Catholic schools to determine own funding

The federal government has no plans to directly fund individual Catholic schools despite data showing needy schools are being short-changed up to $1.


5 million a year to keep fees low in wealthy areas.

Education Minister Simon Birmingham said the government would continue to allow state and territory education commissions to distribute, as they see fit, the lump sum they receive from Canberra.

“We expect them to abide by the needs-based funding principles,” he told ABC radio ahead of a parliamentary debate on government legislation on Tuesday.

Senator Birmingham said across the country the Catholic education sector would receive real growth – $1.2 billion – over the next four years.

Government data provided to Fairfax Media shows NSW Catholic primary schools in wealthier suburbs like Coogee, Annandale and Woollahra were funded above their allocation, while low-SES schools in Tenterfield, Walgett and Campsie were significantly under-funded.

Low-income Victorian Catholic schools in Tallangatta and Heathcote were funded significantly below their allocation, while high-SES schools in Caulfield and Ivanhoe East were overfunded.

Senator Birmingham said it was up to Catholic education authorities to explain how they distribute federal funds.

“They will need to be answerable … to their parents, teachers, school communities about how they’re doing so and whether that is fair and appropriate,” he said.

The National Catholic Education Commission has released estimates of fee increases of up to $6000 at some schools and was reported to be planning a “mining tax-style campaign” against the government.

At least one Catholic school principal has taken issue with the commission’s warning.

Madonna Sleba, from Mater Dei Catholic Primary School in Brisbane, has written to parents telling them “our fees will not be increasing in anything like the way suggested by that article”.

Opposition education spokesman Tanya Plibersek predicts the government has a “real mess” on its hands it fails to heed the concerns of principals, teachers and parents.

“We will be opposing these cuts every day in every possible way,” she told ABC TV.

Senator Birmingham insisted all non-government schools should enjoy a single funding model and profile.

“We are not about to entertain ideas that would go back to different deals or creating a system that advantages one type of non-government sector over another or one state over another,” he said.

“Australians are sick and tired of that.”

Secret recording leaves One Nation scrambling to explain

A secret recording, published by The Courier Mail newspaper in Brisbane, suggests One Nation chief of staff James Ashby floated a plan to profit off of the Queensland election.


“I’ve said this once before, there’s an opportunity for us to make some money out of this — if we play this smart. And I know they say you can’t make money out of state elections, but you can. And I’ll deny I ever said this, but what stops us from getting a middleman?”

He goes on to explain election signs could be sold to One Nation candidates for more than they are worth.

Then One Nation could claim the inflated cost with the Queensland electoral commission.

The party has now gone into damage control following the leaked recording.

Mr Ashby says he regrets his choice of words.

“Oh, it’s embarrassing. There’s no doubt about that. Poor choice of words on my behalf, no doubt about that. But let’s not forget these were secretly recorded conversations in what we thought was an environment where we could safely put any idea on the table and it wouldn’t go any further. We have never implemented this idea that was put forward, and it’s regretful that, obviously, a poor choice of words on my behalf had to be aired in such a public manner.”

One Nation leader Pauline Hanson was also in the room.

She says the party was never going to act on the idea.

“Don’t forget I was at that meeting as well. You do not have the full recording of that meeting, so you have no idea what was said at the rest of that meeting. We knocked it on the head* at the meeting. It didn’t go ahead. That’s why. It was an issue that was raised, and it was knocked on the head there and then.”

The Courier Mail reports that, several weeks after the recording was made, One Nation asked its Queensland candidates to pay $3,500 for campaign material.

Labor senator Murray Watt says One Nation’s claim that it never acted on the plan to overcharge candidates needs to be tested.

He has written a letter to the Queensland police and the state electoral commission, asking them to investigate.

“These are extremely serious allegations, which, if they are true, amount to very serious criminal conduct. They need to be treated that way and need to be properly investigated by police forces.”

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull says he, too, will be seeking advice on the matter.

“I’ll be getting advice from the Federal Police Commissioner and the Minister for Justice and the attorney as we review the media reports in the course of the next day.”




Months of debate before Slater call: Qld

The anguish over dumping Billy Slater from Queensland’s team for next week’s State of Origin opener was there for all to see in Maroons coach Kevin Walters’ quivering bottom lip.


Walters later revealed the full extent of the selectors’ distress over the veteran fullback’s snub, saying it took them months of debate to make the bold call.

Walters almost broke down explaining why they had stuck with incumbent No.1 Darius Boyd and overlooked Slater when he unveiled his team for May 31’s Origin I.

At one stage Maroons chief selector Gene Miles intervened so Walters could regain his composure.

“It was the toughest decision we’ve had to make,” 17-year selector Miles said.

Walters hinted that the debate between him and fellow selectors Miles and Darren Lockyer over Slater’s Origin return began as soon as the Melbourne No.1’s successful return from injury in NRL round three.

Slater has impressed since coming back from a second shoulder reconstruction.

But selectors still opted for Boyd, who regained career-best form after claiming the Test and Queensland No.1 jersey from an injured Slater last year.

“It took us a long time to come to that decision,” Walters said of overlooking 27-Origin veteran Slater.

“It was months and months of speaking to each other and trying to get it right.

“It’s been hard on all of us, particularly for all of us involved in the decision making around it because Billy’s been such a wonderful player for Queensland.”

Walters dismissed talk Slater’s Origin days were numbered.

“I don’t think we have seen the last of Billy Slater in a Maroons jumper,” Walters told QRL Media.

“It’s only game one and lots of things can happen over the series.

“If the opportunity came up for us to use Billy we would have no hesitation.”

Walters has invited Slater to help assist at Queensland’s Origin I camp on the Gold Coast.

Trump lashes out at Iran during Jerusalem visit

Trump became the first sitting US president to visit the Western Wall in the disputed city, placing his hand on one of the most sacred sites in Judaism in a highly symbolic move.


Trump’s visit is part of his first trip abroad as president, and follows an initial stop in Saudi Arabia where he urged Islamic leaders to confront extremism while also criticising Iran.

It comes as he contends with a raft of problems back home, including a special counsel investigating whether his associates colluded with Russia.

Trump landed in Tel Aviv on Monday afternoon, welcomed by officials including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Related reading

He later travelled by helicopter to Jerusalem and, in remarks at President Reuven Rivlin’s residence, launched another salvo against Iran, Israel’s arch-enemy.

“The United States and Israel can declare with one voice that Iran must never be allowed to possess a nuclear weapon — never ever — and must cease its deadly funding, training and equipping of terrorists and militias,” Trump said.

“And it must cease immediately.”

When meeting Netanyahu, Trump said Iran should have thanked the United States for the 2015 nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers because it led to the lifting of sanctions.

“Instead of saying thank you to the United States, they now feel emboldened,” Trump said.

In Tehran on Monday, Iran’s newly re-elected President Hassan Rouhani ridiculed US strategy in the Middle East, dismissing Trump’s summit with Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia as “just a show”.

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani

0:00 Share

Trump visits Western Wall

0:00 Share

Related readingTight security 

Security was extremely tight for the Israeli leg of the visit, with police deploying some 10,000 officers. 

The alleys and passageways of Jerusalem’s ancient Old City, which Trump visited later in the day, were essentially under lockdown.

Trump toured two iconic sites in Jerusalem, a city holy to Muslims, Christians and Jews.

The first was the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built at the site where Christians believe Jesus was crucified, buried and resurrected.

Afterwards, wearing a black skullcap, he made his symbolic visit to the Western Wall, placing what appeared to be a written prayer or note between its stones, as is custom.

He was not accompanied by any Israeli leaders during the visit to the site in east Jerusalem.

Allowing them to do so could have led to accusations that Washington was implicitly recognising Israel’s unilateral claim of sovereignty over the site, which would break with years of US and international precedent.

The status of Jerusalem is ultra-sensitive and has been among the most difficult issues in Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

Related reading

Israel occupied east Jerusalem and the West Bank in 1967 in moves never recognised by the international community.

It later annexed east Jerusalem and claims the entire city as its capital. The Palestinians see east Jerusalem as the capital of their future state.

Trump arrives in Israel

0:00 Share

Enormous challenge 

Before dinner at Netanyahu’s residence, Trump again spoke of a “renewed effort at peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” but avoided delving into details of the conflict.

“I’ve heard it’s one of the toughest deals of all, but I have a feeling that we’re going to get there eventually, I hope,” he said.

Speaking earlier, he said: “We have before us a rare opportunity to bring security and stability and peace to this region and to its people, defeating terrorism and creating a future of harmony, prosperity and peace.”

On Tuesday, Trump will meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas in Bethlehem in the West Bank, visit the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem and give a speech at the Israel Museum.

Any leader would face an enormous challenge in seeking to bring the Israelis and Palestinians together for meaningful talks, and Trump’s inexperience and domestic political struggles will only add to it.

He has spoken of his self-described deal-making prowess in vowing “we will get it done”.

Trump has sent mixed signals about how he will approach the conflict.

He cast uncertainty over years of international efforts to foster a two-state solution when he met Netanyahu at the White House in February.

Trump builds bridges in Saudi Arabia

0:00 Share

Embassy move unclear 

At that meeting, he said he would support a single state if it led to peace, delighting Israeli right-wingers who want to see most of the West Bank annexed.

At the same time, he urged Israel to hold back on settlement building in the West Bank, a longstanding concern of Palestinians and much of the world.

Trump advocated during his campaign breaking with decades of precedent and moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, deeply alarming Palestinians.

He has since said the move was still being looked at.

Trump’s seeming openness to at least some of Abbas’s concerns has given Palestinians more reason for hope than many may have expected, but still reason to remain wary, some analysts say.

On the Israeli side, Netanyahu heads what is seen as the most right-wing government in the country’s history, and members of his coalition were elated with Trump’s election.

Trump’s actions since have left them disappointed, with the embassy remaining in Tel Aviv — at least for now — and the White House seeking to restart peace efforts.

However, the United States remains Israel’s most important ally, providing it with more than $3 billion in defence aid annually.

After Israel and the Palestinian territories, Trump will head to the Vatican along with Brussels and Italy for NATO and G7 meetings.

Digital chief not surprised at user angst

The new head of Digital Transformation Agency says he’s not surprised at figures giving the thumbs down to the federal government’s online services.


A study by the Australian Information Industry Association showed 16 per cent of Australians believed the federal government was using technology well to deliver services.

Gavin Slater, the new chief executive of the DTA which is overseeing about $6 billion of IT work across government, told a Senate committee on Tuesday; “I’m not surprised.”

“When you think of government there’s multiple agencies, multiple websites, multiple ways citizens and businesses interact with government … it would be a fragmented experience,” Mr Slater said.

He said this was why the agency was needed, to work towards “greater consistency and ultimately a better experience” for individuals and businesses.

The DTA told the committee it was working on a comprehensive study of all government IT projects valued over $10 million.

The study had identified 56 separate projects as well as 294 “critical business systems” used by government departments and agencies.

Any projects found to be “high risk” would be given special oversight and made to provide more regular reports on such things as the way the projects are being managed, the technology used and costs.

But Mr Slater said it was not the DTA’s role to “take over a whole program”.

One of the projects currently being worked on was the “modernisation” of the health and aged care payments system, the committee heard.

Mr Slater said he wanted to work with small and large IT suppliers to ensure the government was getting value and delivering services effectively.