Who We Are Our Schools Learning & Wellbeing Professional Learning Employment Policies & Publications News Centre
  • Towards Election Fever 

    April 2010  

    The prospect of not one, but two elections between now and the end of 2010 is enough to fill most of us with dread.  But that is what we face, with both State and Federal elections looming this year. While some may shudder as they prepare for the onslaught of political promises (which seems already to have started), others look to the events with quite gleeful anticipation.

    Some years ago, I was speaking to a sitting politician in a marginal seat just after an election had been called. I commented that he must have been anxious about the intensity of the workload that campaigning would require of him in coming weeks.  “Not at all,” was his reply.  “I love it.  This is what I live for!”  Not many of us would feel that way, I think. 

    But elections are, nevertheless, important and will involve a dazzling multiplicity of issues at both State and National levels.  Climate change, health, population growth, asylum seekers, water policy, the economy, jobs, the environment, law and order, transport, foreign policy, defence – all of these will be thrown at us over coming months at either state or federal levels, perhaps both.  All thinking Australians will try to form opinions about each before distilling all that information, all those opinions, into a single mark on a ballot paper on some Saturday. 

    The issues are so many and so complex that we can’t be expected to have well informed views across the board, then rationally to convert all those opinions into a single, balanced vote. Some do, of course, but most people find neither the time nor the interest.  Most of us don’t have the mental capacity. A voter might like what Party A says about the economy and taxation, but not what they say about education.  Another voter might like what Party B says about health but they believe that their environmental policy will be a disaster.  And so on.   

    Most votes are determined, in part, at least, by views on one or more of the many subjects, but, more likely by a combination of loyalty to a particular voting pattern (“I always vote for such and such a party”) or on the media charm and appeal of one or other party leader.  Generally speaking, I suggest, people will not so much be voting for a local member but for one party leader or the other because they believed that he (or maybe, sometime in the future, “she”) will make a better Prime Minister. 

    That’s very understandable, given the complexity of the issues.  It becomes, for many, a question of which party leader we trust more to be able to lead us through that complexity. But it is a critically important question for us now and into the future.  

    No one can tell anyone else how to vote and, as Director of Catholic Education, I will certainly not be advocating a vote for one party or another, for one member or another.  Nor will I be outlining any party’s policy on health, the environment or on asylum seekers.  That is for others.   It is my intention, however, as elections draw closer, to outline what the various parties are saying about education and, in particular, on the likely impact of various policies on students in our Catholic schools.  You can expect to see this in forthcoming columns, in communications that will be sent home with students, on the Catholic Education Office website and in other places too.  I hope that will provide some further information to put in to your decision-making mix. For the future of Catholic education it is important, very important.  Your vote will make a difference to our future.

    It is early days yet and political processes these days see policies being announced quite late in the campaign so as to avoid too much scrutiny.  To date, we know that the State Opposition Coalition have committed to funding Catholic schools at 25% of the cost of educating a student in a Government school measured across Australia.  This would be a very good outcome for Catholic Education.  On the other hand, the State Labor Government has made a reasonably satisfactory agreement with Catholic education in 2009, but we have included in that deal a clause that allows us to press for an outcome more along the lines of that promised by the Coalition.  We wait to see what the response will be. 

    On a national level there are a number of issues looming.  The direction that the various parties will be taking remains unclear.  Some of these issues include the funding review which will undoubtedly impact on us in many significant ways.  We have no idea at this stage what the Labor Government is intending nor do we know what the Coalition’s view will be.  The Australian Curriculum is another political element that will impact on our students as does the so called “transparency agenda”.  The view of the current government is clear – and we do have some real issues with parts of their program while we are supportive of other parts.  We are less certain of the opposition’s views. 

    All of these are impacting on what happens in the classrooms in our Catholic schools.  We wait to see what emerges from the policy makers.  Perhaps more of that in future columns. 

    New Catholic Education Office Website

    And, as an aside, I invite you to have a look at the Catholic Education Office’s new website at www.ceosale.catholic.edu.au   It provides a fresh and exciting window into Catholic Education in the diocese, with profiles of all CEO staff, links to all our schools, news from around the schools and information about the services provided by the Office.  I am sure you will find it a useful and interesting tool.