Questions Without Notice - Education Funding

Monday, 02 December 2013

Senator DASTYARI (New South Wales) (14:30): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Education, Senator Payne. I refer the minister to Mr Pyne's claim that the Better Schools Plan was a 'conski'; to Mr Abbott's claim the coalition had a unity ticket with Labor on school funding; to Mr Pyne's claim all agreements made by Labor would be renegotiated; and, finally, to the statement by Mr Abbott and Mr Pyne that Labor's school funding agreement would be honoured in full. Minister, how can any parent, teacher or student trust anything this government says on education?

Senator PAYNE (New South Wales—Minister for Human Services) (14:31): I thank Senator Dastyari for his question. It is very interesting that Senator Dastyari should raise in the chamber the question of how one could trust a government, because the irony is not lost on me. It was after all Mr Shorten, who is now the opposition leader, who, as Minister for Education, chose to remove $1.2 billion from the education budget before the last election. It is also not lost on me—I think I have referred to this earlier today but I am very happy to go back to it—that it is in fact Labor Premier Jay Weatherill from South Australia who, notwithstanding having signed up to the previous government's education agreement, is now cutting $230 million from the South Australian education budget, confirmed by the South Australian parliament's budget and finance committee. If the senator opposite is concerned about trust, I suggest he take that up with the Leader of the Opposition and Premier Weatherill.

Senator DASTYARI (New South Wales) (14:32): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. The coalition promised the Australian people a careful and consultative government. Is the chaotic and shambolic performance on school funding what you, Minister, had in mind?

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT: Order! When there is silence on both sides, I will call the minister.

Senator PAYNE (New South Wales—Minister for Human Services) (14:32): I thank the senator for his supplementary question. Speaking of chaos, I think Mr Pyne referred to it quite effectively yesterday when he referred to the absolute wreckage that Mr Shorten had left behind in this portfolio area. We know that what he did was cut $1.2 billion out of school funding. We know that, of the jurisdictions across Australia, the Northern Territory, Western Australia and Queensland had never been part of the so-called national funding plan. We were actually told that Victoria and Tasmania had signed up, but they had not. We were actually told that the Catholic system had been signed up, but it was not. So it was a complete mess. To use Senator Dastyari's words, it was chaotic. What Minister Pyne has done is spend the last 11 weeks consulting with the states and territories and consulting— (Time expired)

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Dastyari is on his feet.

Senator DASTYARI (New South Wales) (14:34): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister confirm that the decision to backflip on school funding was made by the leadership group and only discussed by the cabinet after the Prime Minister's announcement? Which ministers and which members of the Prime Minister's office were included in this decision—because clearly the cabinet was not?

Opposition senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT: Order! When there is silence on my left I will call the minister.

Senator PAYNE (New South Wales—Minister for Human Services) (14:35): I can confirm that this government has reinstituted the $1.2 billion that the previous government took out of funding. I can confirm that this is a truly national agreement. I can confirm that the previous government was incapable of achieving this.

Honourable senators interjecting—

The PRESIDENT: Order! When there is silence we will continue.

 

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