Wednesday, 3 February 2016
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Finance, Senator Cormann. I refer to the minister's statement last night that the Turnbull government's school-funding formula beyond 2018 is:
… essentially CPI plus a growth factor for enrolment growth purposes, and that is the number that is currently reflected in the budget, and that reflects the government's policy position.
Does he stand by this statement or does he agree with Minister Birmingham that these budget figures are 'indicative only'?
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer to the government's leaked talking points—leaked to the media yesterday—which state that the government will decide an indexation rate that better reflects the increasing cost of schooling. Do the current figures reflect the Turnbull government's current position on school funding beyond 2018 or not?
The budget reflects the current policy position of the government. Our position is as we clearly articulated before the last election. We said that we would honour the Gonski funding commitments—so-called—for the initial four years, the period of the published forward estimates at the time of the last election, and of course we did better than that: we put an additional $1.2 billion into schools in WA, Queensland and the Northern Territory, which Bill Shorten, as education minister, had ripped out of those schools. In the period beyond the published forward estimates, in a very tricky way, Labor promised an unsustainable and unfunded, pie-in-the-sky spending growth trajectory—never funded—and what we have done in government is put the school funding growth on a more sustainable, more affordable trajectory for the future. Now Labor is at it again, and none other than the South Australian Labor Premier, Jay Weatherill, has belled the cat. (Time expired)
I completely disagree with that characterisation, because, in order to characterise what the senator refers to as 'cuts', the money would have had to have been there in the first place, and of course Labor never funded their unaffordable, pie-in-the-sky spending growth trajectory that they promised on the never-never in the period beyond the published forward estimates at the time. At a time when they knew they were about to lose the election, they made an unaffordable promise. They knew they would never have to pay for it. They knew it was not affordable. In fact, the state premiers and the chief ministers knew it was not affordable.
Just to go back to an element of the senator's first question: it is always open to the government to change a policy position, but there is a process to do so. If the government were to change policy position down the track, our fiscal discipline is that we would have to pay for that by finding savings in other parts of the budget.