Greens Weigh in on Abbott’s $37m Chaplaincy ‘Gift’

Penny WrightSenator Penny Wright (Greens, spokesperson for schools) made a fine effort today trying to get some answers from the government about Mr Abbott’s $37 million gift to chaplaincy providers (see my two previous posts).

You can watch Senator Wright grilling the government’s senate education representative Senator Marise Payne here (starts at 21:00).

Following is a media release from Senator Wright’s office.


23 June 2014

Chaplains oversight gone as invalidated program continues

The Abbott Government’s response to the High Court decision will see chaplains and welfare workers remain in schools without any Federal Government oversight, says Australian Greens spokesperson for schools Senator Penny Wright.

Senator Wright said the Commonwealth Government’s explanation that chaplains and welfare workers would now be overseen by State governments was inadequate.

“The High Court decision means the chaplaincy program can no longer be funded or administered by the Federal Government – the Federal Education Department website clearly spells this out,” Senator Wright said.

“So all the guidelines, codes of conduct and complaints procedures have gone out the window.

“But because the Commonwealth has chosen not to recoup money not yet spent, chaplains and welfare workers will remain in schools until the end of the year.

“The Australian Government must not deny responsibility for this – the states cannot simply take over the Federal Education Department’s administration of the invalidated chaplaincy program.

“The Federal Government needs to explain how they will ensure the safety and wellbeing of students for the next six months.”

In response to the High Court decision invalidating the National School Chaplaincy and Welfare Program, the Coalition announced it would waive the subsequent debt on payments made to date, including $74 million for 2014 – allowing chaplains and welfare workers remain in schools until the end of the year.


Chrys Stevenson

11 thoughts on “Greens Weigh in on Abbott’s $37m Chaplaincy ‘Gift’

  1. Jeff Marsh

    I knew that they would circumvent s116 by giving the states control over the chaplaincy services. Faith and faith based counselling belongs in faith based schools. Our public schools need that money for honest to goodness child intervention/protection programmes. I hope the states see sense… Thank you for bringing this to the fore! Jeff.

    1. Gladly, the Cross-Eyed Bear: Assorted Rants on Religion, Science, Politics and Philosophy from a bear of very little brain Post author

      Jeff, chaplaincy does not circumvent S116. S116 does not provide a separation of church and state. That was the ruling of the High Court of Australia in the 1981 Defence of Government Schools ruling. In Williams’ first case the legal team mounted an auxiliary argument to the main financial arguments that chaplaincy contravened S116 in imposing a religious test for an office ‘under the Commonwealth’. However (as expected), the Justices did not accept that chaplains (who are not paid directly by the government) hold an ‘office under the Commonwealth’.

      The only way in which chaplaincy could come up against S116 is if the Federal government tried to impose it on the states against their will. Then it might be considered as trying to ‘establish’ a religion – but I think even that might be a long shot and I doubt the Federal government would force the states into accepting chaplaincy.

      So, I’m sorry – there is lots of shonky stuff going on but none of it involves circumventing S116.

      1. Jeff Marsh

        Oh, I see. I didn’t read the judgement, so am not as fully informed as I ought to be. So I am grateful that you cleared that up for me, thank you. It was my understanding that it was s116 that they used.

        I’m not sure if the Commonwealth still has the power to provide “specific purpose” grants, and if so what effect this would have on this particular issue.

        That notwithstanding, I still believe that faith based chaplaincy has no place in our public schools.

        All that said, I am a new fan of your site, and look forward to more of your work.

        Warmest regards, Jeff.

        Ps. I am never offended at being corrected. It’s happened so often, I am used to it 🙂

  2. ian radnell

    The Greens with the Labor Government and the Coalition together passed legislation to prolong this law after the first time it was thrown out, now they are on the bandwagon, give us a break!

  3. Angela

    Lets hope the Greens finally back & follow up appropriate action. They’ve been a party without a rudder since Bob Brown retired, in bed with all kinds of detritus.

    1. Jake

      I think Senator Wright is doing exactly that Angela. Any political party can be criticised, but what counts is when they stand up for what is right. I’d much rather support the Greens for the action they are taking than the facism being promoted by the Libs. The ALP isn’t much better, and you could use your argument against them too, since Shorten took over (slowly getting better). If you want to be involved in change and have your say in decision making, you can join your local Greens branch and have your voice heard by the party. It’s what I did late last year and have already been able to have input at Greens state council on issues that concern me. I doubt I’d get that with one of the old parties (from what I’ve heard). Good to hear your take on it though – all opinions respected 🙂

  4. Jayel

    We had a big hullabaloo just this morning at our school to formally commission a new (SU) chaplain who started work at the beginning of the term, so they are obviously considering it all business as usual.

    Any chance the mainstream media will pick up on the feds throwing money around in this way at a time of such economic crisis?

  5. Robster

    If I was on a Centrelink payment and I were found to have been ripping off the agency through fraudulent activity, I’d be strung up and with justification. But if I’m from an agency sending unqualified religious zealots into high schools with the express purpose of connecting the students with their favoured god and I was to keep the millions of dollars paid out, illegally it would seem, I’d be fine, no problem. Nonsense begets dishonesty it appears top this little black duck.

    1. Vance

      Sam, that’s just a vacuous pro chaplaincy puff piece. It completely ignores the fact that SU Qld is using chaplains to bring Christianity to ‘unchurched’ kids in public schools. Whoever wrote that for the ABC wasn’t interested in presenting the whole truth.

      Scripture Union is not simply “a church based not-for-profit group”. It’s a missionary organisation with a fundamentalist Christian worldview, as anyone who took a few minutes to read its statement of official aims and beliefs would discover. Many SU Qld chaplains might well be caring people, but they’re not doing it for purely altruistic reasons. They also have a covert agenda to proselytise.


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