House debates

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Matters of Public Importance


3:20 pm

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

I have received a letter from the honourable member for Sydney, 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 chaotic schools policy.

I call upon those 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—

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

The ATM government, the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison government, has been around for five years now, and five years into the ATM government we still don't have a comprehensive, cohesive schools policy. What we have is a series of cuts and abandoned reforms. Many on this side—I'm pretty sure everybody on this side—will remember the 2013 election campaign and those blue and white signs on polling booths around Australia: 'You can vote Liberal, you can vote Labor, and there will be not a dollar difference to your school.' Those corflutes were very popular on polling booths that were schools because those opposite knew that, if they told the truth about what they intended for schools in this country, no parent would vote for them, no teacher would vote for them and no-one who's at all concerned about education in this country would vote for them. So they promised: 'Just like Labor; we'll be just like Labor.'

Then what did they do? In the very first budget they had—that horrible, toxic, destructive 2014 budget—$30 billion was cut from schools. It's there in black and white. They had a graph boasting about it in the budget overview document. They were so proud of the fact they were going to cut $30 billion from schools that they had a special graph showing it, with pretty pictures as well. Of course, that couldn't get through this parliament. We on this side stopped that; we prevented that.

Then came Malcolm Turnbull, the great saviour of the Liberal Party. He was going to soften the rough edges of the Abbott-Hockey years. So what did he do? He said: 'We're not going to cut $30 billion from schools. You're right; it's too much. We're just going to cut $22 billion from schools.' I have here the press release that those opposite put out on the day they announced their Gonski 2.0 funding deal, and this is what their very own press release says:

Compared to Labor's arrangements, this represents a savings of $6.3 billion over 4 years … and $22.3 billion over 10 years …

'A saving of $22.3 billion over 10 years'—somehow those opposite keep saying that's not a cut. I'm not really sure how they think a saving and a cut are two different things. It was $22.3 billion. Of course, they couldn't get that through the Senate—not quite. What they got through the Senate was an amended saving of $17 billion. That was $17 billion to be cut from our schools. And do you know what? Today's press conference with the Prime Minister and the Minister for Education was finally, at long last, an admission of this cut. It was an admission that billions of dollars have been cut from Catholic and independent schools. And congratulations to Catholic and independent schools, because they've run a strong campaign against the funding cuts; they've had their complaints recognised.

But who hasn't had their complaints dealt with by this government? It is the 2½ million Australian school children who go to public schools and their millions of parents and their millions of grandparents and their teachers and their principals. Two-thirds of kids in Australia go to public schools and, in fact, the majority of kids that need extra help go to public schools—74 per cent of students with disabilities, 82 per cent of students from the bottom quarter of socioeconomic advantage and 84 per cent of Indigenous children. Today, they got nothing. Those children got nothing from this government. They got nothing from this government. There were billions of dollars cut—not the whole amount cut, but billions of dollars—and a signed confession to the Catholic and independent sector. There is not a dollar of the $14 billion that was cut from public schools over the next decade.

No-one voted for this Prime Minister to cut $17 billion from schools. No-one voted for him. He was the Treasurer who wanted to cut $17 billion from schools at the same time as giving a $17 billion tax cut to the big banks. Australians have rightly said: 'No way. No thank you.' But today's announcement is an admission from this government, finally, that billions of dollars have been cut from our schools. There is no way that this parliament can accept a situation where some of that funding is restored only for Catholic schools and only for independent schools and not for the sector that educates the most children in Australia.

There's an admission today that billions of dollars have been cut, and I'm pleased that the government has finally faced up to that. One of the things that is tragically sad about the chaos that is bedevilling those opposite is that it's not just the billions of dollars cut from schools that troubles Australian parents and teachers; it's the fact that, for five years, there has been no reform agenda for our schools. We say, on this side, that we will restore every dollar of the $17 billion cut from schools. That's very important. It's very important to get the funding right, but what is it that we do with that money?

When the member for Sturt became the Minister for Education, he threw out all of the reform that the previous Labour government had managed to get the states and territories and the Catholics and independent schools to sign up to. He said: 'That's just red tape. We don't need any of that.' The poor old sucker minister opposite, who has been brought in to clean up the mess made in the education portfolio by Senator Birmingham, has now gone begging to the states. He has this national school reform agreement. It has been leaked, of course. Like everything else, it has been leaked by those opposite. You look at this national school reform agreement, and what does it have in here? It has a whole lot of the reforms that Labor had the states and territories agree to five years ago, which were junked by the member for Sturt when he was education minister. It is back to the future! We've got a great example of time travel here!

The tragedy of this is that a child who started high school when those opposite were elected at the beginning of the ATM government—that is, a child who started high school when Tony Abbott became Prime Minister—has gone right through high school with none of these reforms implemented. There's no plan for school improvement and no plan for school system improvement. The poor old sucker minister opposite, who has been brought in to clean up the mess, now has to go begging to the states and territories. He will say: 'You know that stuff that you signed up to five years ago? You know that stuff we said you didn't have to do anymore? Well, look, here's the deal: I cut $14 billion from your schools over the next 10 years and you sign up to the reforms that we said you didn't have to do anymore.' Really? Is that the best we can do for Australian children? There are $14 billion of cuts and no school reform agenda.

Take the example of a unique student identifier: we had that work underway five years ago. How much have we progressed with that? What about a national schools evidence institute, recommended by the second Gonski review? We committed to that months ago. We committed to a $280 million evidence institute for schools. We committed to that months ago. Will those opposite commit to using that sort of evidence for continued school improvement? There is not a dollar extra for a schools evidence institute.

This is the icing on the cake here. Yesterday, we asked the Prime Minister why COAG—the meeting that was due to deal with all of these issues around the funding and the reform—has been cancelled. The Prime Minister, in a completely tasteless move, tried to say the reason was the drought. He said, 'We can't talk about schools because this is the worst drought in a century.' Everybody on this side believes we should be dealing with that, but it doesn't mean that we can't deal with any other issue. Apparently the Prime Minister, who's only been in the job three weeks, can do only one meeting a month. He's on a go-slow already. He's only been there five minutes. You'd think he'd still be full of vim and vigour and enthusiasm for the job. The Prime Minister committed the Minister for Education to getting signed agreements with the states in the next two weeks, before that 4 October date. Apparently they don't need COAG because they're going to get signed agreements anyway. Well, I challenge the minister: let's see the agreements.

3:30 pm

Photo of Dan TehanDan Tehan (Wannon, Liberal Party, Minister for Education) Share this | | Hansard source

It gives me great pleasure to stand here today and say that this government is providing record funding for state schools, it's providing record funding for Catholic schools and it's providing record funding for independent schools. I will just go to that record funding for state schools because I think it's really important that we make clear what that is. Last year we provided $6.8 billion. This year it will be $7.3 billion. It will be $7.9 billion next year and $8.6 billion the year after that. As a matter of fact, from 2017 to 2027, Commonwealth funding to state schools will grow by 86 per cent. There's an important point to note here as well. As I mentioned in question time, according to the Productivity Commission, since 2006, on a per-student basis, Commonwealth funding to state schools has increased by 78.5 per cent. This is compared to a 7.7 per cent increase in the contribution from the state and territory governments. The Commonwealth's commitment to state schools is absolute. As someone who attended a Catholic primary school, a state high school and then a Catholic boarding school, I want to make sure that we are providing funding to the Catholic sector, the state sector and the independent sector, because it's incredibly important.

That's why it was a great honour today to be able to, with the Prime Minister, announce the package that we've just agreed with the Catholic sector and the independent sector for ongoing funding for the non-government sector. I just place on the record again my thanks to the Catholic sector and the independent sector for the good faith they showed throughout those negotiations. When I became minister nearly four weeks ago, I obviously needed to build on the work that had been done by my predecessor, Simon Birmingham. Building on that foundation and being able to deliver the package that we did today was made all the easier through the excellent way that both the independent sector and the Catholic sector were prepared to negotiate in very good faith.

I just want to run through, for those here in the House and for those listening, what these new arrangements are. We've extended the 2018 interim arrangements to 2019. We've made some minor adjustments around the ability for the independent sector and the Catholic sector to use 2011 or 2016 census data. That was part of the Chaney review. So that will mean that, in total, there will be $170 million extra funding for the non-government sector for 2019. We then agreed to what we would do with regard to the Chaney review, which had six recommendations. Of those six recommendations, the most important was the transition to a direct measure of personal income tax, the data which would be used being the capacity to contribute. The government has accepted all the recommendations of the Chaney review. I say to Michael Chaney and his board: Thank you for the work that you've done. You had to deal with a very complex area and you did it in a way which I think gave the government some very clear recommendations for moving forward.

We've been able to agree with the non-government sector as to how we will do that. It means that at the school level they can transition to PIT scores commencing in 2020, with individual schools able to opt in in 2021 or 2022, and all schools, based on PIT data, from 2022. So all schools will have opted in by 2022. Schools that start above 80 per cent of the SRS transition will be able to phase down to 80 per cent by 2029, and schools that start below 80 per cent will transition up by 2023. It is a very sensible way of introducing these new measures.

In the third part of the agreed arrangements, we are going to establish a choice and affordability fund for the non-government sector. The words 'choice and affordability' are incredibly important, because we want to ensure, right across Australia, that parents have the ability to have choice, and affordable choice. Whether they're in an inner-city area or whether they're in a rural or remote area, we want to ensure that that choice is there. That's what this fund will do. It's a sector-blind fund. It's going to be very important in ensuring that choice will continue to be there for parents over the coming decade.

From my own schooling experience, I know how important that choice is, but I also know that from my own electorate. I spoke today of the town of Penshurst in my electorate and the choice that's offered there from both the state school and the Catholic primary school. With a population of 750, there are six students who get a very good education at the state school and there are approximately 35 students who get a very good education at the Catholic school. It's incredibly important that those parents in that town get a choice. It is just as important when it comes to school offerings in remote parts of the Northern Territory. We have to ensure that they, too, can get choice. That choice needs to come in a way that is affordable for members in that community. That's what this fund will do.

As I mentioned in question time as well, it will also help the delivery of choice and affordable choice when it comes to those who are impacted by things like drought. As we've seen in New South Wales and Queensland, the impact of the drought has been incredibly devastating on many communities and on many farmers. I know this was something that really hit home with the Prime Minister when he visited drought affected areas. One of the things he heard directly from farmers was that, given the financial difficulty that they're now facing, they were very concerned and worried that they wouldn't be able to continue with their children's education. For many parents, when faced with hardship, that would be the last thing you would want to do or feel like you were being forced to do. It's incredibly important that we have a fund like the one that's been created so that, in times like those that New South Wales and Queensland are faced with, parents can have the option of affordable choice, whether it be in the Catholic sector or in the independent sector.

It is fantastic to be able to stand here today and say that this government has a clear agenda when it comes to school policy. We have a reform agenda, which we saw with the very important agreement that came out of the Education Council meeting last Friday. There are bilateral negotiations that now need to follow on from that. We have also seen it through the work that we were able to do over the last four weeks, building on the work of my predecessor, to make sure that Catholic and independent schools have funding certainty and record levels of funding which will enable them to continue to offer affordable choice. As importantly, as I've outlined in the growth figures, the Commonwealth is providing for government schools as well—public schools and state schools. That funding grows year on year on year. It was $6.8 billion last year. It will be $7.3 billion this year, $7.9 billion next year and $8.6 billion the year after that.

3:40 pm

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

Because I'm quite fond of the minister, I'm going to start by offering him some friendly advice. Whatever you do, Minister, do not take up the invitation by the member for Sydney for a debate on schools policy. You will be utterly humiliated. What we've seen from the minister here was a defence of his deal that's about as passionate as it could have been. It was utterly lacking in feeling. That's what's so wrong with this government's approach to school funding. This minister and this government are trying to fix the wrong problem. They're trying to fix their own political problem of their own making, not the concerns of Australian students and their families. That can be illustrated by one thing in the minister's contribution just now—10 very long minutes, I think we'll all agree—and his answers in question time, because the minister mentioned only one student: Dan Tehan. You were in school a long time ago, Minister. On this side of the House, we are concerned about students today and students tomorrow, not about looking back at our own schooling experience to justify this deal.

We on this side of the House support needs-based, sector-blind schools funding not because it's a good thing in and of itself but because it is the means to an end. That end is a better society and a more productive economy. As the member for Sydney said so effectively in her contribution, it's about enabling reforms that will secure more teachers and better teachers, more support staff and more one-on-one attention to kids who need it, to give every child in every state and territory, in every schooling system, every chance of fulfilling their potential at school, which is so closely connected to their potential in life. For us it is a moral imperative to make sure that talent is not wasted and that every child gets that chance through a quality schooling system, but also it's at the core of our vision for a stronger Australian economy and a stronger Australian society. It is just galling and appalling that this government looks away from too many students.

We welcome these arrangements insofar as they make a bad situation slightly better, but I think this arrangement that we're discussing now can only be characterised in the following manner: it's too late, it's too little and it affects too few of our kids. It leaves untouched 2.5 million Australian kids in our public schools, who have to consider, particularly in jurisdictions like Tasmania, the Northern Territory and South Australia, that they do not have a pathway to reaching the schooling resource standard. These kids are being actively left behind by the decisions of this government.

Minister Birmingham—whom the minister at the dispatch box a minute ago thanked—of course fixed the school funding wars two years ago! We remember that, don't we? He fixed it! What is the point of this? The member for Sturt is another fixer. This government is only fixing political problems of its own making. The member for Sydney was right to take government members back to the 2013 election and their commitment to match our funding commitments dollar for dollar in every school in every sector—another broken promise. This is an empty agenda when it comes to schools. Even on its own terms, it fails.

I have before me today's media release from the National Catholic Education Commission, which is a very qualified statement in support and no doubt expresses the frustration of systemic Catholic schools, as well as independents, about the difficult attitude of this government to this fundamental policy area. They talk about the changes going a long way to fixing the problems, not fixing the problems, and they reserve their rights in terms of the long-term arrangements supporting the government policy objectives. They aren't there. Anyone who looks at the actual Gonski 2.0 review will understand that the measures endorsed there require more funding.

This government says it has walked away from its company tax cuts but the proof of it is pretty simple I reckon. They could put the $17 million that's earmarked for the four big banks into our schools. They could fix the whole schools funding mess and put forward a pathway to schools reform. They could attend the COAG meeting. What an absolute joke! This is a government that abdicates its most fundamental responsibilities. They won't even sit down with the people who operate our schooling systems to discuss this reform or any reform agenda. The member for Sydney was right, we are going back to the future. Stripping five years of education away from our kids is not good enough. This minister and his government stand condemned.

3:45 pm

Photo of Andrew BroadAndrew Broad (Mallee, National Party, Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

It is nice on a Thursday afternoon to hear a level of discussion rather than a level of argument about the very important role of the education of our children.

I want to go back to first principles and the role of the federal government. The first role of the federal government is the security of its Australian people—our defence. The second role of the federal government is to create an economy that rewards endeavour and rewards risk. Those who get out of bed should make more money than those who sleep in. There is only one side of this chamber that will manage an economy adequately and responsibly, and that is the coalition government

When we talk about what is in the best interests of our children, we do not serve our children well if we simply leave them with a debt because we haven't been prepared to make hard decisions in our generation and our lifetime. When it comes to ensuring that we manage our economy this is something that our government does very well. We need to make sure that when we think about how we spend things we spend them wisely. Mr Deputy Speaker Hogan, you would know, as a former teacher yourself, that it isn't necessarily always how much money you throw at a problem that gets you the best outcome.

The Australian government has a role in creating that economy, and that economy simply gives us the engine room to build the society we want to have. What is it that makes a great society? I want to touch on this. A great society is a society that looks after the unwell, our senior Australians and those who might be having some difficulties with their health. A great society is one that looks after domestic policing, law and order. People should feel safe in their own homes. That's a very critical issue in the Victorian election coming up, where many Victorians no longer feel safe in their own homes thanks to the failure of the Andrews government. A great society is also one that builds our public transport, our roads and our rail network. And a great society is one that invests in its children.

Something that I have been very keen to support, which was a Labor government initiative, is the Commonwealth top-up of the 15 hours for four-year-old child care, kindergarten—

Photo of Susan LambSusan Lamb (Longman, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Early childhood education—

Photo of Andrew BroadAndrew Broad (Mallee, National Party, Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

That's the word for it! I supported it. It was a good initiative. Thank you, member for Longman. it is good you are listening. The New South Wales government has introduced six hours for three-year-old kinder. I think that's very good. I'd like to see that introduced in Victoria. In Victoria they do have that for foster children, and as a foster dad I can see the value in that.

I was never a great student—I was a tradie—but I was reasonably good at my maths, and I always thought that if you have a figure and you have a greater figure on the other side that is an increase. Tell me if I'm wrong, but if—

Photo of Nick ChampionNick Champion (Wakefield, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Manufacturing and Science) Share this | | Hansard source

Are you assistant minister now?

Photo of Andrew BroadAndrew Broad (Mallee, National Party, Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

I know, they let anyone in here, don't they! But listen to this: if you have a figure and then you get a bit more, that is an increase; it's not a decrease.

I will run through Edenhope, in the electorate of Mallee: $631,000 and the following year $674,000: an increase of $43,700. In the school in Stawell: $1,300,000 next year and $1,397,000 on top of that. There are 129 schools in the electorate of Mallee—there wouldn't be many electorates with as many schools as mine—and every single one of them got an increase under our government. That is what it's all about. Our principals will look at the figures and they will see that the school funding has increased. It hasn't decreased; it has increased. That is the first rule of mathematics: if you have a figure and you drastically increase it, you actually do get more. Some of my students are $800 a year better off than they were the year before.

Photo of Nick ChampionNick Champion (Wakefield, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Manufacturing and Science) Share this | | Hansard source

What's inflation doing?

Photo of Andrew BroadAndrew Broad (Mallee, National Party, Assistant Minister to the Deputy Prime Minister) Share this | | Hansard source

Inflation is at 2½ per cent, my friend. It is not at $800. There is something else we must be doing: we must be looking after our students when it comes to having breakfast programs. That is something this government is really starting to think about. People who come to a school in the electorate of Mallee are better off. They're getting more funding. We had a constructive discussion till that bloke, the member for Wakefield, came along, and he's just blown it out of the water. We are delivering more money for the students in the electorate of Mallee.

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

Before I call the member for Moreton, I will remind the member for Wakefield: we'd been having a lovely MPI, member for Wakefield, before you arrived. It was quite peaceful. On that note, you are warned, member for Wakefield. I call the member for Moreton.

3:51 pm

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

Thank you, Mr Deputy Speaker, and could I endorse your earlier comments there. This is a very serious matter of public importance. We've heard from two Victorian representatives who understand some basic mathematics but forgot to point out the big facts. We have heard it from the Prime Minister, the Treasurer and the Minister for Education in the parliament over the last week: 'Oh yes, school funding is going up.' Let's go to the basic mathematics. There are more Australians, which means there are more students, which means the funding does go up. But it's obviously all about where it goes and who it goes to. The schooling resource standard is what determines where the money goes.

Right now, in Queensland, kids have one more day of school left. Then they go on school holidays. It's great for those schoolkids. I've got two schoolkids, one in grade 4, one in grade 8, and I'm sure they'll be having lovely holidays. The principals of their schools, one a state school and one a Catholic school, will be sitting down—like any principal would do, like the member for Lalor, who's here in the chamber, would have done—and working out their staffing arrangements for next year. They need to lock in staff long term pretty much right now, and if they don't have funding certainty they cannot do that. Big employers, like the Catholics, the independent schools, the Anglicans and the like, are trying to make decisions about teachers and where they will go. Then we go to the state sector, the biggest sector of all. They are trying to make decisions about where teachers will go. It's especially important in Queensland. You can drive around Victoria in an afternoon. In Queensland, the most decentralised state, it is much more significant when you move teachers around.

We have seen those opposite come in and, in their own budget papers, say, 'There will be savings.' For those mathematical geniuses opposite, 'savings' means 'cuts'. You say savings; we say cuts. That means fewer dollars being delivered to kids, which means you can't have one-on-one education with kids. Gonski, who looked at education with the clinical eyes of an economist and a banker, said: the best bang for your buck is in early education. Invest in early education and it will pay off. It will actually boost productivity—much more than any magical trickle-down economics theory those opposite are embracing. We know that investing in education improves productivity, improves the GDP of a nation. We know that. It's what the expert panel actually told us. That's why, under Labor, we were happy to have sector-blind investment in education.

Today we heard the Prime Minister and his desperate education minister come in and announce a giant bandaid to put over the Catholic sore that Minister Birmingham got festering. Why? Because Catholic education have their own system that basically, to simplify it, involves wealthy schools in the cities subsidising poor schools, like those in Cunnamulla or Palm Island or Thursday Island. That's because of the social justice commitment of the Catholic education system. That's their basic education system.

We know that the Catholics do a great job, but who does the heaviest lifting when it comes to education in terms of kids with disability? Seventy-four per cent of kids with disability are in state schools. Eighty-two per cent of children from the lowest quarter of socioeconomic advantage are in state schools. Eighty-four per cent of Indigenous kids are in state schools. There are a few private Indigenous schools, like the Murri School in my electorate, that do fantastic work—even Carinity Education, which is having its own problems at the moment, does fantastic work with Indigenous kids—but the majority of the heavy lifting, when it comes to disadvantage, takes place in state schools.

We saw the Minister for Education and Training—the bumbling, hapless education minister—when he got up today to try and fix up this mess. He said, 'We'll have a $1.2 billion school choice fund.'

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

What is that?

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

That's a good question, Member for Lalor. What is it? The minister said it would be sector-blind—he actually said that—but no state schools can apply! It's a weird kind of blindness that the education minister has stumbled upon. Those opposite are a disgrace when it comes to education. (Time expired)

3:56 pm

Photo of Andrew LamingAndrew Laming (Bowman, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It's always a worry when a speech ends with calling the other side a disgrace. It's a slightly overused word in this chamber. In reality we have a good economy and increasing revenue for the nation. Taking hard decisions means you can invest in the social services Australians want. If we said to the average Australian on the street or sitting in the gallery today that funding last year was $6.8 billion going to $7.3 billion going to $7.9 billion going to $8.6 billion—that would be an increase, not a cut. But, of course, we've got the constant narrative from the other side of politics saying that, in every area of social policy, we're making cuts. They are sort of reverse cuts, where the money's actually going up but the other side are calling them cuts. It's mildly entertaining, I think, for people listening in, because it almost seems like the two parties are speaking different languages. The reality is that, when it comes to social policy, the Labor Party feel they always have to overpromise, and then, if they get into government, they find an excuse where the economy prevents them from delivering. The excuses come at the last minute.

What happened when Julia Gillard was busily promising not one, two or five but 27 different funding models for different school sectors, where every child got a different amount of money depending on what sector they attended or what state they were growing up in? There was a complete loss of control of the whole sector. What she did was like any old bozo walking down the street who sees you coming out of your workplace and says: 'How much is the boss paying you? I'll offer to double your pay.' Then he disappears, and you go back in and say to your boss, 'Thanks for halving my pay.' That's exactly what the Labor Party did. They vanished without trace. They made invisible promises that were completely unfunded.

There's a tiny issue about how government works that is lost on most Australians: in the four years going ahead, you've got to be able to find the money, if you make a promise; but after four years you can say anything, and it doesn't matter, because you don't have to budget beyond four years. What did Julia Gillard do? She brought in the big D9 tractor and pushed all the Gonski promises that went through the roof out to years 5 and 6. That was handy—not because she'd never have to deliver them, not because she'd never have to find the money, but because she knew, when she lost government a couple of weeks later, that her mob over here, fed and led by the union movement, could go on about cuts for the next 10 years from opposition.

Well, it's an unhappy place over there, isn't it? It's an unhappy place where you've got one person who knows how a school works and where the most that the rest of you know about school education is where the tuckshop is! When you guys walk in, you go straight to the principal's office, shake a few hands and then walk out before you get asked uncomfortable questions by parents. You guys would not know a learning progression if it slapped you in the face. You guys wouldn't know school reform if it was laid out in front of you. None of you have postgraduate education skills. None of you have ever enrolled in anything beyond a basic bachelor degree in union rubbish. What would you guys know about a learning progression? What would you know about student centred education? Nothing!

Opposition Members:

Opposition members interjecting

Photo of Andrew LamingAndrew Laming (Bowman, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

They go on guffawing, but, as soon as you challenge them to a debate, as soon as you say, 'Come to a public location and bring out the data,' suddenly the Labor Party—the great Labor Party of reform—becomes mute. Their federal and state members scurry away like rodents, reluctant to debate anything, because they want to stick to ridiculous talking points.

Do you know what? You've actually got a bible. It's right here. Gonski gave you the chance. He laid out the ingredients for you on the bench. All you needed was the Thermomix to finish the job—but, no. You got de-elected, and we've come to power and produced a simple road map for the future. This says very simply: regarding investing, as the OECD says—don't take my word for it, don't believe me; I'm blue, right? Talk to the OECD—Australia has the most sector-blind, need-blind funding to those who need it, above every other nation. We don't invest the most money—correct—but there are two nations in the OECD who invest more and get poorer results, and there are two nations who invest less and get better results. We're in the sweet spot in the OECD. We're not near the Asian economies; I accept that. We are catching up very rapidly with the Scandinavian economies on school outcomes. It's not a disaster area.

Can I tell you what the greatest threat is in education policy? It is the great party over there that once was the champion for education quality and is suddenly fixated on cuts. I know they'll do their mental kabuki and find a way to call it a cut. It wouldn't matter what we did, right? It would be a cut. It wouldn't matter how much money rolled into schools right across Australia; they'd find a way to call it a cut, and they'd stand up the front with their unions. I'll tell you what they do. They may well have a message for the poorly educated people who don't understand school policy and who'll buy the cut stuff, but the average mum and dad in the pick-up zone want to know more. They want to know how much the funding is going up and, more importantly, how quality education is being delivered for our next generation.

4:01 pm

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

I am really pleased to rise after the member for Bowman, because it means he has to stop talking. Before he leaves the chamber, I'd just like to say this: I'll match your doctor and I'll raise you with a school principal. Listening to the member for Bowman talk about education across the last five years has been an education, let me tell you! It demonstrates that you can be the smartest person in the school, and you can go on to be a doctor, but it doesn't mean you've got any common sense.

What we have on this side is common sense. What this side did when we were last in government was a review of national education. Do you know why we did it? Because we were slipping down the scales in the OECD rankings in terms of our student performance. What did we do? We sent a banker out with a team of people. I saw David Gonski speak about what he found. I'm going to paraphrase him, because I can't directly quote—it was a live show. But he said he expected to see bureaucratic waste, and what he found was a lean machine in education across this country. What he found was that there was no waste. Every cent put into schools was going into classrooms and into education, which left him with the question: why aren't we performing like we should? He thought he'd find waste and he found none.

What he did find was inequality, and what the OECD had already reported on was that those countries with the highest inequities in their school systems were sinking, and those countries with the most equitable systems, with the least difference between schools and, in schools, between classrooms, were reaching the stars. So the review went to find the answer for Australia, and what did they find? They found the schooling resource standard. They found a dollar figure that they could undo disadvantage with, to ensure that, for every child in every school, regardless of sector, regardless of postcode, regardless of parent, we could find a solution, if we could get this secret model going.

That's what we went to the 2013 election with, and those opposite knew the power of the argument with the Australian people. They knew that the Australian people understand how important a quality education is for every child in this country—not just for their own children but for every child in this country. They know the economic power of a purposeful, well-funded education system and what it means for this country. They understand what it means for our economy. They understand what it means for our society. So the coalition went to that election saying, 'Not a dollar difference'. They got government, and then they trashed Gonski. They appointed the member for Sturt, with the quick repartee, as Minister for Education. I don't want to point out the obvious, but the current Minister for Education has to be the exact opposite of the member for Sturt. The member for Sturt, with his quick repartee, took on education and absolutely smashed the Gonski model. He put his sector glasses on—he put his goggles on—and he determined that they would tear up this system that was so well planned. What we then saw was Minister Birmingham, who continued on that road. As the member for Sydney pointed out today, they lost complete track of the reforms and the things this money would target to get us better quality schools and better quality teachers—teachers working together in schools with proper resourcing to improve their own practice and to improve every classroom in this country.

It is a sad day today. The new education minister and the new Prime Minister—we're three for three, remember; three Prime Ministers and three education ministers. It's like a game over there: if you back the right horse, you get the education portfolio! It's a sad state of affairs that no-one has followed this from start to finish. The announcement today does not fix the problem for this government. What it does is entrench inequality. They didn't put a bandaid on today; they ripped a bandaid off. The terrible sore that is education policy for this government is going to get worse. I promise, as a former school principal: it's going to get worse.

4:06 pm

Photo of Luke HartsuykerLuke Hartsuyker (Cowper, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I welcome the opportunity to participate in this debate on education. It will be a big year, 2019. Yes, it will most likely be the year of the next federal election, but it's also a year of significant anniversaries. It's the 100th anniversary of the establishment of British Airways—about a year ahead of Qantas. For TheLord of the Rings fans, it's the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Tolkien Society. But there's a very significant anniversary in 2019: it's the 30th anniversary of the last Labor surplus! I'd have to say that it is a very significant anniversary, because there's a big difference between our education policy and Labor's education policy, and the Prime Minister pointed it out in his news conference today: our education policy is paid for. It is not an unfunded promise. Our policy is actually paid for. The PM pointed this out quite clearly.

On this side of the House we know how to run an economy. On this side of the House we can manage the economy so we can pay for our promises. Labor's education policy can best be described as nothing more than sleight of hand—an exercise in financial gymnastics rather than education policy. The previous member on this side pointed it out. The member for Bowman pointed it out with regard to Labor's alleged Gonski reforms. There wasn't much money in year 1 and there wasn't much money in year 2, year 3 or year 4, but come to years 5 and 6 of Labor's proposed education policy and the expenditure took off into the stratosphere. Why? Because they didn't have to fund it. Their education policy was largely an unfunded wish list. Labor's policy was nothing more than an unfunded fairytale. They had a very similar approach to the National Disability Insurance Scheme. The expenditure went way beyond when they would have had to budget for it.

We on this side of the House have, by contrast, a policy which will provide funding that is needed for schools, but in a way that is economically responsible. I'd like to look at those measures now. The government is providing an additional $4.5 billion over 10 years, from 2019 to 2029, to non-government schools: $3.2 billion will be invested over that period to support those schools which improved data has shown have the greatest need; and $1.2 billion will be invested over the period to create a Choice and Affordability Fund to support parental choice and diversity in the schools system. The fund will provide extra support to address challenges in the non-government schools sector, such as supporting schools in regional, rural and remote areas, and it will provide a flexible source of support for schools that need a helping hand. In addition, there will be interim funding of some $170.8 million in 2019 to provide additional funding early in 2019 to allow non-state schools to plan with confidence for the 2019 school year.

We have a responsible policy, not an unfunded fairytale. We are a government that will be bringing the economy back into surplus. Who can forget, in 2012, Wayne Swan, the good old member for Lilley, saying 'the surpluses I announce tonight'? Well, we are still waiting to see them. We are still waiting to see those illusive surpluses provided by the member for Lilley, but what I can say is that we have a policy that addresses the issue of needs in schools. This side of the House believes in choice in education. We believe that parents should have the opportunity to choose the type of education that they want for their children and that the federal government should support not only a great public sector but the Catholic and independent sector as well. I'm certainly happy to speak on this debate, and I'm certainly looking forward to the implementation of this. (Time expired)

4:11 pm

Photo of Patrick GormanPatrick Gorman (Perth, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Any parent should be able to expect stable, predictable funding for their school. Sadly, there is complete chaos when it comes to the coalition's approach to funding. The complex field of mathematical study now known as chaos theory was founded on the work of Edward Lorenz at MIT, a passionate educator and a passionate sharer of knowledge. He wrote some 55 years ago a paper called 'Deterministic nonperiodic flow'. Many in this House would know that better today as the butterfly effect. I raise this because chaos theory is the only way that you can properly describe the coalition's approach to school funding. The fluttering wings in the Liberal Party have led to chaos when it comes to schools funding—chaos that has caused COAG cancellation. On 26 August the Prime Minister said, 'We've got a lot of work to do, but we're restoring stability.' Tell that to a state premier or a territory chief minister. There's no stability in their program and no stability of when they're going to meet for COAG. There's no stability at all.

This debate is important to my community. It's important to me as the son of two Western Australian teachers. My father was a principal for many years. He proudly led Lance Holt School, which is now led by another great Western Australian educator, one of my former teachers, Kathryn Netherwood. Leading a school is a tough but rewarding job. You'd think, at least, that the government wouldn't make it harder and that they'd give a little bit of certainty and a little bit of stability to let educators do what they do best. I know that my father stressed about his school budget—the need to ensure the stability of the school's finances. Schools aren't just providers of education but also direct employers, particularly those in the independent and Catholic sector. When a school doesn't have secure funding, the teachers do not have secure work. It's just another way that, when you don't provide that stability of funding, when you have a chaotic schools policy, you're disrespecting teachers. You're disrespecting people like my mum and my dad. Teachers work in chaotic environments, but the chaos they're used to is handling a classroom of 30 children or teenagers. It requires strength of character. They shouldn't have to also worry about whether their school's going to have enough money to resource their school the following year.

I also want to acknowledge that it's not just governments that fund schools. Parents and citizens organisations and parents and friends organisations do amazing work finding that extra $1,000 here and there to grow a school's capacity to deliver for the students. For many of those schools, the canteen might be the financial powerhouse of the parents and citizens or the parents and friends, so I'll take the opportunity to give a shout-out today in this place to the staff and volunteers at school canteens across the country providing stability—more stability than we see in this place—for the funding of their schools.

When we talk about stability, it's odd that we'd see the king of chaos, often known as the member for Warringah, appointed as special envoy for Indigenous affairs. One of the things that the 'special' envoy has said is that he wants to increase Indigenous attendance at remote schools.

Opposition Member:

An opposition member interjecting

Photo of Patrick GormanPatrick Gorman (Perth, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm correctly advised that he did also say that he was going to do that as Prime Minister, although, to use that former Prime Minister's own words, he was rudely interrupted. My concern is that this is the same gentleman who said that living in Aboriginal communities was a 'lifestyle choice' not worthy of taxpayer funding. This is deeply concerning. As has been pointed out in this place already, we have had three education ministers and three prime ministers—all contributing to this general sense of complete chaos.

When it comes to Indigenous education, there are some bright spots. I'm pleased that Labor has taken the lead here. It's worth remembering, as people have reminded us, that it was Labor who set the principle of a student resource standard. It was an initiative researched by David Gonski and implemented by Prime Minister Julia Gillard to fund schools and students according to need. One of those was to place Indigenous students as a key funding driver. This is how we deliver on our aspiration for Indigenous Australians.

Today, I attended the launch of Labor's First Nations Women's Policy Forum report. This forum is helping to amplify the voice of First Nations women to the Labor Party and to the Parliament of Australia. I want to commend the work that Senator Sue Lines, the Deputy President of the Senate, has done in this space. It will not surprise anyone that one of the most important things those women raised was the need for certainty of funding for their schools to help kids achieve all that they can. I'm going to support them 100 per cent of the way.

4:16 pm

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

Just now I thought I was back in my entomology class, learning to pin butterflies. Alas! It was a weak link to economic modelling. I have been in this House for more than five years, and I saw the beginning of the Gonski model of educational funding. The first four years were funded; the fifth and sixth were not. It was like sending a rocket ship up to become a satellite to make sure it measured educational process, but the rocket ship from the Labor Party was only half full of the fuel it needed. Our government, on the other hand, has a rocket ship at a slower trajectory climb, and it's got a full load of fuel, which means our plan is fully funded and is going to work. I think that's pretty good, actually.

But do you know what? Another comparison came to mind when I was listening to members on the other side. We have a bucket that we call the 'revenue bucket'. We get more people employed. We have a great economy. We fill that bucket up so we can spend it on all the services that we need for our nation. Unfortunately, when Labor is in government, that bucket looks more like a colander. It has lots of revenue and lots of leaks. It all goes, and it becomes a bigger and bigger problem.

I was listening to one of the speakers who talked about a moral imperative and the need for individualised attention and individualised learning and mentoring. I agree. This is absolutely critical. I'm one of the probably few members of parliament here who have actually taught in a classroom for 10 years, and I've tutored trainee teachers at university. Just throwing money at a school is not going to fix the problem. We do need better outcomes for our children. We already know that just throwing heaps of money in is not making the slightest bit of difference in the OECD figures. There are amazing programs right now that are developing and inspiring our students, and they continue to get increased funding.

The federal government is providing a huge investment, over $300 billion, in recurrent funding to all Australian schools from 2018 to 2029. For example, in Gilmore, each student at Ulladulla High School will receive $3,581 in funding for 2019, and by 2027 this will grow to $5,115. At Sanctuary Point Public School, each student will receive $3,356 in funding for next year, and by 2027 this will be $4,794. Each student at Nowra East Public School will receive $4,653 next year, and by 2027 this will be $6,646. At Batemans Bay High School, which was actually visiting here today and may still be in the gallery, each student will receive $3,915 in funding next year, and in 2017 this will increase to $5,592. Incidentally, in case those opposite forgot their abacus, those are all increases. There's a pattern here that repeats across every school in Gilmore: increased funding. The federal government is committed to doing that.

In addition, we have guaranteed that Australian parents will have a choice in where to send their children to school. That is very important to all of us on this side—choice is one of the dictating factors. We need choice, particularly in regional and rural communities, because there isn't such a massive income ability for schools. So, measuring the socioeconomic status of the regions is critically important. I have a large number of wonderful Indigenous students—that's part of the picture. I have a large number of children with disabilities—that's part of the picture. Distance away from central metro areas is an issue. Getting up to Sydney, getting to Canberra and even getting to Wollongong are difficult, so there's a balance there for extra money for my schools.

I love my schools. They're doing an amazing job. Bucketing money in there just isn't going to be. What we need to do is to help them to use the money they are getting so that they are not having to whack it all at the end of June and say, 'Whoops, we didn't spend it all.' Get it going right. Make sure it is being monitored correctly and teachers have the opportunity to train more and to be more inspiring and grow our children's education so that in the future our children have got a STEM connection. We sponsor them into all sorts of courses so that they have leadership and resilience, they're well educated and they can represent us at all levels in all different manners and be as flexible as possible, because that's what the future will need. It's not just about money. It's about the best teachers we can get, and we have some magnificent teachers. It's about the best curriculum we can have and not loading it up with rubbish. These are the things we need to look at in education.