14 May 2014 - President's comment

Federal budget fails to meet national minimum standard for education

In his first budget speech, the Australian Treasurer delivered a hodge-podge of rhetoric backed by very little action and devoid of any meaningful discourse on schools and TAFE.

The first Abbott government budget was defined by the Treasurer as the government moving to "spend less on consumption, and more on investment". There is no greater investment in the future prosperity of a nation than education of our youth, and yet this budget will rob them of opportunity through education by failing to deliver on education funding reform.

Despite claiming a unity ticket with the ALP on education before the election, the Abbott government has failed to deliver on Gonski – failed to honour agreements beyond 2016-17, failed to target funding to student need, failed to deliver much-needed funding support for students with disabilities, and failed to require the states and territories to adequately fund education.

National bodies working with the Australian education profession have been slashed, with the Australian Curriculum, Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) losing significant funding and the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) faring even worse. It is difficult to see how national initiatives such as the Australian Professional Standards for Teachers can be maintained.

In higher education, universities can now set their own charges for university courses. The cost of TAFE training has been pushed onto students through student loans that will see TAFE graduates forced into huge debt to complete even a basic qualification.

The Treasurer claimed that the "budget must be all about people" and urged Australians to be "lifters not leaners". Education is about empowering people to share in and support the future of our nation. This budget did nothing to build a nation in which every student, regardless of where they go to school, would have the greatest opportunity to realise their potential through education.

The Treasurer concluded that the budget should be about creating a "sustainable future for our children and future generations". Instead, the budget delivers a blow to the aspirations of every Australian and creates the circumstances in which any future prosperity will be available only to a privileged few.

All Australians will pay for this ill-conceived budget, but it will be our youth who will pay the highest price.

Kevin Bates