Questions Without Notice - Education Funding
Senator PAYNE (New South Wales—Minister for Human Services) (14:00): I thank Senator Carr for his question. I can confirm that this government will be treating state governments and territory governments in Australia like adults and that we will be expecting them to deliver education services to their—
Senator Wong: Oh, really? Allowing state and territory governments to cut funding while they don't put anything in!
Senator Cormann: You just ripped money away from them, Penny!
The PRESIDENT: Order! On both sides! Senator Payne is quite entitled to be heard in silence.
Senator PAYNE: As I said, we will be treating state and territory governments in this country with respect and as adults, unlike those opposite, who chose to exercise almost a command-and-control approach over education in this country.
But nevertheless, if the opposition are so keen to raise this issue and are so keen to talk about the sorts of concerns they have about the behaviour of state and territory governments perhaps they might want to consult with Senator Wong's colleague Mr Weatherill, who appears to have cut $230 million from the South Australian education budget, notwithstanding having an agreement with the former Commonwealth government. So if you are looking for an example, Senator Carr, that might be the one to use.
Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:02): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister confirm that agreements with states under the Better Schools model, including state-funding commitments, are now up for renegotiation?
Senator Sterle: Try 'yes' or 'no'!
Senator PAYNE (New South Wales—Minister for Human Services) (14:02): The day I take advice from Senator Sterle will be a cold day somewhere. Let me advise the Senate, Mr President—
Senator Jacinta Collins: I reckon you were doing better yesterday, Marise!
Senator Sterle: Knock yourself out, Marise!
Government senators interjecting—
The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Payne is entitled to be heard in silence. On both sides!
Senator PAYNE: As I understand Senator Carr's question, I am able to say that the funding agreements that are in place are the agreements that are continuing, and that the Commonwealth has committed to observing the funding arrangements which were discussed at some length in the chamber yesterday. If it is a matter of memory loss for the senator, perhaps he could refer to the Hansard. However, in relation to those states and territories which are, perhaps, choosing to go in a different direction, I refer again to Mr Weatherill, who I understand to be the Premier of New South Wales—
Senator Jacinta Collins: Poor Barry!
Senator PAYNE: I am sorry—South Australia. (Time expired)
Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:03): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. How can this government claim there is 'no need', to quote Senator Abetz, for any school to be worse off if the Commonwealth hands out money to states without ensuring it goes to students who need it most?
Senator PAYNE (New South Wales—Minister for Human Services) (14:04): It gives me great pleasure to once again refer to South Australian Premier Weatherill's cuts of $230 million to education in that state. As I understand it, he is the Labor Premier of the state of South Australia and, of course, the people of South Australia will have an opportunity to have their say on education cuts in that state quite soon.
Senator Jacinta Collins: Ooh—got the state right!
Senator Lines: Talk about Colin Barnett's cuts! Look at all the WA senators on the frontbench!
Senator PAYNE: Can I also say that the coalition—
The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Payne, you are entitled to be heard in silence. There is a debate going on from both sides over the chamber, which is completely disorderly—
Senator Bernardi: There is screeching on the other side of the chamber!
The PRESIDENT: Order!
Senator PAYNE: I also say that as far as the coalition is concerned, we do regard state and territory governments as adults. We do not think we need federal inspectors in state schools. We do think we need more parental and principal involvement in the running of schools. We do think we need a stronger approach to curriculum, and not for one moment is the coalition intending to apologise for that.