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Gough Whitlam left and Arthur Calwell, shown here inthe year they took over as deputy leader and leader, respectively, of the Labor Party.
National Archives of Australia Past and future: Each of these estimates is half-right at best. By Labor governments had been dispensing state aid for a decade or more. One state Queensland had been doing so ever sinceand another New South Wales since Labor had gone to two federal elections and with significant offers of aid.
And while it is true that the decision led directly to the famous Karmel report ofwith its new deal for schooling, it also led to serious deformities in the structure of the schooling system — deformities that generated significant educational and social difficulties, and frustrated their solution.
Much in this ambiguous legacy was defined by the Byzantine politics within and between the Catholic Church and the Labor Party, institutions so similar in many respects, and so deeply entwined, that politics often took on the character of a civil war, much of it fought on the battlefields of state aid.
The Catholic—Protestant sectarianism that had riven schooling for a century or more was about to disappear, but not the acrimonious division and controversy that accompanied it. That was simply transposed to a new, secular ground.
The second half of the nineteenth century saw the end of the decades-old system of public support for religious schools, and the creation of a government school system.
But the Catholic Church was no hapless victim of the campaigns that brought this change. And, by combining modest fees with the low-cost labour of nuns and brothers shipped in from Ireland and elsewhere, it did. Some Catholics hankered after a restoration of state aid, but others did not.
With aid would come conditions and controls, and the risk of secular pollution. In any event, right up until the eve of the second world war, the question — leaving aside the small bursary schemes in New South Wales and Queensland — was hypothetical.
The war had scarcely ended before aid became both possible and necessary. Numbers of students rose as rapidly as the supply of nuns and brothers fell. What could be done? State governments had trouble enough finding money for their own bulging institutions.
Federation had left them with the responsibility for schools, but wartime legislation had taken away the taxation powers they needed to pay for them.
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The Church needed the money, though, and politicians needed the votes. The solution was an under-the-counter trade conducted within boundaries well understood by both sides.
Aid to meet educational expenses, yes; for staffing or building costs, no.
To families and students, yes; to schools or school authorities, no. From state governments, yes; from the federal government, no.
A patchwork of arrangements made within these distinctions gave Australia in the mid s something reminiscent of pre-abolition reality combined with post-abolition appearance.
Aid ranged from the relatively straightforward scholarships, bursaries and allowances, tax deductions, free milk, stationery and bus passes to the truly ingenious and obscure, such as grants for Catholic parent associations to match those given to their state school equivalents, and subsidies for school pianos.
Labor was almost as Catholic as the Church itself. Most Catholics were Irish and therefore working class and therefore Labor, and Labor governments — particularly in the two big states of Victoria and New South Wales — were often dominated by Catholics.
On the Church side, all was in the hands of the hierarchy. Neither the laity nor the teaching orders had any say or role in the matter nor, it followed, did women. As Michael Hogan put it in his definitive historythe bishops set out not to change public opinion but to go around it, and they succeeded.
This cosy arrangement was blown to smithereens by three explosions, one after another. The Labor Split, Hogan likens the post-Split relationship to a soured romance, but that was in New South Wales.
In Victoria it was a vicious divorce. One of many consequences was the revival in the Labor Party of the old battle cry of free, compulsory and secular.
In Victoria particularly, and in the national machinery of the party, anti—state aid feeling and forces mobilised. Long-serving federal powerbroker Joe Chamberlain, hitherto content to leave backroom deals to the state branches, became a ferocious opponent of state aid in any form, determined to choke off supply to the treacherous Catholics.
That was, of course, directly contrary to what was needed to get the Catholic vote back from the DLP. The politics of the Church, the Labor Party and their relationship in the decade that followed was dominated by the state aid question.
They were rancorous, perverse, doctrinaire and extraordinarily complex. Labor was a tangle of cross-cutting divisions — between left and right, pro- and anti-aid, and Catholic and Protestant; between the states again, New South Wales and Victoria especiallythe state party machines and governments, and the federal office; and between an old guard led by Arthur Calwell and a new guard dominated by Gough Whitlam, twenty years younger than Calwell and a rising star.
As for the Church, differences among the bishops, particularly those from Victoria and New South Wales, were greatly complicated by rising agitation among the laity, and especially among those who had the thankless task of running schools and a school system careening toward collapse, who were fed up with the ineffectual bishops and their backroom manoeuvres.When it comes to essay writing, an in-depth research is a big deal.
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