Thursday, 22 June 2017
Questions without Notice
My question is to Senator Birmingham, the . Last night the minister met with representatives of the Catholic education sector hours after media reports had already emerged of the so-called 'special deal' he would be proposing. Did the minister, or any member of his office, brief the media about the special deal before he had even met with the Catholic education sector?
Even before this latest example of bad faith, the Catholic Education Commission has said:
In the 50 years we have been dealing with governments, we have never had a government not engage with us on major changes to policy.
Is this not just another example of the behaviour that has led to this minister being labelled the worst in five decades by the Catholic education sector?
The changes that the government announced and informed Catholic education of yesterday and that I then informed the Senate chamber of subsequently were raised by Catholic education officials at a meeting with me on Monday afternoon this week. We went through those changes at that meeting. Senator Back was present as well, which indeed has been well reported on, and you, yourself, Senator Wong, have referenced that meeting and those discussions. Proposals were put and considered at that time and those are the proposals the government subsequently agreed to and subsequently informed Catholic education of. They will of course add to what is already $3.4 billion worth of additional funding that Catholic education systems will receive across the country over the next 10 years under our reforms.
Given this minister failed to consult the Catholic education sector on his education package, provided data that was flawed to his own coalition colleagues and publicly accused the Catholic sector of misleading Australians, is it any wonder that Catholic education has lost confidence in him?
I have told the Senate this time and time again in relation to school systems across Australia, and I can do it again in relation to Catholic education systems: funding grows for Catholic education under the Turnbull government's reforms. Funding grows from $6.3 billion that will be paid towards Catholic education authorities this year to $9.7 billion that will be paid in 2027—$3.4 billion of additional funding growth. This is a funding growth rate that is at least 3½ per cent per student across the states of Australia. The growth rate is faster for Catholic education systems in states like Tasmania and Western Australia because in the past they have got poorer deals than Catholic education systems in other states. By applying a consistent approach and adopting a needs based formula in a consistent way across different states and territories, we are ensuring fair and equitable funding for Catholic systems around the country, as we are for all schoolchildren in all schools around Australia.