AUSTRALIA’S class-action lawsuit over the compulsory purchase of textbooks has been thrown out by the High Court, which said there was no evidence to suggest the plaintiffs were misled.
The case was brought by the Australian Teachers Union and the Commonwealth Education Union against the Commonwealth Government, which has implemented the compulsory buy-in.
AUSTRAC and TEU argued that the government’s policies undermined teachers’ right to access and use the best teaching material available, and that the compulsory scheme breached the Federal Court of Australia’s right to an independent review.
The High Court dismissed the union’s argument that the scheme was designed to benefit the public good.
The court also rejected the argument that it was designed so that parents could not opt out.
The government has been in the process of implementing a voluntary buy-out scheme for schools, which will run from April 1.
A spokesperson for Education Minister Christopher Pyne said the compulsory acquisition of textbooks had been in place since 2015 and would be rolled out to schools in the “next two years”.
“We have taken a number of steps over the past year to ensure that the purchase of textbook content is free for all students and all teachers, while ensuring that textbooks are readily available to schools across the country,” the spokesperson said.
“The Government is committed to ensuring all students have access to textbooks as they continue to grow their learning.”
The government’s education minister said the purchase system had been put in place to help students, teachers and parents alike learn.
“It’s been designed to make sure everyone has access to quality teaching materials, so that students and teachers can get the best education possible,” he said.
The union has been asking the court to order the government to scrap the compulsory plan, arguing that teachers are free to opt out, and the government has a duty to ensure the program is delivered in a way that maximises access to the best materials.
A new compulsory buy in will be rolled into schools in 2018.
The government has previously said that teachers will be given the option to opt in or out of the purchase program, and there will be a “discount” for teachers who choose to opt-out.
Education Minister Christopher Jones has previously denied that the program was a form of a “gold-plated” subsidy, saying the scheme had been developed in partnership with teachers.
“It’s not an incentive, it’s a free opportunity,” he told ABC Radio National last month.
In the past, the Government has suggested that students should be able to choose their preferred subject, or choose a subject based on their ability to pay.
Last year, the Minister of Education, John Elferink, said it was “common sense” that students could choose a course based on whether they were prepared to pay more for it.
Mr Jones, however, has previously suggested that parents who opt out of buying textbooks will not be penalised for doing so.
“[It’s] something that is not a mandatory requirement, it would be for teachers to decide whether or not they would want to buy the textbooks,” he recently told reporters.
Under the compulsory school purchase scheme, a school will be charged $2.50 per student for a total of $10.00 in textbooks for every student.
If a teacher chooses to opt their child out of paying for a textbook, the parent will have to pay another $2 for the same book.
Parents will have 30 days from the time they receive the email to opt them out, or the school will not have to continue the purchase.
This means if a parent opts out of a textbook purchase, they will not receive the money.
There are currently more than 500,000 schools in Australia, and more than 10,000 teachers are in the compulsory program.