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Greens need to escape captivity

By Chris Watt - posted Wednesday, 27 July 2011

As the Greens have progressed through their formative years in the Australian Parliament and forecast for themselves an even more substantive role in coming years, it is appropriate to consider a report card on their progress from the perspective of the union that represents 68,000 teachers and school staff, the IEU.

In some areas The Greens have been performing well above class average and indeed showing considerable leadership in the class.

Their commitment to workers' rights and further improvements in the industrial relations arena are most commendable.


Their advocacy on behalf of refugees is exemplary.

A cursory look at the policies that they took to the last federal election reveal an increasingly comprehensive suite of policies across a wide range of federal government areas of responsibility. Indeed, it would be entirely incorrect to any longer describe the party as only being about 'green' issues.

However, for IEU members, there is a real concern that their current education policies are stuck in the past and are captive of a single interest group.

History shows that such captivity is not in a party's interest and certainly not in the interest of the wider community.

This current captivity means that there is little or no recognition of the Australian education landscape and certainly no acknowledgement of the fundamental shift in the choices and decisions of families.

Significantly, these changes have not been seismic or just in recent times, the changes have now been manifest over several generations of parents and children. Further, they relate not only to choices and decisions in respect of school education, but also in the early childhood education sphere and the post-compulsory, VET area.


It is of utmost importance to recognize and acknowledge the size of the non-government education sector in Australia to understand the impact of negative policy settings such as those proposed by the Greens.

For example almost 40% of students are enrolled in non-government schools, with around 50% of students attending a non-government school at some stage in their schooling. In addition there is the multi-billion dollar early childhood and post-secondary sector, which includes a significant non-government education sector.

The Greens education policy differs at the outset from other major political parties in its absence of recognition of the legitimacy of the non-government education sector, other than community-based education, and the absence of the 'right to choose'; odd given their commitment to the same principle in many other areas of policy development.

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About the Author

Chris Watt is the Federal Secretary of the Independent Education Union of Australia.

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