Victorian Labor MP Pleads Cause of Privileged Private School Crying Poor

A Victorian Labor MP has pleaded for a well-off Melbourne private school to be exempt from  payroll tax to be applied to high fee private schools, despite having voted for the legislation. According to The Age, leaked letters reveal that Tim Richardson, pleaded the cause of Cornish College, which is in his electorate of Mordialloc, to be exempt from the introduction of payroll tax for high-fee private schools Richardson voted for the legislation that introduced payroll tax for schools with fees over $15,000 a year.

Richardson wrote to the Victorian Treasurer and the Education Minister to plead exemption for Cornish College. He said that it would be “extremely difficult and detrimental to the school community” if it had to pay the tax. He said that it could lead to higher school fees, a reduction of programs and job cuts.

Ricardson’s case is false, the school can well afford to fund its obligations.

Cornish College is a highly advantaged school. Commonwealth Education Department figures provided to Senate Estimates show that the average taxable income of families at the school is $183,000 -$208,000. The My School website shows that 79% of its students are from very well-off families. Only 20 of its 675 students are from low income families.

Cornish College is a high fee school. Its Year 11 and 12 fees in 2024 are $23,610. The My School website shows that its average fees and charges in 2022 were over $17,295 ‘per student. Its total income was $27,366 per student.

The school is also over-funded by the Commonwealth Government. Official figures show that it is currently funded at 85% of its Schooling Resource Standard (SRS) by the Commonwealth instead of 80% (the Victorian Government is responsible for funding 20% of the SRS). The over-funding is estimated at $1.3 million in 2024 and it will continue until at least 2028. Its total over-funding for 2022-2028 is estimated at $8.5 million.

All this indicates that Cornish College can well afford to meet its payroll tax obligations. The Victorian payroll tax rate is 4.85%. The College’s annual information statement lodged with the Australian Charities and Non-Profits Commission states that its employee expenses in 2022 were $13 million. On this basis, its payroll tax amounts to about $628.000, or $931 per student. This is only 3.4% of the College’s total income per student. It is easily affordable for families on a taxable income of around $200,000 a year if the College chose to increase its fees by this amount. The total payroll tax bill is less than half the over-funding of the College by the Commonwealth.

It is another deplorable case of a privileged private school crying poor. It is quite remarkable that a Labor MP defends the privileges of the well-off in secret correspondence while having voted in the Parliament for the legislation in the first place. It is even more remarkable that he has defended the privileges of the well-off while his own government continues to under-fund public schools who enrol about 80% of disadvantaged students. Victorian public schools are under-funded by about $1.9 billion in 2024.

Richardson would have been better off pleading the cause of disadvantaged students and public schools instead of that of a well-heeled private school. His government would have been better off as well because it appears that his defence of a privileged private school is being used by private schools to embarrass the government as part of their campaign against the introduction of payroll taxes.

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