Monday, 18 June 2007
Questions without Notice
My question is addressed to the Minister for Education, Science and Training. Minister, how is the government ensuring that parents in government and non-government schools are supported and provided with choice? Minister, are you aware of any policies that threaten this choice? What is the government’s response?
I thank the member for Wakefield for his question. The Howard government is committed to ensuring that parents have a right to choose the school that best meets the educational outcomes for their child. The Australian government is committed to a strong public sector and a strong private sector. That is why the Australian government has ensured that there has been record funding for all schools across Australia since 1996. In fact, there has been a 160 per cent increase in funding for all schools, and that includes a 120 per cent funding increase for government schools, even though enrolments in government schools have increased by only one per cent over that time.
I was asked about alternative policies. According to a transcript on 702 ABC, the Labor Party are saying publicly that they are committed to the current indexation arrangements, that Labor will not take money off schools and that Labor have abandoned the Beazley-Macklin-Latham hit list. That is what they say. We know that the unions are committed to the hit list, because their misleading advertising campaign shows that they are hell-bent on taking money away from Catholic and independent schools. But guess what? So is Labor. Labor are committed to the hit list. It is done in a very underhand way. Labor’s 2007 national policy platform says that the Labor Party in government will fund non-government schools based on need. The words are specifically that they will take into account ‘income from private resources when assessing financial need’. This is Latham’s resources model. This is, word for word, Mark Latham policy. The resources model was the basis for the hit list—so the hit list lives on. As the independent schools sector of New South Wales said only last week on radio, the resources model in the Labor Party’s national policy platform is a direct attack—
Mr Speaker, I am quoting from the Association of Independent Schools of New South Wales, who said last week that this resources model is ‘a direct attack on parents of children in independent schools’. But it gets worse. The Leader of the Opposition has now chimed in on education policy. According to the Leader of the Opposition, they will fund all schools—government, non-government, religious or secular—based on need. In other words, they will fund all schools based on the resources model. And the resources model equals the hit list. So the hit list has now been extended to government schools. So the private income sources of all government schools are now being taken into account. Parents who raise money—
Opposition members interjecting—
Out of the Leader of the Opposition’s own mouth, we find that the hit list will now be extended to government schools. Government schools that raise funds from private sources such as fetes, building appeals, fundraising from parents and fees from parents—and parents in government schools pay fees, make no mistake—will have these sources taken into account when funding is calculated for government schools.
As the Treasurer always says, ‘Do not listen to what Labor say; look at what they do.’ The South Australian Labor government has already identified government schools that have savings accounts. It has identified schools that have put savings from fetes, building appeals and fees into a savings account, and as part of this year’s budget the state Labor government is raiding those bank accounts. I call on the Labor Party to identify the government schools that will have their funding affected under a resources model. I call on the Labor Party to identify the non-government schools that will have their funding arrangements affected under their resources model. The hit list lives on and Labor should be up-front with the Australian people about their dishonest education policy.