Public money, private values

  • Sumo

There certainly is a silly ruckus about whatever legislation the Ruddock review into religious freedom will produce. Leaked recommendations, selective reporting, sensationalism beyond and evidence, and the usual subsequent social media ‘stacks on’. (You know, the, ‘Yeah, I’m sure I hate that too – and another thingĀ  …’)

Right now, I want to pick up one line that I’ve seen again and again, but always without justification. People say it as if it’s obvious. It’s this:

If you choose a private school, you should get no government money. It’s your choice.

Superficially – very superficially – there’s an appeal to this. But really it’s baseless. I spent ten minutes wondering how many private groups receive public money, even though they hold contested positions. My quick list is below.

Just to be clear, these groups and movements gain money – sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly by tax concessions, easy access to politicians, etc. And they all have opponents within Australian society. That means the taxes of every Australian supports something they oppose.

For me, such generosity is both a compromise (I don’t want my money supportingĀ that) and also a sign of a mature society (there’s space for us and for them).

Money goes to:

  • Political parties (Labor, Liberal, National, Greens, One Nation, …)
  • Private medical insurance companies
  • Private schools (religious or not)
  • Controversial medical procedures (abortion, vanity-style plastic surgery)
  • Solar energy & wind farms
  • Coal, gas, & mining
  • Public-private partnerships like city tollways
  • Bike paths
  • Research: animal experiments, etc
  • Owners of poker machines and other gambling businesses
  • Business and industry lobby groups
  • Trades unions

All of these groups and people have numerous opponents, including opponents of non-government schooling. To single out education as the one place to apply funding purity makes no sense.

I wish people kept away from this nuclear option (Nothing for you!), so the complex question can be asked and answered: what is a good or appropriate type of government support for education of all types?