A firm including a senior policy adviser to non-secular PM Scott Morrison has recently evaluated the contentious $247-million-dollar National School Chaplaincy Program. Belinda Jones reports.
THE NATIONAL School Chaplaincy Program (NSCP) has long been a contentious issue for Australians, albeit one that has enjoyed the bi-partisan support of both major political parties since its inception in 2006.
Bishop said at the time that parents were “looking for choice in the education and values taught to their children”, insinuating that only faith can teach values. Many teachers and parents took offence. Howard thought it was a marvellous idea and committed $90 million. Since then, the Federal Government has invested over a billion dollars in the NSCP, with the most recent tranche of $247 million coming from the Morrison Government.
Kevin Rudd did try to improve the program by introducing non-religious "student welfare workers". Tony Abbott rescinded that decision when he became PM in 2013. Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is reinstating it.
The program hit a huge snag in 2012 and again in 2014.
The High Court found that the Commonwealth Government did not have the jurisdiction to administer the program, determining it:
'… was not supported by the executive power of the Commonwealth... [And the High Court found it to be] unlawful.'
After the High Court decision, the Abbott Government circumvented the ruling by forming agreements with the states and territories to implement the federally funded scheme.
The current agreement with the states and territories is due to expire this year, which was the impetus for the Federal Government contracting dandolopartners to do an evaluation of the NSCP and create a report, which was delivered to the Federal Government last November and released to the public last week.
Dandolopartners identifies as a 'management consulting firm specialising in public policy'. The company has a diverse group of staff, many with previous roles in the very governments that are now the subjects of its "independent" reports.
One of the firm's managers, Tom Antoniazzi, was an adviser to Scott Morrison immediately prior to joining dandolopartners. Antoniazzi’s original 2021 biography (see below) on the dandolopartners website was very explicit about his role as an adviser to Morrison. It has since been revised to omit much of this information, suggesting dandolopartners might see this as a conflict of interest when evaluating decisions by the Morrison Government.
Antoniazzi was working as a senior policy adviser in the Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet (PM&C) when Morrison committed $247 million to the current four-year agreement with the states/territories for the NSCP.