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Survey: cabinet really is a private school boys’ club

Watch out when the government talks education funding reform; a Crikey survey by Dylan Barber finds 82% of the cabinet went to private schools. See which minister had the most expensive education …

When the Abbott government threatened to come up with a new model for funding schools, many state-school parents panicked. Would the government redirect taxpayers’ money from public to private schools?

State schools may have had good reason to worry. A Crikey survey has found that 82% of Tony Abbott’s cabinet went to private schools, with annual fees as high as $32,000 in 2013. This compares with the general public, where 35% of students attended private schools in 2012, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Crikey calculated it would cost $234,142 in mandatory tuition fees to send the cabinet back to the schools they went to for year 12 in 2013.

The Crikey survey found that 14 out of 17 cabinet ministers were privately educated. Two ministers were excluded from the survey; Nigel Scullion and Mathias Cormann refused to tell us where they were educated (in Cormann’s case, it was in his native Belgium).

Members of the cabinet attended some of the nation’s most prestigious secondary institutions, with tuition fees ranging from $4000 to over $30,000 per year. Some, like Prime Minister Tony Abbott, Agriculture Minister Barnaby Joyce and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull, went to Sydney’s elite Greater Public Schools group.

The majority come from religious schools, some in the Roman Catholic tradition, such as St Ignatius Riverview in Sydney (Abbott and Joyce). Anglican institutions like The Peninsula School, Mount Eliza are represented (Environment Minister Greg Hunt), while others come from non-denominational independent schools, such as Brisbane Grammar (Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane).

Topping the fees list for cabinet members is Wesley College in Perth, the alma mater of Defence Minister David Johnston. In 2013, tuition for year 12 students was a cool $32,061.

Small Business Minister Bruce Billson, Employment Minister Eric Abetz and Immigration Minister Scott Morrison are the only ministers flying the public school flag in the cabinet meeting room.

It all makes for interesting discussions around the cabinet table as the Abbott government looks at education funding. Before the election, Coalition education spokesman Christopher Pyne (St Ignatius, Adelaide) pledged a “unity ticket” with Labor on the Gonski school funding model. Replacing a Howard-era model that was criticised for sending too much taxpayer cash to already over-privileged private schools, the Gonski model was designed to allocate funding on the basis of need, to combat disadvantage.

All that changed when Pyne recently publicly rejected Gonski. A furious backlash followed, including from some Liberal premiers, and the Coalition had to backtrack and restore Gonski.

For now …

Interactive graphic: roll your mouse over the image below to see which cabinet MPs went to public schools:

  • 1
    Posted Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

    Toady and Jethro went to the same school - that explains a lot?
    And they wont tacks money to continue turding out this sort of “finished product”?

  • 2
    Jason Mountney
    Posted Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

    Nigel Scullion and Mathias Cormann refused to tell us where they were educated”

    Not only is this belligerently pig-headed, it probably means, “a private school”.

    Or maybe they didn’t go to school at all….

  • 3
    Posted Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Abetz and Morrison are not good endorsements for public schools.

  • 4
    Peter Evans
    Posted Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Anyone who believes that where their parents sent them to school confers any character benefit or esteem upon themselves is a complete dipstick.

  • 5
    Posted Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    You forgot to mention Bill Shorten of Xavier College, Oh, wait, bats for the other side…….

  • 6
    leon knight
    Posted Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

    Peter, agreed about the esteem and character benefit, but I reckon there is a fair amount of pressure to repay the debt…..surprised about Scrot and Erica, expected both of them to be good old boys..!!
    I would love to know about Cormorant’s education, must be some interesting tid-bits there to end up with such a product and presence in the Rabbit Cabinet.

  • 7
    Posted Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    I am quietly surprised any of them went to school. You would not know it. Each of those schools has a special education unit so maybe thats where they were helped by the nurse to choose their crayon, say no and accept that the poor were the problem.
    I have it on very good authority that until the last iggy headmaster retired this year, numb nuts abbut was not welcome at his alma mater; and the letter he got from the students this year regarding his less than christian, let alone Jesuit teachings regarding the boat people is an indication that they are not proud of this dunce

  • 8
    Shaniq'ua Shardonn'ay
    Posted Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

    Some clues about Mathias here: http://www.kuleuven.be/english/news/mathias-cormann-is-new-minister-for-finance

  • 9
    Posted Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    More interesting would be a list of where Front Bench MOP* send their children - I suspect the outcome could be likened to how many Labour (or Labor if you must) MOP have Private Health Insurance
    *Given that many MOP behave as if they’re in a gutter, I prefer MOP to MP

  • 10
    Interrobanging On
    Posted Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    The problem is if they are brainwashed by the experience, which is then maintained by the mutual masturbation of the old boy’s network (token old girl’s network for Julie Bishop).

    I was sent to one of the posh schools for a time and I turned out alright, albeit not in the Pyne or Abbott mind.

    I didn’t like the rugger bugger buffo and the insulated privilege and the overweening conservatism, but I saw it up close and can see the influence it has on the Liberals. Don’t underestimate the problem in setting Pyne’s mind from the experience.

    One chap from my year and one from the year before became State Liberal pollies. The place is a Liberal feedlot, with final fattening at Sydney Uni in a residential college there.

    Believe it or not, we were actually given the ‘talk’ by the School Sergeant on the evils of masturbation and the efficacy of cold showers. It was that sort of place.

  • 11
    Dogs breakfast
    Posted Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    the insulated privilege and the overweening conservatism”

    Nice turn of phrase Interrobanging On, captures the whole private school ethic rather nicely, with the school motto of ‘privilege begets privilege’.

  • 12
    Posted Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Interesting - certainly proves Pyneochhio’s point that money doesn’t mean good education, necessarily. How pissed off must their various parents have been to see what emerged from those hot-houses of hubris.
    Esp Peter Dunnuttin, about $50K wasted, ended up a Qld wallopper and couldn’t make it beyond sergeant.

  • 13
    Posted Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    And Sophie Mirraball obviously went to “Atlantis Elementary”?
    With “Shag a” Cormorant and Sloppy Joe playing the old blame and pee game, they’ve slotted “Abbott’s little mole” into a cushy little number over at ASC P/L?

  • 14
    Margaret Ludowyk
    Posted Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 8:55 pm | Permalink

    Not hard to see why public schools are treated as second class and neglected. And not a great advertisement for private schooling are they. The Jesuits must be cringing and praying for forgiveness.

  • 15
    bushby jane
    Posted Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

    Funny how a large percentage of the Libs are now Catholic, not Anglicans as they used to be. Taking the world over with their upper class entitlement mentality. I went to a private school in the 50’s and 60’s and as far as I know there wasn’t any govt funding for them in those days. The way it should be I reckon.

  • 16
    Posted Tuesday, 17 December 2013 at 9:21 pm | Permalink

    The greatest surprise in all of this is that Morrison is an alumnus of High!

    My brothers went to Sydney High which we always thought was a school for the intellectually gifted. Their sons and grandsons,currently enrolled, are appropriately appalled.

  • 17
    Posted Wednesday, 18 December 2013 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Wow, great ad for public schools if the private sector turned out that bunch of nongs

  • 18
    Interrobanging On
    Posted Wednesday, 18 December 2013 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Hi Linda, the problem is that the public school system produced Eric Abetz. That fact damns it for all eternity.

    And Morrison went to the selective Sydney High? Is he really smart, but playing dumb in the Turnbull mode, or did he rort the entrance like the almighty scam by faceless Liberal thugs to secure his pre-selection.

  • 19
    Cathy Alexander
    Posted Wednesday, 18 December 2013 at 3:25 pm | Permalink

    Good pick-up on Cormann, but the story doesn’t tell us where he went to school - beyond this: “I did my last three years of high school in Liege” (Belgium). Otherwise it just tells us which uni he went to:


    In other news on this story, we’ve heard two reports from readers that Nigel Scullion went to Alfred Deakin High School in Canberra (a government school). But that stops at Year 10 and we don’t know where he went for Years 11-12.

    And watch the Crikey website - we’ve got a story coming soon on what proportion of Labor’s shadow cabinet went to private schools. I’ve seen the preliminary research … have a guess on the %.

  • 20
    Greg Killen
    Posted Monday, 23 December 2013 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    As I understand it, Sydney High School, while a public school, is also a member of the Greater Public Schools.

    Malcolm Turnbull was senior prefect of his year at Sydney Grammar School, which was originally founded in the 19th century by the Sydney Grammar School Act of the NSW Parliament.

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