House debates

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Matters of Public Importance


3:15 pm

Photo of Tony SmithTony Smith (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

I have received a letter from the honourable the Deputy Leader of the Opposition proposing that a definite matter of public importance be submitted to the House for discussion, namely:

The Government's cuts to schools.

I call upon all those honourable members who approve of the proposed discussion to rise in their places.

More than the number of members required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

3:16 pm

Photo of Tanya PlibersekTanya Plibersek (Sydney, Australian Labor Party, Deputy Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

We have today with us in Canberra parents, teachers and principals from all over Australia—dozens of them—who've come here to send the strongest possible message to the government that the $17 billion of cuts from education will not stand. They'll be opposed by teachers, by parents, by principals and by anybody who cares about education every day between now and the next election, because they know that, if we are successful, every dollar of those $17 billion of cuts will be restored.

We know that this government continues to claim that it is increasing funding for schools. The trick in what they're saying, the absolute lie in what they're saying, is that they're increasing funding against what Tony Abbott the member for Warringah, and his former Treasurer, Joe Hockey, tried to do to school funding. But their changes never went through the parliament, so we quite rightly say that the six years of funding agreements that were legislated by this parliament and were agreed to by the states and territories are what stands. Against Labor's agreement, what those opposite are offering schools is $17 billion less over the course of the decade, and we will not stand for that.

On top of the $17 billion of cuts, those opposite have introduced a new funding system that is not fair, that is not sector blind and that is not needs based. How can those opposite say that their funding model is sector blind when they bake in a maximum 20 per cent of a fair funding level for public schools? How can it be sector blind when public schools will never get more than 20 per cent of the schooling resource standard and additional loadings, while private schools will get 80 per cent of their fair funding level? How can it be sector blind when public schools and private schools are treated completely differently based only on their school system? That's not sector blind.

I tell you what: it's not needs based when the Northern Territory and Tasmania, which have two of the neediest public schools systems in the country, get two of the worst deals under those opposite. It's not needs based when we know that disability funding has been cut for children in five states. Disability funding for students in five states has been cut. That's not needs based.

I tell you what: our agreement with the states and territories that those opposite try to complicate was a very simple agreement. We said that every school in every state and territory should get to their fair funding level, and some states and territories were further away from that fair funding level. We would do two-thirds of the heavy lifting to get them to their fair funding level, and the states and territories would do one-third of the heavy lifting to get them to their fair funding level. That's fair, because it means every child in every state in every system is treated fairly.

Public schools have been the worst hit by the cuts of those opposite. Across years 5 and 6 of the funding agreement the total difference between what they would have received under a Labor government and what they get under those opposite is almost $2.2 billion, but the biggest cut is $1.88 billion from public schools. Public schools are the worst affected over the next two years, despite the fact that they teach two out of three of our children, 74 per cent of students with disabilities, 82 per cent of kids from the bottom quarter of socioeconomic advantage and 84 per cent of Indigenous children. How is it fair that almost $1.9 billion of a $2.2 billion cut is from public schools? We think our schools should be the best in the world. That's why we are so pleased to have with us in Canberra today teachers, parents and principals from all over Australia. We want to reassure them we will restore every dollar of the $17 billion cut by those opposite.

Ordinary Australians get it: 79 per cent of voters think increasing public school funding is better for Australia than cutting company tax rates, 72 per cent think federal funding for public schools is too low and only 24 per cent of voters think the Prime Minister is focused on ensuring public schools are in good shape. How shocking is it that people have worked out this government is completely not interested in fair funding for public schools! Their formula means 87 per cent of public schools will never get to their fair funding level, because those opposite have baked in 20 per cent for public schools and 80 per cent for private schools.

Today we've heard fantastic stories from all over Australia about the great work that was done with the early years of extra investment through needs based funding. Nicole Mottlee is a parent from Brisbane Water Secondary College Umina Campus—a fantastic school I visited with Senator Deborah O'Neill and Liesl Tesch, the state member for Gosford—where nearly half the kids are in the bottom quarter of socioeconomic advantage. Nicole's school is losing more than $960,000 over the next two years. Imagine what a school like Brisbane Water Umina could do with that. They have a fantastic Aspire program that has been helping their disengaged young people, particularly getting boys before year 9 who've been exhibiting challenging behaviour to stay in school and supporting their families. Kids who are playing up at school often have challenging family situations, so Family Referral Service workers are helping the kids stay engaged at school and overcome the high unemployment in their local area.

Upper Coomera State College in the electorate of Forde will lose $1.8 million over the next two years. Laurie, a parent from that school, came to talk about her child's autism. She has a son who attends the school. He's 10 years old. He has autism. He was at a private school that wasn't properly able to support him. Laurie's family looked at seven other schools and finally found Coomera. She is so happy with that school. The principal of the school, Mike O'Connor, has said he used the needs based funding to invest in leadership development programs, employ reading coaches, implement a new literacy program, and improve mentoring of teachers and curricula development, but for Laurie's child, this has meant special education support, a case manager and a teacher aide, as well as meaning the usual teacher is able to teach her child.

All 280 students at Bwgcolman Community School on Palm Island are Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander. English is a second language for the majority. In 2016 the school introduced a new read-to-learn program for prep students. Within one year, 75 per cent of students were at or above the national benchmark for reading for their year level. What an amazing achievement! Imagine what more this school could do if it continued to receive proper needs based funding instead of having that funding ripped out of the school by those opposite?

This school has also been able to employ extra teacher aides from the island, which has meant positive flow-on effects right through the community, as well as community education counsellors to provide wraparound support for families to strengthen school attendance and engagement.

We believe that every Australian child deserves the best possible education, for their own benefit and for the benefit of all of us. We cannot be a wealthy, successful nation if we don't invest in our children. That's why, if a Labor government is elected at the next election, we will restore every single dollar of the $17 billion cut by those opposite. And under a Labor government public schools will be the biggest winners, because the schools that have the greatest need will see the greatest benefit in the shortest time.

Photo of Kevin HoganKevin Hogan (Page, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I call the assistant minister.

3:26 pm

Photo of Karen AndrewsKaren Andrews (McPherson, Liberal Party, Assistant Minister for Vocational Education and Skills) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker. As this is the first time that I have spoken whilst you have been in the chair since your election as the Deputy Speaker, I'd like to acknowledge that and congratulate you on your elevation to this very important role. I know that you'll do a great job. Well done!

I relish the opportunity to speak about schools. I relish the opportunity to speak about education, because it is one of the most important things that I believe this parliament can debate. It's important when we speak about education to do it in totality. Certainly, funding is very important—a key part of that. But we also need to look at schools and education in their totality. What are schools intended to achieve? How can we create the best possible opportunities for our young people and for our children into the future?

Contrary to what we have just heard, the Turnbull government is delivering record Commonwealth investment in Australian schools. There are no cuts to school funding, and those opposite are well aware of that. But they do continue with their arguments, saying that there are cuts but knowing that there aren't—that there clearly aren't cuts to funding. In today's MPI, I'd actually like to do two things. I'd like to start by talking about the record levels of funding that the Turnbull government is delivering and then I'd like to move on and talk about the importance of making sure that we focus on a good quality education outcome for our children.

So let me say that under the Turnbull government's policies, by 2027 students with the same needs in the same sector will attract the same level of support from the Commonwealth. That's regardless of the state or the territory in which they live and regardless of their background or the choice of the school that their parents make. Under Labor there were actually 27 separate funding agreements. What we have done is address some of the issues that were evident when we looked at those separate funding arrangements that had been put in place by the Labor government.

We have developed a very comprehensive policy. The Quality Schools package has done away with the special treatment that meant funding was determined based on which state a school was in or who ran a school rather than the students who studied in it. The Quality Schools package is going to deliver an extra $25.3 billion in recurrent funding for Australia's schools over the next 10 years. That's from 2018 through to 2027—an extra $25.3 billion. And that's on top of the 2016-17 budget settings.

That brings the total Commonwealth recurrent funding to close to $250 billion over the period from 2018 to 2027. And, for the first time ever, the coalition government is going to deliver real needs based funding. We're going the make sure that it is delivered and that funding will actually grow, from $17.5 billion in 2017 to $31.1 billion in 2027.

Now, it is important always to understand the context of schools funding, and I've said this in a number of the MPIs that have been debated in relation to school funding. States and territories are responsible for the overall quality of school education in their jurisdictions, and states and territories are also the overall major funders of schools. While they provide the majority of funding to public schools, it is the Commonwealth government that provides the majority of funding to the non-government schools. But overall, the majority of the funding for schools comes from state and territory governments. When we look at it at the sector level, current government funding—when you put together both the Commonwealth and the state and territory funding—accounts for 94 per cent of funding for government schools, 73 per cent of funding for Catholic schools and 42 per cent of funding for independent schools. And it's important that as we discuss education in a very holistic and total manner we're aware of how the funding is actually set up between the Commonwealth, the states and the territories and how it is then divided across the various sectors, be that government, Catholic or independent schools.

If we start to break this down into dollar terms for each of the sectors, the government sector will receive a total of $33.65 billion over the period 2018 to 2021. That is over $2 billion extra going into the government sector, and that is growth of 27. 6 per cent, which is significant growth. So over the next decade the government sector will receive a total of $104.5 billion, which means an additional $5.9 billion, which in itself is growth of 79.6 per cent. The Catholic sector will receive a total of $28.44 billion over the period 2018-21. That's over $1 billion extra going into the Catholic sector, and it's growth of about 15 per cent. So over the next decade the Catholic sector will receive a total of almost $81.9 billion, which is just over $3 billion additional and, again, a significant growth—48.8 per cent. The independent sector will receive a total of $21 billion over the period 2018 to 21, which is over $1 billion extra, a growth of 22.8 per cent. They will receive a total of $63.42 billion. That's an additional $3.16 billion, a growth of 66.9 per cent. They are significant increases, and it's clear from that that there are no cuts to school funding.

In the time remaining I'd like to speak about some of the reforms the Turnbull coalition government has implemented for schools, because we understand that achieving better outcomes for our children isn't just about how much funding we provide. It matters, and it matters a lot, how that funding is actually used. We know that at the same time that funding is increasing Australia's performance in national and international testing is declining—or, at the very best, standing still. Now, that's not acceptable to me, and it's not acceptable to those on this side of the House, and I'm sure it's not acceptable broadly across the community. We need to make sure that our students have the opportunity to reach international benchmarks in things such as science and mathematics—areas that are going to be critical for their future job prospects.

And I must say, in terms of developing opportunities for our young people into the future and the careers and the career paths that will be available, science and mathematics are crucial, because, whilst we don't know exactly what the jobs of the future are going to be, we do know that 75 per cent of the jobs of the future are going to require skills in science and maths. So it's very important that we are lifting the standards of our students in science and maths well above what the international benchmarks are so that our students, our children, have the opportunity to be competitive. The message is clear: we need to act now to ensure that our children do have the best possible chance to succeed in a changing world, and that is what the Turnbull government has done.

I indicated earlier something about the Quality Schools, Quality Outcomes program, and there's evidence that the ambitious reform agenda that has been embarked upon is making a difference. It's strengthening teaching, it's strengthening school leadership, it's developing essential knowledge and skills, it's improving student participation and parental engagement and it's building better evidence and transparency.

Some of the key reforms that we have put in place—I'll be very brief, given the time—include the year 1 reading, phonics and literacy assessment, which will assist in early identification and intervention; initiatives to keep our best teachers in the classroom; and reforms to strengthen literacy and STEM skills, such as requiring minimum literacy and numeracy standards for our school leavers and ensuring English or humanities subjects, and math or science subjects, are studied to get an Australian Tertiary Admission Rank. We are committed to developing and implementing a quality outcome for our future here in Australia.

3:36 pm

Photo of Andrew GilesAndrew Giles (Scullin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Schools) Share this | | Hansard source

Let us be very clear about this: Labor believes that every Australian child deserves fair schools funding, so they get every chance to fulfil their potential at school, which means their potential in life. It is also clear that this government does not believe in this, and they express this in two ways. They seem to have two approaches to the issue: bluff or bluster. We saw bluff on the part of the PM in question time today, as on so many other occasions when he fails to engage in any of the issues which go to the future of our schools and, indeed, the future of young Australians, and bluster from the assistant minister, who's, sadly, not here for the rest of this debate. What all this amounts to is a failure to take responsibility for what has to be a national priority.

For Labor—again, I want to be clear—it is a national priority. In the Labor caucus room and when we come into this place—our parliament—we ask ourselves what we're here for. Today, all of us in Australia's parliament should reflect on how we can discharge our responsibilities to ensure equity today and equity tomorrow. I am so grateful in that regard that I had the opportunity to hear today from principals, teachers and parents brought here by the Australian Education Union. I thank them for the opportunity to bear witness in this place to their stories, to their experiences.

Every time I engage with teachers, every time I hear from principals about school funding and, particularly, every time I hear from parents I learn more about what we can do to set the standard and ensure that the standard is maintained across the country to give every child every chance.

But what about government members? I was shocked to hear that so many government members couldn't find the time to meet with teachers or parents from the electorates they represent. This is absolutely shocking. It shows an extraordinary disrespect for teachers and students, and the communities they are here to respect. But it is entirely consistent with this government's attitude to this issue, which seems to be much more concerned with deflection than engagement with any sense of responsibility.

I heard the assistant minister talk about reaching the fair funding standard by 2027. That won't happen for too many Australian students. Let's think about that. A child in grade 3 today would be finishing school in 2027. That is walking away from any sense of a responsibility to ensure that that child gets an equal chance to a high-quality schools education. It is a fundamental abrogation of responsibility.

For Labor, we understand, because we've been listening to the lived experience of teachers, students and parents and having regard to academic evidence. Fair funding is the key to a fair future for individuals and for all of us. And that's what's so shocking about this government, which has one plan for Australia—a $65 billion give away—but which does not have the confidence to invest in young Australians or those charged with imparting them in the skills to succeed in education and in life. It is so defensive and so unacceptable.

The soon to be shadow assistant minister talked about context. This really is the context. It is fine to talk about declining ranking levels. That is of concern to all of us. But what's of bigger concern to me is the increasing equity gaps within Australia. I see the shadow minister at the table here. The government is compromised of the Liberal and the National parties and what is particularly egregious is the National Party's abandonment of regional kids. The now Minister for Sport, Senator McKenzie, boasted over a year ago, in 2017, about the two years of work she'd put into assisting regional education outcomes yet we haven't even seen her report. What's been happening is regional and remote kids have been going back, and government members won't even hear from people about this. I'm so grateful I heard from Cassandra from the Northern Territory, who spoke to me about her concerns about these cuts impacting on kids in remote Northern Territory communities. Because it isn't just the maths of the cuts; it's the formula which has been baked in, as the deputy Leader of the Opposition said. This government isn't just cutting education today; it is constraining the future of young Australians through locking public school students out of a fair chance of education. They stand condemned for that.

3:41 pm

Photo of Ann SudmalisAnn Sudmalis (Gilmore, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Here we go again—Labor bleating about the so called cuts to education funding. They pull a political stunt for their union audience and then leave the chamber. Once upon a time, when Labor were in government, they promised a golden Gonski model for funding of our schools. They introduced a whole raft of legislation, like the minerals and resources rent tax, to pay for their golden model, their panacea for educational advancement, but the goblin of reality swallowed it all up and stashed it in the pot at the end of the rainbow. If this sounds like a fairytale, so it should. Because that's the nature of the imaginary funding put forward by Labor as the level of funding they would have allocated if they had been in government. It's about as mythical as Thor, Neptune or the leprechaun.

What amazes me is that some talented and brilliant people are convinced of this Labor representation and really have no concept of how to dissect the reality of true and proper funding. There are no cuts to school funding. Our needs-based funding means students who need the most support will get the most support. Investment is growing fastest for public schools at around 6.4 per cent per student each year for the next four years. The Quality Schools package will deliver an extra $25.3 billion in recurrent funding for Australian schools over the next 10 years. Non-government schools will receive only 4.4 per cent per student.

Education funding is calculated using a complicated model that references a base amount plus loadings to target student and school disadvantage, students with disabilities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders and students with low English proficiency. Commonwealth funding to government schools in New South Wales has been growing faster than state funding. Under the coalition government, New South Wales schools have received $7.2 billion, an increase of 43.7 per cent, and the second-largest increase across government schools in Australia.

Our funding growth means that there's no reason for schools to stop supporting their teachers, introducing new initiatives or extending existing successful programs such as specialist teachers or interventions. The teachers and principals want to know the time they have spent developing new programs or having the training opportunities to grow the professional development and deliver great programs for our children, that that will continue. And even if the funding remained exactly the same from year to year, they would have that certainty. But they are going to get more money.

Let me ask anyone—parent or practising teacher—just how much money will make a difference? We have seen statistics that reflect a reduction in literacy levels, a reduction in numeracy yet Labor says more money will fix it. Well, it won't. There are stand-out cases where the schools have used their needs-based funding for special and great programs. These programs have really made a difference to the children. We need to have certainty of funding, not imaginary funding. As a parent and past teacher, I certainly know this will win over fake promises. But I despair, I truly do, when members in the opposition benches talk of the funding difference between state and federal government. State and territory governments are the responsible level for state and territory schools. Surely they know that. Buildings, playgrounds, equipment and yard maintenance are all the responsibility of the state government. Teachers, student funding allocations, schools formulas and federal government distribution are the responsibility of the state and territory governments.

Overall, the coalition government is growing these investments—not cutting but growing. In Gilmore, every school will be getting an increased amount of funding. The mighty dollar is not the mechanism for educational improvement. It is a tool, but only part of the toolkit. The calibre of the teacher and the inspiration of the school principal are the catalysts for students to be their best and for teachers to adapt and be flexible in their teaching methods.

I'd like to take this opportunity to make special mention of Jeff Ward, of Sanctuary Point Public School, who was exactly that type of principal. Jeff recently retired but, sadly, has passed away. He leaves a legacy of educational endeavour that money could not have bought. He was a major motivator for that school. I was deeply honoured to have known him and send all my best to his family. The students and teachers of that school are an absolute legacy of the energy and the amazing projects that he did in a school where, before he came, the young children walked around looking at the ground, not interested in what they were doing or in being in a classroom. That man inspired his teachers, trained his teachers and gave them opportunity. Each and every person in there, parents included, grew, developed and changed, and it wasn't due to the mighty dollar.

3:46 pm

Photo of Emma McBrideEmma McBride (Dobell, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Let's be clear, the Turnbull government will cut $17 billion from schools in Australia in the next 10 years. Most of this will come from public schools. Today I have heard from parents, teachers and principals brought here by the AEU, the Australian Education Union. They are here because they know that funding matters. They are here today because they want to see fair and equitable funding for public education.

In the next two years alone, public schools in my electorate of Dobell, on the Central Coast of New South Wales, are expected to lose $19.1 million. That's not sector blind. Public schools in the neighbouring electorate of Robertson, also on the Central Coast, are expected to lose $18.6 million. How is that fair to students in regional Australia? That is nearly $37.7 million from public schools in the Central Coast, a region where schools need all the support that they can get.

Needs based funding makes a difference to every child in every school across Australia. It has already made a difference to schools in my electorate on the Central Coast. At The Entrance Public School extra funding has provided a teacher for their Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander program and a dedicated classroom for coding and robotics. At Wyong Creek Public School extra funding has led to the employment of extra teachers aides. At Valley View Public School an instructional leadership program is developing and mentoring teachers. At Wadalba Community School, a K to 12 school, they now have a speech therapist. And at Kanwal Public School they have an additional six student learning support officers.

Funding matters. It makes a difference. It's making a difference in regional Australia. Incredibly, these are the schools that will lose most under this government's cuts, because, perversely, the schools most in need are the schools losing out. How can this government talk about needs based funding when it's turning its back on students in regional Australia? Needs based funding is making a difference in these schools. It means the principals and schools are leading changes, not just in their school but in our communities.

Sadly, this government is not invested in our schools, nor is it invested in universities. It is cutting $2.2 billion from universities and raising student debt. This government is not invested in TAFE or vocational education. It has cut $3 billion from TAFE and vocational education and training. Cuts to schools, cuts universities, cuts to TAFE: this government has a sorry record on education and an even sorrier outlook.

Education is making a difference in the Central Coast. We have no choice about where we are born and very little choice about the level of education we receive. Needs based funding matters. Schools on the coast are set to lose nearly $38 million in the next two years. The Central Coast campus of The University of Newcastle is going to be part of the government's estimated $69 million cut to that university alone. That's a campus that has produced more Aboriginal graduates than any campus in Australia. Our TAFE has been decimated. Last week, we lost our outreach program for Wyong TAFE campus. This is the second chance at education that has helped 1,000 students a year for 40 years—students who our education system has failed and is continuing to fail.

On the Central Coast of New South Wales, only half of students have the opportunity to finish high school and nearly half—45 per cent—of the working-age population have no post-school qualification. Access to education, to quality schools, to quality vocational training and to quality higher education is making a difference. It's vital that the door that has been opened isn't slammed shut in people's faces. At the Central Coast campus of the University of Newcastle, this year 55 per cent of new students are the first in their family to go university. This number grows each year. We must resource them adequately and according to need.

I was troubled to learn this week that the Central Coast ranks eighth in the report mapping youth unemployment hotspots Australia-wide. One in five young people in my community are looking for a job. We have the eighth-highest youth unemployment rate in Australia—18.6 per cent—and it's growing. Australia-wide, if you're under 24 you're three times less likely to have a job. It's staggering and it's not fair. What's the government's answer? Slashing school funding, increasing student debt and tax cuts to the big end of town. It's not fair.

3:51 pm

Photo of Bert Van ManenBert Van Manen (Forde, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's a pleasure to rise in this House and speak about education and education funding. I'm pleased to stand on this side of the chamber because of what this government is actually doing with education funding. I will take on notice the comments from the member for Sydney. When she spoke she happened to mention one of my fantastic schools, Upper Coomera State College. For her edification, I did take the opportunity today to meet with Laurie and also with Natalia, who is one of the young terrific teachers at Windaroo Valley State High School, to give them the correct information on what's happening with education funding in the state of Queensland, in particular for those two schools but, more importantly, for public schools across the electorate of Forde. I will say that both of them spoke about the programs that they are running at Upper Coomera State College and also at Windaroo Valley State High School.

I'll educate those opposite as to why those schools and many others in the electorate of Forde and across Queensland can actually fund those programs. Those programs are funded under a program called I4S—Investing for Success and for excellence. That money was actually provided by this coalition government after we came into government in 2013. Under the old funding model that existed with those opposite when they were in government, that money did not exist and the schools in my electorate and the schools across Queensland would not have been able to run these programs. So the very programs that Laurie and Natalia are speaking about—and speaking so positively about that the member for North Sydney mentioned it in her contribution to this debate—are purely in existence because of the investment and the funding of this coalition government in the schools of Queensland.

I note the member for Moreton, opposite. He's a good friend on the soccer field. We enjoy a round of football every now and again. But I want him to explain in his contribution to this debate—which I am sure he is going to make next—how his schools actually received the extra funding that they're using under this I4S program. That is federal money that this government has invested in state schools in Queensland. Those opposite, once again, are launching a campaign, at the behest of their union masters, which is completely disingenuous and in no way whatsoever reflects the facts of what's happening on the ground. The reality is that this government is investing record amounts of money in schools across this country and, in particular, in schools in Queensland. And what we have seen as a result is a simpler, fairer and more structured education funding model that everybody can follow and understand. And it is needs based, which is what David Gonski himself recommended.

In Queensland over the next 10 years—or even over the next four years—funding to state schools is growing at an average of nearly six per cent; funding to non-government schools is growing at some 4.4 per cent. So we are continuing to fund and grow the public school sector. In reality, at the moment we fund about 17.7 per cent of the schooling resource standard for government schools in Queensland. That will grow to 20 per cent. It's a growth of some 13 per cent over the next 10 years. In comparison, for the independent and Catholic school sector it's some five per cent. So the argument that we are preferencing the independent and Catholic school sector over and above the government school sector is complete and utter nonsense.

I can't believe the hypocrisy of those opposite. In the recent Batman by-election, they said nothing about funding for government schools, but they said everything about funding for Catholic schools, for a purely political motive. They had no interest in what was good for students or what was good for teachers, but they had a purely political motive to win a seat because they were under pressure from the Greens. They are common bedfellows with hypocrisy when it comes to a whole range of issues. It is this government, on this side of the House, that is providing the funding necessary for our schools.

3:56 pm

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Let's be up-front. Fundamentally, those opposite do not care about fair education and good education. They do care about elite education—I will give them that. However, the nation is best served when we invest in education for all, as we see it as giving people an opportunity and creating economic benefits. Those opposite might forget that the reason the name 'Gonski' is known and quoted by the Prime Minister is that Mr Gonski was part of an expert panel that looked at the economic benefits of education—benefits that we know. The government are happy to cling to some thin piece of Treasury advice about $65 billion in corporate top-end-of-town giveaways somehow magically trickling down in workers' wages and the like, but they are not benefits that will flow the way that education benefits will flow. How do we know that? The expert panel looked at it and found that that is the case.

When it comes to education and those benefits, you've got to give every student, irrespective of the school, the best possible opportunity. If we stop people from achieving their potential because of the fact that they live in the bush or the fact that they are Indigenous or poor, and prevent those smartest kids from having an opportunity, then we are doing this nation a disservice. We need our best and brightest to be given an opportunity, not just those that are well-off. I particularly ask the members of the National Party to remember this because who did best out of that first wave of resource based funding for schools? The bush. The bush did best from the policy that Ms Gillard started rolling out, as education minister and then as Prime Minister. The bush did best. We know that. It was irrespective of whether you were a state school in the bush, a Catholic school in the bush or a school like the Aboriginal private school at Woorabinda. We didn't care. We wanted funds to go to where there were needs. We wanted funds to go to the school that needed it most, irrespective of what the sign out the front said. We have seen this approach attacked and transformed, zombie-like, into something that now has a set formula, so it's not needs based funding and it's not focused on fairness. Instead, we've got this sort of hybrid that is weaker than was intended by the reforms.

I do know a little bit about education. I was a teacher for 11 years and I've got kids at school as well. Most of my friends are still teachers. In fact, I was in a band; there were five of us and we were all teachers.

Ms Madeleine King interjecting

You can Google that! The band still plays every three years as a fundraiser, but the other four band members are all teachers—John Carozza, guitar and vocals; Brenden Ballinger, lead guitar; Sharon Weir, vocals; and Brendan Logan, drums. They're all still teaching, all throughout Queensland, doing their bit.

I know that it's been a long time since I was in the classroom. I know it because one of the kids I taught, Nathan Jarro, has just been appointed a District Court judge. Hello to Nathan Jarro! He's the first Indigenous District Court judge in Queensland, actually, and was appointed by Yvette D'Ath. I do know what a cut in funding will mean for schools. I saw it when I went to Sunnybank State School the other day with the Leader of the Opposition and the deputy leader. They had prep classes where 65 per cent of the kids were ESL kids—they spoke a language other than English at home—yet by year 3 they were at the national average. Why? Because they had invested that resource based funding early on so that the kids got intensive support. Those kid will be the doctors, lawyers and teachers of the future—possibly—because they're getting that extra support.

We know that state schools do a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to educating kids, because they take every kid in the catchment and then some. That means 74 per cent of the students with disabilities, 82 per cent of the kids from the lowest quarter of socio-economic advantage and 84 per cent of Indigenous kids, and some of the challenges that come with that. So when the Prime Minister stands up and says, 'We have a formula,' appropriating Mr Gonski, he is forgetting what fair education is and the economic benefits that flow from investing in education. He should be ashamed of himself.

4:01 pm

Photo of Chris CrewtherChris Crewther (Dunkley, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise today to speak on the matter of public importance raised by the member for Sydney. I refer to the article in The Age newspaper this morning revealing that the union tail is again wagging the Labor dog. This is a campaign by Labor's union to try to get the Leader of the Opposition to pay attention to public schools, after he has spent weeks running around stitching up special deals for other schools as well as targeting our retirees and our pensioners. It is disingenuous to say that we are making cuts, which makes parents, teachers and others believe that funding levels as they currently exist will be reduced. The Australian Education Union's polling failed to inform voters of the record and growing funding that is going to Australian schools—that is, they asked half questions to get the answers they wanted. We are seeing again with this MPI the attempt to control debate with Labor's campaign of misinformation.

The Turnbull coalition government, in fact, are presiding over record investment in Australian schools. We were at $6.8 billion last year, we are at $7.4 billion this year, and we will be at $8 billion next year and $13.3 billion in 2027. These are not just vague promises like those opposite have given, which only reach to the next year. In fact, when we compare ourselves with Labor in 2009 and 2010 we see only a bit over 10 per cent of government school funding was coming from the federal government, whereas under us that will be increased to 20 per cent. We are taking school funding seriously, even if Labor aren't. We are introducing true Gonski needs based funding. The states, of course, provide the rest, based on the traditional division of powers between the levels of government. But we are committed to quality school education. Needs based funding means students that need the most support will get the most support.

We've also announced the new review into quality education, to be run by Mr Gonski. In fact, unlike the claims of those opposite about cuts, investment is growing fastest for public schools, at 6.4 per cent, while growth for non-government schools is at 4.4 per cent. The Turnbull government is introducing equitable, needs based funding, as opposed to the opposition's ad hoc deals.

Let's look at it locally in my electorate of Dunkley. All 51 of my Dunkley schools are receiving an increase in funding, including all public schools, Catholic schools and independent schools. For example, funding for Seaford Primary School is increasing from a bit over $390,000 in 2018 to about $614,000 in 2027. Funding for Nepean School, a specialist school, is increasing from $1.05 million in 2018 to a bit over $1.6 million in 2027. At Langwarrin Park Primary School it is increasing from $1.7 million in 2018 to $2.8 million in 2027.

Lastly, the David Scott School, for example, will get an increase in funding from $1.4 million in 2018 to $2.4 million in 2027. I could go on through the list of all 51 schools, and they are all getting increases. Our total funding for government, in fact, in Victoria will increase from $1.6 billion in 2018 up to $2.5 billion in 2027—an increase of almost $1 billion. In Dunkley, in 2018, we have 28,140 funded enrolments, with almost 70 per cent in government schools. Total Dunkley school funding will increase from $2.1 billion in 2018 up to $2.9 billion in 2027—that is, an increase of over $800 million. So it is incorrect for those opposite to say that there will be cuts not only to Dunkley schools but to schools across the nation.

And between 2018 to 2027 the Australian government is expected to provide $915 million to government and non-systemic independent schools in the electorate of Dunkley under the Quality Schools funding model. This is an average increase in funding of 45.85 per cent per student in Dunkley from 2018 to 2027. Parents and teachers can see the facts for themselves on the Quality Schools website. They can see through the lies of Labor and the Australian Education Union. I call on those opposite to tell the truth to the members of the public, to tell the truth to my electors in Dunkley and to get on board with education funding reforms.

4:06 pm

Photo of Joanne RyanJoanne Ryan (Lalor, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Just to inform the member for Dunkley, you can't have a savings in a budget unless it is a cut, mate. It is really simple. The economist beside me backs me in on that. I stand here today a proud state school teacher for 27 years of my life, finishing as a state school principal in Victoria, and a proud member of the Australian Education Union for those 27 years.

I would remind those opposite that the people who attended the parliament today to speak to members of parliament that represent their specific area were principals, teachers and parents. They came to Canberra today to give us heart that they haven't given up on actually fulfilling the hope that was planted when the Gillard government handed down the Gonski reforms. They haven't given up on the hope they have that we might get equity in our education system. They still believe, I still believe, every member on this side still believes that this can be delivered despite those opposite, who believe rhetoric over reality, who believe that they are somehow delivering for state schools, for systemic Catholic schools in a way that Labor has committed to. Those opposite will not deliver it. They have told us they will not deliver it. They said there would not be a dollar difference, but there will be a dollar difference. There's a $17 billion difference in what those opposite perceive to be providing equity in education and what we believe will provide equity in education. The crux of that is about public schools.

Those opposite think that the Commonwealth should only provide 20 per cent to schools to reach the student resource standard. They never talk about loadings anymore. They never talk about educational reform or improving school performance. They only talk about money but they never attach it to equity. Do you know why? Because what they've backed in and what they have pushed through this House was entrenched inequality. They are the government for elite schools. It is there in the fine print of their legislation. They are going to fund independent schools to the SRS while ignoring the majority of students in this country that attend public schools. They say, 'That's the state's responsibility.' Well, I worked in state education. I know that funding can go up and down depending on which colour of government walks through the door after an election. The Commonwealth's job is to ensure equity in funding; that's the aim. The aim is that the Commonwealth, which knows the value of education, is responsible for equity nationwide. The Commonwealth government, which can have the most impact on the levers that we need to make this an equitable country, needs to take responsibility for education. That's what this side of the House planned to do and what that side of the House has wrecked. And they have wrecked it.

The member for Forde stood there and claimed, 'Well, we funded it in 2013'. Of course you did, because we locked those contracts in as best we could before government was lost on this side. You gave that money because you had to give that money and, as soon as you had a chance, you changed it and you took it away. You changed prime ministers but you didn't change your plans. Your plans were to cut, cut, cut education across this country. And I can't let it go without calling to account Greens members, both here in this chamber and the members in the Senate, who blinked when the going got tough, and opened the door for those opposite to sell the inequity that they are delivering in education at the moment.

The children in our government schools need this support. They need the best quality education that money can buy. It is tiring to hear those opposite come in, day after day after day, and tell us that $65 billion in handouts to large corporates that will go in overseas dividends, share buybacks and CEO wages. They tell us how important that is, yet they don't understand how important funding is for public education or for systemic Catholic schools. They are completely out of touch in this space. I'm glad the AEU came today. I'm glad they came and told us that 72 per cent of voters are with us and not with them when it comes to equity in education. (Time expired)

4:11 pm

Photo of Ken O'DowdKen O'Dowd (Flynn, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's my pleasure to speak on school funding 10 years in advance. I'll talk mainly about Flynn but I would also like to point out that in 2018 to 2027, the Australian government is expected to provide $1.5 billion to government and non-systemic independent schools in the electorate of Lalor. Under the quality schools funding model, which is here—

An opposition member: 'Lawlor' not 'Laylor'.

I can table this if you like. There's 43,980 funded enrolments in your 54 schools.

Now, back to my electorate. Over 2018 to 2027, the Australian government is to deliver $1.1 billion to government and non-systemic schools in Flynn. That's $1.1 billion in my electorate of Flynn under the Quality Schools funding model. That is excellent news for 25,372 students across 126 schools in the seat of Flynn. How will this $1.1 billion benefit the students? Well, it will be for the same needs. Special needs will be added on to these amounts, so we won't have a wishy-washy program like Labor has conducted in their term in government. All schools will be treated equally by the year 2027. It will be gradually changed so they all come together.

Under Labor, there were 27 separate funding arrangements. That's ridiculous. It was used as a pork-barrelling exercise when ministers visited the certain area and gave money for jam to the different schools, and that's why we have these 27 different funding packages. When it comes to state schools and public schools, the inefficient states who run inefficient school programs were rewarded, and the people in the states who run very tight, well-run schools were disadvantaged by their funding system. Pleasingly, that will all go.

I had the pleasure last week to attend Blackwater State High School. It has 316 students and it increased its enrolments last year and this year. Their actual funding from 2018 will go from $1,376,701 to $1.6 million in 2021. Commonwealth funding to 2027 will be $2.063 million. That translates to $4,359 per student, going up to $5,142. In 2027 it'll go up to $6,534 per student. Funding growth will be 17.9 per cent from 2018 to 2021 and 49.9 per cent from 2018 to 2027. I also noticed when I was at Blackwater State High School—there are other schools in Blackwater—it missed out on BER funding. This school, with 316 students, did not have an assembly hall or anywhere to have a parade. Blackwater is in Central Queensland, subject to very high temperatures in the summertime—sometimes rain; sometimes dry weather—but those students have to stand out in the rain or the sun, or the headmaster or principal has to call the whole assembly off because of the conditions at that school. I say to the state government in Queensland: please look at this school and provide them with an assembly hall like other schools in Flynn. That's a plea on behalf of myself and the principal, Frank Brunetto, whom I met. He is very concerned, and asks me, 'Why did my school miss out?' I have no answer, but maybe the state government knows.

Government students over the next four years will receive the following: Catholics— (Time expired)

Photo of Kevin HoganKevin Hogan (Page, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The discussion has concluded.