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Coalition disappointed with High Court School Chaplaincy ruling

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Thursday, 21 June 2012


The Nationals Federal Member for Mallee John Forrest says the Coalition will investigate if a Private Members Bill can be introduced into Parliament to ensure a version of the School Chaplaincy programme can be continued.

Mr Forrest said this option was being considered in case Labor doesn’t act as quickly as possible to save the programme.

“The High Court has ruled Commonwealth funding of the government's School Chaplaincy program is invalid,” Mr Forrest said. The Court said executive power as defined in section 61 of the constitution did not empower the Federal Government to enter a funding agreement to make the payments under the programme.

“The Coalition is disappointed with this ruling, as we have always been a strong supporter of the programme and of the good work chaplains do in our schools.

“We are the party that first introduced the programme in 2007, offering schools up to $20,000 a year to introduce or extend chaplaincy services.”

Mr Forrest said the Government has suggested that contingency plans were in place for Commonwealth funding, and that chaplains would continue to be paid.

“We call on them to release details of these plans as soon as possible,” Mr Forrest said.

“We also call on the Government to do what it can to continue this important programme, given there are 2700 schools receiving funding under the program to date and a new funding round was only recently announced for a further 1000 new chaplains or support workers.

“At the last election after pressure from the Coalition, the Government promised Australians an expanded chaplaincy programme and gave assurances that the programme would not be secularised.

“If the Government doesn’t take quick action to save the programme as promised, the Coalition will investigate if a Private Members Bill can be introduced into the Parliament that, if supported will allow a version of this programme to continue.

“The work that chaplains do to provide care and support for school students, particularly in disadvantaged areas, is extremely valuable,” Mr Forrest said.

Mr Forrest can be contacted on 0428 500 186.

A list of schools by State that have been successful in receiving funding under the continuation and expansion funding rounds are located at: ndExpansionRounds.aspx