fixing this inequality in the schooling system. However the Tony Abbott government cut the funding and now it seems Shorten does not value public schools or the right of families to access affordable education.

A fair system of funding would provide access to universal, free, quality and secular education available for all. This would do away with the need for taxpayer subsidies to private institutions, which would be fully funded by those who choose to provide and use them.

Working people should not have to subsidise the life style choices of the rich.

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