What's best for my kids


Another meal, another insight into the minds of Australian voters.

This time it was a friend’s BBQ rather than one of my own dinner parties. I was grateful to be on the other end of the food chain for a change.

Early on talk turned to Labor’s ‘Great Australian Schools Policy’. The BBQ didn’t actually stop but it sure slowed down a bit.

My Liberal-leaning friend was turning the sausages, telling me that Labor’s policy discriminated against middle-income earners who put all their available money into educating their children at The Kings School and SCEGGS.

I was unmoved.

If that’s their choice, fine. But tax payers shouldn’t have to subsidise their stupidity. Better send their kids to a decent public school and set aside that money for a deposit of their first home. If their kids want to buy a house in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane – or anywhere else, really – they’ll need it.

From the beginning Labor’s schools policy was a winner. The only people Labor stood to alienate with this policy are the kind of people who wouldn’t be seen dead taking a Labor how-to-vote in the first place. Labor prepared the groundwork for criticism that the policy disadvantages poorer private schools, by releasing its Community Charter with Catholic Schools well before it revealed the general schools funding policy.

Less satisfying was Latham reaction to comments about where he might send his own children when the time comes to put on the blue shirt and grey pants. He deliverd the line that so many people give when asked about public versus private education “ I’ll do what’s best for my kids.

Surely that’s a given. What politician seeks to be elected with an ‘I’ll do everything in my power to screw up my children’s education’ policy?

And who says that public education isn’t the best thing for the Latham boys? Look at the final year marks at public schools across Australia. Considering unequal resources and opportunities, public schools do more than hold their own against the top level private schools.

Latham himself was a product of a public school. And he is a whisper away from the top job in the land, something thousands of graduates from Barker and Ascham could never aspire to.

Note to Latham minders. If he next gets asked the question about his boys’ education, he should repeat the killer punch line he delivered at Labor’s National Conference this year.

In his address to delegates he said there was no greater institution than a strong public school. If Labor comes good on its promise to strengthen public education, these institutions will be even stronger.

And worthy of the care of the fruit of Latham’s loins, to be sure.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.