Federal Election 2019: A primer on education policy


The Coalition is not presenting a revolutionary host of changes to education, but are seeking to build on their efforts over the last six years of government. They are not seeking to alter the CSP freeze and will let it run its course at the end of 2019, bringing the savings of this policy to $2.1 billion.[1] It hasn’t been all cuts however, and in the most recent budget the government pledged a record $17.7 billion for university spending.[2] Sticking with university, the government is also trumpeting their recent introduction of a ‘public interest test’ for research grants, and their willingness to veto grants for research that does not ‘provide a return for the taxpayers’.[3]

The government is more generous when it comes to schooling. The Coalition has pledged to increase funding by $37 billion for schools over the next decade, as well as permanently implement the School Chaplaincy Program.[4] In addition, the government has recently also worked to ensure teachers are within the top 30% of adults when it comes to literacy and numeracy.[5]

The government will also continue to fund 15 hours of preschool per week for four-year-olds to 2020, as well as create 80,000 new apprenticeships through incentive payments.[6] These policies are expected to cost $453 million and $200 million respectively.[7]


The Labor Party is seeking to outdo the current government by promising a host of educational spending and reforms. Starting with our youngest minds, Labor is convinced of the benefits of early education and wants to bring Australia more in line with our OECD peers. Accordingly, they plan to fund 15 hours per week of preschool for both three and four-year-olds at a cost of $1.75 billion to 2022.[8]

Moving to schooling, Labor plans on increasing public school funding by $14 billion over the next decade.[9] Labor is also looking to improve the quality of schooling by founding a National Principles Academy,[10] reviewing NAPLAN,[11] and funding an ‘Evidence Institute for Schools’ worth $280 million to research effective schooling .[12] Labor also plans on providing $40,000 bursaries to persuade up to 1000 top students to become teachers.[13] The opposition also has $32 million set aside to increase the study of Asian languages.[14]

Regarding university, Labor plans on implementing both a University Future Fund and a University Pathway Fund. The former, worth $300 million, is designed to improve university facilities, whilst the latter is worth $174 million and will provide support and mentorship for students in target areas in order to assist them in reaching university.[15],[16] Labor also plans to reverse the CSP freeze,[17] waive upfront fees for 100,000 TAFE students,[18] and introduce 150,000 new apprenticeships through incentives.[19]


The Greens are offering by far the most generous education package out of the three major parties. The centrepiece of their education platform is free TAFE and undergraduate university for all. Additionally, the Greens would not only reverse the CSP freeze, but also increase funding per CSP by 10% (effectively increasing university funding by 10%).[20] These promises do not come cheap however, and are estimated to cost around $130 billion over the next decade.[21]

The Greens have not forgotten us poor students who have already incurred a HELP debt either, and plan on raising and indexing the repayment threshold to the current median wage of $52,880.[22] This compares with the Coalition’s new threshold of $45,881 coming into effect this July. [23]

Finally, the Greens also seek to increase school funding. If elected they will increase public school funding by $20.5 billion over the next decade, as well as legislate to remove caps on Commonwealth contributions to public schools. Further, the Capital Grants Program, which currently provides funding for non-government schools to improve facilities, will see increased funding to $400 million (compared to $151 million spent in 2018)[24] on the provision that 80% of funds go to public schools.[25] The Greens also plan on reversing Coalition cuts for disabled students[26] and replacing the School Chaplaincy Program with a secular equivalent.[27]

[1] Doran, M. & Yaxley, L. (2017). MYEFO: Federal deficit improves by $5.8b; $2.1b to be saved through higher education changes. Retrieved from https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-18/myefo-released-federal-deficit-improves-by-5.8-billion-dollars/9266820

[2] The Liberal Party of Australia. (2019). Opportunities for Young Australians. Retrieved from https://www.liberal.org.au/our-plan/youth

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Tehan, D. (2019). Record funding for education. Retrieved from https://www.liberal.org.au/latest-news/2019/04/02/record-funding-education

[7] Baker, N. (2019). Vote 2019: Where the major parties stand on education. Retrieved from https://www.sbs.com.au/news/vote-2019-where-the-major-parties-stand-on-education

[8] Australian Labor Party. (n.d.). Preschools and Kindy program fact sheet. Retrieved from https://www.alp.org.au/media/1337/181003-preschools-and-kindy-program-fact-sheet.pdf

[9] Australian Labor Party. (n.d.). Fair Funding for Australian Schools. Retrieved from https://www.alp.org.au/policies/fair-funding-for-australian-schools/

[10] Australian Labor Party. (n.d.). National Principals Academy. Retrieved from https://www.alp.org.au/policies/national-principals-academy/

[11] Australian Labor Party. (n.d.). NAPLAN Review. Retrieved from https://www.alp.org.au/policies/naplan-review/

[12] Plibersek, T. & Rishworth, A. (2018). Media Release: Labor to take politics out of the school classroom. Retrieved from http://www.tanyaplibersek.com/media_release_labor_to_take_politics_out_of_the_school_classroom

[13] Australian Labor Party. (n.d.). Bursaries for Top Achievers. Retrieved from https://www.alp.org.au/policies/bursaries-for-top-achievers/

[14] Australian Labor Party. (n.d.). Asian Languages and Literacy. Retrieved from https://www.alp.org.au/policies/asian-languages-and-literacy/

[15] Australian Labor Party. (n.d.). University Future Fund. Retrieved from https://www.alp.org.au/policies/university-future-fund/

[16] Australian Labor Party. (n.d.). University Pathway Fund. Retrieved from https://www.alp.org.au/policies/university-pathway-fund/

[17] Australian Labor Party. (n.d.). More University Places. Retrieved from https://www.alp.org.au/policies/more-university-places/

[18] Australian Labor Party. (n.d.). Fee-Free TAFE. Retrieved from https://www.alp.org.au/policies/fee-free-tafe/

[19] Australian Labor Party. (n.d.). Labor’s Plan For Apprentices. Retrieved from https://www.alp.org.au/policies/labors-plan-for-apprentices/

[20] The Australian Greens. (2018). Free TAFE and University. Retrieved from  https://greens.org.au/sites/default/files/2018-12/Greens%202019%20Policy%20Platform%20-%20Free%20TAFE%20and%20Uni_0.pdf

[21] AAP., SBS. (2018). Free University, TAFE under Greens education plan. Retrieved from https://www.sbs.com.au/news/free-university-tafe-under-greens-education-plan

[22] The Australian Greens. (2018). Free TAFE and University. Retrieved from  https://greens.org.au/sites/default/files/2018-12/Greens%202019%20Policy%20Platform%20-%20Free%20TAFE%20and%20Uni_0.pdf

[23] Department of Education and Training. (n.d.). Higher Education Loan Program (HELP) Changes – Sustainability Act. Retrieved from https://www.education.gov.au/higher-education-loan-program-help-changes-sustainability-act

[24] Australian Government. (2018). Capital Grants Program Guidelines. Retrieved from  https://docs.education.gov.au/system/files/doc/other/capital_grants_program_guidelines_2019_11102018_final.pdf

[25] Australian Greens. (2019). Fully Funded Public Schools. Retrieved from  https://greens.org.au/sites/default/files/2019-04/Greens%202019%20Policy%20Platform%20-%20Funding%20Public%20Schools%20%28April%202019%29.pdf

[26] Australian Greens. (2019). Fully Funded Public Schools. Retrieved from  https://greens.org.au/sites/default/files/2019-04/Greens%202019%20Policy%20Platform%20-%20Funding%20Public%20Schools%20%28April%202019%29.pdf

[27]  Australian Greens. (2018). Education. Retrieved from https://greens.org.au/policies/education

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