Questions without Notice - Education Funding

Monday, 02 December 2013

Senator WRIGHT (South Australia) (14:20): My question is to Senator Payne, representing the Minister for Education. Education minister Christopher Pyne said on Friday he was committed to sector-blind funding only in terms of the extra loading amounts that disadvantaged children attract. These loadings comprise only 17 per cent of the funding quantum we have heard so much about from the Prime Minister. Despite his own comments, Minister Pyne told Fairfax Media that the claim that only the disadvantaged loadings would be sector blind was 'hysterical fearmongering'. If that is the case, how will the rest of the money be distributed and can the minister guarantee that every cent of the federal government's school funding contribution will be delivered on a needs based sector-blind model?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Human Services) (14:20): I thank the senator for her question. What I am most definitely able to promise—to the sector but most particularly to Australian students, Australian parents and Australian teachers—is that we will fund schools in every state and territory of Australia, which is in fact—

Senator Cameron: Is that a core or a non-core promise!

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Cameron, it is not your question. Senator Wright is entitled to hear the answer to her question.

Senator PAYNE: As I was saying, we will fund schools in every state and territory of Australia. That is the most important difference between the so-called national funding model put forward by the previous government and this truly national model. As the Prime Minister and the minister indicated this afternoon at their press conference, the minister has been consulting across the states and territories since the election because he was always concerned about the importance of funding certainty for next year. Now we do have agreement from those states which were discarded by the previous government. Not only were they discarded but so were their students, and that has been a matter of significant concern for the minister since the election. As well as the funding model which has been confirmed and announced today, we are now able to focus on further important things in education but most particularly quality and standards, those sorts of things that will enable more principal and parent control in schools, that will enable—

Senator Wright: Mr President, I raise a point of order. I did not ask about the funding across the states and territories. The question was actually about whether or not it would be sector blind and needs based. The minister, with respect, has not answered my question.

The PRESIDENT: The minister is addressing the question. The minister still has 29 seconds remaining to address the question. There is no point of order.

Senator PAYNE: Most importantly, the government is keeping its commitments on school funding. We are delivering more funding over the next four years than was promised by the previous Labor government. We will also honour funding which was promised to non-government representative bodies for four years, including the funding announced for the Catholic Education Commission and the funding announced to the Association of Independent Schools. This consistency in the commitments that were made and the announcement that was made has been confirmed by the Prime Minister— (Time expired)

Senator WRIGHT (South Australia) (14:23): I have a supplementary question, Mr President. The Gonski panel received more than 7,000 submissions, visited 39 schools, consulted 71 education groups and produced a 286-page report pointing to a broken school funding model with as much as a five-year educational gap between the most and least privileged students in year 9. Last week Minister Pyne said, 'I don't believe there is an equity problem in Australia.' Is that the formal position of the coalition government?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Human Services) (14:24): I think that the senator's reference to the work of the Gonski panel is in fact extremely important. The work of the Gonski panel I am sure never envisaged that they might be saddled with a government which would not fund every student in every state and territory in Australia but perhaps thought there might be a consistent approach to funding. Unfortunately they were completely short-changed on that, much like Australian students were short-changed by the previous government, and this government is committed to an even-handed approach across the states and territories on what is a legitimately national funding agreement. I think that the approach this government is taking in relation to working so hard since the election to negotiate in-principle funding agreements with Queensland, Western Australia and the Northern Territory is what will deliver a proper schools funding agreement in this country, is what will deliver a schools funding agreement that supports every child, every parent, every teacher and every school in the country. (Time expired)

Senator WRIGHT (South Australia) (14:25): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary. Today we have heard yet another iteration of the government's school funding plan. It is the third in the last week. Given that last week Mr Pyne announced that he would renegotiate all deals made by the former government after next year, why should the parents and teachers of Australia trust this government to deliver anything that resembles a fairer school funding model?

Senator PAYNE (New South WalesMinister for Human Services) (14:25): The people of Australia, the students, teachers and parents, can trust this government to deliver on the model that has been committed to and announced today, for one very good reason. We will not be the people ripping $1.2 billion of funding out of that model. We will confirm the delivery of the $2.8 billion additional funding for schools over the next four years, ensuring that all states and territories, regardless of whether they signed the deal with the previous government or not, have funding certainty over the next four years. We have also committed to restoring the $1.2 billion that Labor ripped out of school funding before the last election. The member for McMahon, Mr Bowen, confirms it was ripped out by Labor. Ms Ellis confirms it was ripped out by Labor. The people on the other side who are oblivious to the facts will still try to delude themselves, but we will deliver a proper national school funding agreement across all states and territories to ensure— (Time expired)

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