Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Charity rorts and Labor doesn’t seem to care...

Charity Rorts by William De Maria ( Michael West Media 12/01/21)

Charity Rorts: how private schools and big business rob from the poor to give to the rich

by William De Maria

It’s time to tackle charity rorts, writes William De Maria. The richest schools are charities, as are big businesses like Queensland Sugar Limited. Even the likes of AI Group and NSW Business Chamber Ltd, organisations which fight against higher pay and better conditions for workers, enjoy charity and tax exempt status. Why should taxpayers foot the bill? 

The registered charity that is Victoria’s Wesley College, one of the nation’s richest schools, had an income in 2019 of $128.64 million. Its massive renovation program has included $21 million for a music school, $16 million for a boarding facility and $2.5 million to refurbish its boathouse.

As a charity the school receives perks including income tax exemptions, GST concessions and deductible gift recipient status.

Another registered charity just down the road is Caulfield Grammar, with more than $100 million of income. It has been constructing a new aquatic centre with an Olympic-sized swimming pool, moveable floors and walls and “wellbeing spaces” for dance, pilates, meditation and yoga.

Along with Victoria’s Haileybury College and Sydney’s Knox Grammar School, these Australia’s richest schools. Together, these four charities spent more on new facilities and renovations ($402 million) than the poorest 1,800 schools combined (less than $370 million) yet they teach fewer than 13,000 students. The poorest 1,800 schools teach 107,000 students.

Then there is one of Australia’s poorest schools, Sheidow Park Primary School in South Australia. As principal Jennie-Marie Gorman does her annual walk around the school with the finance officer and the grounds person, they pass windows held together by safety screens; inspect the playgrounds built 20 years ago; note the walls that haven’t been painted in 15 years; and look again at the patch of exposed concrete in the front office, where the finance officer’s swivel chair has worn a hole in the carpet. That hole will be fixed in about five years if all goes to schedule. Says Ms Gorman:

“We have a plan to carpet two to three classrooms a year, based on need, so the ones with the biggest holes in them or the biggest rips get replaced first.”


“We also need new carpet in the office, but we look at what the children need first and we put ourselves at the end of the line — which is just normal teacher stuff. That’s just how we operate.”

The charity concession to non-government schools is propping up a massive two-class education system. Tax concessions take more than $1.3 billion from the government’s budget each year.

Opening up the tax concession trough

Take the cruel issue of homelessness. Some 81% of all charities registered with the national regulator in mid-2019 say they are working in the homeless area. So 46,716 registered charities claim that combatting homelessness is one of their core missions. Remarkable.

The problem is in the definition. In 2013, the Commonwealth Parliament recognised a legislative clarification was needed to respond to the exponential growth of charities caused by governments retracting their historical welfare obligations.

It ended up being not so much a “legislative clarification” as the government opening up unprecedented access to the tax concession trough.

As long as your organisation is set up without a profit motive and comes together for a “charitable purpose” then, well, welcome to the trough.

Definition of a charity

What is a charitable purpose? This is a definition that can stretch across an airfield and is applied recklessly.

The Queensland Sugar Ltd (QSL) describes itself as “a not-for-profit, service organisation owned by Queensland cane growers and sugar millers, which is dedicated to serving their interests for the long-term prosperity of the Queensland sugar industry”.

So a strictly commercial operation, with no donors and no charity programs, is recognised as a charity by the ACNC, in fact recognised as the fifth biggest charity in Australia.

It is hard to believe. Even harder is understanding Queensland Sugar’s logic in justifying why it self-nominated to be on the charity register.

In its Activity Information Statement to the charity regulator Australian Charities and not for profits Commission, in response to the regulator’s question: “What charitable work did you do in 2018”?

QSL replied (paraphrased):

“Continued to promote the development of the Australian sugar industry through providing services to all of Queensland’s growers and Millers (sic).”

So there you have it! Every time you sit down for a cuppa and put sugar in your tea or coffee, QSL is right behind you nodding approvingly that it has just performed another charitable act.

Charity that fights against workers

Then there’s the registered charity the NSW Business Chamber Ltd, which fights against better pay and conditions for workers – and has even fought against workplace leave for victims of domestic violence. There is big money in it. In 2019, its revenues rose from $205 million to $237 million.

This charity also enjoys hefty government grants. Its financial statements for 2018 show the Chamber booked government grant income of $7.5 million, with $6.7 million in grants the year before. As a charity the Chamber pays virtually no tax, even though it operates large law firms and an array of recruitment agencies.

We have gone too far. 

We need a complete review of the flawed Commonwealth Charities Act 2013. This review should cut away most existing charitable purposes and return the definition of charity back to its Samaritan roots.

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Monday, 9 November 2020

One law for the rich...

With its favouritism of funding wealthy Independent and Catholic schools, the Morrison Government has completed the demolition of the Gonski funding model that began with the Abbott and Turnbull governments. Yet public schools educate more than 80% of disadvantaged students and 95% of disadvantaged schools are public schools. Trevor Cobbold reports.

The Morrison Government has abandoned public education and is blatantly favouring private schools with special billion-dollar funding deals over the next decade. They will ensure that the existing resource gap between public and private schools will widen dramatically.

Yet public schools enrol more than 80% of the nation’s disadvantaged students – those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, Indigenous students, those with a disability and students living in remote areas. Furthermore, 95% of disadvantaged schools are public schools.

The massive funding bias coincides with continuing huge gaps in achievement between rich and poor. The latest PISA international tests show that low socio-economic status and Indigenous students are two to three years or more behind their high socio-economic status peers. There has been virtually no change in the gaps since 2006.

A critical factor behind this social inequity is that government funding increases have not been fully targeted at need. Since 2009, after adjusting for inflation, recurrent funding per student by the Commonwealth and state governments increased by 25% for Independent schools, 21% for Catholic schools and just 3% for public schools. Recurrent funding includes funding for teachers’ salaries, maintenance of school buildings and so on.

Government funding increases have favoured privilege over disadvantage.

With its blatant favouritism, the Morrison Government has completed the demolition of the Gonski funding model that began with the Abbott and Turnbull governments. Those governments ditched the large funding increase for 2018 and 2019 that was planned under the original Gonski funding model, an increase that would have mainly benefitted public schools.

Commonwealth funding to 2029

Private schools are already much better resourced than public schools. In 2018, the total income of Independent schools was $23,029 per student and $16,401 per student in Catholic schools compared to $14,940 per student in public schools.

Massive funding increases for private schools planned by the Morrison Government to 2029 will exacerbate the disparity. By 2029, Commonwealth funding for Catholic schools per student will be nearly five times that provided for each public school student ($19,732 compared to $4,882). Funding for Independent schools of $13,063 per student will be nearly three times that for public school students.

Monday, 2 November 2020

NSW hates its teachers.

AEU has condemned the NSW Government’s choice to cap pay increases for public sector workers at 1.5 per cent, calling the decision a reflection of its scant regard for the value of the work of teachers and principals.

President Angelo Gavrielatos said the insulting decision by Treasurer Dominic Perrottet was “bad economics” and cuts to the wages of the NSW public service — the nation’s largest employer — would torpedo any effort to rebuild after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Saturday, 10 October 2020

Budget shocker.

The 2020-21 budget showed non-government schools will receive $12.8 billion in federal funding this year and government schools will pocket $9 billion. They don’t care. Add to it the 60 million for church councillors in state schools.

Friday, 2 October 2020

Funding shame

‘Australia's private schools over-funded by about $1B, while public schools are facing a shortfall of about $19B over the next four years ...

‘... public schools in all states & territories except the ACT falling below the benchmark for adequate funding’

Students in private schools overfunded to the tune of $816 per students whilst students in public schools underfunded to the tune of $1525 per student.  2020- 2023 State and federal governments take a bow...

Sunday, 20 September 2020

I spend about $1800 a year

Exclusive: Teachers are spending thousands of dollars of their own money to buy classroom supplies for parents too poor to pay for books, pencils and school excursions.

A new Australian Education Union (AEU) survey of 12,000 state school teachers and principals has revealed they spent a whopping $150 million of their own money to buy basic school supplies in the past year.

Each teacher spent an average of $874 on essential school supplies such as stationery, with primary teachers averaging $1067.

One in four teachers spent more than $1000 of their own money – and 12 per cent spent more than $2000.

Most of the money was spent on stationery, such as pencils and exercise books for students too poor to buy them.