The Guardian September 15, 1999


Kennett plan to privatise Victorian State schools

With the Victorian State election looming, newly-released documents show 
that the Kennett Government has considered proposals which, if implemented, 
would see the private sector effectively take over the State school system. 


The documents were only released after a ruling by the State's Civil and 
Administrative Tribunal, and in the teeth of opposition from the Kennett 
Government. The documents, which include a confidential paper and official 
correspondence, follow the preparation of a Treasury and Finance Department 
report earlier this year on the restructuring of Victorian State schools.

The documents discuss "to what extent industry might wish to 
build/own/operate schools," and envisage the contracting out to the private 
sector of existing public schools, as well as the public funding of schools 
built, owned and operated by the private sector.

They also discuss whether the private sector can be involved in owning 
State school property. 

With regard to the issue of actual ownership of school property, one 
document asks: "Is it possible to develop models directly involving private 
enterprise?". 

This presumably refers either to the State Government selling off State 
schools, or else to the private sector buying into the State school 
property stock on a joint ownership basis. 

Having maintained complete secrecy about the proposals, and having fought 
the release of the documents, the Victorian Government has now rushed to 
deny the implications of the documents. However, Victorian Premier Jeff 
Kennett has only been able to raise the feeble argument that the initial 
report was prepared by Treasury and not Education authorities, and that the 
authors of the correspondence are no longer State employees.

He has not denied that the original report was commissioned by his 
Government, that correspondence on the proposals covers a two and a half 
year period, and that the entire matter has been kept in total secrecy over 
that period. It is impossible for the Government to distance itself from 
the report and be regarded as honest.

All States

In all States the ongoing subsidisation of private schools continues to 
shortchange Australia's public school system but the proposed changes to 
the Victorian system have more serious implications for public education 
than in any other state at present. 

If implemented across the board, the Victorian proposals could see the 
entire state school system privatised, with the role of government 
restricted to funding private enterprise with public money to ensure its 
profitability for the companies concerned, and (perhaps) deciding on 
curricula.

Parents would then find their options limited by their ability to pay for 
their children's education, with those least able to pay receiving minimal 
education.

Victorian ALP leader Steve Bracks last week commented that "if the Kennett 
Government is re-elected, it will mean the end of the state school system 
in Victoria." 

Australian Education Union teachers have let it be known that regardless of 
which government is elected in Victoria, they will fight tooth and nail any 
move to privatise the State education system, in whole or in part.

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