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Election issues: Where parties stand

DECISION time is looming in the federal election on October 9, with funding for schools set to be a key issue.

Meanwhile, a check list to help voters decide who to support has been released by a collection of Christian organisations.

Organisers of the Christian Values Check List say they hope the list will encourage political parties to take the vote of the Christian community seriously.

They also hope that more political parties will incorporate Christian principles and values into their party platforms and policies.

One of the organisations behind the check list, Salt Shakers, is an incorporated non-profit organisation which has affiliations with major Christian groups throughout Australia, including some Catholic ones.

Co-founder Peter Stokes, a Baptist, said the check list contained the position of major parties on issues which concern Christians.

He said the Christian community made up 68 per cent of the Australian population in the 2001 Census, and while the document was not meant to tell people how to vote, it would allow voters to make a more informed decision.

Mr Stokes said the summary contained a yes/no indication for how eight parties stand on more than 25 issues.

He said the idea for the summary came from a conversation during the last federal election where a Salt Shakers member was concerned about some of the material contained within the actual policy documents for various parties.

Mr Stokes said the party positions had been extensively researched by a small team of people and any ambiguities were covered by a question mark on the summary.

He said the summary was aimed at encouraging Christians to question the policies of the parties vying for power in the forthcoming election, ‘not just how much money am I going to get back on my tax’.

To check out the Christian Values Check List visit www.saltshakers.org.au.

In the schools funding debate, the National Catholic Education Commission (NCEC) made three requests of parties contesting the federal election.

They asked for an increase in funding for students with disabilities in Catholic schools by $25 million per year, an increase for funding to improve capital facilities in Catholic schools by at least $15 million per year and lastly for Catholic schools to be funded to a level of 60 per cent of the cost of educating a child in a government school.

They also looked at four of the major parties’ policies which impact on Catholic schools.

The Liberal-National Party Coalition pledged no Catholic or independent school would have their funding cut and announced increases in funding over the next four years.

It included an extra $4362 million for joining the Socio Economic Status (SES) scheme, calculated by taking a particular street in a particular suburb and using Census information to average the income of families to provide a funding figure.

The Coalition would also make available $2.1 billion in funding for indigenous education over the next four years.

The Labor Party’s education reforms would introduce a National Schools Resources Standard for all schools to reach by 2012.

The policy would also involve redistributing $520 million from designated Catholic and non-government schools deemed to have reached the national standard, to others who have not.

The Australian Democrats have a commitment to increase spending on education to at least 5 per cent of gross domestic product within three years, with priority to government schools.

They also propose to replace the SES funding model for non-government schools with one that factors in whole of school income and assets, exclusion practices and the relative educational disadvantage of students.

Schools with fees and levies which exceed $6056 at primary level and $8024 at secondary would not be eligible for Commonwealth subsidies.

The Greens would abolish the Commonwealth Government’s schemes for funding private schools including the SES and ‘funding maintained’ formulas.

They would also establish a public inquiry to determine a replacement for the SES and funding maintained systems, with the aim of distributing the Commonwealth’s private school funding according to principles of social justice and equity.

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