A Federal Labor Government will provide $150 million over five years to teach Australian values and improve discipline in schools.
Although it’s a modest amount and a relatively unimportant part of the policy package, this is obnoxious in principle. Troppo readers may recall that I’ve been trying for some time with limited success to promote a debate to define what common values Australians share (see here and here).
However, it’s one thing to discuss values and seek informal consensus about them, and quite another for Mr Latham to decide upon some undisclosed set of “Australian values” without any discussion at all, and then try to impose them on the community. Labor’s policy document lacks detail about how this scheme would work, but it’s a reasonable assumption that funding would be made available to schools that agreed to teach these “Australian values” (whatever they may be), and not to others. This is not only undemocratic but arrogant social engineering of the worst sort. It should be removed from Labor’s policy without delay, before the Howard government has a chance to ramp up a scare campaign to deflect attention from the many positive aspects of the policy, not least of which is that most of that $150 million appears to be intended to go to fostering programs to improve discipline in schools rather than the much more amorphous and troubling notion of “Australian values”.