Senate debates

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Answers to Questions on Notice


3:29 pm

Photo of Dean SmithDean Smith (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

Hello—I am more of an easy man, Senator Watt. I am more of a Commodores man.

In all seriousness, it has been quite revealing to hear the contributions from Senator Collins and Senator Farrell this afternoon. That is because Senator Collins has admitted that there is in fact growth happening in the Catholic education system, but, if you listened to Senator Farrell's contribution, you would have thought that there was no growth in the Catholic education system. It has been quite revealing.

As a boy who went to a state school in a pretty tough part of Perth's northern suburbs it has been interesting for me to listen to people in this place sing the praises of Catholic education—interesting for two reasons. The first is that the Catholic education system in this country does deserve to be praised. The second is: but does it deserve to funded at the expense of other education systems in this country? Absolutely not.

If Senator Farrell and Senator Collins want to take forward their arguments about the funding of education in this country, particularly the funding of the Catholic education system, then do you know where they should take them? It is not in here to the Senate, not to Senator Birmingham, but to the Catholic education system itself, because the Catholic education system retains the authority to fund Catholic schools. It is interesting that, in Senator Farrell's and Senator Collins's contributions, they did not talk about the $1.2 billion growth in the Catholic education system that will happen as a consequence of this government's education reforms. That is $1.2 billion over the next four years, and $3.4 billion over the next 10 years. There is growth in the Catholic education system, and Labor should at least be honest in admitting that.

This is an important point. It has been lovely to hear people's lovely stories about their experiences with the Catholic education system. But many children in this country are educated in other systems, and the families of those children deserve to be supported and the school councils for those children deserve to be supported, and that is what this government is doing. What is needed now, and what we are providing, is a dispassionate view of the best way to fund education in our country—dispassionate because we are putting needs first and dispassionate because we are putting a focus on those values that are important.

We have heard everyone come in here and talk about their love for the Catholic education system because that is where they were raised and that is where their children were raised. Big deal. Many other children in this country deserve to have their schools funded properly as well. If someone wants to come into this place and argue that the Catholic education system is being defunded, then I want to hear about it, because in fact—and Senator Collins admitted this; you can see it in the Hansardthere is growth in the Catholic education system. If people are concerned about sectarianism and those sorts of things, I have a very, very simple answer: step back and approach this issue more dispassionately, because we do not want to get into a debate in this country about Catholic versus non-Catholic, or government versus non-government education. What we are interested in is how we best fund each student in each school.

Let me share this with you. I think a great virtue—and, Senator Watt, I hope you agree with me, putting the politics aside for a second—of education in this country over the last 10 or 20 years perhaps has been the growth in low-fee schools to give parents options about sending their children to government schools or non-government schools. Now, my parents would have loved the option of sending me to a low-fee school, but they did not exist when I was going to high school. I went to a state school, and Mr Stitt, Mr Ragan, Ms Kellow and Mr Stone were great teachers. It was an ordinary school in a tough part of Perth, but it was blessed with great teachers.

I was blessed with parents that put value on education. I could go on and on about this, but—


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