by Catherine Delahunty
The word opposition doesn’t always describe Labour’s voting patterns. In fact, Labour have voted with National almost exactly as often as the Maori Party, even though Labour is the official opposition, and the Maori Party is actually part of the Government!
[For the political junkies, Labour have voted with National 12 times at first readings, and 16 times at third readings, since the start of this term of Parliament. For the Maori Party it's 13 and 17. For the Greens it's 0 and 1.]
Yesterday, Labour voted with the Government again on a Bill that everyone except the Greens supported – the Education Amendment Bill.
We opposed this supposedly “technical” Bill because it included clauses to facilitate corporate control of school boards. In doing so, we seem to be the only ones consistently opposing privatisation in the education system.
The Maori Party did express concern about these aspects of the Bill but they still voted for it.
It’s fascinating, because if you just read the Regulatory Impact Statement which describes the Bill it would seem to be just about police vetting of school tradespeople and registration issues for teachers. Actually, like most legislation there is always fine-print to examine.
This Education Amendment Bill continues a trend towards corporate control by allowing corporates to be statutory managers of schools. It also allows the combining of school boards, potentially disenfranchising local communities.
The Quality Public Education Coalition (QPEC) was one of the small number of submitters against this Bill who saw its potential to further undermine public schools. QPEC has the experience and the capacity to step back and analyse the bigger picture.
With their support, we are prepared to be a lone voice in Parliament to at least make sure there is opposition to any form of privatisation on the public record.
Schools are not businesses to be managed efficiently in order to produce more labour for the market. Schools are communities, and as communities in partnership with the state they need the ability to run their own affairs and proper resources. We don’t need Pepsi Cola High School being managed by a firm of corporate auditors whose bottom line is profit.