Anthony Albanese’s Labor Party is set to formally ditch its support for “secular” public education, having disregarded concerns raised by members during the consultation process on the party’s key policy document.
A revised version of the party’s National Platform has not re-incorporated the party’s previously express commitment to “universal, free and secular” public education.
This revised version of the policy document will be presented to the party’s National Conference in Brisbane on 17-19 August.
The Rationalist Society of Australia (RSA) reported in early June that the initial draft policy, developed in May and shared with party members for feedback, removed the party’s long-held commitment to “universal, free and secular” public education.
As a result of this change, the draft policy document no longer contained any reference to the word ‘secular’.
In 2021, Labor’s National Platform stated that the party “believe every Australian child in every community should have access to high-quality, universal, free, secular government schooling”.
The RSA understands that the removal of support for ‘secular’ public education raised concerns for a number of current and former Labor members of parliament and with many rank-and-file members who demanded that the party re-insert the reference into the policy document.
The revised version of the National Platform has strengthened the party’s commitment to the LGBTIQ+ community following a public backlash to an apparent “backtracking” in the earlier draft version.
In the education section of the current draft policy, the party commits to ensuring that schools are “socially inclusive and support a diverse society”.
Elsewhere in the document, the party also committed to its vision of Australia being a “multicultural, multifaith nation”:
Labor is the party for, and of, multiculturalism. Labor is determined to ensure that the benefits of our diversity are fully realised. This requires political leadership supporting multiculturalism, greater engagement with the full diversity of culturally, religiously, and linguistically diverse Australians, and a commitment to secure inclusive institutions to ensure no-one is left behind.
Despite the commitment to multiculturalism and diversity, many Labor governments, including the federal government, continue to require that only Christian prayers be read aloud at the opening of parliament each day. As a result, many non-religious members of parliament and people of other faiths are obliged to observe Christian prayers as part of their work.
RSA president Dr Meredith Doig is urging Labor to start “walking the talk” on multiculturalism by reforming institutions such as parliaments to make sure they are more inclusive.
Si Gladman is Campaign & Communications Coordinator for the Rationalist Society of Australia. He also hosts ‘The Secular Agenda’ podcast.
Image: Anthony Albanese (Facebook)