Parties urged to spend Pounds 1 billion

16th February 1996 at 00:00
Australia. Australia's 160,000 teachers are planning a massive campaign to highlight the needs of education as the nation prepares for next month's election, writes Geoff Maslen.

The Australian Education Union wants to alert people to the impoverished condition of state schools while calling for a $1 billion (Pounds 500 million) boost to primary education spread over five years.

The AEU will also seek a new funding system in which state and federal government school spending would both go into a "national bank". School administration would remain a state concern but, under the union plan, the federal government's share of spending would rise to 50 per cent by 2000.

In the last election campaign, conservative Liberal and National parties spelt out plans to shift resources to wealthy private schools, introduce vouchers for vocational education and fees for undergraduate courses. This time however, they are being more cautious merely guaranteeing to maintain Labor's current commitments - depending on the state of the economy.

The importance that politicians attach to teachers' support was shown at last month's annual conference of the AEU when prime minister Paul Keating and three other ministers spoke. Mr Keating described education as a wealth transfer, "a profoundly democratic and just investment - essential to the maintenance of the social fabric and a healthy economy".

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