PLEDGES by the Andrews government to Jewish projects before last November’s Victorian election have been honoured in the state budget. But Tuesday’s figures carried a sting for Jewish schools, with the dropping of a longstanding exemption for private schools from payroll tax.
This week’s budget papers released by Treasurer Tim Pallas indicate the government has funded more than $7 million in commitments for Jewish communal organisations and institutions.
The multicultural affairs package includes $1 million for the Jewish Community Safety Infrastructure Program, $500,000 for a Holocaust memorial in the CBD (in partnership with Gandel Foundation), $150,000 for a community kitchen upgrade at Yeshivah Synagogue, $400,000 for the Pillars of Light Chanukah festival, and $3 million to fight antisemitism and racism.
And under allocations to multicultural precincts, the budget has allocated $2 million in additional funding for the Jewish Arts Quarter (JAQ).
JAQ head of engagement Kylie Appel said, “JAQ aims to provide the entire community with an asset and facilities that will benefit generations to come. We applaud the ongoing commitment of the Andrews Labor government to arts, culture and multiculturalism.”
Additionally, the Jewish Museum of Australia is in line for funding under a $2.5 million package for multicultural museums.
The outcomes reflected comments by Premier Daniel Andrews to The AJN this month that his government “made a number of specific and very important commitments last year”, and the budget “will deliver on all of those”.
Multicultural Affairs Minister Colin Brooks told The AJN on Tuesday, “We’ll continue to partner with the Jewish community to combat right-wing extremism and educate the community, with funding to the Jewish Museum to explore and celebrate Australian Jewish culture.”
However, in a budget setback, Jewish schools were hit hard by a decision to end the exemption for private schools from payroll tax in 2024-25. The measure was designed to help rein in spiralling debt amassed in part by efforts to combat the COVID pandemic.
Predicting the payroll shock will “inevitably increase school fees”, Bialik College president Tyson Wodak told The AJN on Tuesday. “I worry both for the more than 20 per cent of Bialik’s students whose families are part of our fee assistance program and for the many families for whom full fees are a significant burden.”
When the payroll tax change was first mooted last year, the Australian Council of Jewish Schools pointed out that fee schedules “are not an appropriate indicator of wealth or the ability of our schools to meet ever-increasing costs”.
In Parliament on Tuesday night, Liberal deputy and Caulfield MP David Southwick raised an adjournment with Education Minister Natalie Hutchins, asking for an exemption for Jewish schools.
“After a decade of mismanagement, blowouts and overspending, the Andrews government wants to claw back $420 million from independent schools over three years to balance their budget,” he told The AJN.
“The assumption that parents sending kids to Jewish day schools are wealthy and can afford to pay higher fees is simply wrong. Many of our 11 Jewish schools provide fee subsidies of up to 85 per cent just to ensure kids have a chance of a Jewish education. This tax slug could see a five per cent fee increase and could be the breaking point for many families.”