President’s comment 29 August 2013

WA and Qld – opposite sides of the country, but really that far apart?

In the lead-up to the election, the state governments of Western Australia and Queensland remained obstinately opposed to signing up to the Gonski school funding reforms, despite the fact that New South Wales, Victoria, the ACT, Tasmania, South Australia, and the independent and Catholic schools sectors had all recognised the benefits of the federal funding deal.


The news from WA has become increasingly worrying over the past week or so, and we in Queensland must hope we do not end up in the same dire straits.

WA Premier Colin Barnett and his Education Minister Peter Collier announced on 20 August that 500 education jobs would be cut, just four days after denying that any such cuts were planned.

Further, the WA government is instigating a new government schools funding system that is a grotesque parody of the Gonski funding model. As Anne Gisborne, the President of the State School Teachers’ Union of WA (SSTUWA), has said: “It has the key driving principles of Gonski – but lacks the critical element of adequate funding.”

Under the WA system, funds will be allocated on a child-by-child basis, with additional funding for children with extra needs. The cruel irony is that 350 education assistants (teacher-aides) and 150 departmental staff will lose their jobs to help pay for the scheme. Mr Collier has publicly stated that schools can buy back staff from their own budgets. Teacher numbers will be capped with no allowance for enrolment growth. Further, the government is looking at forced school closures.

As reported by the SSTUWA, funding for support programs for children who need extra help has been slashed by 30%, and teachers and support staff are facing a levy to cover long service leave.

The full story can be found on the SSTUWA website . It’s worth a look, if only to see exactly why the Federal Government, as part of the Better Schools plan, was imposing conditions on state governments not to cut their own education spending.

Kevin Bates

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