Questions without Notice - Education Funding
Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:09): My question without notice is to Minister Payne, representing the Minister for Education. I refer to the Prime Minister's and the Minister for Education's press conference today. We have heard three different announcements inside of a week, but still no commitment to a six-year funding agreement on schools in Australia. What possible confidence can the people have that the government will honour its latest commitment?
Senator PAYNE (New South Wales—Minister for Human Services) (14:10): It is somewhat remarkable that a former minister amongst those opposite would ask what possible confidence the community could have in a government, given the experience that Australia had at their hands, but let me nevertheless make it very clear what we now have and what we did not have before. What we now have is a national school funding agreement because, although it may be revelatory for those opposite, a national funding agreement includes all of the states and territories—it actually includes Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory. I understand that is a revolutionary concept, but as a revolutionary concept it may be one with which Senator Carr can grapple. We have indicated that there will be—
Senator Jacinta Collins: No, you don't. There is no agreement.
The PRESIDENT: Senator Payne, resume your seat. When there is silence, on both sides, I will ask Senator Payne to continue. Senator Payne is entitled to be heard in silence.
Senator PAYNE: We have indicated that there will be a funding amount of $2.8 billion—
Honourable senators interjecting—
The PRESIDENT: Order, on my right and my left! Senator Payne is entitled to be heard in silence.
Senator Cameron: What did Barry O'Farrell say?
The PRESIDENT: Order, Senator Cameron!
Senator PAYNE: The government is providing a national school funding agreement including all of the states and territories, including $2.8 billion of additional funding for schools over the next four years. This ensures that all states and territories, regardless of whether they signed a deal with the previous government, will have funding certainty over the next four years. The government will also commit to the $1.2 billion that those opposite—Labor—ripped out of school funding. That is an absolute commitment from the Prime Minister and from the minister this afternoon. Not only did we promise Labor's level of funding before the election but we have now exceeded it. That is a very important difference to note between us and the previous government. It was the previous government, under the leadership, as education minister, of Mr Shorten, who ripped $1.2 billion out of the budget for this particular funding approach, not this government. We will replace that $1.2 billion into the budget. (Time expired)
Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:14): Mr President, I have a supplementary question. Can the minister confirm that today the Prime Minister announced that there would be $1.2 billion worth of cuts to education to be announced in MYEFO? How can you maintain the funding certainty? How can you maintain this when it is nothing more than a stitch-up with the Western Australia, Queensland and Northern Territory governments at the expense of Victoria, South Australia and Tasmania, where a majority of students are actually enrolled?
Honourable senators interjecting—
The PRESIDENT: Order! When there is silence on both sides I will give the minister the call.
Senator PAYNE (New South Wales—Minister for Human Services) (14:14): It is absolutely no surprise to me that Senator Carr is so contemptuous of students in Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia, but this government is not. This government is interested in a fair national system of education funding, and that is what the Prime Minister and the Minister for Education have announced today. Those on the other side are embarrassed because they failed to deliver a national funding program and, in light of their failure, we have succeeded. That is the fundamental difference between us and them. Where they decided that only some schools and some students across Australia were entitled to their fair share of funding, we have decided that all schools and all students are entitled to their fair share of funding—and it will be national and fairer funding. What about the fact that, in his last act as minister, it was Mr Shorten who short-changed parents, students and their schools. It was Mr Shorten who removed from the funding model $1.2 billion, which we will replace. (Time expired)
Senator KIM CARR (Victoria) (14:14): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Minister, on top of the $1.2 billion announced to be cut from the education budget today, how can you assert that funding will be maintained for Australian schools as a result of your failure to commit to years 5 and 6 of the original schools funding plan?
Senator PAYNE (New South Wales—Minister for Human Services) (14:14): As even Senator Carr, hopefully, could manage to accept, over the forward estimates we committed—a commitment which we made clear before the election—to the same funding envelope, funding package, that the Labor government was advancing over the forward estimates.
Opposition senators interjecting—
The PRESIDENT: Senator Payne, resume your seat. You are entitled to be heard in silence. On my left, if you wish to debate the issue, the time is after three o'clock, not now.
Senator PAYNE: What I was saying was that the funding which was committed over the forward estimates—the commitment which we made before the election—is the commitment that we will keep. We promised Labor's level of funding before the election. We have now indicated that we are able to exceed that. You would think that those opposite would thank us, would say that that was a good thing for Australian students, Australian teachers, Australian parents, Australian schools—but, no, because they cannot climb over the low, muddy hillock of politics to acknowledge what can be done for Australian students with a proper education funding model. That is what we will put in place, that is what Minister Pyne will put in place and that is what Prime Minister Abbott supports. (Time expired)