So Education Minister Christopher Pyne had a bit of a wee setback this week when his Higher Education reform had all the wind taken out of it like a whoopie cushion under Clive Palmer‘s chair – the Senate voted down the legislation by a slim margin.
Ordinarily this would seem like a win. But realistically, in the world of politics, it’s just more of an extended drafting process where the Government will re-introduce the bill time and time again until it gets passed.
This time around, there’s details emerging from the bills that are a little more troubling. It turns out that along with the proposed deregulation of University fees, and the cut in funding to public tertiary institutions that that represents, there’s actually going to be funding increases in certain sectors of the education industry.
Before you go and get too excited, the increase in funding means that Federal Funding is being extended to private universities – like, oh say… the Whitehouse Institute of Design – TAFEs and Associate Degree programs.
This also means that, for the first time, Religious teaching, training, and vocational institutions will be eligible to receive a slice of the $820 million worth of new Commonwealth funding over the next three years.
So now schools such as Brisbane’s Christian Heritage College, the Sydney College of Divinity, or the Perth Bible College – i.e. schools that specifically educate people to become Priests, Clerics or other Religious personnel – are now able to access Government funding of up to $4214 a year per student, whereas previously they charged full fees to students.
Labor and the Greens have attacked this as a clear breach of the Separation of Church and State – the fundamental principle that Government and Religion do not, and should not, mix. Political supporters of funding religious education include the Family First party, and that’s about it. That, in and of itself, should probably signify the political value of policies such as these.
You might also remember that earlier in the year the Abbott Government announced a $244million package of funding to promote a new school chaplaincy program in public schools, whilst simultaneously removing the option to hire secular welfare workers. So whilst this new legislative proposal is concerning, to say the least, it’s frustratingly unsurprising.
As for whether this model of reform will actually pass the senate this time around, that remains to be seen. But at some point, for better or worse, its ratification in one form or another seems inevitable.
Lord, give me strength.
Photo: Peter Parks via Getty Images.