Education Policies

The School Discipline Party (SDP) proposes a 9-part school discipline reform program as the basis of its education policy. This program is set out below.


The SDP strongly supports both public and private schools. It believes a huge unaddressed issue is that of school discipline, especially in our public schools. We do not know the precise extent of the problem because systematic monitoring does not take place. However, we estimate that about one in five of our public schools (high schools and primary schools) are largely non-functional because they are overwhelmed by discipline issues.

For a number of public schools it is believed that up to 90 per cent of teacher time can be taken up with classroom management issues (that is, school discipline) rather than academic issues. This is an appalling situation which no society should allow to continue.

We do not blame teachers, principals or parents at these schools because the challenges are often too overwhelming for individual teachers, principals and parents to deal with in isolation. We also do not blame the students because the current system is not strong enough to consistently provide the leadership and discipline that students, especially those from less advantaged backgrounds, need.

The SDP believes that all Federal funds for State public schools (including so-called Gonski funds) should only be granted if the States commit to implement a school discipline reform program. After appropriate consultation, any State (or Territory) failing to agree and/or comply with the program would have their funding withheld and transferred to other States. States participating in the program would have all additional 'school discipline' expenses fully funded by the Commonwealth as part of overall 'Gonski' funding.

The public schools with major school discipline problems occur largely but not exclusively in Australia’s poorer suburbs and regions. Experienced teachers, especially of a more traditional bent, frequently transfer out of these schools as soon as they can. Most parents in these locations know exactly what is going on and – where they can afford it – send their children to private schools or use intensive tutoring to obtain entry to selective schools so weakening the public school system even further.

The real problems faced by the “one in five” public schools lie with a lack of educational leadership by our bureaucrats and a lack of political leadership at both Federal and State level. The “system” makes mediocrity in our “one in five” schools virtually inevitable.

Schools in affluent, middle class suburbs may often not have the obvious discipline problems of many other schools. However, in many cases they can still be greatly under-performing. Here the issues can be ones of complacency and lack of leadership with standards of school discipline (while not obviously a problem) still significantly below what they could be. Schools in affluent suburbs need to compare themselves not with public schools dealing with major social challenges but with other schools with similar cohorts of students – schools which may be more readily embracing education with real focus, determination and leadership and which are always seeking ways to perform better. Many schools in affluent suburbs also have the potential to benefit significantly from the school discipline reforms proposed by the SDP.

How does Australia turn round our “one in five” public schools and provide real equality of opportunity in education especially for those living in the poorer parts of Australia? “Reclaiming our schools” needs to involve fundamental reforms to restore the authority of our teachers and principals and allow them to impose real consequences where needed. We need to let our teachers teach!

Our 9-Part School Discipline Program

Major features of the school discipline reform program proposed by the SDP for public schools – our 9-part plan – include:
  1. a regular school discipline audit by an independent body
  2. out-of-school detention facilities for serious misbehaviour
  3. abolishing automatic promotion of students to the next grade
  4. automatic exclusion of students displaying a 'notable lack of cooperation or endeavour' once they turn 15
  5. legislative banning of handling mobile phones, ipods etc in class
  6. major trial of CCTV cameras in classrooms to support school efforts to improve discipline
  7. abolishing or suspending social security payments where needed to support school discipline reforms
  8. additional Federally funded pay rises for school leaders charged with dealing with specified especially challenging schools
  9. support for teacher overseas study tours plus improved student testing

These reforms will be considered in turn.

However, it is stressed that the normal efforts of schools to promote high quality teaching will continue to be supported. The school discipline initiatives presented here are intended to supplement existing initiatives and programs. They are designed to ensure that teachers are empowered to deliver high quality teaching and that the profession of teaching is made more attractive to those with the potential to be outstanding teachers.

1. a regular school discipline audit by an independent body

The immediate challenge is to establish how serious the school discipline issue is and which schools have major discipline issues. It is therefore proposed that each State and territory establish a small 'school discipline monitoring unit' (however named). It would be staffed by a small group of experienced former principals and teachers (many of whom might be employed on a consultancy basis).

Officers of the unit would visit schools (without prior warning) and have authority to enter classrooms throughout the school. The purpose of the visits would be to establish very quickly which schools have major discipline problems so that follow-up action can be taken. The unit by legislative direction is to operate and make findings completely independently of State education departments and officials although it might be administered under an education department 'umbrella'.

This 'initial audit' would occur at the same time as the measures below were put in place to support schools in efforts to improve school discipline. Results of the audit would not be made public until schools and education systems had a full opportunity to address the problems identified by the audit. The audits would not be addressed at deficiencies of individual teachers but rather at isolating wider school-wide discipline problems which meant a range of classes were evidencing discipline issues.

Where this is shown to occur the focus would be on ensuring the school leadership team provided the support to enable teachers to perform their classroom duties properly. Schools with unsatisfactory audits would be given reasonable time to implement improvements. If the challenges at particular schools were viewed as too great for particular principals and other school leaders, sensitive transfers of staff between different schools should occur. Where schools have satisfactory audits they would continue on as before (but with the additional support provided by the measures outlined below).

2. out-of-school detention facilities for serious misbehaviour

It is one thing to identify problems (whether through a school discipline audit, NAPLAN testing etc). It is another to provide schools with the power to deal with those problems. A key problem is that teachers in public school have no real power (as many students themselves will attest). Even principals can find themselves with very limited options in dealing with recalcitrant students. Even the power to expel students is severely limited in many situations.

To address this problem it is proposed to gradually and progressively provide schools with access to an out-of-school detention facility for students with more serious or persistent misbehaviours. Principals would be empowered to direct such students to attend these detentions. It would be a criminal offence for students to fail to attend such detentions or for parents to fail to take all reasonable steps to facilitate such attendance.

A specialised section of the State police force would immediately follow up all such offences and legal processes would be streamlined to, as appropriate, allow offenders (especially recalcitrant offenders) to be speedily put into a short period of juvenile detention in the criminal justice system. Importantly schools themselves would be spared the burden of following up on students once they were allocated to out-of-school detention.

The operation of the out-of-school detentions would require careful handling. Offending students would basically be required to sit in a specific location for the duration of the detention, normally one school day with perhaps an hour or so added on. Enclosed sports facilities might be suitable and relatively cheap venues for such detentions. At the detention facilities students might need to be required to have an ankle or other restraint to ensure they did not physically interact with other students or try to leave the premises.

The deterrent effect on students would be considerable: either cooperate at your school or sit all day at the detention facility.

Often the detention would occur on a Saturday so as not to miss valuable school time with the option of enforcing a Sunday detention for further misbehaviour during the detention. In other cases, however, the out-of-school detention would occur the next day and/or even the rest of the same day to ensure an immediate consequence for unacceptable behaviour. Decisions on such matters would be made by principals without any requirement by them to obtain additional authority or permission.

All students who are suspended from a school would be required to attend these detentions for the entire period of the suspension (and possibly on Saturdays as well). The practice of students treating suspensions as holidays would end. Students who are expelled would also be required to attend detentions until their alternative schooling is sorted out.

Under this approach schools would for the first time have real power to impose major consequences on students. The practice of students refusing to comply with internal teacher and school consequences would cease as schools would simply impose an out-of-school detention.

Students would know that non-compliance with these out-of-school consequences could not be avoided as the police and juvenile justice system would then take over. The reluctance of many schools to seriously tackle discipline issues should disappear because for the first time they would have the power and authority to impose serious consequences which students could not avoid.

To complement this process public schools would be required to implement internal detention arrangements under which a teacher could impose a lunch-time detention on a student. The teacher would inform a designated member of the leadership team and it would be the leadership's responsibility to implement the detention and to inform the teacher once this had occurred. Schools could seek an exemption from this requirement if they wanted by citing their school discipline performance. Where the school had an unsatisfactory audit such an arrangement would be mandatory.

Giving schools stronger authority in this way will not only help improve the academic performance of public schools but have wider benefits. It will be easier to promote the basic values of respect and tolerance in schools and address important issues such as bullying which is endemic in some public schools.

3. abolishing automatic promotion of students to the next grade

Existing practice is to allow students to be promoted to the next grade each year, regardless of their academic performance. The only exception is where parents agree with the school to have the student repeat a grade. Under the school discipline reform program public schools would be required to have students repeat a grade where there is clear evidence that the student has not attained an academic standard required for promotion.

Mainstream (as opposed to selective) public schools would not be allowed to promote all their students to a higher grade except in exceptional circumstances that could be justified by academic results for their poorest performing students. Students with a 'non-promotion' designation will have that applied to them at all public schools throughout Australia.

Schools would be expected to warn students of the potential consequences of not applying themselves to their studies. The bulk of such students would be likely to lift their application sufficiently to avoid repeating a grade.

However, inevitably at many schools a few students will not. It is vital that such students not be promoted. This will send a clear message that application to one's studies and performing satisfactorily in academic assessments are required as part of one's normal school experience.

A particularly important milestone is graduating from primary school to high school. Under our policy no student will be allowed to commence high school until they achieve basic standards of literacy and numeracy plus satisfactory levels of knowledge and skills in other fields such as science and 'social studies' (however described).

Obviously students will generally not wish to repeat their grade and be separated from their peers. This will provide an extremely strong incentive for poor students to apply themselves much more rigorously to their studies and to respond to warnings from their teachers, parents and principals.

Some parents and teachers will be concerned with the psychological impact of being required to repeat a grade. However, this is more than outweighed by the need for young people to learn the consequences of their actions.

At the moment too many students are learning that they can get away with not doing any serious work for a full year. This has dreadful consequences not only for themselves but also for other students and teachers at their school and for the nation's education performance.

Under this proposal the Federal Government will also fund a summer vacation school program where some students who are not promoted are given the option of attending a supplementary course. Entry to such a program would be granted in certain circumstances with such entry entirely at the discretion of the education department.

The program will take place for the entire summer vacation with the exception of one or two days (such as Christmas day) plus weekends. Some weekend attendance may be requested if necessary to meet the academic targets set to warrant promotion.

Accepted students will need to meet the following conditions before their 'non-promotion' designation is reversed: (1) attend every day of the program, (2) conduct themselves in an exemplary fashion at all times during the course and (3) pass with credit a fairly rigorous examination at the end of the course.

4. automatic exclusion of students displaying a 'notable lack of cooperation or endeavour' once they turn 15

Under the school discipline reform program state education systems will be required to lower their school leaving age to 15 years (although they are free to continue to promote alternative 'pathways' for students such as TAFE etc).

Public schools will be required to automatically expel students who are displaying a 'notable lack of endeavour' and/or 'repeated uncooperative behaviour' once they turn 15 years old. Students so expelled may apply for entry to other public schools but acceptance of such applications will be entirely at the discretion of the principal and may be subject to a probationary period.

Schools would normally give students a warning well in advance of their turning 15 if such an expulsion was imminent. Most students would respond in an appropriate manner. However, those failing to do so would be asked to leave. In doing so they will make the job of teachers easier and more satisfying and allow other students willing to apply themselves to have a more educationally appropriate classroom environment.

School education involves an element of paternalism, of forcing young people to engage in education in a way they may sometimes not wish to. However, as students approach adulthood – and turning 15 is an important precursor – students can be expected to have reached a point where they willingly cooperate and embrace their own education.

By this point those who continue to refuse to do so can be regarded as having exhausted the patience of the school system. It is their responsibility to apply themselves as required. By this time there is little value in the education system continuing to 'do battle' with them.

These expulsions would last for a year although principals would be given the flexibility to start students at the beginning of the following year on probation in the light of credible undertakings by students to behave properly.

This reform should be seen in the context of a parallel reform in the Party's Industrial Relations Policy to promote job opportunities for young people. Under this policy the Fair Work Commission will consider some lowering of youth wages, especially for 15 and 16 year olds, in order to reduce the youth unemployment rate.

In addition the Unfair Dismissals legislation would be amended to allow employers who take on young workers to dismiss them if they are not able to fit in successfully.

Legislation to prevent employer abuses and exploitation of young employees would also be adopted but not in such a way as to prevent employers acting in good faith from 'giving young people a go.'

While this may involve reduced wages for some of those starting out in the workforce who have very poor school education levels, it will promote job opportunities and give young people the chance to 'get their foot in the door'. Those students who leave school at 15 without adequate school qualifications may find after a year or two of lower-paid work that they are ready to resume their studies and apply themselves consistently.

5. legislative banning of handling mobile phones, ipods etc in class

Under the school discipline reforms the States would be required to legislatively ban the display and handling of mobile phones, ipods etc in class without the written permission of the classroom teacher. In addition it would be made a criminal offence to fail to hand over a mobile phone, ipod etc if a student has one out in class and a classroom teacher requests it. The fines would be well above the cost of even the most expensive mobile phone etc.

Once a mobile phone etc was provided to the classroom teacher, that teacher would pass the device on to the principal or their representative (eg a Deputy Principal). Under the legislation it would be up to the school principal when such a device is returned to the student or to a parent. Principals would have the legal authority to hold mobile phones and other devices for as long as necessary (which may be indefinitely) and to impose conditions for the return of the mobile phone.

Principals and their designates would also be given the power under legislation to ban individual students from bringing specified devices such as mobile phones to school. Violations of such directions would also be a criminal offence. While students and parents might regard mobile phones as an important tool to manage their day-to-day affairs including after-school pick-ups, abuse of these devices would entail consequences which students need to take responsibility for.

Under this policy it would be mandatory for principals or their designates to inform the police of all conduct coming under the category of criminal behaviour. Students and parents would understand that the police would then make their own decisions as to whether to intervene themselves or leave it to the school in the first instance to follow up.

This reform will remove an important source of stress for many teachers in the classroom, shift the culture at many schools to a more academically orientated one and help train students to follow rules and take responsibility for their behaviour.

6. major trial of CCTV cameras in classrooms to support school efforts to improve discipline

Under these reforms major funding would be provided to schools to use CCTV cameras in the classroom as well as in the playground. The purpose would be to help follow through on unacceptable student behaviour. Footage could be shown to parents and students to help explain the reason for prospective detentions or other penalties, why students are in danger of suspension or why teachers behaved in a particular way.

CCTV cameras would also be an extra tool to combat bullying in the classroom or outside. They are already used in a number of schools. Teachers would be assured that footage would not be used to monitor their performance. Indeed the tool could prove helpful to teachers in many ways including if they are subjected to accusations by students or parents. Teachers would be encouraged to request the installation of these cameras in 'problem' classes.

7. abolishing or suspending social security payments where needed to support school discipline reforms

The families of many students in higher grades receive Centrelink payments linked to their continued attendance at school. While the formal aim of this policy is to encourage students to remain at school and so improve their job prospects, an underlying political aim is to keep youth unemployment statistics lower than otherwise.

The policy results in thousands of students turning up to school purely to receive a social security benefit. The impact of this policy is predictable – these students are too often highly disruptive in the classroom, display no real commitment to their education and add to teacher stress.

Under the school discipline reforms, these Centrelink payments would only begin and continue if every one of the student's teachers and principal affirms – and continues to affirm each week – that the student's application to his/her studies and conduct at the school is of a high standard.

In this way taxpayer-funded Centrelink payments would no longer support the attendance at school of students who are a liability rather than an asset to the school.

Further initiatives would be considered to promote the school attendance of those who would not be eligible for these Centrelink payments. These include:

  • legislation requiring parents to provide appropriate support to their children to complete their schooling
  • provision to garnishee wages, social security payments etc where parents or carers fail to meet their obligations (with provision for possible partial or total reimbursement once obligations are met) and
  • a small scheme similar to HECS to allow students in exceptional circumstances to borrow money to complete their schooling.

The aim of these policies is to ensure that as far as possible all young people would be at school if they were committed to obtaining an education and were willing to make a reasonable effort to achieve this.

Under the school discipline reforms measures would be considered to penalise parents and carers for behaviour detrimental to their child's education and the functioning of the school. Specific unacceptable behaviours would include:

  • assaulting or threatening teachers or other educators
  • behaving in an overly aggressive or otherwise inappropriate manner towards school employees
  • failing to attend school meetings where these are deemed urgent or 'a priority' by school authorities.

As above, the penalty could be to garnishee wages or social security payments etc with provision for possible partial or total reimbursement once obligations are met. These obligations may include in exceptional cases the making of a genuine apology to a teacher or other school official in front of a specified class or school assembly.

It may be argued that this approach discriminates against social security recipients as they may be the main category of persons subject to punitive action. Even if this is so there is a compelling argument that those receiving taxpayer-funded benefits (as with others) have an obligation to behave in a responsible and cooperative way toward school officials. Where they fail to do so, the community is entitled to withhold benefits until they do.

Wider application of the 'garnishee' principle to wages and salaries might be delayed until a more limited form applying to social security recipients is implemented and evaluated.

8. additional Federally funded pay rises for school leaders charged with dealing with specified especially challenging schools

The SDP supports arrangements to provide additional payments to school principals and other school leaders seeking to promote a major change in performance and culture in more challenging schools. There will clearly be issues of equity with educators performing similar roles in other schools.

The basic approach we propose is that for selected schools identified as having major discipline challenges, the authorities advertise key positions including that of the principal with substantial bonus payments to apply for, say, three years during the 'transition' period.

This period when a deficient school culture is being challenged is especially difficult and will involve greater that usual 'confrontation' with both students and parents. The SDP believes it is a good use of government funds to get the 'best' educators into these more challenging positions and be prepared to pay them accordingly. Once the transition is achieved and management of the school is easier the 'bonus' is removed.

Those educators particularly skilled in changing school cultures may move to different schools where new bonuses kick in. This process is thus partly a school-by-school reform. At the same time all schools will benefit from several of the reforms, such as abolishing automatic grade promotion and progressive eligibility for the out-of-school detention arrangements.

Support for more challenging schools will come not just from changing some staff and paying many of them more. In addition, some of the additional funding needs to go to providing some additional staff. For example, an additional Deputy Principal could be appointed to a number of these especially challenging schools to assist teachers in day-to-day classroom management, to assist in supervising within-school detentions and to work with poorly performing students and their parents.

9. support for teacher overseas study tours plus improved student testing

Further support for teachers in participating jurisdictions would be provided through a program of overseas study tours funded by the Federal Government. These would be, say, a four week overseas trip with a partner.

Much of the trip would be devoted to visiting overseas schools and learning as much as possible from the experience. The remainder would be leisure. Participants would be required to write a short report on their experience and what they learnt and would need to share this with their colleagues at a staff meeting and perhaps other forums.

It is expected that those completing overseas study tours will find inspiration and useful knowledge from visiting some of the best-performing education systems in the world. Hopefully initiatives like this will encourage more outstanding graduates of our schools and universities to consider school teaching as a career.

School education is essentially devoid of the 'perks' that occur in many other workplaces. Given the importance of education it is worth sending a strong message that the contribution of teachers is valued and that the community is prepared to reward outstanding teaching performance.

Potential beneficiaries of the study tour scheme could be recommended by school principals on the basis of outstanding commitment and professionalism and the final list decided by an expert panel after interview and consultation. The expert panel could make use of NAPLAN test results to help identify outstanding teachers for study tours (who might have been overlooked by their principals).

It is proposed that one of the conditions for Federal funding is that State public education systems carry out NAPLAN testing every year from Year 2. These tests would be as late in the year as possible while still allowing test results to be provided to parents and schools significantly before the end of the last school term.

The main use of NAPLAN testing is, rightly, as a diagnostic tool to identify strengths and weaknesses in student learning and provide a basis for informed follow-up by schools and parents.

However, NAPLAN data may well provide significant value in identifying those teachers achieving unusually large improvements in learning for their student cohort. Such teachers should be used in schools to share their professional strengths with other staff. Efforts should be made to acknowledge them and reward them through, among other things, overseas study tours.

It would be accepted that NAPLAN (and School Certificate) testing is too crude a device to be used in the foreseeable future to help identify under-performing teachers. Of course, NAPLAN test results might prompt individual teachers themselves to review their teaching methods and possibly seek advice or assistance from other educators.

On the subject of testing State jurisdictions would also be required to implement an external Year 10 School Certificate examination. This would provide a reasonably objective guide to employers, especially for those students who do not continue their schooling through Years 11 and 12.

To allay concerns that public school teachers would be forced to 'teach to the test' it is proposed that all public school systems adopt a 'code of conduct' in relation to NAPLAN and School Certificate testing. This would involve public school teachers giving their classes only a single 'sample test' prior to the NAPLAN and School Certificate tests.

The purpose would be simply to ensure that students are familiarised with the format of the test. Otherwise all public school teachers would be expected to teach their courses in good faith without specific and specialised coaching in sitting for NAPLAN or School Certificate tests.

This annual testing approach will, among other things, ensure that students are experienced in sitting for major examinations before they reach the 'high stakes' Higher School Certificate tests (however named) in Year 12. It will help foster a strong education culture in which testing is accepted as an essential part of a high quality school system.

Annual testing will also help teachers with classroom discipline and motivation since students will be aware that poor performance in NAPLAN and other tests (as well as poor classroom application) could lead to a decision not to promote them to a higher grade.

It will be made an offence for students to fail to sit these annual tests without a medical certificate. Students who miss a test date for medical reasons (or other exceptional circumstances) will be required to sit the test (with different questions) on a Saturday about three weeks later.

Students (and their parents) who miss the second test will be subject to substantial penalties. It will be the general expectation that any student who wilfully misses their annual testing will, at best, not be promoted to a higher grade in the following year and at worst be removed from the public education system for a year. In any reporting of test results by schools, any students who fails to sit a test will be treated as receiving a zero mark.

One further proposed legal requirement on students is that they must stand during the national anthem (provided they are physically able to do so). Students who fail to do so (after appropriate intervention) will be required by law to be removed from the public education system.


The above program has focused on public schools. However, we believe a somewhat analogous program is also needed in TAFE colleges. Essentially expectations should be very clearly set out and students not complying with minimum standards of behaviour should, if necessary, be expelled from TAFE colleges after appropriate warnings.

The basic criteria for exclusion should be the same as that applying to older school students, that is, displaying a 'notable lack of endeavour' and/or 'repeated uncooperative behaviour'. Some limited provision might be made for some students with behavioural issues to attend specialised non-mainstream classes in TAFE.

Private Schools

The SDP believes that governments should leave private schools to run their own affairs – with very limited exceptions. However, we believe that many private schools – especially in the Catholic school system – face very similar challenges to those of many public schools. We anticipate that firm leadership in government schools will encourage private schools to step up their own efforts to improve school discipline.

In effect the government school system would become a lot more 'competitive' for many parents considering the various school options open to their children. And private schools would find it harder to attract and keep good teachers where conditions for teachers – and support for teachers – in the public system have improved.

Excluded Students

The SDP believes that once expectations and consequences are clearly set out the annual number of exclusions of older students from public schools and TAFE colleges will be quite small.

However, we acknowledge that there might be a somewhat larger blip during the transitional period as the school discipline reforms are introduced. We believe that if this occurs it is a necessary requirement to obtain the long-term gains in educational performance that would follow from these reforms.

A considerable proportion of those students excluded may simply have reached a point where they do not have the aptitude to benefit from continued education at that point in time. Excluded students do have the option of returning to school or TAFE after a suitable break on a probationary basis and hopefully will be in a better frame of mind to apply themselves to their studies.

Corporal Punishment

Two very common issues raised with members of the SDP by parents, teachers and others are, first, corporal punishment in schools and, second, the issue of under-performing teachers.

It appears that most public school teachers have little interest in seeing the use of corporal punishment return to public schools. It is acknowledged that corporal punishment in the classroom has in the past led to long-term damage for some young people.

Corporal punishment is a less than ideal model of how to solve problems and could too easily be used by some classroom teachers in a damaging way, especially where students were unable to properly predict when its use might come into play.

It can be argued that a more limited use of corporal punishment is appropriate outside the school for fairly extreme behaviours, especially where more conventional penalties have failed to alter behaviour. It might also be considered for entrenched recalcitrant behaviour such as persistent truancy.

Nevertheless, the SDP takes the view that any formal advocacy of corporal punishment at this time would only sidetrack the school discipline debate from the range of less contentious initiatives that can be adopted to dramatically improve school discipline in many public schools.

Indeed the SDP believes that 95 to 99 per cent of the current 'unaddressed' school discipline issues could be dealt with effectively through the type of initiatives outlined above and in this way transform many public schools for the better.

Our preference is to see these initiatives adopted in school systems and properly evaluated. Serious consideration of any 'more controversial' proposals would not be taken up, at least until that process is fully completed.

Under-performing teachers

This is another issue often raised and seems to concern many parents and quite a few principals and deputy principals. However, it is basically a separate matter to the school discipline issue that is the focus here. Moreover, how to most appropriately deal with it is a complicated matter. Accordingly the SDP has not attempted to advocate possible initiatives in this area.

However, we place on record our preparedness to cooperate with any initiatives by school systems to try to address the problem – provided they are fair and reasonable and take into account the real challenges many classroom teachers face.

We also make the point that in too many public schools the general standard of discipline is so low as to make 'under-performance' for even the most talented and committed teachers almost inevitable. By addressing school discipline issues in a strong and systematic way across the whole schooling system, we would create an environment where lack of performance of a particular class or student cohort is more reasonably attributed to the quality of teaching taking place in that classroom.

It should be stressed that the SDP does not assert that public schools do not address a range of school discipline issues. Obviously they do. Public schools promote respectful behaviour and take a very firm line on issues like school bullying. However, to be fully effective public school educators need much more support than they are currently receiving, especially in our more challenging schools. The SDP education program is designed to provide that support.

Finally the SDP recognises that high-quality teaching will ensure that in many cases classroom discipline issues will not arise. However, we also believe that it would be naive to believe that a focus on high-quality teaching alone will solve the major discipline issues many of our public schools face. Rather, an additional program of school discipline reforms will allow high-quality teaching to take place in hundreds of classrooms where it would not otherwise occur.

Higher Education

The SDP regards the extent of funding cuts to higher education institutions as extremely short-sighted.

The SDP accepts the need for a HECS scheme that funds at or close to 50 per cent of higher education costs. However, we wish to ensure that as far as practicable concern over HECS debt levels does not discourage talented students from participating in higher education.

The SDP has major concerns about the quality of university education flowing from the current policy of 'demand-driven' places. We believe entry to universities should require suitable and high levels of prior academic performance. Those students unable to meet these entry standards should (with limited exceptions) be enrolled in appropriate TAFE courses.

The SDP believes radical action needs to be considered to combat academic fraud by students at universities, most particularly where students pay others to complete assignments. We believe the Government should consult with universities about measures such as having grades for subjects determined by whichever is the lower mark of assignments or examinations.

The SDP believes universities should be able - and encouraged - to offer more attractive remuneration to retain and attract outstanding academics, including those from overseas.