21 June 2016 | No. 15-16 | Download as PDF 

Your vote can win Gonski

This federal election is the culmination of a 10 year campaign to secure the needs-based school funding model that we know colloquially as “Gonski”. After the election, depending on the result, schools will either receive the full Gonski (supported by the ALP, the Greens and the Glenn Lazarus Team) or a diluted model (proposed by the LNP) with strings attached to the funding, such as performance pay and more student testing.

How you, your friends, your colleagues and parents in your school vote will help decide the future of school funding. This is likely to be our last chance to secure Gonski, and majorities in support of full Gonski funding will be required in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

National Gonski Week

This week is National Gonski Week. Across Australia, state school teachers and principals are talking to colleagues, parents and friends about the election day choice.

Please watch this election choice video on facebook or YouTube and share it with your friends.

You can share this election choice graphic with your friends.

Also linked is a list of the funding that the schools in each electorate will miss out on in 2018 and 2019 if the Turnbull government is re-elected.

What is Gonski?

Gonski is a sector-blind, needs-based model of school funding named for the chair of the ALP government’s funding review, eminent businessman David Gonski. The December 2011 report proposed a boost to education funding to provide a minimum resource standard for all schools, plus loadings for six student or school characteristics: socio-economic status, indigeneity, non-English speaking background, disability, school size and rural or remote location.

The review adopted an OECD definition of equity; essentially that differential funding should be applied so that every student could reach his/her potential irrespective of background. As Julia Gillard said: “Demography should not decide destiny.”

The previous ALP government started a six year phase-in of the additional funding. After claiming to be on a “unity ticket”, the Abbott government grudgingly committed to only the first four years, which represented approximately one-third of the funding. That is essentially the choice that remains today.

For a brief video summary of Gonski click here.

One of the false counter arguments used against Gonski is that money doesn’t matter. But your school is already receiving Gonski funding, in the form of Investing for Success (and previously the Great Results Guarantee). To give the lie to the “money doesn’t matter” argument, just imagine your school without that additional funding.

Getting Results” is an AEU publication which showcases the impact that Gonski funding has had in 24 schools across the country.

Other election issues

The QTU website has further information about and links to a range of educational, industrial and social policies in this election.

The Union realises that members cast their vote on the basis of a range of considerations, sometimes related to work and education, sometimes not.

IF YOU WANT GONSKI, PUT THE LNP LAST WHEN YOU VOTE.

Put the LNP candidate last when you vote for the House of Representatives (where you have to number every square) and choose Gonski-supportive candidates in the Senate (where you need to number six parties or groups above the line or 12 below the line).


EB 8 – two votes in term three

QTU members will start term three with two votes about a new enterprise bargaining agreement:

  • a QTU ballot on the acceptability of the best government offer available at that time
  • a ballot conducted by the Electoral Commission of Queensland (ECQ) to allow QTU members to take protected industrial action in support of our claims.

Negotiations

A new EB agreement is due from 1 July. Formal negotiations with the department have been occurring since the start of May and are continuing. The negotiations (and the other associated processes) are occurring under what is essentially Newman government legislation, as new legislation has not yet been introduced to Parliament.

Government wages policy is for pay increases of 2.5 per cent per annum. The position of the department in negotiations so far is that the cost of any other improvements (e.g. remote area incentives, higher beginning salaries) have to be deducted from the salary increases in the final agreement.

The government’s wages policy also limits backdating of the agreement to the first day of the month in which an in-principle agreement (i.e. an agreement at the negotiating table) is reached. For an agreement to be backdated to 1 July, in-principle agreement must be reached by 31 July.

The QTU has gone to some lengths to make a 1 July date possible after the Newman government delayed the last agreement by two months. The date is significant to defined benefit superannuants. So, as we did in 2012, the QTU will conduct a ballot of members before 31 July about the best available government offer. The Union may recommend acceptance of the offer or, as in 2012, recommend that the offer be rejected, but members will have a vote in a school-based ballot conducted by the QTU.

Industrial action

The alternative to an unacceptable offer is industrial action. The Newman-era legislation only allows an application for industrial action to be made one month before the end of the agreement, i.e. 1 June. The Union knows from 2012 experience that the ballot – which must be conducted by the ECQ – takes about 10 weeks. The application was lodged on 1 June by the QTU and the closing date for the ballot is 8 August. Any industrial action will occur well into August.

The ballot will be an individual postal ballot asking QTU members to endorse at least one full day strike and work bans, though the questions will be generic to allow us flexibility of action. While the ECQ ballot is essential, any specific industrial action to be taken will be decided by members in a QTU ballot.

Under legislation, at least 50 per cent of those on the roll must vote in the ECQ ballot for industrial action, and at least 50 per cent of those voting must support the action for it to be authorised. This is not easy to achieve in a voluntary ballot, and since 2012 the QTU has been the only union in Queensland successful in doing so.

More information about the progress of negotiations and the current state of enterprise bargaining will be posted to the QTU website during the school holidays for those interested in keeping abreast of developments.


The state budget and superannuation

Judging by member feedback, there is some confusion about the state government’s decision to repatriate $4bn from the defined benefit superannuation fund to pay down debt and to fund infrastructure projects. This has been exacerbated by some sensationalised media reporting and political games. In fact, there is no or little cause for concern.

The defined benefit fund is closed to new contributors and the percentage of state government employees in the defined benefit superannuation scheme is now below half. Uniquely, the defined benefit scheme in Queensland is fully funded, i.e. money has been set aside and invested to provide for the retirement benefits rather than the benefits being paid from the state budget when employees retire. Whether fully funded or not, the retirement benefits of individual employees are calculated under and guaranteed by state legislation.

An actuarial assessment has shown that there is between $4bn and $10bn more in the fund than is needed to pay out all contributors when they retire. The money beyond what is required for retirement benefits is state government money which can either be left there or used for other purposes without affecting the retirement benefits of members of the scheme.

If the money was taken from the accounts of employees covered by an accumulation superannuation scheme, it would be a very different proposition, but not with the defined benefits scheme.

The QTU is confirming the precise details with the government, and in fact would have preferred a greater proportion to be spent on infrastructure. There is no impact on the retirement benefits of QTU members in the defined benefit superannuation scheme.


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