Wednesday, 4 March 2020
Australian Education Amendment (Direct Measure of Income) Bill 2020; Third Reading
In speaking to the motion, it needs to be understood that any reason for rushing this through and not doing as standing orders presume in going through the normal procedures is something that only makes any logical sense if it can get to the Senate tomorrow. The Senate's not sitting tomorrow, so exactly what is the purpose in rushing this through? There is no logic at all in not just going through the normal practice of the standing orders.
Leave has been sought as a form of extra cooperation. I've got to say, if you're seeking an extra layer of cooperation in this House, that cooperation is being sought by member after member who time after time has voted that members of the opposition be no further heard. Every single time! And then, when it's been done back to them, the indignation has been spectacular. The indignation of those opposite, having voted to shut down any voices that are not their own, and then they come here saying: 'Oh, please, can't we have some cooperation? Please, can't we get a bill through today rather than do the third reading tomorrow so we can push it across to a Senate that isn't even on for a number of weeks?' You can't exactly second a bill to an estimates committee. You can't exactly rush it through today and think it's going to make any difference at all.
I know they're cranky because they've had to sit in the chamber, and they say, 'Oh, why are you being so mean with quorum calls?' You know, there's this thing called the Constitution. The quorum requirement is not in the standing orders. The quorum requirement is not even in Practice. It's as fundamental as the Australian Constitution, and they are devastated that it's being enforced.
I know it is a little unusual for me to speak on the third reading of a bill, but I do really want to make it clear, because we have delayed until tomorrow the third reading, that Labor does support the Australian Education Amendment (Direct Measure of Income) Bill 2020. We do support a more accurate measure of parental income. It is something that we sought to do coming out of the first Gonski review. There was a desire at that stage to have a more accurate measure of parental income to calculate the capacity to contribute at that time, but of course we didn't have the data available to us in the way that it is now with the project that the government has engaged in.
We also, of course, saw coming out of the National School Resourcing Board the suggestion that we would do this more accurate measure of parental income. It is possible to have two schools that are located in the one community. One of those schools might have very high fees. It might be a very wealthy school in terms of the resources, the buildings and so on. Another non-government school in the same area, drawing from broadly the same community, might be a low-fee school drawing from parents who have a lower capacity to contribute. In that instance you will see that school with the lower fees and lower resources will likely see that its funding from the Commonwealth will increase. We've never objected to this increase for non-government schools; in fact, it was Labor that stood side by side with non-government schools when—
I hear the interjection from those opposite—since you cut $30 billion from school funding in the 2014 budget, having promised in the 2013 election campaign: 'You can vote Liberal. You can vote Labor. Not a dollar difference to your school.' Yes, those opposite all stood up during that 2013 campaign and said: 'Oh, you can vote for us. We won't cut any school funding.' And then with that very first budget, in 2014, we all remember the $30 billion that was cut from school funding. And then what happened? Those across the road got a little bit nervous. They couldn't get their massive cuts through the Senate, so they did a tricky deal with the Senate and, instead of cutting $30 billion from school funding, they went to a much more generous $22 billion cut to school funding.
What have we had more recently? We had a government that had to get rid of their previous education minister because he had so antagonised non-government schools that they found it impossible to work with him. They have a new education minister now whose job it was just to take this off the front pages. Now we have a scenario where non-government schools will receive several billion dollars of extra funding. Of course it doesn't go the whole way to restoring what's been lost by those schools during this period of delay, but it is a very important thing to restore the funding that we always campaigned for. We always said that Catholic schools and independent schools should be properly funded. It was only those opposite who said that those schools should not be funded appropriately. It was only those opposite who were looking to cut their funding.
But the big issue, the big problem with this proposal that we are voting on today is not what it does for non-government schools; it's what it doesn't do for public schools. There are 2½ million children in this country who go to public schools.
Mr Falinski interjecting—
There are 2½ million children, who've got parents, grandparents, teachers and family members, who are being treated as second-class citizens in their own country. Their parents pay taxes, too. Their grandparents pay taxes, too. Those children deserve the same funding as the children going to non-government schools. But have those opposite offered those kids the same funding? They have not. The ignorance of those opposite, that they don't even understand their own funding system, is the problem here. Those opposite have baked into school funding arrangements that children who go to non-government schools will receive—
Mr Falinski interjecting—
I'm just going to savour that for a moment! Those opposite, in their interjections, betray their complete ignorance of the funding agreement that their government has entered into with the states and territories. What those opposite don't understand is that public schools in their electorates will only ever receive 95 per cent of the Schooling Resource Standard and loadings for their school. This is baked into the funding agreements that you have with the states and territories. The public schools in your electorates will never receive more than 95 per cent of the Schooling Resource Standard, of the fair funding level for that school. That's what you have signed up to. Non-government schools will receive 100 per cent or more of their fair funding level.
We on this side don't begrudge the non-government schools that they're getting their fair funding level. What breaks my heart is that there are 2½ million children going to schools where they'll only ever get 95 per cent of their fair funding level. Why is that fair? Those opposite talk about their support for sector-blind, needs based funding. This is not sector blind. This is sector specific. It's as sector specific as it could possibly be. If you go to a catholic school you will get your fair school funding, if you go to an independent school you will get your fair school funding, but if you're one of the 2½ million children who go to a public school in this country you won't. It could not be more sector specific.
We know that it's public schools that educate the majority of children who have a disability. It's public schools that educate the majority of children that are in a small school or a remote school. It's public schools that educate the majority of First Nations children in this country. It's public schools that educate the majority of children who come from a language background other than English. It's public schools that are looking after the most disadvantaged kids in our country by and large, so this is neither sector-blind nor needs based funding. For those opposite to feign ignorance—are you feigning ignorance of this funding arrangement or have you ignored it? The only way for us to understand the fact that the funding cuts that we campaigned against are being restored for kids in the Catholic and independent sector but are not being restored for kids in the public sector is to believe that those opposite have deliberately made a choice to privilege two sectors over the third sector, which educates the majority of children in this country. If that's what you are agreeing to you should just be upfront about it. You should just be upfront about turning your backs on those 2½ million children.
Government members interjecting—
You really are not listening. Someone up in cockies corner just interjected, 'Are you going to vote against the bill?' No, because we actually support extra funding for Catholic and independent schools. We just want you to treat public schools fairly too.
Question agreed to.
Bill read a third time.