Forget chaplains, what could you do with a quarter of a billion dollars?

At a time of budget austerity, when even the aged pension is under attack from a government desperate to fix its “budget crisis”, when the unemployed will be refused assistance for six months at a time, when students will be burdened with punitive debts for higher education, all but the most important programs came under the microscope, surely?

Well, not quite: as we reported in our budget-night coverage, there was one program that not merely emerged intact but was given massive new funding: the school chaplains program. That little initiative, established by the Howard government and left mostly intact by Labor despite a High Court challenge, was given an extra $245 million over four years …

Moreover, the government stripped reporting and administrative requirements from the program, “to allow funding recipients to better focus on delivering chaplain services”. If only that relaxed approach could be applied to all governments grants — just hand over the money, let them get on with it, who needs to check if the money is actually being spent meeting the goals of the program?

And, by the way, remember that to fund this program, the government is borrowing an extra quarter of a billion dollars, which means it will also face higher interest charges — about $12 million over forward estimates, we suggest.

But we can think of a number of programs that would be a better use of a quarter of a billion dollars than sending chaplains into schools — and we think readers can too. Here’s some starters:

And the interest could pay for:

Send your suggestions for what other programs you think might be better off being funded than the school chaplains program to We’ll send the suggestions to the Treasurer …

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Categories: Federal

28 Responses

Comments page: 1 |
  1. Setting up equivalent tax payer funded, in-school proselytisation programs, for Imams, Hindu Archakas, voodoo witch doctors and any unemployed priests we can find laying around.

    by Trevor Coombes on May 15, 2014 at 1:38 pm

  2. I believe they have also removed the option to use the funding for a social worker. It is now mandated to be used for a chaplain. Also I have read that they must now be part of a mainstream religious group?

    Society is becoming less and less religious, and if you look at the breakdown it is the Anglicans and Low Church Protestants who are losing out. So they must do something, indoctrinate some kids is a start.

    by morebento on May 15, 2014 at 1:56 pm

  3. As Bernard Keane said just before the budget, don’t listen to what they say, see who benefits. This loony religious tea party mob aren’t merely satisfied with transferring wealth from our most vulnerable to big business and high income earners, they are intent on transferring wealth from the poorest to the church as well

    by El Tel on May 15, 2014 at 2:04 pm

  4. My understanding is that “additional” means funding for a new program, not funding over and above existing funding (which runs out this year). I saw a document this morning in which it said this funding was for 2900 position rather than the existing 3500 positions, which is effectively a 20% cut in the program. I might be wrong.

    by John Clapton on May 15, 2014 at 2:08 pm

  5. morebento - you’re correct re. removing the funding for non-religious staff according to The World Today on ABC radio.

    Bernard - says it all that they’re putting money into promoting religion in public schools and cutting it from science…

    by Malcolm Street on May 15, 2014 at 2:26 pm

  6. Why do we pay people whose quest it is to propagate untruths and undermine modern society? Politicians i mean.

    by aswann on May 15, 2014 at 2:43 pm

  7. I propose $245M over 4 years to fund compulsory moral philosophy courses for all politicians.

    by Stuart Coyle on May 15, 2014 at 3:02 pm

  8. Errr, ARENA and Renewable Energy Corporation. Two programs that were, most importantly to society, economically viable let alone positively influential to science, education, industry as well as Australia’s international prestige and future soft power

    by Luke Helbling on May 15, 2014 at 3:06 pm

  9. I have not, in my life time, ever heard of an atheist joining a religion, although there may be a tiny few. Religions thrive on the indoctrination of children plain and simple. It took western societies about the last 300 years to attempt to prise the fingers of the clergy off the levers of power and have had considerable success. The separation of religion and State is embedded in most western politics. However Abbott et al. have taken a step back to earlier times and would have more of our children exposed to religious brainwashing. This school program and others like it should be banned.

    by Paddy Forsayeth on May 15, 2014 at 3:11 pm

  10. They could fund this by taxing the corporations that don’t pay tax now - that would be the churches.

    by Yclept on May 15, 2014 at 3:29 pm

  11. Should be just about enough to fund a new election for both houses…

    by Ian Lewis on May 15, 2014 at 3:43 pm

  12. If the government really wants us all to pull our weight, why is the [pay no] income tax exemption still in place for unions and employer associations- They also receive money from govt for the ‘education’ of workers/employers- which is really just another helpful non taxed income stream for them, so they can divert their membership income into buying influence - [thus completing the circle and giving back to political parties via the slush funds of both sides, to fund election campaigns through the back door. Now that’s what I call money laundering

    by Colin Dorber on May 15, 2014 at 4:02 pm

  13. Does anyone known what a ‘chaplain’ does? In reality - perhaps a dumb question for someone believing in Flying Spaghetti Monsters but, if one, why not the host of others as TC@1 asks?

    by AR on May 15, 2014 at 4:08 pm

  14. You don’t seem to understand: religion is the new science of the Abbott Government. And, with Georgie Pell right next door to the Pope now, Tones has a direct line to God himself. We don’t need the CSIRO, we don’t need to worry about climate change. Hell (or should that be, heck), we don’t even need a science ministry. We’ve got faith now; Tony and Joe are already speaking in tongues!

    by JacetheAce on May 15, 2014 at 4:20 pm

  15. Perhaps we need a school chaplain to come in and give To-rag a lesson on the 8th Commandment.

    by Graeski on May 15, 2014 at 5:12 pm

  16. $250k for an unevaluated and unresearched programme with no aims or objectives, no form of accountability to either school or parents and no evaluation instruments, delivered by people with no demonstrable skills or qualifications in child psychology, social welfare or teaching.

    You’d be better off sticking your kids in front of the Cartoon Network.

    I also note that NSW Premier Mike Baird quotes the shortfall in education funding for NSW (that’s real education by the way, as in stuff taught by teachers in classrooms)as exactly the amount their PM wants to throw at the chaplaincy programme.

    Tough luck Mike. Maybe you’d better pray.

    by JM on May 15, 2014 at 6:17 pm

  17. Apologies - I meant to write $250M.

    The Coalition dumbing down of Australia must be retrospective…

    by JM on May 15, 2014 at 6:23 pm

  18. I would like to see access to mental health workers in regional Australia where youth suicide is out of control. I would like to see serious mental health help in schools where by crikey(er sorry) they bloody well need it.

    by Jock Webb on May 15, 2014 at 6:44 pm

  19. A proper sequential music education program in public schools. This is one of the big differences between public and private at the moment.

    by kerryn cooper on May 15, 2014 at 7:35 pm

  20. What they all said! x2

    by TheFamousEccles on May 15, 2014 at 9:00 pm

  21. Hopefully, the case presently before the High Court, will stop all this nonsense.
    However, the case is being fought on the funding aspect, rather than on the separation of church and state constitutional issue. It seems the latter has been tried many times (eg. funding of independent religious schools), always without success.
    Perhaps it will happen on this occasion!

    by CML on May 16, 2014 at 12:17 am

  22. Use the money to fund the ATO and tax reform to close loopholes and force acquirers from Google to withhold and remit. It would more than pay for itself.

    by Andybob on May 16, 2014 at 9:12 am

  23. Spend it on higher education

    by Louise Campbell on May 16, 2014 at 11:11 am

  24. The dumbest aspect of this is that the god botherers succeeded in prohibiting students not attending religion classes from studying or doing anything cerebral in case it gave them an advantage over their kids who were getting the superstitious drivel inserted.

    by AR on May 16, 2014 at 11:15 am

  25. What about an astrology education program for MPs who could, in the tradition of Ronald Reagan, seek the wisdom of the seers when they run out of ideas from the IPA…

    by Elbow Patches on May 16, 2014 at 3:38 pm


    by Aussieguru01 on May 16, 2014 at 10:23 pm

  27. If you want to see what Chappies do then please check this link and learn more.

    Those with a “God complex” need’nt bother

    by Aussieguru01 on May 16, 2014 at 10:33 pm

  28. Just put the money back into public schools.

    I watched High Court lawyers for the Commonwealth and SU fib that school chaplains don’t counsel or proselytise, but of course they do both. Williams will win his second challenge, and Abbott and Brandis will thumb their noses at the High Court, just as Gillard and Roxon did in 2012.

    It’s important to note that this divisive and dishonest program is just part two of the federal (in effect, bipartisan) program to destroy a free, secular education.

    Part one is non-government schools (national support), up a massive 37% on last year’s spend to $9.2bn, and now one of the top ten federal spending programs. Part three is Kevin Donnelly’s biased and secretive curriculum review.

    by Stephen on May 17, 2014 at 6:08 pm

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