SECURITY guards at Jewish schools are set to be funded by federal government for the first time.
Both the Liberal Party and the Labor Party have announced that the Secure Schools Program, which has previously been available to schools for capital works only, will be extended to include recurring costs such as security guards.
Shadow attorney-general George Brandis and Member for Kooyong Josh Frydenberg announced at Sydney’s Masada College on Friday morning that, if elected, the Liberal Party would put $18 million into the program over three years.
Meanwhile at Leibler Yavneh College in Melbourne, Attorney-General Mark Dreyfus and Member for Melbourne Ports Michael Danby announced that Labor has already budgeted $10 million over three years for the same program.
In making their funding pledges, both parties invoked the shooting at a Jewish school in Toulouse, France, last year, which claimed the lives of a rabbi and three children.
Last year Jewish schools in Australia spent $6.8 million on security, and more than half of that, $3.8 million, was spent on security guards. Around 60 per cent of the money allocated in the Secure Schools Program has historically been distributed to Jewish schools, which means the pledge by Brandis would equate to $3.6 million a year for Jewish schools.
“We owe it to our children, we owe it to our communities and we owe it to our school communities that every Australian child, and parent of every Australian schoolchild, can attend a school knowing that they are perfectly safe to do so,” Brandis said.
Dreyfus didn’t directly address the Coalition’s pledge of $18 million, saying only he was delighted “to see the Coalition follow the lead that we established in 2007”, and that funding was a “matter of continuing review”.
Under the Labor plan, Jewish schools would receive about $2 million per year for security funding.
The Australian Council of Jewish Schools (ACJS) said that every dollar allocated to security is important. “While these amounts are insufficient to meet all of the expenditure that has been assessed as necessary, every cent that the government has allocated has been, and this further commitment, once implemented, is, sorely needed and is most appreciated,” the ACJS said in a statement.
JOSHUA LEVI AND ADAM KAMIEN