House debates

Monday, 18 February 2019

Private Members' Business


11:33 am

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

I move:

That this House:

(1) acknowledges that our public schools are at the heart of our education system;

(2) notes that:

  (a) public schools teach two in three of all school students, and the overwhelming majority of Australia’s neediest children, including:

     (i) 82 per cent of the poorest children;

     (ii) 84 per cent of Indigenous children; and

     (iii) 74 per cent of children with disabilities;

  (b) under the current Government, almost nine in ten (88 per cent) of public schools will never get to their fair funding level because the Government has capped federal funding for public schools at just 20 per cent of the Schools Recommendation Scheme;

  (c) after spending a year trying to deny there were cuts, the fact the Government has restored funding to Catholic and independent schools was finally an admission that it is cutting billions of dollars from schools;

  (d) Labor has announced a plan to restore funding to public schools; and

  (e) Labor’s plan will transform public schools across Australia and give all children the opportunity to reach their full potential, no matter where they live, or what amount their parents earn; and

(3) calls on the Government to:

  (a) immediately adopt Labor’s plan to restore funding to public schools to ensure every public school reaches its fair funding level; and

  (b) work with school systems to get every school to its fair funding level.

The role of government is to govern for all Australians. Those opposite have failed in their over five years as a government to do exactly that, no more obvious than in schools and education. They have walked away from needs based, sector-blind funding. By their own admission recently, in improving the funding going to Catholic schools, they've abandoned needs based and evidence based funding because they have not made a reasonable commitment. They have not made a commitment to properly fund our state schools across this great nation.

Today I'm standing to call out the member for Wannon, the most recent Minister for Education. Of course, as with everything else with three prime ministers, we've had three Ministers for Education since I joined this place in 2013. But at the moment the Minister for Education is Dan Tehan, the member for Wannon—shamefully, a Victorian—a Victorian who doesn't understand the ramifications of his decision-making to ensure that they are not putting in the $14 billion that's required to bring state education over the next 10 years into line with what the original Gonski plan was. And we all know the importance of state education. We know that state education, that state schools, educate 82 per cent of Australia's poorest children, 84 per cent of Indigenous children and 74 per cent of children with a disability. That's how important the state education system is and how bereft of conscience this minister is that he has not been on his feet about education in recent times.

I also want to quote the member for Wannon from December last year at a conference about what's beyond year 12. He said, 'I extend an invitation to every Australian to work together to deliver a world-class education system.' Well I extend an invitation to the Minister for Education to work with all Australians, including those families, those teachers, those principles and those education support officers who work in our state education systems across this country. It is time for him to stand up.

And it's not just in schools where he is so lacking. Similarly, we find ourselves lacking in the area of early education, where this minister has not yet committed to 15 hours universal access for four-year-olds across this country beyond 2019. That is over 5,000 children in the electorate of Lalor whose families don't know what happens beyond 2019. Our local government, who provides most of our kindergartens, doesn't know if that funding is secured and that funding is guaranteed. This minister is absolutely asleep at the wheel. He needs to come out today and make that commitment. There are two commitments this country needs. It needs a commitment to 15 hours universal access to four-year-olds' kindergarten across this country and it needs a commitment to put back into our state schools across this country the $14 billion.

In Lalor, as I said, there are 5,000 four-year-olds, a lot of whom are from low socioeconomic families and from families where English is not their first language who could do with that year of kindergarten before they start school. In Lalor state schools, that's $31 million over three years. I know, as a former principal and teacher, what that $31 million would mean for the 56 schools in my electorate—56 schools! Those teachers, those children and those families deserve access to funds that we know will make a difference. That is in contrast to the minister, who either doesn't have the ticker to get in and fight for this in cabinet or doesn't have the clout to deliver it in cabinet. He needs to find both this week to deliver.

I want to mention too the fabulous announcement this morning from the member for Sydney around the support for the best and brightest to go into teaching. It was my first choice of career. It was my first choice. I wanted to be a teacher and I was a teacher and a principle for 27 years. Every day of teaching was a great profession. I got up every morning to go and assist young people set themselves up for their future. This minister needs to take that into consideration.

Photo of Maria VamvakinouMaria Vamvakinou (Calwell, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'd like someone to second the motion.

11:39 am

Photo of Anne StanleyAnne Stanley (Werriwa, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I second the motion. It's a pleasure that I rise to speak on the motion proposed by the member for Lalor. Education has proved to be the best leveller to improve social disadvantage. It allows people to get better jobs and to give them a sense of worth. It provides the basis on which they can become productive members of our society. Public education equips our young people with the skills and knowledge required to tackle the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities they face in life.

In our education system, public schools are the heart, and they must be a priority to be properly funded. They need to be resourced and supported. Public schools teach two in three of all school students, and they are the overwhelming majority of Australia's neediest children. Public schools educate 82 per cent of our poorest children, 84 per cent of our Indigenous children and 74 per cent of children with a disability. They cannot be the schools of last resort. They must be properly funded.

Labor understands that the role of the public school extends beyond the classroom. This is why I'm proud to say that under a Labor government every public school across Australia will be better off. Nationally, public schools will receive $3.3 billion over the first three years of a Labor government, should we be elected. This will allow those schools to employ more teachers and teachers' assistants, ensuring that there's more one-on-one attention for students across the board; support the professional development of teachers; and bring in additional support services, like counsellors and social workers. Our side is driven by the principle that every child deserves a great education regardless of geography, income or impediment. It was Labor who legislated the Building the Education Revolution program, which gave primary schools $16.2 billion to build new libraries and classrooms.

In the electorate of Werriwa, where there are 41 public schools, the public schools will receive just over $25 million worth of additional funding under a Labor government. I've spoken in this House previously about the difference that extra funding makes to public schools in my area. Extra funding allows schools like James Busby High School to run programs on an individual basis or in small groups to improve literacy and numeracy so that, when students go back into their age-appropriate lessons, they can better understand the concepts being taught and participate in the lessons better. Pleasingly, this also leads to higher attendance, better self-esteem and ultimately, of course, more options and better academic outcomes and therefore job prospects for these students when they leave school.

Other schools in my electorate have employed speech pathologists and other support services. These necessary supports have better outcomes if they can be provided in the school setting, as children can access them on site, during class time. For some families, it means that the children actually have the access, because they can't afford either the fees or the time to take them in any other circumstances.

Werriwa public schools are incredibly close to my heart and have played a constant part in my family's life. All of my family have attended the public schools in my electorate, and now one of my sons teaches in the local public high school.

Australia's capacity to ensure a high quality of life for our children depends on the ability of its citizens to compete in an increasingly complex workforce. Education provides the physical, social and intellectual skills that enable our children to navigate this workforce. The majority of children, especially those who are the most disadvantaged, will be publicly educated. Therefore, limiting investment in public education, as the coalition has done, means limiting the opportunities for these students to fulfil their economic and social potential.

Werriwa public schools truly represent the community spirit in my electorate. Whether it's in a cake stall run by the local P&C or the Bunnings sausage sizzle, when funding is low, the school community bands together in an attempt to provide what the government has not. This is a true testament to the character of public schools within Werriwa and, I suggest, the rest of Australia. The resilience, determination and altruism of Werriwa's school community are something which continually stops me in my tracks and of which I'm very proud. However, the fact is that these schools and their communities should not have to divert their time away from educating our young people, because there is a refusal to fund schools properly.

Public schools are the heart of our education system. After years of continual underfunding, Labor is the party that will inject the necessary funds and address the deficits to ensure that all of our children, especially in our public schools, receive the funding and opportunities they deserve.

11:44 am

Photo of Sharon ClaydonSharon Claydon (Newcastle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The lack of support for, if not deliberate undermining of, public education in this country has been a travesty under the last six years of these Liberal Abbott, Morrison and Turnbull governments—an absolute travesty. It is unacceptable in a nation that purports to be the fair go—

Photo of Maria VamvakinouMaria Vamvakinou (Calwell, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

( ):

Member for Newcastle, one moment. Is the member for Petrie—

Photo of Luke HowarthLuke Howarth (Petrie, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes; my point of order is just on the correct title for the member for Warringah; it's an abuse of that, to mention the member for Warringah's last name up-front and then go on to a whole lot of them—

Photo of Maria VamvakinouMaria Vamvakinou (Calwell, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Thank you. I take the point. I didn't hear. But the member for Newcastle has the call and will refer to members by their titles.

Photo of Sharon ClaydonSharon Claydon (Newcastle, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is unacceptable in a nation that purports to be of the fair go that we have a government—a Liberal government under the leadership of Prime Minister Morrison—that is prepared to rip $14.5 billion out of public education. And they have the gall to suggest there will be no impact—'Nothing to see here'! Two out of three Australian children are educated in public schools, including the vast majority of kids who need the most help, and they include 82 per cent of the poorest children, 84 per cent of First Nations children and 74 per cent of children with disability.

Indeed, the Closing the gap report was brought down in this parliament just last week, and we saw, yet again, the continuous failure of government to reach the purported targets that it had set to improve Indigenous education. This government is much more prepared to sit back and suggest that this is a problem for state governments and a failure of the way that COAG and federation work. It did not once stand up and take responsibility itself. It did not once link the very real issues faced by First Nations kids to the fact that it rips out $14.4 billion worth of funding from public education. It thinks that this is disconnected somehow. What a hide! Not for one moment has this government considered the implications—and the betrayal of young Australians—of the course of action it pursues.

Indeed, under this Morrison government, almost nine in 10 public schools will never reach their fair funding level because the government has capped the federal funding for public schools at just 20 per cent of the schooling resource standard. This same broken model that this government is pushing out there does, however, give private schools 80 per cent of their fair funding level. I'm sorry, but—when two out of every three Australian kids are educated in the public education system—who thinks that allowing private schools to get 80 per cent of their fair share of funding is okay, while public education is capped at 20 per cent of their fair share? Seriously—who in their right mind would stand in this parliament to argue for such a broken model?

Labor understands that proper, needs based investment in public education is the best means of helping our kids achieve their potential—and that's regardless of their postcode, where they're living or their parents' bank balance. That's why, if we ever have the privilege of being elected, Labor will restore funding to public schools to ensure that every public school reaches its fair funding level. We will also restore the $14.5 billion cut by the Liberal government. In my electorate of Newcastle, that would mean almost $20 million for Newcastle schools from 2020. Twenty million dollars can make a profound difference to the education of our young people. That is, on average, each school in my electorate would receive $450,000 extra over the next three years. That means more teachers, more individual attention for kids and more support for every single child, making sure that they get the best start in life and that they get to reach their full potential.

For years, this government has tried to insist that it believes in needs based funding and that it would adhere to the principles of Labor's groundbreaking education reforms, but nothing could be further from the truth. As long as this government prioritises the privileged at the expense of those facing challenges, too many Australian kids won't get the support and attention they need to reach their potential. (Time expired)

11:49 am

Photo of Luke HowarthLuke Howarth (Petrie, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm really pleased to rise to speak about local public schools, as well as Catholic schools, independent schools and special schools, in my electorate. In the federal electorate of Petrie, I have almost 50 schools, and I visit all of them regularly. I get along to a lot of them. I'm really pleased that the federal coalition government has been increasing school funding for public schools every year since I was elected 5½ years ago. Every year, they are going up—and they will continue to go up, over the next two years, every single year. So schools in the southern end of my electorate, such as Aspley State School down in the Brisbane City Council area, will receive more funding from the federal government next year than they do this year. The Aspley Special School do a wonderful job in my electorate teaching students with disability. I have been to their awards night several times. They will receive more funding as well. So will Bracken Ridge State High School, Bracken Ridge State School and Norris Road State School. The Sandgate District State High School, which is just outside my electorate in Lilley, also does a great job educating children in Bracken Ridge—and the Bald Hills State School.

To put this into perspective: back in 2016, when we were in government, federal funding for state schools was $16.1 billion nationally. In 2017 federal funding for state schools was $17.5 billion. So that is actually $1.4 billion more. In 2018 it was $18.7 billion. This year, federal funding for state schools is $19.9 billion. Next year, in 2020, it will be $21.5 billion. Because the economy has been growing, because the unemployment rate is at five per cent, the federal Liberal-National government will continue to invest more into education. All of my sons have gone through Shorncliffe State School, a great local school in Lilley just outside my electorate. My youngest son, Samuel, finished year 6 there last year. I was very proud for him to be the library captain at Shorncliffe State School and I was very pleased with all my three sons receiving seven years of education at Shorncliffe State School. I want to thank all the teachers, the principal and everyone involved there. They all certainly did very well.

Griffin State School, a new state school in a very fast-growing suburb in my electorate, had 250 students a few years ago—and I was there for the opening of the school. Now they are up to some 850 students. There are lots of people going to Griffin State School. In 2019, they will receive $2,537 from the federal government for every student that attends Griffin State School. Next year they will receive $2,682 for every student that attends Griffith State School. In 2021 they will receive $2,830 for every student that attends Griffin State School. I am very pleased that the federal government is funding state schools as well, and I encourage the state government to continue to fund state schools to the same level.

I am pleased that the federal Minister for Education, the Hon. Dan Tehan, recently signed an agreement with the Queensland education minister Grace Grace. Just two months ago they signed an agreement. Why did Grace Grace sign the agreement? Because every school in my electorate is receiving more money from the federal government. So I guess that is the message I want to get out to parents in my electorate: they are all receiving more money.

Opposition Member:

An opposition member interjecting

Photo of Luke HowarthLuke Howarth (Petrie, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member opposite interjects, 'Tell us about the private schools.' I'll tell you about the private schools. I went to St Flannan's at Zillmere, a small Catholic primary school—once again, just outside my electorate. Every Catholic school also receives more funding. At the federal level, 20 per cent is funded by state government and 80 per cent for state schools. It is reversed. I'm very pleased that both sides will continue to invest in education. (Time expired)

11:54 am

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

Labor believes that every child, in every school, should get the education they deserve, wherever they live. I acknowledge the member for Lalor for bringing on this important private member's motion about public education. Public education matters, particularly in regional areas. This is important in my electorate of Dobell, on the Central Coast of New South Wales, where almost three-quarters of primary school students and two-thirds of secondary school students attend public schools. That is why a Labor government will deliver an extra $14 billion for public schools over the next decade, with $3.3 billion extra flowing in the first three years alone. The extra $14 billion for public schools is the equivalent of more than 13,000 extra teachers, or 23,000 extra teacher aides. This will give all children the opportunity to reach their full potential wherever they live.

In my electorate of Dobell, it will mean $20.73 million in additional funding for our public schools in just three years. Under Labor, six public schools in Dobell will each receive over a $1 million boost in funding in the three years from 2020. The Wadalba Community School, a K-12 school, will have its funding boosted by $1.83 million under Labor's Fair Go for Schools. The Wadalba Community School is a 20-year-old school, so it's a relatively new school, but its P&C must still work really hard to raise funds for improvements to the school's library. The library's resources need updating. Many kids use the school library across all ages, so it's essential that learning activities keep pace with the latest technology and teaching. It's not reasonable to expect senior students to study in the same place as kindergarten kids. That's why the Wadalba P&C believes additional funding could be used to create better senior learning environments and a dedicated senior study area.

In our primary schools, additional funding is desperately needed to upgrade playgrounds to keep kids active outdoors. Quality equipment and activities are also essential to combat bullying. New South Wales Labor's promise to deliver air conditioning to all classrooms will address one of the biggest concerns from local students. And since we're talking about schoolkids, I would like to read to you an email that Hannah sent me when she started year 7, in the first week of this year:

I have just started high school and I am struggling with the concept that the High School does not have adequate cooling for students.

Once the rooms reach such high temperatures I struggle to be able to concentrate and focus on what is required from me during school. I have goals that I am hoping to achieve but will struggle with the learning whilst ever the classrooms are not cooled.

As the summer is getting hotter, fans are providing inadequate cooling for students and staff. The heat is causing students to become lethargic, lowering student motivation.

By installing adequate cooling in schools, this will assist by improving students' concentration and ability to focus and learn.

On a personal note, it's hard for me to concentrate as well due to the heat, and I'm sure it effects everyone else as well.

Hannah is an outstanding advocate for her peers. I know that, if New South Wales Labor is elected, cooling in all public schools in New South Wales will make a really big difference to students' learning.

Our science labs need new equipment. Investments in software and 3D printers are just one example of how funding is not keeping pace with students' learning needs. Why should students in a large high school have to wait for weeks to access the school's one 3D printer? We have classrooms that need to be refurbished and remodelled for new teaching techniques. Of course, more than anything, many of the public schools in my electorate need more teachers and teachers' aides. In particular, if we are genuine about student wellbeing and improving retention and completion rates, school communities in my electorate need more school counsellors and dedicated teachers who don't have a full classroom load, so they can commit more time to individual students' needs.

Labor's commitment is about giving all kids a fair go, whatever their circumstances and wherever they live. Public schools teach two in three of all students and the overwhelming majority of children with greatest needs, including 74 per cent of students with disabilities. A Labor government will restore funding to public schools and ensure that every child in every school will be better off under Labor. Labor will also introduce two years of preschool in the years before schooling, giving our children access to 15 years of quality education. Under Labor, every child can get the best possible start in life. This is particularly important in regional and remote areas. Young children starting out need to have the best start, the most support, and that is only possible under Labor. What we have seen under the Liberal and National government is attacks on public schools and cuts in funding. And who misses out? It's young kids, particularly in regional communities. We need to support students across Australia.

11:59 am

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I am very proud to say that I went to state public schools: firstly, to Peakhurst Primary School and then Peakhurst High School. I'm proud that my children have also attended state public schools, and I get very upset when I hear members of the Labor Party come into this chamber and tell blatant lies about cuts to funding. The only other possibility is that they simply do not understand mathematics. Let's look at the numbers—

Opposition Members:

Opposition members interjecting

Photo of Maria VamvakinouMaria Vamvakinou (Calwell, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source


Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Yes: they don't like it when they get called out—

Ms Kearney interjecting

Photo of Maria VamvakinouMaria Vamvakinou (Calwell, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Batman!

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

No, you don't like it, because you are telling lies.

Photo of Maria VamvakinouMaria Vamvakinou (Calwell, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Order! The member for Lalor will sit down. The chair's being ignored. There'll be no interjections, and I'll hear the member for Hughes in silence.

Photo of Craig KellyCraig Kelly (Hughes, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Let's have a look at the latest numbers or what the numbers are because the numbers tell the truth. You may not, but the numbers tell the truth. Labor's last budget—how much did they spend on public school education, Madam Deputy Speaker Vamvakinou? Well, the answer is $13.7 billion in the 2013-14 budget. And what do you think the coalition has spent in the latest budget—the 2018-19 budget? If you listen to members of the Labor Party and the untruths that they tell members of the public, you'd think there'd have been all these cuts. You'd think we'd cut it from $13.7 billion.

An honourable member: What is it now?

Good question; I'll take that interjection: it is $19.3 billion. We have increased funding 41 per cent. This year the government is spending 41 per cent more on education than when the mob in the Labor Party was in office with the Greens. And yet we have members in this parliament that walk around their suburbs and say, 'There are cuts: the government's cut funding to education.' They are telling bald-faced lies. It's a 41 per cent increase, and I would hope that, if we're going to have an election campaign about education, we can at least have some honesty in this debate.

The facts are: the coalition government has increased funding to 41 per cent more than Labor. You know what? We've also done that while bringing the budget back to surplus. Any government can come in here and spend money and run up big budget deficits as the previous Labor government did. So, even that $13.7 billion—40 per cent less than the coalition is spending—was with a huge budget deficit. So, we've got the budget back to surplus and we're spending 40 per cent more on funding for public schools, and yet we have these mistruths, untruths and lies being told time and time again. Well, I tell you what: if you want to keep this game up, every single member of this coalition is going to stand up and call you out for a pack of liars every time you stand up and say funding's been cut. The numbers tell the truth. 40 per cent more under this coalition government, and there's more to come if we get re-elected.

12:03 pm

Photo of Luke GoslingLuke Gosling (Solomon, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member couldn't even go five minutes without talking about public education—can I just point that out. I commend the member for Lalor for this bill which draws attention to the importance of funding for our schools, which is incredibly important as the member for Hughes just outlined. Quite ironically, he said, The numbers tell the truth.'

Mr Craig Kelly interjecting

Photo of Maria VamvakinouMaria Vamvakinou (Calwell, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The member for Hughes has had his turn.

Photo of Luke GoslingLuke Gosling (Solomon, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

If the government are committed, the coalition government—they've had quite a few ministers for education. If the latest one wants to come out and say they'll commit to putting the funding back that was previously in the system when we were in government, then great; otherwise, you haven't really got a leg to stand on because sure there's been an increase in funding to education because there are more kids. If you want to commit to the funding that we're putting in public education, just say that publicly, but what we are doing is putting an extra $14 million into schools in the NT alone.

Labor believes that Australian schools should be the best in the world and funded to ensure every Australian child gets the best start they can in life. I'm proud that the future Labor government will deliver the biggest investment in public schools in our history. To ensure that our kids get the education that they need, there will be $14 billion for public schools over the next decade, with $3.3 billion extra flowing in the first three years of school alone. Now, as I said, for the Northern Territory that's $14 million extra.

To give you an idea of what that means for our schools: for Darwin High School that's an extra $1.17 million per year; for Casuarina Senior College that's $930,000 extra per year; and for Palmerston Senior College, with Rosebery Middle School as well, because they work in partnership, that's $1.34 million extra per year. On the weekend, when I was doorknocking down in Palmerston around Bakewell, I was speaking to one of the members of the Bakewell Primary School board. I was very proud to be able to her that $580,000 extra per year will be going to her school. She said, 'That's fantastic news,' because there's a whole range of things that they need in their school, like more assistant teachers. That funding is very much needed to support their kids, particularly kids that need a bit more one-on-one time to help them in their early years.

Labor understands the importance of early childhood education. We know that 90 per cent of a child's brain development occurs in those first years of life, so an investment in early education, primary school and secondary school is something that our country needs. It's something that our competitors are investing in. Unfortunately, as we've heard from Mr Shouty over there, the Liberals see education as a cost. The current Prime Minister has failed to extend preschool funding for four-year-olds beyond the next school year, whereas Labor is not only committing to preschool for four-year-olds into the future; we're also extending that to three-year-old preschool, because, again, we understand the importance of those early years.

Childhood education in those early years is absolutely vital. This is the first time that three-year-old preschool has been announced as a commitment, like it has been by the future Shorten Labor government, in Australian education history. Fifteen hours of subsidised early childhood education for three-year-olds will make sure that our kids, Aussie kids, territory kids, will get the best possible start to lifelong education. It's incredibly important. I commend the member for the bill.

12:08 pm

Photo of Julian LeeserJulian Leeser (Berowra, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I think the facts speak for themselves. In Labor's last year in office, Labor put $13.7 billion of funding into schools. We put $19.3 billion into funding in 2018-19. That is, as my friend the member for Hughes said, a 41 per cent increase in school funding between Labor's last year in office and the current year. If you look at when these school funding reforms started, in 2016 we put $16.1 billion, in 2017 it became $17.5 billion, in 2018 it became $18.7 billion, in 2019 it's scheduled to go to $19.9 billion and in 2020 it's scheduled to go to $21.5 billion. There is a fabrication on the other side that somehow our side has cut education funding, when the truth is that no Commonwealth government in the history of the Federation has spent more money on education for government schools, Catholic schools and independent schools than our government.

There were interjections earlier in the debate about 80 per cent of funding going to non-government schools. I have to say that, under the Whitlam government, the Hawke-Keating government and the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd catastrophe, the Commonwealth has always been responsible for the lion's share of funding of non-government schools. It's the state governments which are responsible for—what are they called?—state government schools. That's their own responsibility.

We are entering into larger funding arrangements for state government schools as we are continuing to fund non-government schools, because we believe in parental choice. We believe that it doesn't matter where a parent decides to send their child to school, because it's parents who know what's best for their kids, it's parents who know what's best for their families and it's parents who should choose where they send their children. If they're going to send their child to a government school, it should be a great education. If they're going to send their child to a Catholic or an independent school, it should also be a great education. That's the purpose of our government's funding arrangements.

I'm lucky in Berowra that I have 51 fantastic schools, from the tiny Middle Dural Public School, with only 23 students, to Cherrybrook Technology High School, with 2,500 students—the largest public high school in the state. I have Oakhill College, the largest Catholic school in the state, with 1,600 students, and many fantastic schools in between. I have among my number both Cherrybrook Technology High School and Cheltenham Girls High School, which have had some of the best results of any comprehensive high school in the HSC in New South Wales. I have selective schools in my electorate or just outside of my electorate, such as Normanhurst Boys High School and Hornsby Girls High School. I've got primary schools in every suburb and town of Berowra. I am very proud of them.

I'm particularly proud of what our government is doing to help these schools. Across all 51 schools over the next decade our government is investing one billion bucks extra. It is a one billion buck bonanza because we have been able to manage our economy properly. You cannot deliver increased funding if you cannot maintain and manage a strong economy. That's what we have done. We've basically seen a $30 billion increase in school funding over the period. We're able to do that because we're bringing the budget back to surplus. Do you remember a surplus? It's not something we have heard uttered in this place for about a decade.

The Labor Party just want to continue to get us into debt and to continue to spend away. They also in this space want to mislead parents about what's really happening in their schools on the ground. The parents in my constituency know that, whatever choice they make, they will get a well-funded quality education that meets the needs of their family and their children. That is the most important thing.

I think we've had a rather arid debate. The member for Lalor's motion is exactly a continuation of this arid debate about school funding. We have been talking about funding for a decade when the real debate needs to be about quality and standards. We keep being beaten in tests by Kazakhstan and Slovenia. They are not countries that we regularly compare Australia with. We continue to be beaten by them because we are not focusing on the key things that make a difference in our education—teacher quality, curriculum and encouraging students to aim for excellence, to challenge themselves and to be unafraid to fail. They are the things that will be the building blocks of a stronger and more prosperous Australia in the future, not whether you can carve up a pie in a different way. That is the fundamental problem with what Labor want to do. They've no plan to grow funding and to grow the economy. They've only got a plan to carve up what's already there—take something from somebody who has already got something and give it to someone else. That is the Labor way; it is not our way. (Time expired)

Photo of Sharon BirdSharon Bird (Cunningham, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The time allotted for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.