Senate debates

Wednesday, 21 June 2017


Australian Education Amendment Bill 2017; Second Reading

11:15 am

Photo of Janet RiceJanet Rice (Victoria, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

Thank you, Mr Acting Deputy President. Clearly, we have got a dog's breakfast at the moment. We are being failed by both parties, with both of the models that are on offer. A continuation of the old system is not good enough. The government's model that is currently on offer is also not good enough. The Greens will continue to negotiate to get the best outcome that we need, and that means having a genuine Gonski. It means putting kids before politics. It means making decisions on where we stand on the basis of what is the best policy outcome—not playing political games.

What Labor are supporting at the moment is not the genuine Gonski. Labor walked away from the central premise that all schools should be funded on the basis of need. They promised that no school would lose a dollar, which sounds great, but it actually means that the wealthiest schools will continue to get more and more money, while those with scarce resources, the least well-off, will be deprived of funds. It means that we would have the continuation of the disparity, of the inequity, in our education system. The indexation that is on offer under Labor, which is locked into the legislation, means that poorer schools would take more than 100 years to catch up to those schools that are underfunded—let alone 10 years. It will be 100 years before they will be able to catch up to those that are underfunded. That inequality of opportunity is currently what is locked into law. Clearly, that is not a system that we would want to see continue.

An analysis by the Grattan Institute says that Labor's education plan taken to the 2016 federal election would have added mega bucks but still not achieve consistent needs based funding for over 100 years. The Labor Party claim that the Turnbull government's cutting of $22 billion from schools over the decade is also a widely inaccurate claim. It is simply the difference between what Labor promised at the last election; it is not what is in law right now. Labor are currently not in government, so their promises sounds great but they actually mean nothing now. In order to have certainty over that, Labor should have locked in that funding before the 2013 election, but they chose not to do that. They chose not to lock in that amount, because they wanted to use our schools, our education, and the funding for schools in political game-playing in the election campaign. We could have had fairer funding locked in place if the Labor government in the lead-up to 2013 had chosen to do so, but they chose not to. On the other hand, the Turnbull government is claiming that there is a boost in funding of $16 billion over the decade, but this is based on the low level of funding that former Prime Minister Abbott stripped it back to. Neither of the parties are delivering fair, equitable and honest statements about our education system. The two parties are playing politics while our public schools are losing out. We need to be putting kids before politics. We need to be making sure that we have a system that is genuinely needs based and sector blind.

We also have these claims that public schools are going to be receiving a cut under the government's Gonski 2.0 proposal, but, in fact, no public school system in Australia will receive a cut under the proposed funding model. The only notionally overfunded public schools in Australia are those in the Northern Territory, and they have been given additional funding under the government's proposed plan so their funding is not going to backwards. Government schools in every state will see their funding increase. Because they are all funded at different rates by the Commonwealth currently, the rate that they increase will be different. Historically underfunded states will increase at a faster rate than those that are closer to the target.

Again, there are some good things that, as Greens, we want to be building upon. The best outcome is for us to negotiate an agreement that ends up with a genuine needs based, sector-blind funding system that will deliver the best outcomes, equitable and fair outcomes, that will give every kid the opportunity to achieve their potential. We are going to do that by changing the architecture so that it is genuinely needs based and sector blind, and by putting in the resources so that all schools will be up to the standard that is required to allow kids to fully achieve their potential.


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