State election 2017 - policy overviews

To give more information about the likely future direction of political parties on schools, TAFE and industrial relations, here is an overview of their policy platforms as published on their respective websites. The parties are listed in alphabetical order. This information was current at 14 November – for more information on announcements made during the election, check the weekly wrap up

The ALP policy platform, “Putting Queenslanders First” was adopted at its 2017 state conference, and is an extensive and detailed document of more than 100 pages.

On schools and TAFE, priorities include:

  • strengthening the publicly funded, secular and inclusive education system
  • fully implementing the original Gonski model of needs-based funding
  • ensuring a fair and transparent state-wide staffing and principal selection system
  • providing professional development for educators to create inclusive and supportive school environments for all students, including students who identify as LGBTIQ+
  • consulting the teaching profession before changes are made or initiatives are introduced
  • providing structured support for beginning teachers
  • restoring TAFE as Queensland’s premier public provider of VET, and supporting TAFE in its community service obligations
  • ensuring training opportunities are available in all regions.

On workers’ rights, priorities include:

  • protecting employment conditions, including penalty rates, job security and reasonable hours of work
  • recognising the role of unions in enhancing the wellbeing of workers
  • helping workers manage work and caring responsibilities, and closing the gender pay gap
  • ensuring safe workplaces, including protection against injury and bullying, and fair access to workers’ compensation.

The Palaszczuk government has achieved many of these industrial relations priorities by overturning a range of the Newman/Nicholls’ government LNP’s IR changes, restoring access to WorkCover and directing the Public Service Commission to review gender pay equity in the public service. 

During the election campaign, further policies have been announced.

“Building Better Schools”  promises to deliver seven new secondary schools, two new primary schools, a new special school and begin planning for four more primary schools, two special schools and a high school (all state schools). $235m is set aside to refurbish 17 state high schools, with $750m for school maintenance over the next four years.

The ALP’s “World Class Education” policy focuses on:

  • employing at least 3,700 new teachers over four years to maintain downward pressure on class sizes
  • providing four centres for professional learning and wellbeing for teachers and students in rural and remote Queensland
  • enhancing internet connectivity to teacher housing
  • employing up to 45 additional music teachers and buying 1000 new instruments
  • re-engaging at-risk students with education and supporting students with disability
  • implementing the Digital Technologies Curriculum in all schools and promoting STEM studies
  • finalising the new senior assessment and tertiary entrance system.

The Greens’ education policy includes:

  • needs-based funding for schools and prioritising funding for public education
  • holding non-government schools to the same levels of accountability and transparency as government schools
  • recognising educators’ professionalism through pay and secure career structures
  • consulting with the teaching profession on changes to curriculum, testing reporting and teaching
  • rejecting corporatisation or of education, and restricting the use of testing data to pedagogical reasons, not teacher or school comparisons
  • ensuring VET is publicly funded and primarily provided through TAFE
  • addressing the over-casualisation of TAFE staff.

The Greens’ industrial relations policy includes:

  • addressing increasing casualisation in the public service
  • encouraging flexible working arrangements.

The policy also contains a number of aims directed at unions that are probably well-meaning, but show a lack of practical understanding of the operations of unions. For example “introduce democratic reforms” such as “significant decisions requiring referendum” - which would be the ballots that unions already run.

KAP’s Queensland policy document contains no mention of schools, TAFE or industrial relations.

The LNP’s plan “Getting Queensland Back in Business”  is light on detail. It lists education as one of “six key drivers to restart the economy”, then gives only five dot points:

  • Improving teaching standards
  • Empowering local school communities
  • Providing specialist support to vulnerable students, including those with a disability (QTU note: yet the LNP has also announced it would “withdraw from Safe Schools”)
  • Investing in early years education
  • Ensure our classrooms are safe and address truancy rates.

Unsurprisingly, there is no mention of workers’ rights.

Of particular concern are the LNP’s fiscal principals which presage widespread public sector job cuts. University of Queensland economist John Quiggin has said: “The promises made by the LNP can be delivered only through large, unannounced cuts in general government expenditure. This is consistent with the strategy adopted by the Newman government in 2012, and by the Abbott government in 2013.” 

One Nation’s Queensland policy booklet 2017 has no mention of schools, TAFE or industrial relations.

While ON [One Nation] is light on education policy, it has shown that its candidates are prepared to make highly provocative and grossly inaccurate public statements about teachers and teaching. Recent appalling examples include Steve Dickson’s false claims about Safe Schools (we will not be repeating his words as they do nothing but insult QTU members) and Malcolm Roberts’ twisting of the truth about Respectful Relationships – claiming that it is a program about sexuality education, rather than about preventing domestic violence. ON also has an extremely disturbing proposal to not restrict child access to men who have been found guilty of domestic violence.

While Pauline Hanson claims that Steve Dickson is the “leader” of One Nation in Queensland, clearly the Queensland Senator is closely involved in the Queensland campaign, so it is worth looking at her previous statements on education and record on industrial relations.

On national funding

“My concern about this is: why do we need another $18.2 billion thrown at this when the federal funding for education now is just under $88 billion? On top of that there is state funding as well as parents who pay fees to send their kids to schools. When I went to school we did not have all this money thrown at us. Our education levels are dropping. Australia used to be very high on the list of educational standards, but we are dropping. People say it is because of lack of money—'Let's throw more money at it.' Throwing money at it is not always the answer, and I do not believe it is the answer now.”

Pauline Hanson, Senate Hansard, 21 June 2017, p. 4460

On existing curriculum

“I think the main issue here is that we have lost the quality of teachers, because over the years these do-gooders who want everyone to feel good about themselves have come into the education system saying to kids: 'You're all right; you don't have to compete in the classroom, you don't have to have grades, you don't have to perform to be top of the class, so we're going to take grading away. We're not going to tell your parents whether you got 40 per cent or 85 per cent, because we want you to feel good about yourselves.

In some schools you do not necessarily have to learn maths, science or even English.”

Pauline Hanson, Senate Hansard, 21 June 2017, p. 4460

On support for students with disability

“I hear so many times from parents and teachers whose time is taken up with children -whether they have a disability or whether they are autistic - who are taking up the teacher's time in the classroom. These kids have a right to an education, by all means, but, if there are a number of them, these children should go into a special classroom and be looked after and given that special attention. Because most of the time the teacher spends so much time on them they forget about the child who is straining at the bit and wants to go ahead in leaps and bounds in their education. That child is held back by those others, because the teachers spend time with them.”

Pauline Hanson, Senate Hansard, 21 June 2017, p. 4462

 Authorised by Graham Moloney, General Secretary, Queensland Teachers' Union