Hostility Against Religious Institutions is Only Increasing

24 July 2023

2.7 MINS

First, it was the takeover of the Calvary Hospital in the ACT. Now it is the planned removal of payroll tax exemptions for many independent schools in Victoria.

These actions by state and territory Labor governments denote a marked hostility towards the not-for-profit activities of religious and other charities in Australia.

The decision by the Barr government in the ACT to acquire the Calvary Hospital has been widely condemned as unnecessary and unprecedented.

As former prime minister John Howard said, this is a serious attack on the fundamental principles of liberalism.

“This attempt by the ACT to grab from the Catholic Church, the Calvary Hospital, is about as blatant an assault on the principle of private property ownership that I’ve seen in this country for many, many years.”

Mr Howard criticised the current prime minister for not having the courage “to call out what the ACT government is doing” in passing legislation to sever a 120-year lease “without any real justification.”

“And what does Mr Albanese say when he’s asked about it? ‘I don’t see any problem for the future’,” Mr Howard said. “Well I see not only a problem for the future, I see a problem for the present.”

An attempt to conduct an inquiry into the ACT’s action was defeated in the Senate. Senators voting against the bill included ACT Senator David Pocock, who said he would urge the territory government to conduct its own inquiry, which it has refused to do.

A further bill has been introduced by Queensland Senator Matt Canavan to force an inquiry by the ACT, however the parliament has now adjourned for the winter break, and the transition of the hospital to the government is due by early July.

Eroding Education

This attack on the work of the religious body reveals a worrying new trend in Australia.

The shock Victorian budget announcement to remove the tax exemption from schools charging more than $7,500 in annual fees was expected to hit more than 100 schools in the state. There had been no consultation before the announcement.

Although the government has indicated since the announcement that it will increase the threshold, it had not said to what level, leaving many schools worried about the impact of the changes on the finances of the schools.

The Victorian government recently passed legislation to remove exemptions. Although questioned by the Parliament’s Public Accounts and Estimates Committee, the education minister would not indicate the new threshold.

She said it would be announced after the passage of the legislation. How Victorian upper house members could pass the legislation not knowing the threshold is baffling.

The new tax is scheduled to commence in July 2024, halfway through the school year, adding more challenges for the affected schools.

Non-government schools have been exempted from payroll tax since it was first introduced over 50 years ago. This is because the schools are not-for-profit organisations that provide an educational choice for parents, who pay for the service. Nor are these schools funded by the states.

Some 36 per cent of Victorian students attend non-government schools, with the proportion higher for year 11 and 12 students.

Many parents who choose to send their children to non-government schools make significant financial sacrifices to pay the fees.

As the Australian government provides some funding to private and independent schools, Victoria is effectively planning to pinch some of the Commonwealth money through the new tax to meet its massive debt repayments.

It is doing the same in aged care. A few days after the Commonwealth announced new funding for aged care providers to meet the Fair Work Commission award of higher wages, the state increased the payroll tax paid by private providers.

Payroll tax is an insidious impost of employment.  It is also becoming a tax on learning in Victoria.

Instead of recognising the massive savings to the state, the Andrews’ government is engaging in old-fashioned class warfare, even though many of the parents are hard-working families struggling to pay the bills.

The developments in the ACT and Victoria reflect the hostility that sections of the political left have manifested towards religious bodies for some time.

Previously, the Northern Territory Labor government removed exemptions under discrimination laws.

Australians need to be alert to these worrying trends.


Originally published in the Epoch Times Australia. Photo by Joaquin Delgado.

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One Comment

  1. Alyse Anderson 24 July 2023 at 8:28 am - Reply

    Isn’t it discrimination to put a tax on private schools and not on the public one, To treat one section of the population differently from the other, this is discrimination plain and simple.

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