NSW Greens want funding stripped from Jewish schools

November 15, 2013 by Henry Benjamin
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NSW Labor frontbencher Walt Secord has clashed with the NSW Greens over their education policy targeting non-government schools – after they moved amendments in State Parliament to strip funding from private schools including all NSW Jewish high schools.


Walt Secord

Walt Secord

During the Education Amendment (Non-Government School Funding) Bill 2013 in the NSW Legislative Council Mr Secord spoke against Greens amendments which were presented by the NSW Greens.

Mr Secord told State Parliament that the Greens’ amendments would affect funding to The Emanuel School, Moriah College, Masada and the Yeshiva.

“I make no apology for attacking the Greens’ divisive education policies. It’s time we put a spotlight on their policies – and held them to account,” Mr Secord said.

(Mr Secord is Labor’s Shadow Minister for Water and deputy chair of the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Israel.)

Full parliamentary exchange below:


The Hon. WALT SECORD [November 13, 2013 – 8.10 p.m.]: I will make a brief contribution to The Greens amendments. The Opposition supports the Education Amendment (Non-Government School Funding) Bill. I formally add my voice in opposition to The Greens amendments Nos 1, 2 and 8. The Greens claim that their amendments restore fairness to the legislation, but their amendments are in conflict with the national Gonski agreement. I have looked closely at The Greens amendments and I have discovered that every New South Wales Jewish high school is on schedule 21AA. The Emanuel School, Randwick; Moriah College, Queens Park; Masada College Senior School, St Ives; and Yeshiva College Bondi, are on The Greens hit list. The Greens want to defund those schools.

Dr John Kaye: You are a total grub, Secord.

The Hon. WALT SECORD: Once again, The Greens show their ugly underbelly and their attitude towards the Jewish community. During the election campaign they said one thing and now they are doing the opposite.

Dr John Kaye: Point of order: As the mover of the amendments and as someone who has a Jewish background, I take deep exception to what the Hon. Walt Secord said. I ask him to withdraw that remark.

The Hon. Dr Peter Phelps: To the point of order: I think the Hon. Walt Secord has behaved reasonably, considering that he was called a grub, in a most outrageous manner, and neither of The Greens bothered to withdraw the remark.
The Hon. Trevor Khan: To the point of order: The Hon. Walt Secord’s remarks were not directed at anyone. If one of The Greens wanted to take exception, there have been other opportunities. The remark was not personal. We have seen so often from The Greens vile invective spread around this place.

The CHAIR (The Hon. Jennifer Gardiner): Order! It is true that the remarks were not directed to an individual. Therefore, there is no point of order. I suggest that members retain a degree of stability for the remainder of this debate.

The Hon. WALT SECORD: In short, The Greens want to remove funding from the Emanuel School, Randwick; Moriah College, Queens Park; Masada College Senior School, St Ives; and Yeshiva College Bondi. For that reason, I will oppose The Greens amendments.

Dr John Kaye

Dr John Kaye

JOHN KAYE [8.12 p.m.]: I thank members for their contributions, however misguided. I assure the Hon. Penny Sharpe that The Greens have been talking about Gonski funding to non-government schools since before the first report was released. Since its very inception, we have been trying to have this matter addressed. There are media releases and media reports on my website warning that then Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s commitment that no private school would be worse off would result in massive unfairness in the new funding system. The Greens have written submissions. We have been involved in this process from the beginning; it is not as though we have suddenly said these things in the last hour.

The Hon. Penny Sharpe refers to this as an old fight. It is a neat trick to take a longstanding issue of social justice, call it an old fight and say that, therefore, it is no longer relevant. I can tell the House that the concern of any public school teacher about funds being bled off into very wealthy private schools and the loss of resources to the public sector is as live today as it was 25, 30 or 50 years ago, when the public funding of private schools—and particularly the wealthiest schools—first became an issue. The Hon. Walt Secord’s contribution was insulting and farcical. He said that, because every Jewish high school is on this list, I am a racist. Does he also claim that I am anti-Anglican?

The Hon. Walt Secord: Point of order: I take offence at that remark. I ask the member to withdraw it.

Dr JOHN KAYE: To the point of order: I heard the Hon. Walt Secord imply—

The Hon. Walt Secord: At no point did I say “racist”.

Dr JOHN KAYE: The implication of the Hon. Walt Secord’s comment was that I was acting in an anti-Semitic fashion, to which I took exception. I think it is quite reasonable for me to say that the implication of what the Hon. Walt Secord said—

The CHAIR (The Hon. Jennifer Gardiner): There is no point of order.

Dr JOHN KAYE: The implication that this amendment discriminates against Jewish schools is absurd. There are Anglican schools, music schools, Catholic schools, German schools, French schools and Steiner schools on the list. There are schools representing almost every denomination. It is absurd to say that The Greens have singled out the Jewish community in this amendment. No doubt there will be media releases to say that we have done that. No doubt there will be media releases in the Catholic Weekly saying that we have singled out Catholic schools.

Mr David Shoebridge: Don’t forget the French schools.

Dr JOHN KAYE: As Mr David Shoebridge points out, there will no doubt be media releases written in French to go to the one French school in New South Wales, the Lycée Condorcet, that suggest that we are anti-French. The Hon. Walt Secord was not listening when I described how this list was generated. This is a list of category 1, 2 and 3 private schools. Those private schools were categorised by the O’Farrell Government and by the Carr Government. I think that at one stage the Hon. Walt Secord worked fairly closely to an education Minister who used the same categorisation. If I have discriminated against Jewish schools in this list then the Hon. Walt Secord’s former employers discriminated against Jewish schools by putting them on the list. That is an absurd and insulting proposition.

Let us be absolutely clear about what we are saying: these schools receive and squander public funding. These schools use public funding to enhance their facilities, swallow up neighbourhoods and build even more luxurious resources. That public money belongs in public schools. There is no justification for taking money and giving it to the Presbyterian Ladies College in Croydon. No, I do not particularly discriminate against Presbyterians. There is no argument for giving money to the Presbyterian Ladies College in Croydon when the O’Farrell Government has just stripped Mount Druitt Public School of $50,000; Wylie Park Girls High School of $50,000; Auburn Public School of $49,592; Wiley Park Public School—

The Hon. John Ajaka: Point of order: I have tried to be patient. I do not like to interrupt the honourable member, but we are speaking to specific amendments. What is being said now really should have been said in the second reading debate. It is not relevant to the amendments.

Dr JOHN KAYE: To the point of order: If the Minister had read the amendments he would recognise that new section 21AA (2) says:

The Minister is to ensure that any financial saving resulting from the operation of this section is provided under section 20 to or in respect of government school children with special needs.
If the Minister understood the Act, he would know that it includes schools—
The CHAIR (The Hon. Jennifer Gardiner): Order! There is no point of order. Dr Kaye will continue to direct his remarks to the amendments.

Dr JOHN KAYE: Thank you, Madam Chair. I am directing myself to the amendments, and I will continue to do so. These amendments specifically contrast the money that goes to the extremely wealthy schools on this list with the socio-economic status funding the O’Farrell Government is taking away from schools such as Mount Druitt Public School, Wiley Park Girls High School, Auburn Public School and Wiley Park Public School. The Minister might not want me to read out this list. The Minister might be embarrassed by the fact that Whalan Public School is going to lose $48,521, Sarah Redfern High School is going to lose $48,521 and Griffith Public School—which is in the electorate of the Minister for Education—is going to lose $48,521. The Government argues that it does not have the money to continue the socio-economic funding for those schools, and yet under the education agreement it continues funding these excessively wealthy private schools. It is a matter of grave public policy failure—

The CHAIR (The Hon. Jennifer Gardiner): Order! It is difficult to hear the speaker. Dr Kaye has the call.

Dr JOHN KAYE: It is a matter of grave public policy failure that the State continues to fund those schools while taking funding away from some of the State schools that deal with the most disadvantaged communities. I commend the amendments to the Committee.


5 Responses to “NSW Greens want funding stripped from Jewish schools”
  1. Liat Nagar says:

    Sam R,
    The discussion goes belly-up if you get personal. The fact that you have a differing view to me does not mean that I don’t know what I’m talking about. If you and your wife took the option to stream all money available to you into the private school system for your children, that was your personal decision, and obviously it was an option that in the end proved affordable for you. There are many people who no matter how hard they scrimped and saved would still not be able to send their children to private schools. I personally know middle-income Jewish parents who cannot find the money to put their children through the private Jewish school system; they send them to out-of-school hour classes instead for Jewish instruction.
    The Australian public school system should be facilitated in such a way that no child is disadvantaged, and if the only way to do that is to stop funding private schools, then so be it. Arrangements for children to study Jewish subject matter can still be made out of normal school hours, if necessary, as it can be for Greek children, Vietnamese children, et al.

  2. Liat Nagar says:

    There should be no government funding of private schools of any kind. The only way to ensure equitable, high standard education to the Australian society is through a visionary, expansive education curriculum, with government money (our taxes) paying for good facilities within which to deliver that. Any tax payer has the right to send their children to those public schools, funded by them. If they prefer private schools and wish to foster those schools and pay more money to send their children to them, and they can afford to do so, then that is their option. Private schools are never an option for poorer people.
    Insofar as Jewish schools are concerned, they are also not an option for poorer Jewish parents, even middle-income Jewish parents cannot afford them.

    • Sam R says:

      What utter rubbish.

      Plenty of people, including my wife and I, scrimped and saved and worked our butts off to send our children to private schools, as do many other parents making numerous sacrifices along the way.

      You have no idea what you are talking about.

  3. Mona says:

    As someone who has taught in public schools in the states poorest regions, I am appalled to read that Walt Secord from the Labor Party is defending subsidies to rich private schools while the funding to disadvantaged schools is cut.
    I thank J-Wire for bringing this to my attention and I will write to the ALP about this. I hope others will join me in supporting the great public schools of NSW which are open to all, regardless of religion, ethnicity or parental wealth – unlike the Presbyterian and Anglican schools mentioned.

    • Sam says:

      ” rich private schools” has nothing to do with it. If a person pays tax then he or she is has as much right to government money as anyone else.

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