An exclusive school system won’t build an inclusive society

by Richard Denniss in The Canberra Times
Originally published in The Canberra Times on January 14, 2012

Should wealthy art collectors have to contribute to the cost of public galleries if they choose not to visit them, or should their contribution be refunded to help them extend their own collection? Should city residents have to contribute to the cost of upgrading regional hospitals they will never use, or should their contribution be refunded to help them pay for their own private health care? Should parents of private school children have to contribute to the cost of public schools they choose not to enrol their children in or should their contribution be refunded to help them meet the rapidly rising cost of private school tuition? The great thing about democracy is that there is no right answer to those three questions, nor is there any need to answer them consistently. No doubt some wealthy rural families feel differently about the obligation of the public at large to fund regional roads and hospitals than they do about their obligation to fund public schools they would never send their kids to. But perhaps the worst thing about democracy is the tendency for people to dress self-interest up as principle and the growing unwillingness of the media and our politicians to call it what it is.

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