Senate debates

Tuesday, 28 November 2023

Questions without Notice: Take Note of Answers


3:27 pm

Photo of Penny Allman-PaynePenny Allman-Payne (Queensland, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry and Minister for Emergency Management (Senator Watt) to a question without notice I asked today relating to public schools.

Today I asked questions of the minister to see whether the government really understands the scale and urgency of the underfunding crisis in our public schools. I have to say I don't think the government really understands those things at all. In response to my questions, the minister essentially said three things. He said that if we want to see full funding of public schools we need to elect a Labor government, he said that they're giving parents choice, and then he resorted to personal attacks directed towards me.

We are 18 months into a Labor government and we still do not have full funding of our public schools. What we do have is the can kicked down the road with regard to the National School Reform Agreement. There's to be another review, of which we've had countless over the last decades, and a new NSRA that's not going to start until 2025. If we even get close to full funding of our public schools when that agreement starts, we will be nearly at the end of the first term of a Labor government. If we get full funding by 2028, we'll be almost two terms into a Labor government. Given the current state of the polls, that's assuming they even get re-elected.

The matter of public funding of our public schools is urgent. When I stand up in this chamber and talk about the scale and urgency of the crisis and get attacked for it, that is an attack on every public school teacher in this country, because I come into the chamber representing public school teachers, parents, carers and the students in our public schools. Just today I got a message from a parent that said: 'We just got our book list. Two kids in state primary school. $33 for Blu Tack.' She says, 'We literally can't do Blu Tack, let alone the paper, the tissues, the whiteboard pens!' She says, 'Fund our public schools.'

Parents don't have a choice anymore. They either have to accept that their public school is underfunded and pay between $1,500 and $2,000 to make up the shortfall themselves, or they have to fork out of their pockets to attend the private school that's fully resourced and for which fees have gone up 50 to 80 per cent. Another parent said, 'Why do I have to budget for my kid to be in a public school?' We are in a cost-of-living crisis and parents need our help. We can't wait until 2025; we can't wait until 2028. Our public schools are in crisis. Teachers are leaving in droves. It is time to fully fund our public schools and do it now.

Question agreed to.