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Victorian government teacher-laptop scheme illegal, says judge

State looks under lounge for $20 million in refunds

By Richard Chirgwin, 8 Nov 2015

Teacher laptop purchase schemes in several states are under question, after a Federal Court ruling that a Victorian programme is illegal.

Victorian teachers were expected to provide their own laptops, and were required to lease the machines from the Department of Education, at rates between AU$4 and $17 per fortnight, paid by automatic salary deduction.

Two years after launching action in 2013, the Australian Education Union had its win in the Federal Court on Friday, reports the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

As we reported in 2011, the state's standard four-year lease also meant teachers were paying to lug around obsolete hardware, and the state also seemed to impose an “Apple tax” of its very own. At that time, a $799 Lenovo (presumably complete with vendor spyware) was leased at $4 a fortnight, but if a teacher wanted an $899 MacBook they'd pay nearly triple the lease ($11.50).

The scam scheme was protected by a Department of Education policy that forbade teachers from bringing their own machines.

Federal Court Justice Mordecai Bromberg found that practically everything about the scheme was illegal under the Fair Work Act 2009: teachers had no choice whether or not to take part in the programme, costs were excessive, and teachers didn't get fair value for their money.

The decision also found that use of the equipment was for the benefit not of teachers, but of the department.

If the decision stands, the Victorian Department of Education will have to repay as much as $20 million to its teachers, but the decision reaches beyond that state, since New South Wales and Western Australia operate similar programmes. ®

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