Senate debates

Monday, 3 December 2018

Matters of Public Importance


4:56 pm

Photo of Barry O'SullivanBarry O'Sullivan (Queensland, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I inform the Senate that at 8.30 am today four proposals were received in accordance with standing order 75. The question of which proposal would be submitted to the Senate was determined by lot. As a result, I inform the Senate that a letter has been received from Senator Urquhart:

Pursuant to standing order 75, I propose that the following matter of public importance be submitted to the Senate for discussion:

Fully funding public schools, including funding for extra teachers and resources; more individual attention for students; and extra support for kids with special needs.

Is the proposal supported?

More than the number of senators required by the standing orders having risen in their places—

I understand that that informal arrangements have been made to allocate specific times to each of the speakers in today's debate. With the concurrence of the Senate, I shall ask the clerks to set the clock accordingly.

4:57 pm

Photo of Deborah O'NeillDeborah O'Neill (NSW, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Innovation) Share this | | Hansard source

It gives me great pleasure to rise to speak on this matter of public importance, because it is indeed a matter of great importance to every family who prepared this morning, got the lunches ready, got the bags packed and sent the kids off to school with the great hope of public education to be the transformative agent in their life to ensure that they fulfil their potential as great Australians, giving them every chance to be the best Australian they can be, whether they walk through the gate in a regional area of your state of Queensland, Acting Deputy President O'Sullivan, in the middle of a city in my state of New South Wales or, indeed, down in Tasmania or across the nation.

Young people going to school in Australia deserve access to the very best education that this country can afford to give them. Today I rise to speak to this very important matter of making sure that our public schools are fully funded in order that the extra teachers that are needed are actually able to be in schools, do the teaching and enable the learning that helps create that success in schools. They also need teachers' resources—great resources that help young people. Especially in this digital age, the capacity to really individually tailor students' learning using resources that exist outside the classroom but under the careful facilitation of great educators makes the world of difference to success for individual learners so they reach their potential at whatever stage of education they may be. Indeed, we all know as we send our kids off to school—I'm a mother of three—that they're individuals. They all have individual learning needs that are very varied child to child. And we know that more money to allow that individual attention, to deal with the real-time learning of individual children, is going to enhance the outcomes for this nation.

The final matter that's indicated in this MPI this afternoon is support for kids with special needs. Sadly, we have this government's record in terms of discerning the needs of children with special needs and going through with their many, many commitments to provide transparency to the parents who are waiting and yearning for information from this government. Sadly, they were very disappointed, because information was stripped back and contained within the government. It was made unavailable to parents, who wanted to know what was going to happen with the disability funding that was so needed for their particular child. This government has failed on all of those fronts—in fact, there have been very significant cuts to education.

They will try to do the old pea-and-thimble trick and say, 'Oh, we've got more money here.' The reality is that this government has cut funding very significantly for young Australians across this nation. Across the country, Labor is fighting very hard to make sure of the funding our kids need, the proper funding where this government said—if we can remember as far as back when Mr Abbott came in as Prime Minister—that they would match Labor's funding, the Gonski funding, dollar for dollar. Well, they've reneged on that.

While we were all out living our lives, they've gone back to a deal, which they call Gonski 2.0. They're trying to pretend that it's better, but in fact it's a cut. I am, like other great advocates for our community and for education, and as a member of the Labor Party, out there fighting to make sure that this government is not returned and that we can make the proper investment in education that the first Gonski model offered, which was to deal with the reality that kids across the country are all at different levels because of the way this federal government and the state governments do deals about how things are funded. It's not fair, if one state is very severely underfunded, to just give them all the same—that's not fairness. If you happen to be born in Tasmania and you're missing out, that won't give you the start you need in life.

Right now, in New South Wales, I'm working closely with a number of great candidates who are going to seek election at the federal election. That may come, as Mr Turnbull wants it, on 2 March next year. Or perhaps Mr Morrison will win and it will be in May or any time in between. We just don't know from day to day what this government is doing, it's so chaotic and out of control. But Labor knows what it believes. We will retain our commitment to public schools and to public education always. There is $14 million in play to make sure that we get the full funding to public schools—funding for extra teachers, funding for resources, funding for individual attention for students and extra support for kids with special needs. That's what that $14 million will do.

And what did this government want to do? They wanted to give billions—billions!—to the big banks. We have prevented that—that's what an opposition does—but we want to make sure that the kids who have been sacrificed by this government, with its failure to commit properly to public education, don't miss out any longer.

I want to talk about the great candidate that we have in Robertson, Anne Charlton. Anne Charlton is fighting for $18 million for the Central Coast, which it will miss out on if this government is re-elected. Brisbane Water Secondary College's Umina campus would lose $1.2 million. Imagine what they could do with that for local kids? Terrigal High School—this government thinks that the suburb of Terrigal is their friend and that they're not going to be contested at all. But Terrigal High School parents are smart enough to know that Anne Charlton, Labor's candidate, will stand up for them, and that Lucy Wicks, who has let our community down on so many fronts, wants to take $1.13 million away from Terrigal High School. Gosford High School is one of the schools that we're very proud of in the region. It draws students from all over the area. It's a school for very talented young people. They will lose $1.12 million under this government because it went to Gonski 2.0 and took $14 billion away from education. Narara Valley High School will lose $1.2 million.

But it's not just where I live on the Central Coast that's going to be impacted, it's right across the country. I will go to the seat of Hume. Mr Angus Taylor, the member for Hume, is currently out there telling everybody what a great job he's doing for them. He's waving around his big stick that he's going to fix electricity with. Today he said that he might be able to put it back in the bag. I don't know what you do with a big stick in a bag or why you'd pull one out. Surely, the government should be doing better than that.

But, with regard to education, our candidate, Aoife Champion, is fighting really, really hard to make sure that schools don't miss out: Picton High School, $1.4 million; Camden High School, $1.34 million; Elizabeth Macarthur High School, $1.13 million; Elderslie High School, $1.13 million. In total, the seat of Hume stands to lose $20,970,000 if this government is re-elected. But Labor will invest in education.

In the seat of the Riverina, Mr Mark Jeffreson is fighting for $24 million for his local community—for Wagga Wagga High School, for Kooringal High School, for Parkes High School, and Mount Austin High School—they will lose over $1 million. In the seat of Parkes, I spent a fantastic day campaigning with young Jack Ayoub. He lives in Coonabarabran and is running for Parkes. He is fighting for $34 million for his local schools: $1.2 million for Dubbo College South Campus; Broken Hill High School, $990,000—what a difference do you think $990,000 could do for kids who live right out on the border of the great state of New South Wales?—Moree Public School, $970,000; Dubbo South Public School, $91,000.

In the seat of Cook—the Prime Minister's own seat—Simon O'Brien, who grew up in the area and is a true son of the shire, is fighting for $15 million that the Prime Minister wants to take away from the kids in his own area—shame on him—$1.2 million taken away from Port Hacking High School; Endeavour Sports High School losing $1.1 million; Cronulla, $1 million, Woolooware High School. Finally, can I talk about the teacher amongst this great crop of candidates for Labor, Kieran Drabsch. He is the candidate for the seat of Farrer, and he is fighting for $24.8 million for his local community, in schools like Albury High School, Wade High School, James Fallon High School and Griffith High School.

I do enjoy working on the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Corporations and Financial Services with Senator Williams down there, but this has happened. The problem I describe is because the National Party has not stood up to the Liberal Party and those seats that I spoke to you about have country kids—country kids in New South Wales, who need great investment in them. I believe in them. I'm sure you believe in them. The problem is this government doesn't believe in fair funding for education. (Time expired)

5:07 pm

Photo of Jonathon DuniamJonathon Duniam (Tasmania, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

It is a pleasure for me to join the discussion on education funding as outlined by Senator O'Neill. The letter about this MPI was sent in by my colleague from Tasmania, Senator Urquhart, and has us talking about this important issue of 'fully funding public schools, including funding for extra teachers and resources, more individual attention for students, and extra support for kids with special needs'.

I am a parent of three boys, two of whom are in the Tasmanian public education system, which is an excellent education system, and one that is improving every year and receiving more and more funds every year. I will focus on the improvement in funding levels in the Tasmanian public education system shortly, just to provide a contrast with what Senator O'Neill was saying in her contribution. But one thing I do want to point out is that part of the Labor mantra when it comes to dealing with matters of education is, 'it doesn't matter how much money you throw at it, it's never going to be enough'. This letter points that out: 'fully funding public schools'. What does that mean? What is 'fully funding'? It doesn't matter how much is put in, they are always going to be saying that we need more. I think we have to ask the question: are we making sure that we spend this money appropriately?

Of course we should always invest more. As I will outline later on, in the Tasmanian example more is being invested but it is being invested strategically so that we do see results—improvements in student results and retention rates, which have been woefully low. We remind ourselves that in Tasmania, historically, we've had an adult functional literacy and numeracy rate of 48 per cent, an indictment on our education system in Tasmania and something that I'm glad to see is going to be improved by proper investment in the public education system in Tasmania.

So I urge caution on this issue, for those listening to this debate. Money is not the only measure of whether a government supports an education system or not. It's how that money is spent. Of course we should invest as much as possible, but it needs to be done wisely, not throwing good money after bad, based on figures that, as Senator Williams pointed out in his contribution, have been plucked out of thin air—random candidates from across the state of New South Wales, random schools and random communities, with figures of money just being thrown at these schools we don't know what for. I wonder whether Senator O'Neill knows what that money would be used for?

It's important for us to test what's being said in contributions like Senator O'Neill's and others that I'm sure we'll hear today. The best way for us to do that is to look at the facts and consider things in a historical context as well. If you listened to Senator O'Neill, you would think that Labor were the patron saints of education, that they've never cut funding to the education system across this country or misspent. We only have to recall the Building the Education Revolution, where we saw school halls being built at every school in the country. I remember one school hall in the state of Tasmania in a beautiful community called Waratah, at a school which could barely keep its doors open. Sadly, in mining communities where the mining industry has long gone and population numbers dwindle, you would expect numbers of students at schools to also drop. But the Labor government at the time insisted that hundreds of thousands of dollars be spent on building a new hall at this school which barely had a student. The school, of course, closed not long after. What a waste of money. How did students at the other schools in the region benefit from that? They could have used that some other way.

Labor have a record when it comes to wasting money in education, and that's why I say it's not just how much we throw at schools in funding but how we spend it that is important. We have to be strategic, and Labor have proven they cannot be trusted on that. It's important to make sure the money that we allocate to the schools that need the funding is in line with needs, not just where we think it should go.

We saw in the same period of time Australia slip under Labor from 12th in the world to 22nd when it came to the quality of maths and science education and then from 24th to 37th in the overall quality of our education system—sorry, that was from 8th to 23rd in the world in rankings. Labor's track record is pretty woeful when it comes to managing our education system. So when Senator O'Neill comes in here, along with all of her Labor candidates, pretending to be the heroes of the education system, we have to think twice about exactly how they will manage things.

Let's look at what is being invested here in Australia, how we are spending the very limited taxpayer funds available to this government to enhance our education system and ensure that the students of today are better for it tomorrow. We're providing an extra $37.6 billion to schools in the schools package, which means that funding for each student will grow, on average, by 62.6 per cent. Funding for state schools out of that pool—noting that we have state schools and non-state schools, so independent and Catholic schools—will grow by 101 per cent and, for non-state schools, it'll grow by 70 per cent over the term of the package. The government is also providing a record $309.6 billion in investment in recurrent funding to all Australian schools from this year through to the year 2029. The rate of spending is growing fastest in state schools at a rate of 6.3 per cent per student each year from 2019 to 2023.

They are some of the facts federally and, as I said, I would like to spend the last few minutes remaining in my time today to speak about Tasmania. States and territory governments have primary responsibility for education, particularly when it comes to primary and secondary education. They are the ones that administer our schools, that set the policies and determine how funding is spent. In Tasmania, it is a good news story. We're seeing the Hodgman government spend an additional $324 million over the next six years, employing 358 more staff in schools, including 250 teachers—teachers that were cut under the last Labor-Greens government. They're also extending high schools to year 12—38 have been extended. This is the thing: we had an education system in Tasmania where high schools went to year 10. So the attitude of young people was, 'Oh, I'm done by year 10.' They didn't go on to complete years 11 and 12. There were woeful retention rates, with kids dropping out and not doing anything else with their lives. Very few went on to get a trade or tertiary qualification or, indeed, complete years 11 and 12.

They're the sorts of changes we need to make to our education system. Yes, there's a cost attached, but it's a strategic investment—not just throwing money willy-nilly—and it's yielding results in regional communities. We need to focus on those communities. School nurses have been reintroduced into schools, with another 142 teachers and 63 more support staff, including psychologists, social workers and speech pathologists, employed since 2014. Again, those much-needed professions were cut in these schools under the Labor-Greens government in Tasmania. And, of course, the state Hodgman government will provide an extra 400 hours of free early learning for disadvantaged and vulnerable three-year-olds across the state. And that's just the beginning. They have done so much.

I like to compare the pair when it comes to how things are going in Tasmania in areas like health and education. When you look at the record left by the Labor-Greens government in 2014, education investment in the state of Tasmania was $1.35 billion. This year, in 2018, the state Liberal government is spending $1.6 billion. We had 4,202 FTE teachers; we now have 4,345 in 2018. In 2014, we had 787 teacher assistants; in 2018, we have 980. These increases mean that students are getting access to the support they need. Exactly what Senator Urquhart says we need to be doing is happening in Tasmania, her home state, and I hope she looks at this speech today and notices what's happened in Tasmania.

Of course, in 2014, the number of high schools in Tasmania that went through to year 12 was zero. It's now 38, and the apparent retention rate has risen from 70 per cent to over 76 per cent. The rate of attainment of the Tasmanian Certificate of Education has risen from 48.8 per cent to 58.9 per cent. And, of course, funding for students with a disability—another point that Senator Urquhart raises in her letter—has gone from $69 million to over $88 million per annum. That's the set of facts we need to be looking at. Don't believe everything you hear. Labor's tactic is to repeat a falsehood often enough that people believe it, but let me tell you it's not true. Those facts speak for themselves, and I hope, at the next federal election and at any of the state elections that are coming up, people remember this: the Liberals, the coalition, do invest in schools. That was just rubbish.

5:17 pm

Photo of Catryna BilykCatryna Bilyk (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm a strong believer in the power of education to transform lives. Labor, in government, worked to create a school funding system that was based on the principle that every child could get a school education that gave them the same opportunity in life, regardless of background. That's why we created a system that gave the required extra attention and support to the students who needed it most—students from low socioeconomic backgrounds, students from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, Indigenous students, rural and remote students and students with disability. One of the first acts of this heartless and out-of-touch government was to completely dismantle this approach and cut $30 billion from school funding. And, unfortunately, many Australians took former Prime Minister Abbott at his word when, on the eve of the 2013 election, he uttered the words, 'No cuts to education.' Mr Abbott broke his promise, Mr Turnbull did not honour it and it appears that Mr Morrison does not intend to honour it either, because the school cuts remain. It seems that no matter how divided, how chaotic and how shambolic this government is, they always seem to agree on one thing, and that's cutting essential public services like education.

This government has announced some investments in school education which go some way towards reversing the damage to Catholic and independent schools, but the position they have arrived at now still amounts to a $17 billion cut, $14 billion of which comes from public schools. Are we supposed to thank them for that? Should we thank them for announcing funding for Catholic and independent schools that is basically just replacing the funding that they already cut? Should we thank them for leaving many of the schools worse off than they were when Labor was in government? And should we thank them for their funding announcements for the Catholic and independent sectors when public schools are still being left way behind?

It's often pointed out in this place that this government's policies are continually aimed at attacking the most disadvantaged people in our community. Once again, those on that side have demonstrated this with their school cuts, because these cuts hit public schools the hardest. Eighty-two per cent of the most economically-disadvantaged children attend public schools. Public schools also educate 84 per cent of Indigenous children and 74 per cent of students with disabilities. These are a few of the groups which the Gonski review, after examining all the evidence, said needed extra support in classrooms, and yet they were exactly the groups primarily targeted by this government's $17 billion in school cuts.

Let's look at where this funding could be going. It could help reduce class sizes or employ education support staff, such as teacher aides, offering the ability for teachers to provide more one-on-one assistance for students who need extra attention. These would include not just the students who are struggling and need help but also gifted and talented students looking for extension work to help them reach their full potential. It could help to fund school counsellors, speech therapists, occupational therapists or language assistants—specialised professionals who can ensure that students have special needs or mental-health needs addressed. It could also fund extra professional development for teachers, particularly to build their skills and capacity around issues that are prevalent in their school communities. These are some of the things Australian schools most in need could be doing if it wasn't for the Liberals' $17 billion in school cuts.

Many of the schools that have been hit particularly hard by these cuts are rural and remote schools, and this begs the question: where are the Nationals in this debate? This is just another example of the National Party, which claims to represent rural Australia, simply caving in to their coalition partners, instead of standing up for regional services. I do encourage Senator Martin, as the Nationals' newest senator, to consider how these cuts have affected some of the most disadvantaged schools in north-west Tasmania, where he comes from, and to urge his party colleagues to reconsider their support for these cuts.

As if the government's $17 billion in school cuts isn't bad enough, I've spoken recently in this place about the government's $440 million cut to kinder and preschool by ending the partnership on universal access to early childhood education. As a former early childhood educator who was seeing the benefits of early learning firsthand, this decision absolutely appals me, especially at a time when other OECD countries are investing more, not less, in early childhood education. That's a stark contrast to Labor. We have announced that we will extend the partnership agreement and offer federal funding for two years of early learning. We've seen clear evidence that investing in early learning, as well as investing in disadvantaged schools, will pay economic dividends in the long run. If those opposite are going to question Australia's ability to afford the funding that our public schools need, then I ask this question: with Australia continuing to fall behind on our international performance on literacy and numeracy, how can we afford not to?

On the question of affordability, it's worth reminding Australians that, up until recently, the government were pursuing legislation to give the big banks a $17 billion tax cut. Now, I'm not clear as to whether the government has abandoned that legislation or just shelved it, or whether it officially remains government policy or they'll just revive it after the next election—who's to know?—but let's not forget that this Liberal government were claiming they couldn't afford to reimburse their $17 billion in cuts to schools, yet they were going to give the same amount of money to the big banks, which are currently fronting the royal commission to answer questions about ripping off their customers.

This speaks volumes about the priorities of those opposite compared to Labor's principles. Australians can be assured that Labor will always prioritise better schools over bigger bank profits. A Shorten Labor government will reverse the Liberals' cuts to school funding, which will see an extra $3.3 billion invested in schools over the next three years and $17 billion over the next decade. The majority of that $17 billion will go to the schools that need it the most, which overwhelmingly includes public schools. And, unlike this heartless Morrison government, Labor will not turn our backs on the 2.5 million children who attend public schools. That's two out of every three children comprising the majority of the most disadvantaged students for whom those opposite are providing the least support.

Those opposite, in their predictable fashion, are going to accuse us of irresponsible spending and demand to know how we will pay for our commitment, but we've made it abundantly clear how we'll pay for it—by making tough decisions on negative gearing, capital gains tax and the taxation of discretionary trusts.

Photo of John WilliamsJohn Williams (NSW, National Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Raising taxes.

Photo of Catryna BilykCatryna Bilyk (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I remind those opposite who are trying to interject that I worked with yelling three-year-olds for many, many years. So, Senator Williams, I'm not really interested in what you are yelling from over there. When you live in a glass house, though, you shouldn't throw stones. That's what I will remind those opposite. This government never, ever explained to the Australian people how they were going to afford their corporate tax cut when they were pursuing an $80 billion tax cut for big business, including $17 billion for the banks.

The other predictable argument that will come from those opposite is that you cannot fix a problem simply by throwing money at it. As I've pointed out time and time again in this place, this is a bit of a strawman argument, because that's not all that Labor is proposing to do. Not only is it a strawman argument; it's also hypocritical. It was those opposite who ditched Labor's school improvement plan, a national agreement aimed at improving students' results in reading, maths and science. What did they replace it with? Nothing. That's right. For five years, those opposite have handed over federal school funding to the states and territories without any accountability.

We accept that funding isn't the only solution. What we don't accept, though, is the suggestion that funding isn't part of the solution, especially funding that is directed at schools and students who need it most. I'm a regular visitor to local schools and, in the course of visiting schools, I've spoken to dozens, if not hundreds, of teachers. From speaking to teachers in the most disadvantaged schools I understand what additional funding would mean for them and what they could achieve with their students if they had more resources.

In my home state of Tasmania, our commitment to reverse the Liberal school cuts would mean another $50 million for Tasmanian schools over the first three years. Depending on each school's needs, we would see more support staff, extra teachers and teacher assistants or smaller class sizes—or some combination thereof. Australians with children in the most disadvantaged schools, especially public schools, understand that, if they want their kid to get the best start in life, they will need to elect a Shorten Labor government.

5:27 pm

Photo of Slade BrockmanSlade Brockman (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to speak on today's MPI. I notice we once again have an MPI from those opposite in which they are attempting to cast themselves as having a positive agenda, when all they really want to do is score political points in this place. Series of falsehoods have been trotted out again and again because those opposite think that, if you say something often enough, it will become true. Well, in actual fact, it won't become true, and we've got plenty of evidence to the contrary.

There is record funding for schools. Everybody in this place knows that's the case. There's record funding for government schools, record funding for independent schools and record funding for Catholic schools. There is record funding for all schools. Those opposite trying to pretend, based on their own false assumptions about future projections, that there has been a cut is just nonsense. This is the same Labor Party who said, 'We're going to deliver a surplus next year.' There was a deficit. They said, 'We're going to deliver a surplus the year after that.' There was a deficit. It's the same Labor government that could never balance the books. It's the same set of figures that we inherited and that we've spent the last five years cleaning up.

As a fellow Western Australian, Mr Acting Deputy President Dean Smith, you would know some of the evidence from our own home state of WA, where we have, over the last couple of years, seen a change of government from Liberal to Labor. Education is, of course, one of those areas where there is some shared responsibility. Under the Liberal government in Western Australia, which sadly did lose the last election, there was record funding for schools. In fact, the Western Australian school system was the best resourced school system of any state in the country. Western Australian teachers were the highest paid in the country. Principals were the highest paid in the country. Communities had more say in how their schools were run and principals had more say in how their schools were run.

So we have an on-the-ground record of Liberal Party investment in schools. But what did the Labor Party do when they came to power in WA? They targeted the weakest, most vulnerable parts of the education sector. They cut funding to Morawa agricultural college—Morawa residential college, an agricultural school in regional Western Australia that serviced the local farming communities with a residential school system that supported Aboriginal communities with residential school places. It was a vital part of that community and they cut it. A grassroots community campaign over months and months eventually, through the support of this government, managed to get the Labor government in Western Australia to revoke that appalling decision to close down Morawa residential college.

What else did they try to do? They tried to cut School of the Air. What more iconic Australian educational institution could there be than School of the Air? But the Labor Party tried to cut it. It was an appalling act that left a relatively small number of students, but a very vulnerable and physically and, sometimes, technologically isolated group of students, vulnerable to a great deal of uncertainty as to their future schooling requirements.

So I say that this government is proud to stand on its record of choice and affordability in education. We are providing an extra $37.6 billion to schools in the school funding package. That means that funding for each student will grow, on average, by 62 per cent. Funding for state schools will grow by 101 per cent and funding for non-state schools will grow by 70 per cent over the life of the package. The package is sector-blind, and it will deliver choice and affordability to parents and students. It will allow schools to plan for the future, giving certainty to teachers and principals.

The government is providing a record $309 billion investment in recurrent funding to all Australian schools from 2018 to 2029. The government's spending is growing fastest for state schools, at around 6.3 per cent per student each year from 2019 to 2023. Compare this to per student growth of 5.2 per cent in the non-government sector. By 2027, students with the same needs in the same sector will attract the same level of support from the Commonwealth, regardless of the state or territory where they live, their background or the choice of school their parents made. This funding is needs based and is designed to get the best results for students, parents and teachers.

All we do in this place—all the positive we do, such as the record funding for schools which this government is delivering—is based on one thing, and that is making sure the Australian economy is performing as well as it can. Without the Australian economy performing well, we do not have the tax revenue we need to fund schools, to fund the NDIS or to fund all those things that the Australian people think are worthwhile. That is where this government has excelled.

The Australian economy is growing at 3.4 per cent in the latest figures, passing market expectations. There have been 27 years of consecutive growth—27 years of consecutive economic growth!—and it's the highest growth rate since 2012, and that was during the height of the mining boom. This is what allows the government to deliver in terms of dividends for schools, for health care and for all those areas, such as the NDIS, which I talked about. This creates the society that we all enjoy living in.

On the education side, the real needs based funding that is being provided grows; it grows consistently and it grows over the decade to come. Those opposite try to pretend that the growth isn't there, or want to take their figures from a different base. But the fact that all Australians need to understand is that the funding will grow from $17.5 billion in 2017 to $31.9 billion in 2029. This is real; this is significant. This represents a step-change for the education sector that provides the needs based funding model, where students who need support get the support, and will see investment in all parts of the school sector growing over the decade to come.

5:35 pm

Photo of Mehreen FaruqiMehreen Faruqi (NSW, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I'm very proud to be the Greens spokesperson on education because the Greens are the only party who will stand up for public education at every single opportunity. We are unashamedly the party of public education. We are unapologetic in our advocacy for well-resourced, world-class public education from early childhood to schools and all the way to TAFE and university. I do want to thank up-front the Australian Education Union, the New South Wales Teachers Federation and the teachers federations in other states and territories for their advocacy and activism on public education. Their Fair Funding Now campaign is one we should all engage with and push for.

One hundred and thirty-eight years ago, Henry Parkes created Australia's first comprehensive public education system in New South Wales with the underpinning philosophy that every child, regardless of their family's wealth or poverty, irrespective of the religion practised by their parents and without prejudice of their level of ability, would have access to world's-best schooling—egalitarian, secular, democratic. These principles and ideals still hold as true as they did more than a century ago. But for too long, both Labor and Liberal governments have done special deals with private schools that continue to see public schools severely underfunded and unable to meet even their basic needs. What a disgrace. This is not needs based funding. This is not sector-blind funding. This is handing over hush money to those with the loudest voices to shut them up.

The Liberal-Nationals federal government has slashed billions of dollars from schools funding. If we don't make a big investment in public education right now, just 13 per cent of public schools will have the funding they need to meet their minimum needs by 2023, while 65 per cent of private schools will be overfunded. How is this fair? This is a national shame. On top of this already unfair system, non-government schools will get an extra $4.6 billion from their special deal with the coalition, while public schools will get no extra funding. It is incredibly disappointing Labor has refused to rip up this deal.

The Greens will keep pushing to reverse these deals that see a public system underfunded year on year, government after government. We can make sure that every public school receives 100 per cent of the schooling resource standard or SRS by 2023. Our students and teachers deserve nothing less. The Liberal government has restricted federal funding to 20 per cent of the SRS for public schools. Under Labor's recent announcement, the Commonwealth will provide 22.2 per cent. The Greens are pushing for 25 per cent of SRS funding, with the Commonwealth working with states and territories to make sure that they contribute at least 75 per cent. It is the only plan that will make sure that every public school gets 100 per cent of their SRS by 2023. And the very real on-ground practical implications of this mean smaller class sizes, extra staff, more one-on-one support—this is good for students, teachers and staff. Ninety-three per cent of public school teachers dip into their own pockets to buy stationery and classroom equipment. We can do much better. We have to do much better.

The Greens want to invest $24.5 billion in our public schools over the next decade to finally ensure that they have the funding they need to offer world-class education. And we can fund this by reversing the coalition's income tax cuts that disproportionately benefit high-income earners. This will raise $13.4 billion over the next four years alone. The Greens plan will fix the federal government's capital grants program so that every public school has the funds to build the learning and teaching facilities that they need. We must expand access to this program to public schools, which it doesn't currently, and we must more than double the funding to $400 million per year.

Public schools teach the majority of disadvantaged students so they must get public money to be able to do that. Our education system must be able to meet the individual needs of all children and no-one should fall through the cracks. We will work very hard to reverse cuts to funding for students with a disability and ensure that the disability funding tiers match the actual cost of delivering high-quality education.

Just before I finish, I want to thank the AEU and the New South Wales Teachers Federation for their support for the Greens fully funded schools policy. Public schools shouldn't have to wait at the end of the queue. No student should be left behind. The Greens are proudly the party of public education.

5:40 pm

Photo of Helen PolleyHelen Polley (Tasmania, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister to the Leader (Tasmania)) Share this | | Hansard source

One thing that the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison governments have been consistent on is their cuts to education in this country. Those opposite think looking after their mates at the top end of town is more important than funding our schools. Let's be very clear: Australians didn't vote for Scott Morrison and they certainly didn't vote for his $14 billion cut to public schools. Australians are sick of the chaotic Liberal muppet show and they're sick of hearing the Liberals say they can't afford to help public schools, while big business and multimillionaires get more and more.

There is a stark contrast between Labor and the Liberals when it comes to our education system. The Australian Labor Party has drawn a line in the sand with its $14 billion plan for public schools. This is the biggest investment in public schools in Australian history. Labor understands that we must do everything we can to prepare our kids for the jobs of the future. That's why we're investing in 15 years of world-class education for the next generation, from preschool right through to year 12. It's going to take a lot more work to fix the damage of the Abbott-Turnbull-Morrison governments, but we are willing and we're ready.

That's why Bill Shorten launched our five-step Fair Go Action Plan in October. A major component of our Fair Go Action Plan is to fix our schools that have been neglected and gutted by this out-of-touch government. We will give all children the opportunity to reach their full potential, no matter where they live or how much their parents earn. We will restore every dollar Mr Morrison's cuts have taken from schools, including Catholic and independent schools. This money means more one-on-one attention; more help with the basics; making sure kids have reading, writing and maths well and truly under their belts; and more subject choice. This is also about ensuring that each child is treated as an individual and that they have access to the physical and educational resources and the support they need to thrive. If we don't invest in education, we're not investing in our future and in our children's having every single opportunity—a concept those opposite can't seem to grasp.

Parents around the country know that we have committed an extra $14 billion to school funding over the next decade, but it's pretty hard to understand what that really means for your own school—$14 billion is such a large sum of money. We have launched a website,, which allows parents and teachers to find out how much extra funding their local public school will receive over the first three years from 2020 under a Shorten Labor government.

In my home state of Tasmania, Labor's investment will change children's lives. I'm excited, parents are excited and so is everybody else who believes in the power of education. Labor's plan to transform public schools with the biggest investment in Australian history is a big win for my home state of Tasmania. Tasmanian schools will get a massive $52 million extra funding over the first three years of Labor's plan. The extra investment will transform public schools in Tasmania so that every child gets the education they need for the best start in life. In Tasmania Labor's extra investment is the equivalent of hiring an additional 130 teachers or 220 assistants. Labor's record school funding will ensure that Tasmanian public schools get the money they need to give all students the best individual care and support that they need. Children who are struggling will get the help they need to catch up, and gifted and talented children will have a chance to extend themselves. It will allow public schools to offer coding, the arts and vocational education. All of this will help not only our students but our teachers.

In conclusion, it's time for a government that will put children first. If we don't invest in education, as I said, we're not investing in our future, and our children should have every single opportunity available to them. Governments have a responsibility to make sure that our public schools are funded and resourced and that they serve the community's needs. Mr Morrison and the Liberals are not up to this task; they've proved that with the cuts they've made. Whether it has been under Abbott, Turnbull or Morrison, the only thing that they've been consistent with is cutting education and health. I call on the Prime Minister: you're obviously not up to the job, your government is dysfunctional and there's so much infighting; you should be calling an election and you should be calling it now. That's what the Australian people want. (Time expired)

5:45 pm

Photo of Dean SmithDean Smith (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

There's clearly been a breakdown in communication between Labor Party senators and Labor Party people in other parts of the country. There's clearly been a breakdown. Earlier today, just in the last little while, the federal Minister for Education, Dan Tehan, issued a press release saying he has now signed the National Education Reform Agreement with the Labor state education minister in Western Australia. Let me read from it:

The Morrison Government has ensured better outcomes for Western Australian school students by delivering a record $32.3 billion of school funding and reforms to the education system, paid for by our plan for a stronger economy.

There was so much agreement between the Labor state education minister in Western Australia today and the federal coalition government led by Scott Morrison that Mr Dan Tehan, the federal Minister for Education, even applauded the cooperative way in which Sue Ellery, the state Labor education minister, conducted the negotiations with him. In the media release, what did Dan Tehan, the federal Minster for Education, say about the Labor state education minister? I quote:

I thank the Western Australian Education Minister The Hon Sue Ellery for the co-operative way she has worked with the Federal Government to ensure that record funding flows to WA schools.

There we go. Who would have thought? Something's clearly happening. Labor senators on the other side of the chamber are either telling porkies—apologies to pork and pigs and those sorts of things—or they've clearly got a different view of the world from those people who are already in government, in Western Australia, and are responsible for funding schools. There we have it.

I have a few more minutes to fill. I could end it there. I think that's powerful demonstration already that Labor senators in this place are interested in playing politics. If they were interested in a serious debate about education, they might have started with a very honest assessment about their performance when they were in government. They might have reminded us of the $16.2 billion Building the Education Revolution program. Some of us know it as the 'school halls program.' What's interesting about that is that program delivered $6 billion to $8 billion in rip-offs and rorts. That's what Labor did. That was Labor's education policy. That was Labor's education outcome. You might even remember Labor's program called the Rewards for Great Teachers National Partnership. I wish I was the education minister. I would have a program like that. Rewards for Great Teachers National Partnership was the name of the Labor program. What they thought they would do is give $10,000 to outstanding teachers in the community. I think that's noble. I went a state school. I went to Mirrabooka Senior High School. I had fantastic teachers. I'd like a program like that. How many teachers across the country were recipients of $10,000—much-needed money—through the Rewards for Great Teachers National Partnership? How many? Senator O'Neill, would you like to take a guess? Senator Hanson, would you like to take a guess?

Photo of Cory BernardiCory Bernardi (SA, Australian Conservatives) Share this | | Hansard source

Address your comments to the chair, Senator.

Photo of Dean SmithDean Smith (WA, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The answer is none: not one teacher. Finally—because I do want to talk about the great things the coalition government has been doing with regards to education funding—you might remember that Labor promised a billion dollars worth of computers in schools. It sounds like a very, very noble idea. But what we saw consistently under the previous Labor government was an incapacity to design, fund and implement programs, so what we saw with regards to that program was a $1.4 billion blowout—a cost to taxpayers. So Senator O'Neill is quite right to run off random names of candidates in seats across the country, arguing that they're out there trying to draw people's attention to education issues and education-funding issues. She's right, and they'd be running around pretty hard because New South Wales electors, particularly—Senator O'Neill is a New South Wales senator—will quickly come to realise that what Labor says it will do is not what Labor does.

I was interested to hear Senator Polley share with the Australian Senate Labor's commitment to a historically large investment program for education. Well, let me tell you how that large, historical, significant education program is going to be funded: Labor's seven deadly taxes—a $20 billion tax on mum-and-dad investors; a $13 billion extra tax on capital gains tax for all assets; a $22 billion tax on wages, courtesy of Labor's plan to reimpose the deficit levy; a $22 billion tax on family businesses; a $25 billion tax on the saving we're already putting into our superannuation and $65 billion in higher taxes on Australian businesses. If that's not bad enough—I know what you're thinking: 'Senator Smith, that's six; that's not seven deadly taxes from Labor'—the seventh one is perhaps the cruellest of them all, Labor's retiree tax.

There's no doubt this coalition government has provided, at historically high levels, better education funding, giving families greater choice and flexibility. We're not just funding state schools; we're increasing the funding to independent, Catholic and state schools. What does that look like? The coalition government is providing an extra $37.6 billion in stronger, better education funding. That represents a 62.6 per cent increase for every student in the country, on average, and it's funded by a government that is about to deliver a surplus, not a government that is going to impose taxes on ordinary families and small businesses.

5:52 pm

Photo of Pauline HansonPauline Hanson (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | | Hansard source

I've only got two minutes to speak on this. Yes, every parent wants the best education for their child. Last year this chamber passed approximately $23 billion in funding for education, and they're still calling for more funding to go into it. How much is enough? I'll tell you now that it's not about more money being thrown at it; it's all about the quality of the teachers and the curriculum that's being taught to these kids. Go back to phonics. Start teaching kids how to pronounce words rather than look at words in the book. Another thing is calculators. No kid can do their tables. They wouldn't even know how to add up or do their times tables without being in front of a computer or a calculator, and they don't know how to respond to reading. We have the lowest of educational standards in the world.

I went to high school; I was in the class of '54. There was no problem with education. I actually topped the class. After I saw that I wasn't near the top—I was coming about fifth or sixth—I realised I needed to work harder to get top of the class. So we need to bring back placing in the classrooms.

We now have four-year-old preschoolers debating about getting the refugees off Nauru. These are teachers with their own socialist agendas, and they're pushing them onto four-year-olds who have no idea what this is all about, and they're saying it's all right to do it. It's absolutely ridiculous.

I'll tell you another thing. Years ago, when I was in parliament, I had two lecturers from a university come to tell me that they were being told how to teach—that, if they didn't follow the curriculum of the university and teach the kids as they were told to, they would lose their jobs. This has been happening in our educational system. I've been speaking to teachers who are trying to get their degree, and they're saying that, if they don't head down the path of the socialist agenda, they will not get their passes.

It's an absolute disgrace that some of these teachers we now have in our classrooms are able to teach kids. They don't even know English at their level. This is where we need to get back to actually ensuring that we have good teachers in our classrooms. It's not about throwing more money at it. We never had that years ago when we were growing up. There's been so much money wasted in the educational sphere. We need to get back to having capable teachers doing it. The older teachers are the ones that have got the educational levels. I'm not knocking all these young ones coming through—I think they have great intentions—but I'm in fear of those ones who have the socialist agenda and the way they teach our kids.

In our classrooms they're told how to head down a line of political correctness, what political party they should be voting for and who they should be supporting. I think it's disgraceful. Keep the politics out of the classrooms. Teachers should have no place in telling the kids what to do. Get back to phonics and the times tables. Get back to the basics. That's what One Nation is doing in New South Wales under the leadership of Mark Latham. He's saying that we should remove the political bias from the English curriculum. (Time expired)

Photo of Cory BernardiCory Bernardi (SA, Australian Conservatives) Share this | | Hansard source

The time allotted for the discussion has expired.