Wednesday, 21 June 2017
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Education and Training, Senator Birmingham. Since announcing his schools package on 2 May this year, the minister has constantly said that, under his education package, there would be 'no special deals'. Reports today indicate the government will temporarily delay its $4.6 billion cut to Catholic schools. Has the minister now done a special deal? If so, what is it?
I thank the senator for her question, particularly in light of the decision the Senate made earlier today to progress the government's school funding reforms to the next stage of debate. I am pleased to inform the Senate, and Senator O'Neill in particular, that the government is delivering additional funding to all Australian school systems—in particular, the Catholic school system, which she asked about, which will grow, as I have told the Senate before, by $3.4 billion over the duration of the proposed 10-year arrangements the government has outlined. In relation to the specific question that Senator O'Neill has asked, I am equally pleased to make it clear to Senator O'Neill and all senators that our commitment to ensure that, at the end of a transition period, there is consistency, equity and application of a needs based arrangement is absolutely resolute. The Turnbull government's approach to ensure consistency of treatment at the end of the transition period—
Mr President, on relevance: we only have 53 seconds. We have heard the word 'transition', and that is all we know about the deal. The question was: has the minister now done a special deal and, if so, what is it? There has got to be more detail than the one word 'transition'.
Senator O'Neill asked a question about special deals. She asked whether there would be different deals. The point I was making is that our commitment, as has been the case all along, is to ensure that, in the end, we have consistent needs-based funding across all school systems across Australia. I have equally been very transparent—
Our intention is absently clear: consistent treatment in terms of needs based funding. We have, as I was indicating, been very clear as well that we will deliver and make sure we talk constructively with all different parties and sectors to ensure they are comfortable about the process under which that transition occurs to get to that point of consistent, equitable treatment. (Time expired)
I am happy to confirm that the funding growth for public schools under the Turnbull government's reforms is significant. The funding growth will provide billions of additional dollars out of our $18.6 billion commitment that will flow to the neediest schools across Australia. Indeed, public school systems will see the fastest rate of growth under the reforms the Turnbull government is putting through. More than 4½ thousand of Australia's neediest schools—overwhelmingly, public schools—will see growth in excess of five per cent per student per annum over the decade under the reforms that are before this chamber at present. This is about delivering on the vision of David Gonski and his panel, ensuring that we apply a true consistent needs-based model, that we do it consistently as a national government regardless of the boundaries or borders of different states and territories, and the greatest growth in support flows to those public schools who need and deserve it most.
Given the minister announced his policy without consultation; has ignored the concerns of the Catholic, independent and public school sectors; has been labelled the first minister in five decades to fail to engage with the Catholic Education Commission but has now done an eleventh-hour deal with his own coalition colleagues, isn't it clear that the only time the minister listens to concerns is when his own political life depends on it?
What is clear is that the only time those opposite care about what they are doing is when they think they can snatch or steal some votes. That is why what they do is a hotchpotch of different deals and special deals. That is why their approach to public policy is like their approach to union negotiations and enterprise bargaining; it is about a deal over here, a deal over there. For them, of course, it is about how they can stitch it up in some way, shape or form. That is why we ended up not with what the Gonski panel recommended but, instead, with 27 different special deals—special deals that have been described as a 'corruption of the Gonski report'.
Senator Cash interjecting—
Indeed, Senator Cash is correct: a number of them have worked for different unions, who know plenty about different issues of corruption—corruption of deals, special deals, different approaches. The Turnbull government stand proud on a record of actually applying consistent, needs based funding to Australian schools, and that is exactly what we are determined to do.