Wednesday, 14 June 2017
Questions without Notice
My question is for the Minister for Education and Training, Senator Simon Birmingham. Can the minister inform the Senate how the government's fair, real-Gonski needs based school funding reform is receiving expert support for its passage through this parliament?
I thank Senator McKenzie, the Chair of the Senate Education and Employment Legislation Committee, for her question and for her deep interest and really hard work in this policy area.
Of course, Senator McKenzie, in terms of those who have come out endorsing and supporting the Turnbull government's reforms, we should start with the Gonski panellists themselves. On the day of the announcement we had David Gonski out there saying how very pleased he was that the Turnbull government was accepting the fundamental recommendations of his report. Secondly, we saw Bill Scales on 7.30 indicate that he believed that the criticisms and concerns that some had expressed were not well founded and that funding was being directed to places of high need. Thirdly, this week we have had Ken Boston come out and say, 'There are no grounds for opposition to the schools funding bill'—no grounds, he said. He said, 'It will be a tragedy if the school funding bill is voted down'—a tragedy, he said. Fourthly, we have Kathryn Greiner out there today saying, 'It would be a disaster for Australian education if this doesn't pass.' Kathryn Greiner went on to highlight, as she said:
This is the first time a government in this country has drawn a line in the sand, removed the funding anomalies and got everybody on the same page.
Kathryn Greiner went on and said:
Gonski 2.0 delivers what the Gonski report wanted: an accountable, transparent, equitable, sector-blind funding formula.
Not one member of Labor's hand-picked Gonski panel, not two members of Labor's hand-picked Gonski panel, not three members of the hand-picked Labor panel, but four members of the Gonski panel hand-picked by the previous Labor government have urged for this legislation to pass. Yet still the Labor Party stands in its way.
There are a range of different elements in terms of the proposals. Firstly, we are going to stop the cost shifting and ensure that, where additional funding flows to states and territories, the states do not withdraw that funding like they have in the past but we actually guarantee that it is real additional investment and support into Australian schools.
Secondly, we will make sure that the funding goes to where it is needed most—that the schools who deserve the greatest additional support and who need the greatest support are the ones who receive the greatest support and funding growth under our reforms.
Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, we will make sure the funding is then well invested—that we help schools and school systems to appreciate what it is that they can do to make the greatest difference, to strengthen teaching and school leadership, to develop the essential knowledge and skills that are required, to improve student participation and parental outcome and to build better evidence and transparency. That is what the next Gonski review is going to help to do: frame the best way to use this investment to get the best results for Australian schools and school students. (Time expired)
Thank you, Senator McKenzie, for your best wishes. All we can see from those opposite in terms of alternative policy is that they want to keep 27 different special deals. They want to maintain the disparity where one state is treated differently to another state. They want to maintain the disparity where one non-government schooling sector is treated separately to another non-government schooling sector. They are committed to special deals on the other side because, I guess, it is in their DNA from their union background, going around and doing the types of sneaky special deals that Mr Shorten used to do when it came to penalty rates when he was back in the union movement. For them it is all about special deals. For us it is about, as the Grattan Institute has said, good policy in the broad public interest. That is what our school funding reforms deliver: good policy in the broad public interest that puts Australian schools and their needs first and foremost.