Wednesday, 21 June 2017
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Education and Training, Senator Birmingham. In response to an estimates question on notice, the Department of Education and Training revealed that funding for students with disability loading in Tasmania will fall from $36 million in 2017 to $24 million in 2018. Can the minister confirm funding for students with disability loading in Tasmania will decrease in 2018 by $12 million, or one-third?
I am happy to inform the Senate that, overall, funding for students with disability grows across Australia, and it grows by an estimated 5.9 per cent per annum as a result of the reforms that the Turnbull government is proposing.
Indeed, as Senator Collins just interjected, the number of students identified under our proposed consistent methodology as students with disability also increases. Currently around 212,000 students across Australia attract what is a one-size-fits-all disability loading. It is based on different definitions from state to state. Our reforms will apply the new nationally consistent definition of students with disability, and, in doing so, that number of students who are in the different categories that attract loadings will increase from 212,000 students to 470,000 students. And there are changes to—
Yes, a point of order on direct relevance again. It is a very specific question for the minister about confirming whether, in relation to Tasmania, funding for students with a disability will decrease next year by one-third. It is a very straightforward question to answer.
That general information was also very specific to students with disability. To give the context, there is a transition across all states, including Tasmania, from a specific state definition into application of the national arrangement. In relation to how funding is applied, the loading for students with disability is just one of the many components that make up funding for systems across Australia. In relation to funding for Tasmania, I can confirm for the Senate that funding for Tasmanian government students is forecast to grow from $183 million in 2017 to $190 million next year, and, again, will continue to grow. The Tasmanian government system—as, indeed, all Tasmanian school systems who will see funding growth under these reforms—
My point of order is on relevance. The minister has 11 seconds to go. I want to know whether the disability loading in Tasmania will decrease in 2018 by $12 million. That is my question.
Mr President, you did hear me highlight very specifically that disability loading is a part of the total funding pool for Tasmanian schools. That total funding pool rose year on year, into the future.
Yesterday, the minister refused to tell the Senate whether the Prime Minister was incorrect when he rejected the assertion in question time on Monday that student disability loading in Tasmania was being cut. Given that the minister has had 24 hours to check, will he now tell the Senate: was the Prime Minister wrong? Yes or no?
He is not even trying to answer it. My final supplementary question is: how is it fair that the elite Lauriston Girls' School in Melbourne will get a 156 per cent student funding increase over 10 years, when student disability loading in Tasmania will be cut by $12 million—or one-third—in 2018? That is according to your own figures.
What we see opposite is, of course, an attempted game of envy politics—to pick out a school, to distort the figures in relation to that school, and to give no context about the size of the school or about the fact that the per-student funding provided to that school is, no doubt, significantly less per-student funding than is likely to apply to a range of other schools in more disadvantaged circumstances.
The facts, however, speak for themselves. There is funding growth in Tasmania for certain systems in Tasmania, including the Catholic education system. They received faster rates of funding growth than in other parts of the country to catch them up, because of the dud deals that were done in the past. All of this helps to ensure that, ultimately, we have a consistent, needs based application of funding across Australia, including in Tasmania, with more students, more money and funding and support for the students who need it most.