Australian Education under a Labor Government

Australian education takes new trajectory under a Labor government

By EducationHQ News Team
Published May 23, 2022

As the nation’s 31st Prime Minister is sworn into office, Australian education is set to embark on a different trajectory under the new Labor government.

In his victory speech on Saturday night, Party leader Anthony Albanese said he hoped incoming generations would be able to aspire to greatness regardless of the circumstances they came from. 

"It says a lot about our great country that a son of a single mum who was a disability pensioner, who grew up in public housing down the road in Camperdown can stand before you tonight as Australia's prime minister," Albanese said.

"Every parent wants more for the next generation than they had. My mother dreamt of a better life for me. And I hope that my journey in life inspires Australians to reach for the stars.” 

Having previously declared education the “biggest and most powerful weapon we have against disadvantage,” a pre-election promise saw Albanese commit to a $440 million Schools Upgrade Fund that from 2023 will see public schools receive the same amount of funding for new buildings and facilities that independent schools receive.  

Labor have also pledged to pay high achieving students up to $12,000 a year to study teaching as part of a policy to boost instructional quality. 

The party have said they will work with states and territories to ensure teachers have “a better career path with more opportunities to become recognised and rewarded as experts” and pass on their skills to others, while remaining classroom teachers.

The plan will cost $146.5 million over four years.

In addition, the High Achieving Teacher Program will now be bolstered to allow 1500 professionals from other fields to retrain as teachers.

“…Labor’s plan will incentivise the best graduates to join the teaching profession, leading to a brighter future for our students and for the nation,” Albanese said earlier this month. 

Tanya Plibersek is expected to take up the education portfolio. Speaking on Channel 7’s Sunrise this morning, Plibersek said the election result had “very clearly shown” that people had “voted for decency, they voted for an end to the bickering”. 

“…The other really big message from this election is the role of women in Australia as voters and as candidates. I think for the first time our government will be more than half female … on current projections,” she said. 

Plibersek has flagged lifting teaching standards as “one of the most important things” we can do to stop Australian students’ declining academic achievement. 

“I want students competing to get into teaching like they do to get into medicine or law. 

“If we want a better future in Australia, we need a smart, skilled workforce so we can compete for jobs and growth with our neighbours,” she said earlier this month. 

The Australian Education Union has welcomed the incoming Government. Federal president Correna Haythorpe said she was looking forward to working with the new Prime Minister and his team to address a ‘decade of public education neglect’. 

“The outgoing Coalition government has been systematically undermining public schools, preschools and TAFE for almost a decade. Yesterday, Australians said no more.
“This is a vote of confidence in preschools, public schools and TAFE, and it’s a vote of confidence in the fundamental principle of equity in education.”

Haythorpe said she also looked forward to working with Labor to bring public school funding up to a minimum of 100 percent of the Schooling Resource Standard ‘as soon as possible’. 

Labor has also vowed LGBTQIA students will be protected under their leadership, amid re-emerging debate in the lead up to the election around the outgoing Liberal Government's proposed religious discrimination laws.
Plibersek said any proposal to amend the Sex Discrimination Act would be done in the standard way.

"We have been consistently clear that we don't want to see any child discriminated against," she said.

"If we form government we will consult widely on the legislation. We don't want to do what Scott Morrison has done, which is divide the nation by introducing this type of legislation."

Religious discrimination laws were a key campaign commitment from the coalition at the 2019 election.

However, plans to legislate were stymied when five Liberal MPs crossed the floor of parliament earlier this year to protect LGBTQIA students.

Mark Spencer, Director of Public Policy at Christian Schools Australia, said when it came to their position on religious freedoms, Labor had “listened and learned from the results of the 2019 election”.

“Key ALP leaders, such as Senator Deborah O’Neill, have worked tirelessly to understand and reflect the needs of faith communities,” Spencer said.

“Many people of faith have put their trust in the ALP when they wouldn’t have done so in 2019.”

Spencer said people of faith would now be looking for the new Government to “deliver robust protections for religious freedom” and called on Labor to “act on the basis of principle” and work towards passing the Religious Discrimination Bill 2022 before Christmas. 

“There is considerable frustration with the major parties, and ‘politics’ more broadly”, he said.

“…We have a clear benchmark for religious freedom protections. The Bill which passed earlier this year has broad support, both within Parliament and within the broader community.” 

Yet professor Lucas Lixinski from UNSW Sydney noted that the fact that the Bill was shelved suggests it was only intended to enshrine a right to discriminate. 

“The Bill is now shelved, reportedly because some Christian groups indicated that, without certain protections guaranteeing them the right to discriminate against LGBTIQ+ and other groups, the Bill did not go far enough for them,” he said in an interview

“In my opinion, this change in support indicates that the Bill was never about protecting religious freedom. Instead, it was about enshrining a right to discriminate against others. Very few readings of religion require discrimination against others. Despite this, the Bill attempted to turn that idea into law.”

Also on Labor’s agenda is a $14 million plan to provide more schools with access to Indigenous language lessons.

Under the plan, 60 extra First Nations language teachers will be hired to provide lessons in local languages at the primary school level.

Senior Labor ministers are said to be already working to fulfil the Government's election promises. 

"I look forward to leading a government that makes Australians proud," Albanese said.

"A government that doesn't seek to divide, that doesn't seek to have wedges, but seeks to bring people together for our common interest and our common purpose."