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Education and Employment Legislation Committee
Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership

Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership


CHAIR: I welcome Senator the Hon. Simon Birmingham, Minister for Education and Training, Ms Lisa Rodgers, Chief Executive Officer of AITSL, and officers of the institute. Minister Birmingham, do you wish to make an opening statement?

Senator Birmingham: Good morning, Chair and committee. It feels like only 11 o'clock last night that we saw you all. No, thank you very much.

CHAIR: Ms Rodgers, do you have an opening statement?

Ms Rodgers : No, Senator, thank you.

CHAIR: Excellent—let's proceed to questions.

Senator PATERSON: I would like to start with a few questions about teacher education. What is AITSL doing to improve teacher education?

Ms Rodgers : I will hand over to the Deputy Chief Executive Officer Edmund Misson.

Mr Misson : In relation to initial teacher education, AITSL is currently working with the regulatory authorities in each state and territory and also with the providers of the initial teacher education to implement the reforms that were agreed by the Education Council in December 2015. Those reforms are given effect through a change to the accreditation standards that all initial teacher education programs must meet to continue to be accredited to prepare people for registration as a teacher in Australia. Those cover a range of areas, including selection into the program, assessment during the program and the requirement of providers to monitor, evaluate and act on the impact of their programs. Those reforms are currently being rolled out. The agreed timetable is that all teacher education courses in the country will have been accredited against those new standards by the end of 2017.

Senator PATERSON: So, broadly, we are on track with that time line?

Mr Misson : Yes, we are.

Senator PATERSON: How is the literacy and numeracy testing for graduating teaching students going at universities?

Mr Misson : That has now been implemented across every course in the country and is having the effect of ensuring that no-one graduates from a teacher education program without, through that test, demonstrating that they have levels of literacy and numeracy equivalent to the top 30 per cent of the Australian population.

Senator PATERSON: What has the test indicated about whether or not, in the past, there were people graduating without sufficient standards of literacy and numeracy?

Mr Misson : The test is actually managed by the department, but I understand that the pass rates, if you like, have been in the order of the low 90 per cents. It shows that there may have been a problem in the past, but that, as you would expect, the mast majority of people who were graduating were at that level.

Senator PATERSON: What feedback has been received from states and territories and other stakeholders about the reforms?

Mr Misson : What we are hearing is that there is strong support for the direction of the reforms. I think that when you are undergoing a major change process, people will debate some of the details and talk about the cost and the pace of reform, but what we are increasingly finding is that there is great support for the direction of the reforms.

Senator PATERSON: The principal certification program—what is the thinking behind the introduction of that?

Ms Rodgers : We recently held a roundtable where there were around 40 experts and stakeholders that were providing advice to us in terms of pre-principal certification. It is quite clear that people are quite keen to have some sort of certification, but actually, the issue is broader than that. Principals and stakeholders have been talking to us and telling us that, really, we need to be putting in place a pipeline of support around principalship. We need to be thinking about identifying and attracting talent early. We need to ensure that principals are on board and supported in the early years in terms of the job. There needs to be further development for principalship and there is an opportunity to use our more experienced and, possibly, even retired principals in supporting that growing group of principals.

Senator PATERSON: Why do we think that would lead to improved outcomes for students? Why would this program achieve that?

Ms Rodgers : The two biggest in-school factors in terms of student achievement are teaching and school leadership. If you have an excellent leader in a school, what they will do is create the culture, disposition and focus on student achievement. You need a principal that will focus on impact, always, but also be part of the professional development with teachers and resource strategically to get that impact. Principalship is not just a managerial job any more. Principalship really is a job around lifting student achievement.

Senator PATERSON: What has the response been from principals to the program?

Ms Rodgers : Exceptional—principals themselves are calling for something. We know that very few teachers identify themselves as wanting to go into principalship, but when they come into principalship, most stay. They love the job, but actually, we probably could do some more in terms of supporting principals.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I would like to go back to an answer I was provided from additional estimates in the last round. It is question SQ17-000450. My question there was:

Where is the implementation of the Australian Professional Standards for Principals at?

It is interesting following the earlier questions around principals—

How is the Department monitoring its implementation?

What are the next steps in this implementation?

The answer was more unsatisfactory than I have experienced over many years in this process in the Senate. Let me read it to you:

The Australian Professional Standard for Principals was developed by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership (AITSL) and was endorsed by all education ministers in July 2011. AITSL, on behalf of the Australian Government, has responsibility for supporting ongoing implementation of the Standard.

No answer to: how is the department monitoring this implementation? No answer to: what are the next steps in this implementation? Can you explain to me why that is the case?

Ms Rodgers : Apologies. Clearly the answer did not cover all of the things that you asked. If I can, I would like permission to respond to those particular things.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Please do.

Ms Rodgers : In terms of principalship, we run a stakeholder survey. From the last stakeholder survey what we know is that 98 per cent of principals are aware of the principal standards. We have the School Leader Self-Assessment Tool, which is one indication of how principals are using the standards. Nearly half of all principals have downloaded and used that tool. We see that across all jurisdictions. Most principals are aware of the principal standards, and they are using them. It is my intention, in the next stakeholder survey, to really drill down into: yes, people are using them, but we need to know the level of impact and how much it is driving building capability across the system.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: These standards were a part of the reform process going back to 2010 and 2011, weren't they?

Ms Rodgers : Yes.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So this is one of the areas where the government attempts to pretend that there has been no activity. This is why it is important we get a comprehensive answer to these issues. I am going to ask a number of more detailed questions, since the general one was such an absolute failure. To start with: how many states and territories have implement the Australian Professional Standard for Principals?

Ms Rodgers : All.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: How many non-government school authorities have implemented the Australian Professional Standard for Principals?

Ms Rodgers : All.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: How many principals have been assessed against the new standards by each state or territory?

Ms Rodgers : I am not actually sure that we can answer that, because we have not surveyed all principals on a census basis in terms of the use of those standards in terms of principalship.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Can you estimate it?

Ms Rodgers : Given that 98 per cent of principals are aware of the standards and about half—about 4,400 principals—have used the School Leader Self-Assessment Tool, I would estimate we are probably close to 80 or 90 per cent, but, again, it is an estimation.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is fine. Could I ask you to take that on notice and give it a bit more thought about how you might be able to properly estimate that?

Ms Rodgers : Yes.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The point that you made earlier to Senator Paterson is the key issue here, which is, in terms of producing improved educational outcomes, we know the role that leadership plays, so some information around the leadership reforms that have already occurred would be most helpful to the committee. How, precisely, will AITSL be monitoring the implementation of the standards?

Ms Rodgers : The principal standards?


Ms Rodgers : There are two opportunities, really. From 2018 we did say that we would be reviewing the standards. We have also got our stakeholder survey. It is my intention, in the stakeholder survey, for us to start to drill down and ask the impact questions. We know that many principals are aware of them, and we know that many principals are actually using them, but to what degree are they actually changing practice? That is something we have really got to get a handle on. Also there is opportunity from 2018 when we review the standards. As I look at the standards and the feedback that I get from the standards, people are generally in agreement in terms of the criteria and the substance of the standards, but, again, it is back to how much impact those standards are and how people are actually using them to change their practice.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: How are you, at this stage, thinking you may be able to measure that impact?

Ms Rodgers : Next week we have a meeting with a few key academics where we will be setting down and saying, 'We've got the classroom practice continuum. We are looking at the standards review. We have the gradations in terms of the teaching standards. How might we, sensitively and quite discerningly, look at impact?'

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Let me draw out one area from my previous experience and see how that is reflected in that process. Under the national partnerships some of these issues were addressed in some of the school level programs. I am thinking—I will not nominate the state—of one particular public school that I visited who was characterised as a best practice, national partnership-type school. What I learned there was that the national partnership funding had been used to implement year by year transition plans for students. Prior to that point in time, as students in this primary school moved from one year to another, there was no transition between their teachers. I was a bit shocked actually to see that at the time. This was obviously about five years ago now or maybe a bit more. Will your classroom practice continuum measure that type of thing?

Ms Rodgers : We will be looking at this. The thing that makes the biggest difference in building teacher capability while also focusing on student outcomes is teachers working together. The technical term is 'collective efficacy'. So rather than experts or particular programs coming into schools and advising, often teachers sitting together talking about particular students with particular needs and their longitudinal trajectory really focuses the mind. So for us, when we look at things like professional learning, we will be looking at: what are the things that make the biggest difference and how do we support that? On the top of that agenda will be teacher efficacy and talking about students across years.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Will you then also be measuring whether that is occurring in classrooms? It is one thing including this in teachers' professional development; it is another thing making the transition from that into practice.

Ms Rodgers : There are two ways to look at it. Absolutely we will be looking at how teacher practice is changing. Within AITSL, not only is there the whole framework around the workforce but there are also multiple resources in terms of how to. Lots of people have opinions on what should happen but AITSL has been commissioned to develop resources to show teachers how to do it. The things that we are really keen to understand are not only how much of the resources are being used by teachers but also whether they are impactful in changing their practice. So fundamentally we need to understand if practice is being changed. If practice is being changed, we would then see students progress.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I understand what you have told me about the review and the measurement that you are currently building. At what point will you be able to report in a bit more detail what is happening there?

Ms Rodgers : I am not sure we are building a measure.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The meeting you were talking about that you are having with academics, about how you might move forward.

Ms Rodgers : It is early days. I cannot say now that on a particular date we will be rolling out a particular—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I am not asking that question; I am asking what your overall time frame might be.

Ms Rodgers : From 2018, we are mandated to review the standards. So from 2018—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Did you say 'mandated'?

Ms Rodgers : AITSL said that from 2018 it will look at the standards.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So there is not a particular mandate that says this must occur in 2018?

Ms Rodgers : No. It is in our work program.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: There were a lot of reviews that were suggested should occur out of the Gonski review panel process and a number of those reviews have never occurred, but you are confident that your one will?

Ms Rodgers : Absolutely. We will look at standards. The question that we have though is how we look at them. The feedback that we get from the profession and from all the key stakeholders in education is they are the right constructs; they are the right things that make a difference to teacher capability and principalship. The question that we have is how impactful are they? It feels like we have got it right. We have got the resources to support teachers but we really need to get to the heart of impact.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: How long do you think the review will take?

Ms Rodgers : I do not know. I do not anticipate a long review at all actually, because there is not a lot of debate about the standards.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Will it be able to inform what is occurring under the Gonski 2.0 review?

Ms Rodgers : I would hope so. Any piece of evidence would be useful.

CHAIR: I think you might be asking Ms Rodgers for an opinion.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, I am asking her about timing. Does she see that this work might be available to inform the Gonski review panel?

Senator Birmingham: In that case, over the course of this year.

Ms Rodgers : No, probably not. However, there is a lot of work that is being done through AITSL that of course will be available to the Gonski review panel.

CHAIR: I want to go to some of the recent reports released by AITSL. If you could give the committee a brief description of what you have found.

Ms Rodgers : The major releases at the moment—we have released some reports but we have also released some tools. The tools that we have released are the My Induction tool, the Teacher Self-Assessment Tool and the School Leader Self-Assessment Tool. The two self-assessment tools enable the profession to evaluate their performance against the standards, and we have had incredible take-up of both of those tools. Similarly, we have had about 6,700 downloads of the My Induction app, which is phenomenal in terms of new teachers. Given that we have got around 11,000 new teachers that start in schools in any one year, certainly over half of the new teachers have downloaded that My Induction app.

CHAIR: It is long time since I did a teacher induction. What does the My Induction app actually give me as a new, first-year-out teacher?

Ms Rodgers : You can download it if you like.

CHAIR: I will, later.

Ms Rodgers : With the My Induction app, we also released a piece of research that basically said that principals report that they provide induction and support for beginning teachers, but the beginning teachers were reporting that they did not get—

CHAIR: But it was not really happening like that?

Ms Rodgers : Not really, no. There was good intent, but actually what was required for beginning teachers in terms of induction was not necessarily what was being delivered by the principals. So the My Induction app takes a holistic view in terms of on-boarding a beginning teacher and gives them a wide range of resources, which are not just administrative. It looks at their practice and their on-boarding into the profession in terms of what they are doing in the classrooms but also personally and how they are feeling and allowing them to reflect on that, but also giving them tips and tricks for the early days. It also provides them with an opportunity to access the highly accomplished and lead teachers. If they have particular questions, they can ask the questions and they have direct access to highly accomplished and lead teachers in Australia, and they respond back. So it is pretty cool.

The other thing that we have recently released is the feedback resources. The thing that really makes a difference for students and their achievement is getting really good feedback from teachers which is just in time, very discerned, very sensitive and directly relates to where that student is at—what they know and what they need to know. Feedback is incredibly important for the profession. Again, we have released resources and a kind of how-to guide for teachers. All teachers know that feedback is important, but the problem is: how do you actually do it? So we have released some resources around how you might do this but also some case study schools, because there are some great schools out there that have got some great practice, and hopefully teachers will link into that resource. They will find the how-to guide and maybe look to speak to schools that are getting great impact in terms of feedback.

Senator O'NEILL: Thank you, Ms Rodgers, for your work. I am just thinking about the many teachers that I taught and the many teachers I taught with and the difference that we discussed frequently between 'experience' and 'expert'. In terms of the collective advocacy, you would want to make sure that it is not just the sharing of old wisdoms without any informed basis and not a significant change. My question goes to the academic engagement with this and the seamless connection between improving techniques that are critiqued and subject to peer review as well as the value of lived teacher experience and deep knowledge of a local community. Those things have to intersect if we are really going to advance.

Ms Rodgers : Absolutely.

Senator O'NEILL: Who are the experts, the academics, that you are meeting with next week to impact on your future planning and your work, and on what basis were they selected?

Ms Rodgers : At the moment, we are talking to the Centre for Program Evaluation. They have just released a report on teacher effectiveness. They have done a comprehensive review of systems internationally in terms of what is working with regard to teacher effectiveness. It is a preliminary conversation around what they found, and that will inform our next steps in terms of any review that we do.

Senator O'NEILL: If I understand you correctly, their recommendations to you are based on a review of international literature about best practice.

Ms Rodgers : The department commissioned a report from the centre, and it is incredibly comprehensive. I think it is over 250 pages long or something. It is probably the first review that I have ever seen that has looked at all of the dimensions in terms of teaching, teaching quality, effectiveness and the key considerations that you need to have in place in order to have a great system. So, on the basis of that report—

Senator O'NEILL: I have not seen that. Is that published?

Ms Rodgers : Yes.

Senator O'NEILL: It is on your website.

Dr Bruniges : I think it is on the website. If not, we will get a copy for you.

Senator O'NEILL: Thank you very much.

Ms Rodgers : It is a great report. We need to begin that, in terms of what they found and what their advice is. We will consider that, we will consult with others, but that is the beginning of the conversation.

Senator O'NEILL: So we can move on to other matters, could you take on notice the process of selection of that particular group of people—why it was them—and the costs associated.

Ms Rodgers : We have not selected them. We have not run a tender. It will be an open process, but actually we are just having a conversation about what they have found and how that might inform our thinking.

Senator O'NEILL: So when you referred to 'academics', that was the group that you were talking to then?

Ms Rodgers : Yes.

Senator O'NEILL: Are they academics?

Ms Rodgers : Yes.

Senator O'NEILL: Are they a collective of academics from across the country, or are they from one university?

Ms Rodgers : They come from the centre—I am not quite sure of the title.

Mr Misson : I think it is the Centre for Program Evaluation at the University of Melbourne. This is the group that was commissioned by the department to produce that particular report that Ms Rodgers was referring to.

Senator O'NEILL: Any detail around that.

Dr Bruniges : I think that group based at the University of Melbourne would have a network of other academics that they have drawn on to put that report together. When you look at the nature of the research in the report, it draws not only on domestic research but international research and, in that way, the best of the academic research in the areas that you referred to are documented there. So I am more than happy to take on notice to get your copy.

Senator O'NEILL: Thank you, I appreciate that. It is important work; good luck.

CHAIR: Thank you very much, Ms Rodgers and team, and thank you for your ongoing work.


CHAIR: We now move to cross-portfolio matters.

Senator O'NEILL: On Tuesday it was revealed in Health estimates that the government had scrapped Healthy Harold's funding. Senator Birmingham, after outrage erupted online, you supposedly tweeted that you supported Healthy Harold and that you were going to work with Life Education to ensure that the funding of the program would continue. Exactly how much funding will Healthy Harold receive in 2017-18?

Senator Birmingham: It came to my attention on Tuesday night that this evidence had been given in Health estimates. It was the first time that the issue in particular had come to my attention, so I had my office get in touch with the organisation that operates Healthy Harold and commit to them that we would work with them in terms of the details of a funding request. We got in touch with the department to make clear that we expected that that support would, in fact, flow to Healthy Harold. I believe the department has meetings organised with Life Education for Monday, and exact funding details will be settled from there.

Senator O'NEILL: So healthy Harold was overlooked; is that the story?

Senator Birmingham: As soon as Healthy Harold was brought to my attention—

Senator O'NEILL: He is pretty tall. He is hard to miss.

Senator Birmingham: As soon as Healthy Harold was brought to my attention, I acted to ensure that Harold's future was secure.

Senator O'NEILL: How much has been allocated to Healthy Harold?

Senator Birmingham: I will let officials talk through the process that will happen with Life Education to settle these terms, but we will make sure that funding certainty and security is there for Healthy Harold to be able to continue to provide a positive health education message to schoolchildren.

Senator O'NEILL: But there is no money currently in the budget for Healthy Harold. Is that correct?

Senator Birmingham: We will be able to draw funding from existing program streams to support Healthy Harold.

Senator O'NEILL: Like what? What is going to miss out that got funding on budget night now that you have decided Healthy Harold deserves—

Senator Birmingham: Officials can talk to it. There are general program streams overall where there is some discretionary funding to support initiatives such as health education, and this, of course, will be a priority within those streams.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: What amount are we talking about?

Senator Birmingham: We have to work with Life Education in terms of exactly what their proposal is to ensure that we give them adequate funding to let Healthy Harold do his job.

Senator O'NEILL: Since it came to your attention, have you found out how much Healthy Harold was being funded? Do you have the amount?

Senator Birmingham: I believe Healthy Harold was receiving about $200,000 per annum over the last few years.

Senator O'NEILL: Do you—

Senator Birmingham: I envisage about the same amount of support.

Senator O'NEILL: Right. Is that over the forward estimates, or is this just going to be one year until the problem disappears?

Senator Birmingham: No, this will be another longer-term arrangement.

Senator O'NEILL: I guess the question now is: given you scrapped the money for Healthy Harold, how can we be sure that Healthy Harold will remain healthy?

Senator Birmingham: Within a couple of hours of the matter coming to my attention we provided certainty to Healthy Harold.

Senator O'NEILL: It does not give a lot of confidence.

Senator Birmingham: There will be long-term funding entered into with Life Education that should give them the certainty for Healthy Harold. My understanding is that the current contract was last renewed in 2014. Obviously, that means that in 2013 there was only one year left to go on that contract. This government renewed it in 2014 at that point in time and we will renew it again.

Senator O'NEILL: Is it a partnership with Health? How much will come from Health and how much from Education?

Senator Birmingham: No, this is specifically about funding Healthy Harold, and Education will be working out those terms with Life Education.

Senator O'NEILL: I am sure there will be a lot of concern about you honouring that commitment. We will be watching this space very carefully. Healthy Harold is very fondly recalled by people who have been engaging with it for decades now. It has been around for quite a while.

Senator Birmingham: I know Dr Bruniges is well aware of Healthy Harold.

Dr Bruniges : I am indeed. Senator, I agree with you that Healthy Harold is a program that is well cheered as it arrives at schools. The work that they do in supporting healthy lifestyles is well received in a schooling context. When we sit down on Monday and have that discussion to work out the nature of the proposal, we will be in a better position to facilitate that work. The minister has assured that it will continue, so it will.

Senator O'NEILL: What else has been overlooked? That is really the question, isn't it? How did Healthy Harold get overlooked?

Senator Birmingham: We will look into that. My understanding is that a budget submission was put into the health department, not to Education. As I said, it first came to my attention after estimates evidence was given at Health. Obviously, we will have a look at how that happened to try to ensure that similar administrative problems do not occur in the future. When it came to my attention, we acted within hours. We were in touch with Life Education. We were in touch with the department and we made clear we expected the problem to be fixed.

Senator O'NEILL: So, if you have a program that has not been funded, you should just check in case you were overlooked.

Senator Birmingham: No. I have indicated exactly what transpired in relation to this, as I say. A budget submission was made to the health department, as I understand it, not to this department. This department did have the funding appropriation for Healthy Harold in the past, and so we will be delivering it in the future.

Senator O'NEILL: And there will be no money from health then—or only the money that is coming from education?

Senator Birmingham: The issue we are dealing with is Healthy Harold, and we are ensuring that Healthy Harold has the funding support to keep doing his good deeds in Australian schools.

Senator O'NEILL: Through an appropriation from your department, not from health—is that correct?

Senator Birmingham: That is correct: it will be an appropriation from the Department of Education and Training. It will be a funding deed entered into with the Department of Education and Training by Life Education, and Harold will be able to meander his way around Australian schools like a good meandering giraffe.

Senator O'NEILL: We will be watching.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: A good meandering what?

Senator Birmingham: Giraffe—he is a giraffe, I understand, Senator Collins.

Senator O'NEILL: It is actually hard to miss him, seriously.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, I just had not imagined giraffes meandering, that is all.

Senator Birmingham: A galloping giraffe?

CHAIR: How long has Healthy Harold been around?

Dr Bruniges : I reckon 20 years—it is a long time; I was going to say since I was a girl, but I dare not go there.

Senator Birmingham: Not that long then.

Senator O'NEILL: I would say you are at least 20.

CHAIR: So it is quite a nostalgic call to save Harold really. How much have healthy lifestyle education tools changed in those decades since Harold was cutting edge?

Dr Bruniges : I think quite significantly, and that is why it is important for us to sit down and look at the proposal to make sure that the programs are keeping pace with changes in society.

CHAIR: Rather than an emotional response.

Dr Bruniges : What we do not want to do is have it deliver something from yesteryear when the issues faced by students of the day are significantly and probably broader, and be part of our work will be sitting down and looking at the proposal.

Senator O'NEILL: If the proposal isn't adequate in the terms that Senator McKenzie has just outlined, is Healthy Harold's funding still under threat?

Dr Bruniges : No, not at all. The curriculum has changed. We would want to make sure that it is in sync with the curriculum. I have not yet seen the proposal, so I look forward to doing that. The link may already be there with the new national curriculum. As you know, it is not the just one or state and territory, indeed a number of states and territories, and so we will just ensure that things in health education, ice education—there are a whole range of issues that have come to the fore—

CHAIR: That Harold has to get across.

Dr Bruniges : and we need to ensure that the proposal is keeping up with the relevance of what is happening in society.

Senator O'NEILL: And the funding for Healthy Harold will come from the line of those other things you just indicated like ice education?

Dr Bruniges : Yes. We have, as the minister says, discretionary funding that we use in terms of some of the curriculum and outcomes. I always have the mechanism to prioritise funding within the department, which I do over diligence on, and we will work through to make sure that the commitment of the government is operationalised.

Senator Birmingham: Senator Collins, I have just done a quick bit of research: it appears that the correct term is that giraffes amble.


Senator Birmingham: They amble along, I am pleased to tell you. They amble along, although they—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So my instincts were accurate.

Senator Birmingham: can get up to 55 kilometres an hour, which seems like a fairly fast amble to me.

CHAIR: It is always a learning day here.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Minister, the question you did not answer though was: are there other examples like Healthy Harold that have been overlooked in this budget process?

Senator Birmingham: Not that I am aware of, Senator Collins.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: At this point in time?

Senator O'NEILL: You wouldn't be aware, if they have been overlooked—that is the concern, isn't it?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Well, we are aware, through health estimates, of this example. The broader concern, and probably the more significant concern, is that: if the Healthy Harold program was overlooked—I cannot understand why they made a budget submission to health, if their appropriation in the past had been through education; that bit does not make sense to me—are there similar examples, and I can probably imagine there are quite a number, that would be cross-department in character that have also been overlooked?

Dr Bruniges : Not that I am aware of. Normally, we go through a process, and we would have at the end of last year—and indeed at the end of the financial year—done a stocktake of current agreements and current grants that are underway. So I am not aware of any other at this point in time.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So when did Healthy Harold's last agreement finish?

Dr Bruniges : I think it is the end of this financial year, so it has not finished yet—I think that is correct.

Mr Zanderigo : That is correct.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But it wasn't identified in the stocktake?

Dr Bruniges : The issue was the proposal went to Health. In our stocktake, we need to make sure that we cover all of those programs. This was a proposal to Health, not Education.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But that is just a stocktake of proposals. I assumed, it seems naively, that a stocktake would include what is happening with existing agreements.

Dr Bruniges : We would not have a stocktake of what is happening in Health. We would do the Education—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, this is an existing agreement with Education.

Dr Bruniges : That is correct.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is why I do not understand why this stocktake did not pick it up.

Dr Bruniges : We had that standing agreement in place that came to an end at the end of this financial year. What we were not aware of was the proposal into Health for the extension of the program. As I said, we will work through it and ensure that we have a new grant agreement in place before the end of the financial year.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Dr Bruniges, the issue is this: you have an existing agreement, Education has an existing agreement, that is due to terminate at the end of this financial year and your stocktake, it seems, only looked at proposals to Education, not at existing agreements within Education. That is the oversight I am concerned might apply in other areas.

Dr Bruniges : Right. I assure you that our stocktakes are thorough, but I am happy to take that on notice, to look at the difference between the proposals and the stocktake.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: As I said, the most alarming thing here is—I understood the issue around Health—if the existing agreement is an Education one.

Dr Bruniges : I think there is a combination of agreements, but I am happy to take that on notice for you to find out the details from an education point of view.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: If you could find out for me, on notice, two things: why was this existing agreement with Education not identified in the stocktake and, now undertaking perhaps a more comprehensive audit of the existing agreements in Education, what other areas may have been overlooked?

Dr Bruniges : I am happy to take that on notice.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Thank you. That is me on that area.

CHAIR: Just on Harold?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Just on Healthy Harold.

Senator Birmingham: Amble along, shall we?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I am happy to amble along.

Senator Birmingham: I think an amble is faster than a meander, but not as fast as a gallop.

CHAIR: It has a sense of relaxed purpose.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: There is maybe a bit more urgency on this matter, Chair. It has been described as a catastrophe by some.

CHAIR: Alarmists.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I am sure we will get through some of those issues today. I am not sure the extent to which some of this is cross-portfolio and some of it is schools, so bear with me and we will see where we get to.

CHAIR: Dr Bruniges, what we are going to do is focus on cross-portfolio, so just refer things that you think are outside of that to later on.

Dr Bruniges : Okay; thank you.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Who created the school funding estimator?

Dr Bruniges : I think we are over in the land of schools there, Senator. I am happy to do it in cross-portfolio or schools. Are you happy there, Minister?

Senator Birmingham: I think it is probably easier to do schools all in schools. We will happily deal with all questions in relation to the estimator in schools, Senator Collins. I give you that assurance.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Okay. Where would I be dealing with the nature of some of the information that has been provided in discussions around school funding? Will that be in schools, or will that also relate to some cross-portfolio issues?

Senator Birmingham: I think we can adequately cover anything in relation to schools funding in schools. And if there are any cross-portfolio staff or officials who think they might need to be here for any schools matters, they can stay here if required.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I think that may well be the case.

Senator Birmingham: I doubt that they necessarily are from the corporate section, but, nevertheless, I am happy to give that request out of an abundance of caution.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: First up, I have a range of questions—so we have essentially moved to schools now, if that is okay, Chair.

CHAIR: Cross-portfolio, we have now finished. Thanks for coming.


CHAIR: We now move to outcome 1: Early Learning and Schooling.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I would like to start with a range of questions essentially in relation to the integrity of the process around school reform. The first area will be—this is to guide in part the officers that we will need during this discussion—the claims of mistruths and dishonesty, suggestions of intemperate language and the representations that have occurred in the media about the role of certain elements of school funding, particularly capital. Then I want to go to concerns that have occurred, in part, around some of the evidence to the inquiry whose hearings commence tomorrow around inaccuracies in information that the department has provided to schools. Then I want to move on to the airing of what appears to be confidential departmental data and a few issues around that space.

Let me start firstly with the questions around exactly what data is available. There was a press report in the Australian Financial Review, written by Tim Dodd on 29 May, that said:

New figures from the Commonwealth Department of Education, which show the estimated funding for Catholic school systems Australia-wide to 2021, reveal that the dollar amount will rise from $6.34 billion in 2017 to $7.59 billion in 2021, with annual increases of between 4 and 5 per cent.

What new figures would they be referring to there, Mr Cook?

Mr Cook : I do not know, Senator. It depends how the article was written. They are the figures; I am not sure the new figures under the proposed model.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The proposed model figures, or the estimated figures at least if that is what is being referred to, were released way in advance of that. Is there other material the department has released that I am not aware of?

Mr Cook : Not that I am aware of, no.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So the only information that the department has released—we will get to the discussion around this—is what came forward with the school's estimator. Is that correct?

Mr Cook : There is a whole range of information. There is information in—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Sorry, Mr Cook, you will need to slow down a bit.

Mr Cook : There is a whole range of information that is public. There is information in BP3. There is information that has been provided to the Catholic sector. There is information that has been provided to every state and territory sector. There is information on the estimator.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: What was the first one? BP3?

Mr Cook : Budget Paper No. 3.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Okay. That is what I mean; you will need to slow down.

CHAIR: That is definitely an insider's term!

Mr Cook : It breaks down non-government funding and things like that in budget paper 3. The Catholic sector has information that has been provided to it as well. The state and territories have information—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: You are talking about information particularly that would be in the FES?

Mr Cook : It is both a breakdown of the information in terms of total funding over the next 10 years—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It is FET, isn't' it, not FES!

Mr Cook : and there is also information in the actual FET itself. That is correct, yes.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The reason I ask this is partly because another piece in The Age on 23 May referred to the release of 'previously secret department of education data'. This was an article by Matthew Knott in The Age. What sort of secret department of education data could he be referring to?

Mr Cook : I am not sure of the article. I do not know the date of the article you are talking about. I do not have the article in front of me.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The date is 23 May and the excerpt here in the second paragraph of the article says:

The release of the previously secret Department of Education data comes as the peak body representing independent Christian schools called on the Catholic sector to stop campaigning against the government and support its school funding …

I am concerned, and this is essentially why I raise this as a broader integrity issue: what secret department of education data is being alluded to there?

Mr Cook : The data we would release to journalists would be public data.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is what I would have thought, so you are suggesting that the journalist might be confused as to what is secret and what is public data?

Mr Cook : I am just telling you what our practice is. Our practice is to release public data.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Okay, so when you release public data, do you release cherry-picked selections of the public data?

Mr Cook : If it is a journalist's request, we release what the journalist asks for. If that was a journalist's request? We do not just cherry-pick and release data from a departmental point of view. That would have been a response to a journalist's request, I am assuming.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That depends. It possibly depends on where it came from too—whether it was from the department or the minister's office. But we might get to that point.

The data that the journalist drew from refers to New South Wales Catholic school winners and losers—it is not a comprehensive selection, by the way. There are three schools there: St Jerome's Catholic Primary School; St Mel's Catholic Primary School in Campsie; St Brendan's Catholic Primary School in Bankstown. Then there are winners: Sacred Heart Catholic Primary School in Pymble; St Brigid's Catholic Primary School in Coogee, Holy Cross Catholic Primary School in Woollahra.

Then we go to Victoria. There were losers—again, it would surprise me if this was the characterisation that came out of the department, but let me continue through it—St Mary of the Cross MacKillop Catholic Parish Primary School; St. Peter's School, North Bendigo; Holy Rosary Primary School, Heathcote, and the winners: St Columba's Primary School, Elwood; St John's Primary School, Clifton Hill; and St Dominic's Primary School, Camberwell East. Included in the data on those schools were things such as their SES score, which is not too hard to find, if you know how to navigate—

Mr Cook : It is public information.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It is relevant information, but it is certainly not generally presented in a format such as this. Federal government funding allocation: $3.98 million; funding received, $2.7 million; shortfall, $1.26 million. I could run through each school's characterisation like that, but it was essentially the basis of this journalist's article. Is this material that the department has made available?

Mr Cook : I would have to take on notice what we responded to. That would have been a journalist's request. I am happy to take on notice what we actually provided to the journalist.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Okay. But would you be providing—

Mr Cook : As I indicated earlier, the department's practice would be to provide public information to a journalist's request.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I understand that. But the issue here is also how public information is presented, as I am sure you are aware. To produce lists that provide selective representations and describe them in ways which talk about losers and winners, focused specifically in this case on simply the Catholic school system, seems to me to be highly politicised behaviour.

Mr Cook : Again, we would respond to a journalist's request. The department's practice is not unilaterally to provide information to journalists unrequested. If a journalist has requested information from us then we will provide the information. I do not know the nature of the requests that the journalist made, off the top of my head; I am sorry. Whether they asked for SES scores, or whether they asked for—I do not know the details of that. I will need to take that on notice.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: My concern with this list is that, from my understanding of the data, it is a very selective representation, and I would be very concerned if the department itself is producing very selective lists of data around schools to fuel the quite intemperate debate that is occurring.

Mr Cook : My assumption is the journalists have asked us details of particular schools, and that information has been provided about particular schools. It would not be—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So he would have known in advance which schools to ask for? That sounds strange.

Mr Cook : I cannot really comment on that. I am commenting on what our process is.

CHAIR: Mr Cook has taken on notice what data Mr Knott requested of the department. He taken on notice exactly what the request was. But how that data is presented is not up to the department.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No. But what we are having here, Chair, is a discussion to inform how this matter is taken on notice so that, hopefully, the response will address the very concerning issues that I am raising about how some information is being drip-fed into this very intemperate debate. I could understand if it is coming from the minister's office—and we can have that political debate—but if it is coming from the department, I would be very concerned. I have a press report that I will provide you with now—

CHAIR: I think we have 'Poor schools lose out', by Matthew Knott.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: which, as I said, refers to the release of previously secret department of education data. Mr Cook, do not let me verbal you here, but from what you have said there has not been the release of any secret data. You would have only released public data.

Mr Cook : I cannot comment on how the journalist has described that. My comment continues to be: the department's practice would be to release public data.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes. The department's practice, I would hope, would be to release public data in a representative fashion.

Mr Cook : Yes. But, again, it depends on the nature of how this request was actually directed to us. We get journalists' requests every day—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I understand.

Mr Cook : Journalists' requests are seeking information on XY, XY, XY. In many cases journalists all around Australia have asked us for particular details of particular schools, and that has been the practise for the four or five years I have been here, not just on school funding—everything.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I understand.

Mr Cook : So, if that is the nature of the request that came to us, we would have responded, and the response we would have provided would have been about information that was publicly available.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Do you know where the request came from? Did it come directly from the journalist or from the minister's office?

Mr Cook : Requests come to us through our communications area, usually.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: You would have to ask?

Mr Cook : In terms of my area, they come to us through our central communications area, which has a media response team. That is how it would have come to us and my staff.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So when you answer my question on notice—and that is why I was not sure to what extent some of this was cross portfolio—will you be able to tell me whether the request came from the minister's office or directly from the journalist?

Mr Cook : Yes.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Okay. Thank you. I want to go through some issues around the School Funding Estimator. Mr Cook, you would appreciate that the way I attempt to understand some of these things is usually localised and from my own experience, so, to the extent that that may or may not be relevant, please pull me up and tell me what you think the issue is. There has been an enormous amount of discussion about the School Funding Estimator, so I thought I would work through one particular example that I am very familiar with. Chair, if I could table a copy of a document—and I apologise for its length, but it is not easy within the APH printing system to print out A4 versions of these web pages. Mr Cook, I decided to look at what the information meant, in a meaningful way, for my local primary school.

CHAIR: This isn't Xavier College, where the Leader of the Opposition went, which is second only to Melbourne Grammar?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No. That is not a primary school.

CHAIR: I know. But when I read 'Xavier', I thought it was going to be 'the' Xavier College. But, no; this is a primary school in Box Hill?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It says: St Francis Xavier Primary School, Box Hill.

CHAIR: I am not au fait with where the boundary of Box Hill ends and—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: You are a Victorian senator, Chair.

CHAIR: I know. It is a big state. Sorry. Continue.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Oh, dear.

CHAIR: I wish we had have done Xavier!

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Anyway, we are talking about primary schools—and, I think, from my understanding, the Leader of the Opposition went to a very similar primary school. I will have to check the data on his primary school. I have heard him refer to it in other discussions, but I will have to check their data, and maybe that is something we will end up doing later in the day. For St Francis Xavier school, Box Hill, the estimator says, per student: 2017, $5,628; 2018, $5,832. The most recent, fully verified, audited data available publicly is My School 2015, at the school level, is it not, Mr Cook?

Mr Cook : That would be correct; yes.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The My School data on Australian government recurrent funding for this school, per student, is $6,709. You can see that is a fair drop. Before we get into a detailed discussion of this, I suppose I should declare my own interest as well. Apart from this being my local primary school, it is also the school attached to my local Catholic parish, of which I am a member; it is also the school that my two youngest children attended, although that was some years ago; and it is also the school where, as members of its parish and its parent community, I and my husband carried a number of roles over the years.

CHAIR: So you have a deep interest in this particular school.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I have a historical understanding of and interest in it. That is what I am indicating. As I said, the comparison of the most recent fully audited, verified data is that it would receive, per student, $6,709 in 2015. If we go to the estimator for 2017, that is a drop of almost $1,000 per student. Then we go on to—I will get to the footnotes on this in a moment—

CHAIR: Just while you do, we have media taking photos. I assume the committee is happy with that. Thank you.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Then I see a representation of an increase of about $200 between 2017 and 2018. Let's start with unpacking this backwards. The increase that is represented here on the estimator, of $200 between 2017 and 2018, is essentially the indexation—'indexation' might not be the right term—or the standard increase that will apply to Victorian Catholic schools? Is that correct?

Mr Cook : That would be correct, yes.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: What level is that?

Mr Cook : For a Catholic school it is 3.5 per cent, I think.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, that was my impression.

Dr Bruniges : For 2017-18.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: And that is consistent for both primary and secondary?

Mr Cook : That would be correct in terms of adjustment and growth.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Between 2017 and 2018?

Mr Cook : That is correct.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That factor will probably help inform the big drop between 2015 and 2017, but we will get to that in a moment. Then we get to the important very small print at the bottom of the estimator. On one level we say 'Important' in bold, although it is not in capitals, and then we get to a variety of dot points. The dot point I am particularly interested in is the third one. The third one says:

All 2017 figures are based on anticipated 2017 payments to approved authorities under the Australian Education Act—

and this is the important bit—


If the only difference between—

Senator Birmingham: That is the name of the act.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I know that, but we will get to this.

Senator Birmingham: You just put great emphasis on '2013'.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The only difference, Mr Cook just assured me, between the 2017 and 2018 data was this standard increase of 3.5 per cent across all Catholic schools.

Mr Cook : In Victoria.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: In Victoria. But then I am told:

All 2017 figures are based on anticipated 2017 payments to approved authorities under the Australian Education Act 2013.

How can that be if they are based on the proposed capacity-to-contribute changes?

Mr Cook : In terms of the calculation of the estimator, the way that the data is represented is that the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria, under the current act, is proposed to receive $1.8 billion in 2017, so that $1.8 billion is represented in all the Victorian Catholic schools in the estimator.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But the figure that you have produced for 2017 you have allocated on the basis of amendments in the current bill.

Mr Cook : Yes, as we have said on the estimator there.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Where have you said that?

Mr Cook : We have said:

… 2017 funding has been nominally allocated to your school to reflect the proportion of your authority's Schooling Resource Standard funded by the Commonwealth in 2017.

So the proportion of that school for—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But that is the point.

Mr Cook : Which means that equally—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: You have said, according to the proportion of their 'Schooling Resource Standard funded by the Commonwealth in 2017'. The capacity-to-contribute arrangements in 2017 are the ones in the current act, not the ones proposed in the bill.

Senator Birmingham: The point is that if you were to go through the estimator and pick out every Catholic systemic school in Victoria and look at—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: This is not the exercise I am doing, Minister. I am trying to understand one school.

Senator Birmingham: But because they are part of a system—I know you understand the relevance of the system well—if you went through and looked at it and took every Catholic systemic school in Victoria and tallied them all up to 2017 you would end up with exactly the amount of funding that the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria will receive in 2017. So, yes, because they are part of a system and funded as a system, the estimator is estimating or apportioning on a school by school basis. But what matters for the system, of course, is the total they get, and the estimator provides an accurate reflection of the total that the CECV, or any of the other Catholic education system authorities, would receive.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: What it does not provide is an accurate representation of the changes that are proposed in this bill to capacity-to-contribute arrangements for primary schools. The footnote says that it is based on the arrangements in the 2013 act, and it is not. The distribution within Catholic schools for 2017 is based on the proposed capacity-to-contribute arrangements in the bill, which will not even apply in 2017. That is how ridiculous these figures are. Those new arrangements in the bill do not come into place until 2018. That is the commencement date. So how on earth have you produced an estimator that uses those formulas to distribute funds within Catholic schools is incredible. It is a complete misrepresentation.

Senator Birmingham: The 2017 figures in the estimator are completely accurate for what every approved system authority will receive around the country. That is—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is not the point.

Senator Birmingham: That is the point.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, it is not. You do not have a footnote here—

CHAIR: Senator Collins, the minister is answering your question. He was halfway through a sentence. Give him the courtesy of allowing him to answer and then if you have follow-up questions on this matter—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I will, because he is not answering the questions.

CHAIR: Well, give him a chance.

Senator Birmingham: Whether it is a government system, if you went through every government school in one of the states or territories and aggregated the dollar sum that that school has estimated on it for 2017, that reflects exactly what that government system gets in 2017. It is the same for Catholic systems, Lutheran systems, Anglican systems, Adventist systems or any other. It is an accurate reflection of the quantum of funding that those systems will receive, apportioned across, in a notional sense, all of their schools, as the legislation works. The legislation does not provide funding directly to a school. It provides funding to those different authorities. The estimator provides apportionment of that funding across each of those schools to get us to the end point, which is the exact quantum that those authorities would receive in 2017.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Let's go to this notional proportion—these are your words, Minister—because this is the fundamental problem with this data. The notional proportion that is being conducted here is based on formulas that will never apply to 2017, to give you a cute figure showing that, at school level, each school will increase by 3.5 per cent. What the story does not tell is what the changes proposed in this bill will do at the school level. And what is not indicated in the footnotes is that the 2017 data relies on proportions relevant—sorry, no, they are not even relevant if the bill passes. These are proportions that will never be relevant, because they will never apply to 2017.

Senator Birmingham: As I said, the aggregation across all systemic schools equates precisely to the funding that the system will receive in 2017. You have drawn comparisons here in the documents you have tabled between the My School website and the estimator. Of course, the My School website is, actually, of the quantum that a system receives, how much that system chooses to give to an individual school. So the figure that you quoted in a table—the $6,709 per student provided to St Francis Xavier's school in Box Hill—is not the figure that the Commonwealth in 2015 notionally allocated against that school. It is the figure that the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria chose to give to that school.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, I understand that.

Senator Birmingham: We are not proposing to change that, but you are seeking in that comparison to compare apples with pears in terms of the My School website versus the estimator, because the My School website is a reflection of the autonomy enjoyed by systems, be they government systems or non-government systems, to redistribute their funding. All we are seeking to do is ensure that the way in which that quantum they receive overall is calculated is calculated in a fair, consistent needs-based manner.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I know the spin, Minister, and we can spend all day on spin. The issue that has not been addressed here is the basis of the estimator calculations is fallacious. To suggest, for parents looking at a school level of what might happen to their school, that the capacity-to-contribute arrangements that you are proposing in this bill apply in 2017 is simply wrong.

Senator Birmingham: Well, Senator, indeed, a parent who wants to know—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Indeed—yes. Indeed!

Senator Birmingham: No, no.

CHAIR: Let the minister finish, please.

Senator Birmingham: A parent who wants to know what will happen in their school—obviously, that will depend upon the allocative decisions that their system authority ultimately makes. What we can say with confidence is that, across the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria, they will receive per student growth of around 3.5 per cent from this year to next year and, again, the year after and so forth. They will receive an increased sum of funding that they can distribute. And if they choose to distribute it according to the formulas they have applied this year, then they can provide each school next year, assuming completely static enrolments, with the same quantum of money, plus 3½ per cent. As you well know, population is growing quite rapidly in Victoria, and so are enrolments. So they will actually have even more than that to distribute.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But the story that this does not tell, Minister, is the difference at a school level between the most recent validated, fully audited data at school level—full transparency; this is My School, and this is what My School indicates. I fully understand it is on the basis of the nature of the Victorian Catholic Education Commission's distribution—and we will get to a discussion about those as we get along. The very limited consultation that has occurred, I suspect, means that at this level there is a very poor understanding about how and why, and what capacity for flexibility might exist there. It is leading you, Minister, to, essentially, count the same dollar two ways. You are writing—and, again, we will get to there, as well—to a whole range of winning schools telling them they are going to be winners by the increases estimated in this fallacious estimator. Then, at the same time, you are saying back to the Catholic Education Commissions and to us here today, 'Oh, no, you can redistribute it.' What are you trying to do to this system? On one level you are saying to them—

CHAIR: Senator, is there a question?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, there is.

CHAIR: Excellent. Let's get to it.

Senator Birmingham: There was one just then.

CHAIR: There was. I noticed you tried—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is right. And I am clarifying it.

Senator Birmingham: Fair to say slightly rhetorical though.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: On one level, he is saying to school communities, 'This is great for you guys'—only the ones who are winning by the way. 'You're going to have increases of X, Y and Z amount per student.' As far as I can understand it, he is not writing to the schools that My School would demonstrate have losses. But, again, we will get to that issue. When issues or examples of those losses, such as my primary school, come up, he is saying Catholic Education departments can redistribute. You cannot have it both ways, Minister. You cannot count the same dollar twice. You cannot do that.

CHAIR: I think you can answer the question now.

Senator O'Neill interjecting

CHAIR: Oh, Senator O'Neill! Seriously! Senator Collins, after a very long preamble, has given the minister an opportunity to answer. Let's not talk over the minister.

Senator Birmingham: Thanks, Chair. We wrote to every school in Australia, including schools where we sent a letter that transparently said their funding from the Commonwealth would go backwards to their system authority. That was transparent in terms of the schools where funding would go backwards. Where system authorities were receiving an increase, system authorities are receiving that increase, and that is the case for the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria, as it is across other states. So, yes, we have written to schools to provide them with information.

We have put the estimator out there to provide some indication in relation to growth in distribution across the country. The estimator very clearly says, though, that, in relation to schools that are part of a system, those school systems determine the allocation. If people want to know what that allocation is, the My School data, albeit a couple of years out of date—but it eventually catches up—shows how those school systems choose to allocate.

We have been clear from day one that we respect the autonomy of those systems to allocate. We are seeking to put in place a fairer, more consistent model for how the Commonwealth determines its distribution of funding ultimately to each of those systems, to the different approved authorities around the country. When they choose to then allocate that across their schools is a matter between them and their parents, their communities, in terms of the model that they choose to apply. We respect the fact that there is a level of granularity that different systems will have in terms of staffing pressures at given points in time or other factors schools may face as to why they need to make adjustments that a Commonwealth funding formula does not necessarily have the capacity to reflect, which is why it makes sense to aggregate the funding and pay it to the systems, where that is how a school is structured.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Minister, I understand the aggregate figure. We can run this spin forever and a day to confuse people who are less familiar than you and me with the nature of these funding arrangements, but the simple fact here is that, on the estimator, you have used formulas that will never apply to 2017—never. I have used My School's. A bit later on I will get to the comparison between the 2017 data as we understand it and the data that you have produced on the estimator, but it does not help you move away from the point that, hidden behind these important, very small, fine-print descriptions, is the fact that you have used a formula in presenting this 2017 data that will never apply—never—unless you change the bill.

Senator Birmingham: Senator Collins, the 2017 figures used on the estimator reflect accurately the quantum that each authority will receive in terms of their funding. That is the reality of the way in which the estimator has been built: to make sure that the endpoint of the 2017 dollars is an accurate reflection of what systems will receive. We acknowledge that systems will choose to redistribute that funding according to their principles and their policies and guidelines, and we respect that autonomy.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Why don't you have a dot point that says, 'The 2017 data in the estimator applies, in distributing funds to schools, the formulas proposed in the bill'? Why doesn't it say that?

Senator Birmingham: The information on the estimator makes clear that what schools might receive will differ depending on the decisions of their authorities.

CHAIR: Can I just ask a question on the My School funding data. Obviously I am not intimately across how each of the Catholic systems or indeed other systems in this area divvy up their funding allocation, as you are, Senator Collins. I want to know: with the My School funding data, what goes into creating that particular outcome or piece of information?

Mr Cook : The data that is actually on My School is not the funding a school receives. No school in Australia actually receives the dollars that are on My School. To say that My School represents the budget of a school is incorrect. It is not correct, because built into that—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Right. I do not think anyone has said that, have they?

Mr Cook : I am just being clear. I am not accusing; I am just being clear in terms of what is on it. Built into that data are systemic costs—systemic overheads, the running of a central system, the running of a Catholic Education Commission; there is a whole range of other information in there around maintenance; payroll taxes and all those sorts of things are actually built into there. So, if you are a New South Wales government or a Queensland government, your entire operations of your corporate side of the education are actually apportioned to every New South Wales or Queensland government school, so that is then built into that information.

CHAIR: And the same thing happens for the Catholic system or the independent system?

Mr Cook : That is right. And then the approved authority is responsible for providing that information to ACARA. That information is then audited annually by—I think it is—Deloittes and is reported on the My School website for 2017, auditing the 2015 data. It provides a range of information about differences as to how states might have attributed some of that data to their schools.

CHAIR: When you say 'corporate', that also means marketing dollars—

Mr Cook : It will be whatever—

CHAIR: and everything encompassed in running the system?

Mr Cook : Exactly.

Dr Bruniges : It could in fact be both your regional offices and your central office. You could have consultants that are based in the centre but are serving different groups of schools. All of that is apportioned across the per-student value for the system.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Mr Cook, let me ask of you the same question that I asked the minister. Why is there not a dot point that says, 'The 2017 data at school level represents the proposed provisions in the bill'?

Mr Cook : Senator, the whole estimator is based on the government's announcement.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is an announcement. That is not a representation of data that schools will receive in 2017.

Mr Cook : It is reflective, I suppose, of other governments' past practice where information on what schools would get was provided before bills' being passed.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: 'What schools would get'? But schools will not get that—

Mr Cook : Schools would not have got that if bills had not passed in the past either.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Schools will never get that formula applied for 2017.

Mr Cook : That is why it says here clearly that they are based on estimates. It is based on final arrangements, subject to the passage of legislation. It says that it is nominally allocated to a school. It says that enrolled data will be updated when final Commonwealth payments are made to your school each year. It says the figures are estimates. So I think there is a whole range of information.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It does not say that they are nominally allocated—

Mr Cook : Yes, it does. It says—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, let me finish the question. It does not say that they are nominally allocated to a year for which they will never apply.

Mr Cook : The starting share of 2017, which is required under the proposed amendments to the bill, is represented in this estimator.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The 'starting share'—and that is partly the point.

Mr Cook : And that is what is advised, and that is correct

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Your average reader—and, remember, this has been made available to parents trying to understand school funding around the country—will look at this and say, 'Okay, 2017, that would be status quo,' and it is not. It is clearly not.

Mr Cook : Any information in relation to Commonwealth allocation is a notional allocation, whether it was this year, last year, 2014 or 2013. Any information the Commonwealth would publish in a system would always be notional funding.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But all this shows people—and this is the complete—

Senator Birmingham: What is accurate, Senator Collins, and is not notional is that, if you aggregated all of the Catholic system schools off the estimator, you would get the expected funding to Catholic education—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is not the point, Minister, and you know it. You can continue the spin forever, but it is not the point.

Senator Birmingham: No, it is the point, Senator Collins.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, it is not. You will understand this in a moment, Chair.

Senator Birmingham: You are attempting to imply that somehow the figures are not based on any reality.


Senator Birmingham: The figures are based on the reality of what each school system will receive in 2017.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But at school level they are not based on reality. They are based on a fantasy which is incorrect.

Senator Birmingham: That is because the system—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: And the fantasy that is incorrect is that you have produced a formula here which will never apply in 2017.

Senator Birmingham: Some of them will be accurate, Senator Collins; some of them will be higher; some of them will be lower. That will be decisions for the system authorities as to how much they are providing their schools in 2017. We will be providing the systems with the quantum that the estimator indicates. The systems have the autonomy to redistribute that. The systems must use all of that funding on their schools, so we know that what they receive in 2017 will go into their schools, but whether it is higher or lower than what the estimator indicates is up to Catholic education Victoria or any of the other different approved authorities around the country.

Dr Bruniges : Senator, I can give you another example of New South Wales. The New South Wales government will get a cheque from the Commonwealth. New South Wales has designed its resource allocation model to distribute across its schools. That would be a clear example of Commonwealth money coming into the state and being put with state money in New South Wales and then the distribution of that through the resource allocation model that would determine, on a final level of data, what each school would have. That would be put out as a notional allocation in about September each year to schools, and then, after the February census that comes in for staffing supplement, they would get their final adjustment. So there is that whole process of staffing the school, from the Commonwealth through that situation to the New South Wales government, through the resource allocation model, putting out in the previous year a notional allocation through the RAM and confirming that through February enrolment and staffing entitlements, and then it is adjusted at a system level.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Dr Bruniges, you and I know that we do understand that, and you know that is not the point here. Perhaps this question will get to the nub of it. Is the 2017 calculation underpinning your calculator based on the settings under the proposed legislation or the settings under the current act?

Mr Cook : The calculations are based on the proposed amendments to the bill, which—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, so I am correct, aren't I?

Mr Cook : Correctly, everyone, every school in Victoria, every Catholic school in Victoria, has been allocated a proportion of the SRS under those arrangements—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Okay. Let me explain to you why this is an issue.

Senator Birmingham: Senator Collins, I am not sure that Mr Cook had finished his sentence there, so let us be clear there. Proportionately, every Catholic systemic school in Victoria has been—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: We have been over that spin, Minister. It is not the point.

Senator Birmingham: I had not finished my sentence either.

CHAIR: A point of order, Senator Paterson?

Senator PATERSON: Is it orderly, Chair, to have senators interjecting over answers being given by officers and the minister?

CHAIR: That is actually a point of order.

Senator PATERSON: Thank you.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: On the point of order, Chair—

CHAIR: It is not orderly. It is not orderly.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, on the point of order, before you rule, if you do not mind, Chair—

CHAIR: Of course, Senator.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Thank you. On the point of order: the concern here, Chair, is that the minister is spinning tedious repetition to try to avoid the main point.

CHAIR: Well, I think there is a bit of tedious repetition here on both sides—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, there is.

CHAIR: so I am ruling in favour of—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, I got my answer. Mr Cook gave me my answer.

CHAIR: Senator Collins, I am ruling in favour of Senator Paterson. The minister has the call.

Senator Birmingham: The answer, Senator Collins, is that the share of the schooling resource standard that the Victorian Catholic Education Commission receives in 2017 has been apportioned across each of its schools. That is a fair and transparent way of doing it so that it is applied consistently, noting that the Commonwealth does not actually provide the funding to those schools. We give it to Catholic Education Commission of Victoria.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Just because you say it many times, Minister, does not make it so. To highlight that point, I will ask the department: could you please provide me with what those 2017 figures—in this case, we are talking about Catholic education—would be under the current arrangements for Catholic schools?

Mr Cook : We have a grouped authority. We allocate on grouped authority.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, and I want you to break them down by schools.

Mr Cook : You want a breakdown of school, of notional allocation?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, for 2017. Pretty much, I am asking you to provide the data that would be on the estimator had it been done according to the existing act for 2017. It is easily available. It is on the FET, isn't it?

Mr Cook : Yes. It is not public information, but we are happy to make it public.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I would like to see that difference publicly, because what this estimator is concealing is the enormous gap for quite a number of schools between their current year funding—unfortunately not available yet on My School, so I had to go back to 2015—and 2017. That is what this estimator is concealing in terms of information for parents at school level.

Senator Birmingham: Senator Collins, the estimator is not concealing anything. The fact is that the estimator is an accurate representation of what every system authority in the country will receive in 2017. That is a fact. The estimator absolutely stacks up to how much the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria, the New South Wales state government, Lutheran Education in South Australia—pick your different approved authority; the estimator stacks up to what those approved authorities will receive in 2017. We fund by approved authority. We will continue to fund by approved authority.

Proceedings suspended from 10:29 to 10:45

ACTING CHAIR ( Senator Paterson ): We will resume.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Going back to the issue that we were discussing before the break, perhaps the simplest way to elucidate the problem—because we have been talking about allocations within systems—is to look at what figures are provided for 2017 in the estimator for independent schools that are not part of systems. Have their figures been calculated on the capacity to contribute arrangements in the act or in the bill?

Mr Cook : As the minister indicated, the total dollars for those schools is the dollar allocation for 2017. The notional allocation on the estimator would be virtually identical, I guess, because it is based on the amendments in the bill, and for most of those schools there is no change. They do not have system-weighted capacity because they are not part of the system.

Senator Birmingham: They are an approved authority in and of themselves. So the statement I made before that the estimator accurately reflects what each approved authority gets in the case of a standalone school that is a standalone approved authority, obviously the 2017 figure equates precisely to what that school gets because it is exactly paid to that school.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: What it will show between 2017 and 2018 when the actual capacity to contribute arrangements come in will be disparate results. They will not be consistent like this 3.5 per cent across the Catholic education system.

Senator Birmingham: No. The estimator shows and reflects and is built upon the current share of the schooling resource standard that each approved authority receives. The estimator then shows how each of those school authorities will transition over the 10-year period to the common share of the schooling resource standard. That is why some independent schools show that they go backwards over that time because they are currently receiving above the common share of the schooling resource standard and it is why others show rates of growth because they are receiving below that according to the same, consistent needs based formula.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But what it does not show is the difference between existing arrangements as will apply in 2017 and what you are notionally proposing in the bill.

Senator Birmingham: The estimator shows the share of the schooling resource standard that each system authority receives based in 2017 terms, and then the transition pathway. It is why it shows a faster rate of growth for Catholic systemic schools in Tasmania than for Catholic systemic schools in Victoria—one is further behind in terms of receiving of a common share of the schooling resource standard. The estimator is accurate in 2017 terms for the actual money that each of those approved authorities receives. If you want to calculate that for an independent standalone school, you need only look at that school. If you want to calculate that for a systemic approved authority, you need to look at each of the schools within that approved authority and aggregate it across the estimator for that approved authority.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But the amount that the school receives in 2017 is the amount that they are nominally allocated in terms of the existing capacity to contribute provisions. Essentially what you are doing is building up a total amount for 2017 based on, amongst other issues, the socioeconomic status of the schools and a proportion of the funds that it is expected parents should contribute. You are building that up on one formula and then you are taking that figure and, in the estimator, you are then taking it down to school level and applying a completely different formula, which will never apply in 2017.

Senator Birmingham: As I think Mr Cook has explained, the estimator is built on the premise that we know what each approved authority is expected to receive in 2017.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Based on the formula in the current act.

Senator Birmingham: We know exactly what each approved authority is expected to receive in 2017—what they were funded this year.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Based on the current formula in the act.

ACTING CHAIR ( Senator Marshall ): Senator, let the minister answer.

Senator Birmingham: What each approved will receive in 2017. The estimator is then built on what is the share of the common schooling resource standard that that dollar sum equates to. For some, it is 70 per cent in the non-government sector; for some, it is 85 per cent in the non-government sector. If they are a standalone school, a single school approved authority, there is no nominal allocation applied there—the actual is the actual. If they are a systemic school, be it a government or a non-government system, then that common share or that share that they are receiving in 2017 has been apportioned across all of their schools to give a common starting point for schools within that approved authority to demonstrate in that notional sense how the aggregate for that authority is calculated.

Senator O'NEILL: So the actual is not the actual.

Senator Birmingham: The actual that a school gets is what the approved authority chooses to give to it, because they receive the aggregate sum.

Senator O'NEILL: But the actual is not the actual for a reader of that. As a common citizen, to go to that page and read about their school, they need to know that the actual is not the actual. There is a whole lot of smoke and mirrors in the middle of all of it.

Senator Birmingham: The actual is what the Catholic Education Commission, the state government—whoever the approved authority is—chooses to end up allocating to the schools within their system. That is obviously one of the points that is made on the estimator.

Senator O'NEILL: Where does it say that?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Representing a fantasy, which is that a particular capacity to contribute arrangement will apply in 2017, which will never apply. It is a fantasy, Minister.

Senator Birmingham: To Senator O'Neill's point, and the secretary has just provided me with it again, it is not even in the fine print of the dot points, as you describe it, at the bottom. When you look it up it says in the same direct print as everything else: 'Please note that, if your school is part of a system, the Commonwealth is paid to the system as a block. The system will determine the amount your school receives.' It could not be any simpler or plainer than that.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes. it could.

Senator O'NEILL: Absolutely.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: A further dot point says: the nominal allocation for 2017 is based on formulas which will never apply to 2017. That is what it could have said, because that is what informs the next comparison between 2017 and 2018. It is completely inaccurate. It is a fraud, Minister.

Senator Birmingham: The nominal allocation for 2017 is based on exactly what the system authority will receive in 2017.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No. You have then broken it down to school level on a formula that is in the bill that has not yet passed the parliament and will never apply to the year 2017. It is a fantasy.

Senator Birmingham: Senator Collins, as I said before, if you aggregated the 2017 estimation for every school in the Catholic Education Commission in Victoria that reflects what the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria will receive this year whether or not this bill passes. It cannot be any clearer than that.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Why break it down to school level if you are going maintain this fraud?

Senator O'NEILL: Exactly.

ACTING CHAIR: Hang on. Senator Collins, you need to give the minister an opportunity to complete his answer.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It is the same answer he has been giving all morning.

Senator Birmingham: Because you keep asking the same question, Senator.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: You have got a big flaw here, and the same answer still isn't answering the problem.

ACTING CHAIR: Minister, have you completed your answer?

Senator Birmingham: Yes, Chair.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: We are making absolutely no progress here. We will have the opportunity in the legislation inquiry to expose this further. But I think we have got a very clear answer now from the department about what these 2017 figures represent, and that is all that I needed to confirm. So I will move onto my next integrity issue.

Senator Birmingham: And I just want to confirm there, Senator—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The Senate record confirms what has been said here, Minister.

ACTING CHAIR: Let the minister say what he needs to say.

Senator Birmingham: As I have said time and time again, if you take the 2017 figures on the estimator and aggregate them for—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Chair, this is tedious repetition.

Senator Birmingham: a system authority, that is precisely what a system authority will receive in 2017, whether or not the legislation before the parliament passes. So it is absolutely an accurate reflection of what that system authority will receive, whether or not this legislation passes. It is a starting point then for transition to common fair needs based treatment under our proposals.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It is not an accurate representation of how those nominal allocations are made. It is using a formula that will never apply to 2017. Trying to hide behind system allocations does not solve that problem for you, Minister. But the bigger problem, which we will spend the rest of the day on I suspect, is the problem that occurs in getting to your 2017 fantasy figures, because, as I pointed out, when I went to my own local primary school there is a big drop for a considerable number of parish primary schools in particular—a big drop.

The chair, when she was here before, raised a question about the Leader of the Opposition's school, so let me put that example on the record as well. His primary school was St Mary's in Malvern East. My School 2015 indicates a Commonwealth contribution of $6,009. The calculator shows that in 2017 they will get $3,105. By 2027 their entitlement of $4,341 will still be well below their current allocation in 2015. You only need to look at some of these figures to understand why school communities are scared. It is not something that they have been running out claiming mistruths or falsehoods about. It is there as soon as you look at the publicly transparent data on My School and compare it to your estimator.

Senator Birmingham: Senator Collins, again, My School is what the system authority chooses to allocate of the recurrent funding, plus a range of other sources that officials have already outlined. My School is not a reflection of what the government has allocated to a school; it is a reflection of what the system authority has chosen to allocate to the school. To compare the My School data with the estimator is comparing apples and oranges because in the end the My School data is the decision made by the system authority to allocate funding to that school, which the system authority will be completely entitled to continue to do in future. The estimator is a reflection of the notional calculations undertaken to get to the aggregate sum that system authority is paid.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Minister, I understand that point and that is why later today we will get to the comparisons with FET.

Senator Birmingham: Senator Collins, you are the one asking the questions—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: At the moment I am dealing with what is available to parents. I am talking about what parents in the community are responding to. My School is that publicly transparent data available to parents. They look it up on My School, they read what is on the web, compare it to your estimator and see this, because of the nature of the representations that you have made. That is the problem. That is the issue. That is the public integrity concern.

Senator Birmingham: Senator Collins, the government are purely seeking to be transparent about our calculations. My School is a transparent representation of the way in which different system authorities undertake their calculations.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Exactly, and now we will have the FET data. Mr Cook, how quickly do you think you can get us the FET data? Will we be able to consider that before we have the hearings?

Mr Cook : I would have to ask my staff. Obviously I have taken that on notice. I am not sure how soon it will be. We will get it as quickly as we can.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Later today?

Mr Cook : No, it will not be later today.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: We have got hearings tomorrow and we have got hearings on Monday.

Mr Cook : I am happy to take it on notice. I will get it to you as quickly as I can.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I just want you to understand and the public to understand the context here. We have hearings tomorrow and we have hearings on Monday in order for us to report when we return in the next sitting week. The opposition indicated that more time should be provided to look at these issues in detail. There is a range of information—I have sought other information from the ABS yesterday, for example—that it may be impossible to digest during that process, yet the government succeeded in pushing through this inquiry in a completely inappropriate time frame. Yes, I do want to see the FET data. Perhaps I could go to other sources, since you have just told me you will provide it and have a look at it. The minister is partly right, although I suspect he will not like the outcomes: the FET data is the best basis to inform an understanding of what changes between 2017 and 2018. Without the capacity to do that, this legislation committee will be completely hamstrung.

But I want to move onto another issue in this overall theme at the moment around the integrity of this process. As I mentioned earlier, the legislation committee has received reports about inaccuracies in information that has been provided to schools. I would like to understand exactly what both the department and the minister have sent out to schools; on how many occasions you understand there have been issues, problems or inaccuracies that have required further contact with those schools; and what has been the nature of those inaccuracies or problems. For the moment, I am just talking about information provided by the department, the minister or the government. We will move onto the claims about misinformation and inaccuracies provided by other sources, but let us just deal with the government for now. The minister said before that the government had written to all schools. Is that correct?

Mr Cook : That is correct; that is my understanding.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Was it the estimator that was used to determine the information provided to schools?

Mr Cook : It would have been, yes.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Was the information consistent with what was provided to schools irregardless of whether they were making gains or losses?

Mr Cook : In the very nature, it would have been different because of the financial information that was included in there.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Apart from plugging in the figures, was everything else in that correspondence consistent?

Mr Cook : No. Again, it would have been different, because we would have advised schools that may have seen a reduction in Commonwealth funding that there was adjustment assistance available to them. There would have been specific information that would be provided to those schools.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Is that a different story for ACT as opposed other losers?

Mr Cook : A different story in terms of—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Sorry, what was the word you used for the type of assistance?

Mr Cook : The adjustment.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The adjustment assistance. The government has indicated that the adjustment assistance will be available to ACT schools. Was the letter that has gone to ACT schools different to the letter that has gone to Victorian independent schools?

Mr Cook : I do not think so.

CHAIR: Senator Collins, Senator Hanson-Young has been sitting here as well. I might go to her for a few questions and then come back to you.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Minister, I wanted to fast-forward this conversation specifically to the model that you have put forward and the package that is on the table, so what that looks like for public schools across the country. Noting that the calculator and various indexation rates are averages, I actually want to talk about what that means for public schools in real dollar terms and whether, in fact, they will be or will not be getting more funding under your package as opposed to the legislation, or the law, as it stands. You can tease it out.

Senator Birmingham: If you want, I will give an initial comment and then I am sure you will have follow-up questions. The law as it currently stands for the government assistance acknowledges that what are deemed to be participating states—who are New South Wales, South Australia and the ACT—are provided with a guaranteed level of indexation. In the case of New South Wales and South Australia, that would be 4.7 per cent under the current arrangements. In the case of the ACT, that would be three per cent.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: That is on the basis that all of their schools are below the SRS.

Senator Birmingham: It is on the basis that New South Wales schools are deemed to be below the SRS and ACT schools are deemed to be above the SRS. Other states and territories, as non-participating jurisdictions, have no such clear minimum requirements within the legislation. What rate of funding growth they might receive in the future were our legislation not to pass is a matter for government to resolve in those circumstances, but the average funding growth that we are proposing for government sectors across Australia is 5.2 per cent per student growth over the next few years. Obviously, that is clearly above the 4.7 per cent that New South Wales and South Australia would be entitled to. For each of the states, it certainly creates an outcome where we are confident that they would receive faster growth under our proposal than they would were the current legislation to remain in place.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: For those states that are not participating under the education act as it stands, what are your obligations to them?

Senator Birmingham: I will let Mr Cook perhaps go to that.

Mr Cook : In terms of the legislation, the obligation is in relation to the National Education Agreement, not the National Education Reform Agreement. The obligation for the minister under the current act for those states legislatively is to determine a level of indexation for them. However, the government indicated that for the first four years they would treat non-participating states as if they are participating. In terms of the legislation, we treat schools such as Queensland, or the system such as Queensland, for the first four years as if they are below the SRS and they receive 4.3 per cent indexation.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But that is just the discretion of the minister?

Mr Cook : That is correct. That was a decision of the government for the 2014 and 2017 time period.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So that could just continue?

Mr Cook : That is a matter for government. I cannot determine that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I understand that is a matter for the government. What I am saying is that technically that decision could just be extended. There is no ability for the Senate to disallow that or to have to approve it.

Mr Cook : The Senate can disallow it. The Senate can disallow a determination from the minister in relation to the indexation of a non-participating school.

Senator Birmingham: But if the Senate disallows, then the result for the next year—

Mr Cook : Will basically be what they received in the previous year.

Senator Birmingham: So then there is zero indexation.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So the status quo is just based on the last financial year's commitment. You have said 5.2 and then 5.1 in relation to overall growth of the public school sector under your package. How much more in dollar terms is that over the next 10 years?

Dr Bruniges : Funding for government schools will grow by 94.1 per cent, with the total government recurrent funding for government schools of $107.6 billion between 2017 and 2027.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: And just in the first four years? Do you have that figure?

Mr Cook : It would be $32.6 billion for the government sector.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: In total?

Mr Cook : In total from 2018 to 2021.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Have you got that split out to say how much extra that is?

Mr Cook : Of the $18.6 billion that was announced by the government, which is the additional funding compared to last year's budget, $1.5 billion is for the government sector over the first four years and $11.9 billion of the $18.6 billion is to the government sector over a 10-year period.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So that is in comparison to last year's budget. Do you have the figures to compare it to what you would be committed to under the Australian Education Act?

Mr Cook : Sorry, Senator, I do not have that with me. I can take it on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is that something you could take on notice?

Mr Cook : Sure.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Obviously you guys are coming back on Monday afternoon.

Senator Birmingham: Is this to the government question?

Mr Cook : Is this government schools, Senator?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes, government schools.

Senator Birmingham: It obviously depends on what indexation rate was applied. Senator, we are just confirming that for the nonparticipating jurisdictions, it obviously depends on what indexation rate was applied.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes. I guess what I am interested in is what you are actually committed to. I understand that you have not made a government decision around those nonparticipating schools. I guess the previous answer was that the lowest level would be based on the last financial year. I guess that is what you are legally committed to.

Mr Cook : It might be difficult for us to generate that number from what the minister has indicated, because we could only generate a number for you if we knew definitively what the government's position was in relation to indexation.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I suggest that you come up with something.

Mr Cook : I am happy to help, Senator.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I guess, in saying that, I have a lot of questions throughout the day that I think you will probably have to take on notice, but I was hoping that we could use this as an opportunity to make sure when we come back on Monday you have a sense of what information I need.

Mr Cook : Sure.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What is the average annual indexation for the Catholic and independent schools over the next four years and the next 10 years?

Senator Birmingham: Under the government's proposals?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes.

Mr Cook : For the Catholic sector over the next four years it is 3.7 per cent and for the independent sector it is 4.2 per cent.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How does that compare to the current legislation—the current law?

Mr Cook : It depends if you are above or below the SRS or on the SRS. There will be a number of independent schools that are above the SRS that will only be getting three per cent, there will be some that are on it that will be getting 3.6 per cent and there will be some below that will get 4.7 per cent. So 4.7 per cent for most Catholic sectors compares to 3.7 per cent in terms of legislation—in terms of the current legislation 4.7 per cent. And it is 4.2 per cent for the independent sector in the proposed amendments to the act.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: These are just averages, though, aren't they?

Mr Cook : That is correct.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So there are some schools, if they were allocated that money on the basis of your calculations, that would get a higher indexation rate.

Mr Cook : That is right. For example, in the Northern Territory the Catholic sector is proposed to get 5.8 per cent because they are so far behind other Catholic sectors and they need to make up from about 64 per cent of the share of the SRS at the moment up to 80 per cent over the next 10 years. So their increase is much higher than other states and territories. Tasmania is 4.4 per cent. So there are other states where the Catholic percentage is much higher.

Senator Birmingham: Across the non-government sector there are around 251 schools who will receive less than 2½ per cent. The point is that each approved authority across the country, be it a standalone school or a system, starts at a different point because of all the different deals and so on that have been inherited and passed down. Therefore, to get them to a common point of treatment under the needs based formula, each has its own unique indexation rate that is applied across that authority to get to the end point.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Can I ask why you have decided to release average figures for the three different sectors when they do not necessarily help in explaining that there is such a dispersed range of what schools will get. Why say that the government sector gets 5.2 per cent, the Catholics get this and the independents get that when actually schools within all three of those sectors might be getting much more or much less?

Senator Birmingham: We talk in averages because, obviously, to talk through all of the thousand or so approved authorities and each of their individual indexation rates would be a little too cumbersome for a sound bite or for anybody else to understand. I guess the purpose behind the estimator is to show the rate of increase across the different approved authorities as it notionally applies to schools where they have more than one school in their authority and to give a sense of transparency to people as to what the rate of increase looks like.

We have talked about and publicly shared what it looks like on a state-by-state basis. In that sense, for government systems and Catholic systems, the state average does reflect what those systems will receive in total. It is only when you go to the independents, which comprise 900-odd different authorities, that there are vast discrepancies ranging from some having a negative indexation rate over that time to others having quite a high indexation rate to bring them to the common standard.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Can you table the percentage increases for each approved authority each year under the proposed arrangements?

Senator Birmingham: I am sure we can take that on notice.

Mr Cook : Yes, sure.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: In the same context that Senator Hanson-Young has asked?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do you mean the average growth rate for state schools in Victoria? That would be good.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, essentially your question, but could we see them for each authority?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: That would be handy. Thanks, Senator Collins. Can I go back a step, Mr Cook? For the record, can you outline how many schools currently sit above the SRS level.

Mr Cook : There are schools that are not in a system, or an approved authority, that are above the SRS. There are two ways we deal with this. One is we look at all schools as an approved authority, like the Victorian government or the New South Wales Catholic system. There will be schools in an approved authority that are above the SRS, but the approved authority is what we focus on. If the approved authority in total is below the SRS, that approved authority—the Victorian government, for example—is allocated as being below the SRS even though there will be schools within that authority that are above the SRS.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But you must know how many of those schools there are.

Mr Cook : Yes, we do. I have 2019 in front of me, but not the current in terms of 2017. By 2019 there are 256 schools above the SRS, but I do not believe that actually includes schools that are within a system.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Can you get that for us?

Mr Cook : Yes, we can take that on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are you able to, in doing that, describe which system they come from?

Mr Cook : Yes, we can do that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So that will cover the independents, the Catholics and the government schools above SRS and which categories. Thank you. That would be helpful.

Mr Cook : Just to clarify, that is total public funding, so both state and Commonwealth funding, which puts them above 100 per cent of the SRS?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes, thank you. You mentioned the Catholic schools getting 5.8 per cent growth rate in the Northern Territory. How are you going to manage the situation in relation to Northern Territory public schools to ensure that they do not lose any money? Because you would have to imagine that those schools are some of the most vulnerable. You would not want to be taking any money off them.

Mr Cook : Sure. The current model is based on history. Whatever funding the Northern Territory government schools were receiving in 2011 is what is then hard-coded into the current model. If schools were receiving additional amounts of money in 2011 as a result of a national partnership which they did not get in 2010 or 2012, it was hard-coded into the model regardless. What that has resulted in—and it is the same for schools all around Australia—is the variability of where schools are in relation to the schooling resource standard.

At the moment, the Northern Territory government is above the proposed Commonwealth's share of 20 per cent for government schools nationally. They are not losing money. Their growth, however, is slower than perhaps some other states and territories, because they are already at 24 per cent and they are moving to 20 per cent, just as other states are moving to 20 per cent though they might be moving from 19 per cent.

Two things the government has done: they have ensured that growth, but they have also provided some adjustment funding for schools that are moving down to a particular Commonwealth share. For the Northern Territory, $36 million has been made available to support them through that transition over the next 10 years.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: That is $36 million?

Mr Cook : Yes.

Senator Birmingham: It is important to appreciate that it is because of the way the needs based formula works that the Northern Territory government system, upon full implementation of this policy, would still receive significantly more than any other government system on a per-student basis. On the estimates, it would be receiving $7,369 per student in 2027. The next closest jurisdiction, unsurprisingly, is Tasmania at $4,755 per student. So there is a $2½ thousand to $3 thousand differential on a per-student basis. Whilst the proposal is to treat all jurisdictions consistently under the schooling resource standard, because that is a needs based standard, logically it results in the Northern Territory receiving by far and away the highest per-student support of any jurisdiction in Australia, as everybody would rightly expect it to.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes. What about that other outlying anomaly, which seems to be the ACT Catholic schools? We have heard a lot in recent weeks about their situation. How does the department explain that and are there transitional arrangements for them as well?

Mr Cook : A few things—first of all, in relation to the current arrangements, as you know, for the Catholic system or any non-government system, there was something called a system-weighted application applied to them. The way we did that was we looked at the SES score of every school and then we multiplied that by the number of students in that school. In a system like the ACT, we did that for each individual school and then divided it by the total number of students in the ACT to get a particular score. The system-weighted SES score in the ACT for the Catholic sector is 116; 100 being, roughly, the average, that is fairly high. The arrangements that were put in place under the current arrangements, however, gave the ACT Catholics an SES score of 101, which was the national average rather than the ACT average, which meant that—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Was that just the way the calculations are? Or is that something that was deliberately done?

Mr Cook : Under the current arrangements the previous government agreed to allocate—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So, that was a deliberate decision, to make it 101?

Mr Cook : That is correct; 101 is the national average. It is the national average of all Catholic schools. But it is not what the average is for the ACT sector. Their average would be 116. As a result of that, additional funding was directed to the ACT Catholic sector. The ACT independent sector got a similar arrangement, which resulted in them receiving significant additional funding than another sector that actually had its own average applied. What that means is that under the new arrangements that the government has proposed the ACT Catholic sector is 120 per cent of SRS, and the ACT Catholic sector has to move to 80 per cent of the SRS under the Commonwealth share. So, the government has allocated adjustment funding to the ACT Catholic sector, particularly for the first four years, and then the ACT Catholic sector, like other sectors or schools that are receiving reductions over 10 years, also have an adjustment fund that they can apply to beyond that.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I want to go back for the moment to the discussion we were having earlier about the accuracy of information that has been provided to schools. Could we have a copy of the depopulated version of the various letters that went to schools?

Mr Cook : Sure. I am happy to take that on notice.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: How many different versions are there?

Mr Cook : There may be 24. I will take it on notice. It is eight states and territories and three sectors across those states and territories.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, we have had this conversation before, when we have said, 'Well, 24, 27—who are the other three'—

Mr Cook : But there are eight states and three sectors in each state, which equals 24.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But to quote again, for the minister's benefit, the former minister's description of 27 'dirty deals', there are actually 27 different arrangements. Do you remember how we have had this discussion about who those other three are? And those other three are differential arrangements within the independent sector, if I recall correctly. So, I am just questioning whether those other three might have got letters that were different to just simply the independent sector's letters.

Senator Birmingham: We will get you copies of the letters. I think even insofar as there are differences across states they are probably literally only changing the name of the state and so on in the letters; there are actually not any other differences of substance. Of course we are moving from 27 different 'dirty deals', or special arrangements or whatever phrase you would like to put on them—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Well, they were not my phrases.

Senator Birmingham: to a common approach.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: As I said last night, they are not my phrases. This is the sort of language the government has been using.

Senator Birmingham: I think you just made 'special arrangements' your preferred phrase, so—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, that is not mine; it is yours.

Senator PATERSON: What is your preferred phrase, Senator Collins?

CHAIR: How do you describe the anomalies?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Well, I describe the arrangements as reflecting how education is delivered in—

CHAIR: How did one of the Gonski panel members describe it?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Sorry: did you ask me a question, or not?

Senator PATERSON: I did!

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But the chair was talking over me, so it is impossible, Senator Paterson, to answer your question, unless the chair refrains from answering it for me, it seems. But no, I would describe the different arrangements as reflecting what indeed David Gonski recommended that the government should do at the time. We will get to those recommendations a little bit later. But they certainly reflect, as we go to the detail of some of those recommendations, the outcome of the process he recommended that the government should undertake.

Gonski actually never recommended this current government's 80/20 proposal. Never did they recommend, in the review panel report, that the Commonwealth should apply a blanket 80 per cent contribution to the SRS across the whole, if you like to say, 27 different delivery arrangements that exist in Australia for school education—unless the minister would like to take me to somewhere in the Gonski report that says that. I know he has been claiming it does, but give me the recommendation, or even just the findings or the—

Senator Birmingham: I have been very clear that the common share approach has been a decision of government to work in a way that treats jurisdictions and sectors across jurisdictions in a fair and consistent manner. But we are seeking to do that under the principles established in the Gonski report. Obviously that is why David Gonski was happy to stand with the Prime Minister and me and offer statements of support—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Well, we have not heard from him recently. He has come out on the bank levy, but we have not heard from him on this.

Senator Birmingham: I think if you look back in history you will see that Mr Gonski has always been judicious with his public remarks—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I have already said that.

Senator Birmingham: including when your party was in government.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But he as not been judicious on the bank levy issue.

Senator Birmingham: A number of different commentators have I think acknowledged that what the government is proposing is a truer and more accurate reflection of the principles and recommendations in the Gonski report.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I have not seen anyone say that. Give me a quote that accurately describes what you just said.

Senator Birmingham: We will happily beaver away and give you a number of those, if you like. I will take it on notice.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The support that you have claimed—any of the ones I have referred to have never made that claim. So, this notion of the common share approach—

Senator Birmingham: I am not sure that you are reading terribly widely, then.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, this notion that the common share approach was endorsed by Gonski is fallacious.

Senator Birmingham: You are coming to one particular element—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: A very important element.

Senator Birmingham: Yet equally one of the authors of the Gonski report described all of the different deals done with different states and territories and different stakeholders as being a corruption of the intent of the report.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I know what Mr Boston said. But, equally, on many of his points I would probably disagree. But we will get to that later, when we look at the implications of your common share approach, which was not the Gonski approach and which I will put to you that, because of very limited consultation, has created an extraordinary number of adverse consequences.

Senator Birmingham: I do not think it has created adverse consequences, when you look across every state and territory and every sector and see that for virtually all of them growth rates are at a minimum—3½ per cent per student per annum. That is a very strong level. We discussed just then with Senator Hanson-Young the two particular circumstances in the two territories. But across the states, across the different systems, we see strong, sustainable growth rates that do not create adverse consequences for them—far from it: they provide long-term certainty and financial sustainability for them.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: While we are on this 80/20 issue—I will go back to some of these other integrity issues a bit later—let's go to recommendation 1 of the review of funding for schooling, where it said:

The Australian Government and the states and territories, in consultation with the nongovernment sector, should develop and implement a schooling resource standard …

Now, how is your plan, which has absolutely no requirement on states and territories to ever contribute to the 80 per cent of the SRS for public schools, meeting this recommendation?

Senator Birmingham: We are applying the Schooling Resource Standard, as put into legislation by your government. We are applying that in a consistent way across the states and territories. When the Commonwealth's share rises to 20 per cent in a number of jurisdictions, they will meet 100 per cent—or very, very close to that—of the Schooling Resource Standard. Others may get close to around the 95 per cent mark, and some, because of the level of investment of their state government, will not necessarily get to that level, unless their state government chooses to match the share of investment of other jurisdictions around the country.

The approach we are taking is that we believe the Commonwealth should make a fair, consistent contribution on the basis of need across each different state and territory. But then I think it is reasonable, if people in Victoria are concerned that their government sector may not meet the schooling resource standard, to ask the question: why aren't the Victorian government investing as much in their schools as the Western Australian or Tasmanian governments, who will essentially meet the schooling resource standard, based on current levels of investment. We are requiring in the proposed legislation the states and territories to at least maintain their share of the schooling resource standard as applied this year, in 2017, so that there can be no cost-shift, no slippage backwards, as the Commonwealth contribution towards the schooling resource standard increases. By making that a requirement, we can have confidence that a number of jurisdictions do get to the SRS or very, very close to the SRS. For those that do not, the teachers union and the other advocates in those jurisdictions ought to be asking those state governments why it is that they are not investing as much as state governments who will get to the SRS.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I understand, Minister, that in your view this is a different accountability arrangement, and I also understand that it was not on your watch that Minister Pyne unpicked the Gonski-recommended accountability arrangement, which was essentially the two-for-one dollar offer to states and territories: 'We will contribute two, you contribute one, and that will assist your current education arrangements to meet a common SRS,' although with some flexibility, as recommended by the Gonski review. That is a completely different accountability arrangement to the one that was recommended by the Gonski panel.

Senator Birmingham: The government's view is that it is terribly unfair to penalise a state like Western Australia because it provides good, strong state investment in its school systems, and to reward a state like Victoria, who provide pretty close to the lowest level of funding for the government school systems; and that the Commonwealth as a national government applying a needs based formula ought to apply that consistently on the basis of need right across the country, and that is the approach it is taking. The states, who, when they talk to me, are at pains to emphasise their constitutional position as administrators of schools and their position as the prime funders of schools, ought to be held accountable in their electorates by their constituent bodies and by their education stakeholders for whether or not they invest their relative share to get to 100 per cent of the SRS. If Victoria or Queensland have a valid argument as to why they spend so much less than Western Australia, South Australia, Tasmania or the ACT, they should make it to their electorates.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I understand that this is the government's decision. I will argue throughout the day and probably over the next few days about how well informed that decision has been in terms of the impact of it across the various school sectors. But the key point here is that this—what do you call it?—'common share' approach was not the real Gonski. Let me take you to recommendation 22. Recommendation 22 says:

The Australian Government and the states and territories, in consultation with the non-government sector, should negotiate more balanced funding roles as part of the transition to a new funding model for all schools, with the Australian Government assuming a greater role in the funding of government schools and the states in relation to non-government schools. This should occur within a governance framework that gives certainty and stability around expected future funding levels for schools from all government sources and operational independence for non-government schools.

This aptly describes the consensus that had been achieved from the Gonski review process in 2013 which Minister Pyne then unstitched. Now, the suggestion that Gonski proposed a common share approach is simply wrong.

Senator Birmingham: Senator Collins, let me go through some of the points in that recommendation. It talks about more balanced funding rates. The Turnbull government's proposal is absolutely to bring federal funding rates into balance over a 10-year transition period.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It permanently embeds 80 per cent.

Senator Birmingham: To do so in a consistent way across the jurisdictions—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is not consistent with this recommendation.

Senator Birmingham: The recommendation calls for more balanced funding rates. The Turnbull government over a—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: With the Australian government assuming a greater role.

CHAIR: Senator Collins—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: He cannot cherry pick elements of the recommendations.

CHAIR: Whether it is a cherry or an apricot, let the minister complete his answer and then you can pursue further questions.

Senator Birmingham: Over a 10-year transition period we are transitioning to more balanced funding rates, in fact balanced funding rates that will treat each of the states equally and each of the non-government sectors equally. In terms of assuming a greater role in relation to government schools, we are transitioning from an average 17 per cent contribution to the Schooling Resource Standard up to 20 per cent contribution of the Schooling Resource Standard. Of course you do not have to go back very far—I will ask officials to add to my answer in a second to give some detail as to where we have come from in getting to that 17 per cent. You do not have to go back to far to when the Australian government's contribution to state government schools was in the single digit territory. It is come up to 17 per cent, and we are proposing to take it, with a greater role, to 20 per cent balanced equally across the states and territories.

In terms of the certainty and stability that the recommendation speaks of, we are proposing to lock into the legislation the funding formulas for the future, the transition arrangements, to give a decade of certainty and stability—and beyond, because of course when everybody gets to their common share they are then indexed on the basis of that common share thereafter. In terms of operational independence, we absolutely recognise and respect that poor systems and poor schools—and that is exactly why we are continuing to embed the model that pays systems, government and non-government systems, as the correct authorities rather than as individual school entities. In terms of the greater role component and the trajectory from 17 per cent to 20 per cent and where we have come from over recent years, the secretary or Mr Cook may wish to comment.

Mr Cook : In 2014-15, of total government funding, state and public, the Australian government provided 13.4 per cent of that. Into the future that will increase significantly in terms of total public funding, with the share being 20 per cent by 2018, as the minister indicated.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So the current one is 17 per cent?

Mr Cook : That is national average.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: With the current 17 per cent, where was that forecast to go to over the first six years of Gonski 1?

Mr Cook : I would have to take that on notice. I do not know that detail off the top of my head.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The issue here is that we are talking about a 10-year plan, which will take a reasonable level of growth up to the national average of 17, and embed 20.

Senator Birmingham: Yes. The consequence of that is that Western Australia, which currently receives only 14.3 per cent of this Schooling Resource Standard, will have a higher rate of indexation to bring them up to that 20 per cent, that balanced common share. South Australia, at 16.2 per cent, will receive a higher rate than New South Wales at 17.5 per cent. That, of course, is what delivers different levels of indexation, but it is to get the funding rates into balance to that common share over the 10-year horizon.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, but this decision to take this common share approach, quite contrary to what the Gonski review recommended, is what intrigues me. You have had all these concerns about lack of consultation. For instance, Minister, you claim that Catholic Education is complaining simply because they did not get what they wanted. I have received their newsletter ever since I was in this portfolio area. For at least the last 12 months they have been complaining about the lack of consultation about what might apply in 2018. Newsletter after newsletter complains that they have considerable concerns that you are developing a plan that they have no notion of what it might look like for 2018. You then claim that you were talking to them and you wonder why they are upset after the event. They are upset because you have not adequately looked at the implications of this common share approach and its impact on the delivery of school education in Australia. We went through a detailed Gonski review process and recommendations about how we should deal with our disparate education systems, and we had a plan that reached considerable community consensus in 2013. Mr Pyne unpicked that plan. I understand that it is a hard job for you to repair it, but you have not been consulting with the education providers about the implications of this common share approach. That is the problem. That is the problem we will deal with this afternoon when we get into the detail of it. But the first issue is that it is not recommended here at all. You tell me where it comes from.

CHAIR: Senator Collins, I am going to put a time limit on preambles, if this keeps going. Please answer the question, Minister.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Can we have a time limit on his preambles, too?

CHAIR: I have not heard preambles; I have heard attempts to answer.

Senator Birmingham: The reference in the Gonski report and the recommendation that Senator Collins just read out called for a more balanced funding role across the Commonwealth, states and territories. It called for a greater role for the Commonwealth. We are absolutely bringing the Commonwealth's role into balance and enhancing it. I think it is entirely consistent in that sense. We are ensuring that they can be no cost shift from the states and territories, so that the increasing funding we are implying brings a real increase into schools. In terms of the impact on different sectors, we have absolutely considered that impact, and the 3.5 per cent growth over the decade, on average, that the Catholic system receives across Australia is a strong rate of growth that is clearly above current measures of wages growth or inflation and will enable those systems to continue to operate and provide the type of quality education that they do. You can give longwinded preambles about how you had a plan if you want, Senator Collins, but your implementation as a government of the Gonski report has been widely criticised for corrupting the implementation of that report.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Take me to an example of this corruption. Take me to an example of where the report made a report that has been corrupted.

CHAIR: Minister, have you finished your answer?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: He cannot make allegations like that.

CHAIR: We can get to the 'unpick' comment. Have you finished your answer to Senator Collins's original question?

Senator Birmingham: That will do, Chair. I would rather we kept going through questions.

CHAIR: And get to the unpicking.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I would be interested to hear what these examples are. Where in the report does it recommend a Commonwealth-only funding model be put in place without considering what states are contributing? Where does it recommend that?

Senator Birmingham: We are considering what states are contributing. We are mandating under our legislation that states must at least maintain their real share of contribution in 2017 to avoid the type of cost-shifting that has been seen in some jurisdictions as the Commonwealth contribution has increased over recent years.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: How do you propose to ensure that?

Senator Birmingham: We are making sure that there are provisions that if the state or territory does not keep up its funding share the Commonwealth has an entitlement to look at withholding some element of Commonwealth funding from that state or territory, so that we actually hold the states to account and stop the practice which has been seen in some jurisdictions, where greater Commonwealth funding for schools goes in, less state funding for schools goes in and schools are no better off. We want to make sure that as we put greater Commonwealth funding for schools in, the states at least maintain their real level of contribution based on the indexed formulas that we are applying to the Schooling Resource Standard, so that in the end schools are actually better off as a result of the increased funding.

Senator O'NEILL: Senator Birmingham, I have sat here over the last four years and continually asked the question about how you are going to hold the states to account. From the minister sitting at the table and from Mr Cook we have had, over and over again, 'We will not impose that level of red tape'—that is what you called it, over and over—'on the states, where they have to account for the money that matches the Commonwealth dollars.'

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That was the Christopher Pyne version.

Senator O'NEILL: Exactly right. And we kept saying that this would be a problem.

Mr Cook : There is no requirement under current legislation for states to maintain or increase funding. There is nothing in the Australian Education Act that refers to that.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, but in the agreements.

Mr Cook : The agreements are not legal documents, so in terms of the act—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Why aren't they legal documents? Let's not be cute here. Why aren't they legal documents?

Mr Cook : Not all states and territories have signed the agreements, so there is no national agreement.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Let's pick one that has—New South Wales.

Mr Cook : But there is no requirement, so—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: What is in the agreement?

CHAIR: Yes, let's pick New South Wales.

Mr Cook : There is no requirement for them to do so.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: What is in the agreement?

CHAIR: Why don't we cherrypick New South Wales, where some students are more equal than others.

Senator O'NEILL: I am a senator from New South Wales.

Mr Cook : The proposed amendments to the bill have legislative requirements put in them—

Senator O'NEILL: I am sure Mr Cook saw the press conference yesterday. New South Wales thinks there is something to that contract that they signed up to. New South Wales believes there is a deal that is valid.

Senator Birmingham: Is Mr Cook able to provide the answer he was providing before without Senators Collins and O'Neill—and, indeed, you, Chair—speaking over the top of him trying to provide his answer?

CHAIR: And indeed the chair—yes, Minister. My apologies. Mr Cook.

Mr Cook : Just clarifying, regarding legal requirements under the current act, there is no legal requirement for a state or territory to maintain funding or put any funding in. The proposed amendments to the bill will have a requirement in the regulations to define that around state maintenance of effort. I am just clarifying the point between the two acts.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I understand that difference, but there is context that is obviously important here. The existing arrangements are supplemented by agreements in certain instances. Some of those agreements were actually reached but never maintained after a change of government. Poor Dr Bruniges is in an interesting spot here given that she was party to the finalisation of one agreement for New South Wales, and now she will be potentially caught up in the discussions around whether the Commonwealth honours the agreements that were made with New South Wales. But to simply make that raw comparison between the act and the proposed amendments, Mr Cook, does not—

Mr Cook : I am just comparing the two bills.

Senator O'NEILL: But it does not tell the story.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is not in context.

Mr Cook : It is the context of accountability for states and territories.

Senator Birmingham: Mr Cook and the secretary are here to answer questions, not to just respond to endless assertions.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I have not made an assertion.

Senator Birmingham: You have made plenty today, Senator Collins.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Just then I did not make an assertion.

Senator Birmingham: You have made far more assertions than you have asked questions.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I did not make an assertion there at all; I asked: where in the report does it recommend that a Commonwealth-only funding model be put in place without considering what states are contributing?

Senator Birmingham: You have said an awful lot since then. I answered that question—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, I think we moved to Senator O'Neill at that point.

Senator Birmingham: I answered that question and, as I highlighted, the very recommendation that you spoke about talks about more balanced funding roles. We are bringing, over a 10-year horizon, the Commonwealth's share and responsibility into balance across the country.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, you are embedding it at 80 per cent, which is not what that recommendation says. It says to take a greater share of government school funding. And I know that at a policy level—

Senator Birmingham: We are taking a greater role—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: you have considered other options such as retreating completely and had outrage across all school delivery. I am interested in how you determined this 80 per cent figure to apply across 10 years. Where did the 80 per cent figure come from?

Senator Birmingham: There are two figures. There is the 80 per cent figure and there is the 20 per cent figure, which enables us to take a greater role in relation to the government school systems, and we will see growth from 13.4 per cent in 2014-15, which was referenced before, to the around 17 per cent on average across the country that occurs now, with wide disparity between jurisdictions, to all jurisdictions receiving a 20 per cent share by 2027. So we are taking a greater role as recommended. As to the setting of the 20 per cent and the 80 per cent, we have weighed a number of different factors in doing so. The 20 per cent share does enable a number of jurisdictions to achieve the schooling resource standard, and there is no reason why other jurisdictions would be unable to match that funding contribution by the states who do so. In setting those shares, we equally have looked at the transition implications for different sectors to make sure that, overall, we are providing, across all systems and sectors, good, strong rates of growth that enable them to continue to do good things but, where need is greatest, ensure that, of the additional $18.6 billion that we are investing, the greatest level of that in increase flows into those schools that are furthest away from a common treatment under the schooling resource standard approach.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: What formal modelling was undertaken to determine that?

Senator Birmingham: The department did lots of modelling and forming through the budget context.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: And so the modelling shows what is achieved by the 80 per cent? What proportion of schools—fill out what the minister was just describing. What proportion of schools across the 24 different sectors will reach the SRS under the 80-20?

Mr Cook : That depends on what the states are contributing.

Dr Bruniges : What they put in.

Mr Cook : I do not know what states will be contributing in 10 years' time.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: At the moment, given that we are dealing with a proposal that suggests the states maintain existing efforts—we will get to the question about how that is likely to be achieved—let's assume the maintenance of existing effort.

Senator Birmingham: Based on conservative projections—that is, that states do not necessarily put in anything additional beyond indexation—our expectation is that Western Australia, Tasmania and the ACT will all broadly achieve the schooling resource standard. South Australia will be very close to the 95 per cent mark. Other states are further away due to the lesser investment of their state governments compared with those other state governments.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Let's run through those again: Western Australia—what were the other states you mentioned?

Senator Birmingham: In broad terms, WA, Tasmania and the ACT will all get very close to 100 per cent. South Australia gets very close to 95 per cent. Other jurisdictions are less than around that 95 per cent mark because those state governments invest less in their school systems than the ones that do get close to 100 per cent.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So, what lesser amounts? Where is Victoria going to get to after 10 years under this proposal?

Senator Birmingham: I only have round figures with me. Details might need to be taken on notice. But the Victorian government currently invests around 66 per cent, I think it is, of the schooling resource standard compared with Western Australia or Tasmania, which are both around the 80 per cent mark.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, my question is: with this proposal and the 20 per cent arrangements, where do you anticipate Victoria will get to after 10 years, on the assumption that existing effort is maintained?

Senator Birmingham: If Victoria does not put in the same type of effort in contribution as Western Australia or Tasmania, then—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is not my point! My question is: does your modelling tell you what that this proposal will achieve for Victoria over 10 years?

Senator Birmingham: If Victoria does not put in the same type of effort as Western Australia or Tasmania—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is not the question, Minister! You do not get a chance to rephrase the question. The question is—and you have given me the data for Western Australia, Tasmania, the ACT and South Australia: on the same terms for Victoria, where would they get to after 10 years?

Senator Birmingham: Victoria will receive 20 per cent of the schooling resource standard from the Commonwealth government, as would every jurisdiction. If they do not put in the same effort as Western Australia or Tasmania—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No! That is not the question!

Senator Birmingham: then Victoria would still be sitting on their 66 per cent as share.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: You say that Victoria puts in 66 per cent?

Senator Birmingham: And the Commonwealth will put in 20 per cent, consistently, for all jurisdictions.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, so where does that get us to after 10 years?

Senator Birmingham: That would be 86 per cent, if Victoria does not increase its contribution.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Can we just do that? Is that a valid process, to just add the 66 and the 20? Does that work?

Senator Birmingham: Yes.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I am not sure it does.

Dr Bruniges : If they maintain—

Senator Birmingham: If Victoria purely maintains what it is spending at present in real terms, then currently it is at 66 per cent of the schooling resource standard—


Senator Birmingham: and in 10 years' time it would still be at 66 per cent of the schooling resource standard, in terms of its contribution.


Senator Birmingham: The Commonwealth's contribution will grow to 20 per cent of the schooling resource standard over that time frame.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So at the end of that time frame it will get to 86 per cent. New South Wales?

CHAIR: Depending on the state government decisions—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, but that is our assumption—our assumption that informed all of these other figures—

CHAIR: All of these—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: What is in the bill, which will at least hold states to the maintenance of existing effort with indexation. Mr Cook, what level of indexation are we talking about, that we will expect from states?

Mr Cook : The proposal is to meet the actual indexation that the government has proposed, so 3.56 per cent for the first three years. And at the moment it is an estimated average of 3.3 per cent for the remaining seven years, or three per cent—whichever is higher.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is the floor, yes. All right.

Senator Birmingham: Senator, you could always ask Minister Merlino how much extra he is proposing to put into school funding over the next decade to bring that 66 per cent share up to better represent what Tasmania or Western Australia or South Australia or the ACT invest.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I am sure I could ask him that. Indeed, I am sure you can ask him that at a ministerial council meeting.

CHAIR: Mr Cook, Victoria have just handed down their budget. What do their forward estimates indicate that they are going to—

Mr Cook : They do not have forward estimates. This is why it is so difficult for us to actually get state data, because their state budgets are a little bit opaque in terms of individual funding to schools—

Senator O'NEILL: Yes. It is a frustration, believe me.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is why we are a bit sceptical about these provisions in the bill.

Senator Birmingham: I think the four-year forward estimates of the Commonwealth are much more transparent than what we see—

Mr Cook : I will note that the indexation rates that states are being asked to meet under these arrangements are higher than what they are required to meet under the current arrangements.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Let us go back to this process. Where are New South Wales currently?

Senator Birmingham: New South Wales, I think, are around the 71 per cent mark.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So they will get to 91?

Senator Birmingham: Unless, of course, the New South Wales government chooses to invest as much as Western Australia or Tasmania do.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: How many times do I need to reiterate the assumption that we are working on here, which is that they at least maintain the existing effort? What are Queensland currently at?

Senator Birmingham: Queensland, on estimates, is around the 64 per cent mark.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So they will get to 84?

Senator Birmingham: Unless, of course, they choose to invest as much as Western Australia or Tasmania or South Australia or the ACT in terms of their state government's commitment to their schools.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The Northern Territory?

Senator Birmingham: The Northern Territory is around 63 per cent.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So they will get to 83?

Senator Birmingham: But we have discussed there that the Commonwealth is providing some additional funding in relation to the Northern Territory as well, so the 20 per cent is not quite so consistent there.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So you are not quite as pure as you tell us you are? 'Mr Policy Pure' is not quite as pure as he suggests.

Senator Birmingham: The Northern Territory is a very small jurisdiction—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So is the ACT.

Senator Birmingham: with very high needs.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So is the ACT a small jurisdiction.

Senator Birmingham: It is bigger than the Northern Territory.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, I know, but it just amuses me the rhetoric around special deals that has been flying over the last few months—someone is saying, 'Sweetheart deals'.

Mr Cook : The application is the same for both territories. Both territories are moving down to a Commonwealth share. Both territories have an adjustment fund available to them.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Is that part of the adjustment fund or is that a different process?

Mr Cook : It is adjustment, in the sense that the Territory is moving from 24 per cent to 20 per cent and the ACT Catholics are moving from whatever it is down to 80 per cent, so they are both adjustment funds for—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, but the access to relief that will come from the $40 million adjustment fund—

Mr Cook : Is to what—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: We are not talking about that at the moment.

Mr Cook : Some of the independent schools, in both the ACT and the Northern Territory, have a four-year adjustment fund applicable to both those territories.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But is that part of the $40 million fund or is it separate?

Mr Cook : It is on top of the $40 million, or the $36 million.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: What is the total quantum of special adjustment arrangements as we move to this 'policy pure' common approach?

Mr Cook : We will add them up. It is about $70 million—or slightly above it, I think.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Maybe I could ask you to break that up for me. So that is the $40 million in the general fund—

Mr Cook : It is 38.6 in the general fund, 1.2 in the ACT and 35.6 in the Northern Territory, which is 75.4 in total.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I am not following you with those figures. It does not add up to me. It is 38.6 in the general, 1.2 in—

Mr Cook : The ACT, and 35.6.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Sorry; I did not hear that.

Mr Cook : Sorry; I was looking down.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: And that comes to a total of?

Mr Cook : $75.4 million.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Mr Cook, you have undertaken to take on notice where, for example, in proportion of SRS, New South Wales would have gotten to under the agreement?

Mr Cook : Yes.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: How long will it take you to get me that?

Mr Cook : Sorry, I might even have that data here. Based on a particular year?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No. At the end of the six-year transition, where would the New South Wales government have been?

Mr Cook : The goal was to be at 95 per cent for New South Wales.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: And what would their share of that 95 per cent have been?

Mr Cook : New South Wales, for the government sector, it would have been 71.3, because the New South Wales government sector would not have reached 95 per cent.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: What would they have reached?

Mr Cook : 93.4 per cent.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Okay. So the Commonwealth share would have been then 22—help me with the figures here; it was a late night last night.

Unidentified speaker: 22.1

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So it would have been over the 22 per cent that this government is proposing for 10 years.

Mr Cook : Yes.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It is a pity Senator Hanson-Young is not here at the moment. In New South Wales, government schools under the current agreement would have got to 93.4 per cent of the SRS. Under this plan, given the assumptions that we have already covered, New South Wales after 10 years will get to 91 per cent of the SRS. Is that correct?

Mr Cook : If New South Wales government does not put anything additional in, that is correct—short of real growth.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Why would New South Wales put in additional if the Commonwealth government is not putting in the share they originally agreed to?

Senator Birmingham: Because the New South Wales government is so interested in funding its schools to an equitable level—in Western Australia or Tasmania or the ACT or South Australia—then the New South Wales government or the Victorian government or the Queensland government ought to fund their schools to a contribution equal to that in Western Australia or Tasmania or the ACT or South Australia.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But that assumes that they have accepted—at least it seems the cabinet has—accepted this notion of a Commonwealth share approach to apply to the delivery of school education.

Senator Birmingham: Your argument—and it is consistent with what the Labor Party's position has been—seems to be that the federal government, the national government, should treat some states as less equal than others. Our view as a national government is that we ought to treat each of the states and territories in a consistent manner; that we ought to have a balanced funding role across the states and territories in relation to school education. That is the proposal that we put forward. Based on the experience and evidence that some jurisdictions will reach the schooling resource standard, it enables all jurisdictions to reach the schooling resource standard if they choose to do so. It is up to those jurisdictions as to whether they want to invest as much as some of their fellow states. We are simply making sure they are unable to cost-shift as we increase our share up to 20 per cent.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I have already said to you at least once, if not more, that I understand your new approach to state accountability—I do not necessarily agree with it but I do understand it—so you do not need to keep repeating it time and time again. I also understand that the Gonski review panel did not recommend this Commonwealth share approach that you seem to have managed to convince cabinet to accept. But it does have some other interesting implications, which is: does this mean that we can expect such grand policy experiments across other areas of policy delivery? What you are proposing for school education now are we going to have a similar approach out of cabinet for a common share approach to delivery of aged care or health? Are we going down this path in any other areas?

Senator Birmingham: It is a very good question, Senator Collins. In fact, I have used the example previously that in terms of hospital funding across Australia there is an efficient price mechanism that applies for different treatments in hospitals, and the Commonwealth pays 45 per cent of that efficient price consistently across states and territories around the delivery of those treatments in hospitals. It is already a precedent elsewhere; different portfolios apply different formulas for the distribution of Commonwealth funding in a consistent way across the states and territories. I think most Australians would expect it is reasonable for the federal government not to pick winners and losers amongst the states, but to actually treat the states and territories in a consistent manner.

CHAIR: Can I just say Senator Gichuhi is here with some questions and has been waiting very patiently.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Can I just finish this theme, which will not take long. It will take five minutes maximum.

CHAIR: All right. I have the timer buzzer on. Go.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The minister refers to—potentially, we will have a look at how good a precedent that one is. I am interested in what other precedents there are, and the extent to which, for example, the recommendation in the Gonski review panel around recommendation 11 applies to these issues. There, the recommendation is that the GST allocations as a result of their cooperation, which is not existent yet at this point, with the Australian government in implementing the schooling resource standard—Mr Cook, we have talked about this before. This is in relation to the non-application of horizontal fiscal equalisation. So does that apply in the minister's hospital example?

Senator Birmingham: In the hospital example, we would have to take it on notice as to how that does or does not impact on horizontal fiscal equalisation. In terms of the school funding, the recommendations that increased funding for schools not impact on HFE arrangements are in place and will continue to be in place under our proposals. I met with the Commonwealth Grants Commission as part of developing this policy. We talked about the capability and ability of different jurisdictions to be able to meet their share of the schooling resource standard, and the Commonwealth Grants Commission's view was that the way in which the distribution of federal funds, particularly GST funds, works enables states and territories, if they choose to do so, to meet a common share of the needs based schooling resource standard.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Is there any advice that you received from the Grants Commission? Can that be made available to us?

Senator Birmingham: We will take that on notice. I had quite a good meeting, for a meeting where we were discussion horizontal fiscal equalisation, with the Commonwealth Grants Commission. But I cannot recall if there was advice from them as such, but we will take it on notice.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Just in the context of that, I am interested in this because the Gonski review panel recommended that that relief should be available on the basis that essentially there were going to be differential arrangements and flexibility for states and territories. I am wondering if that factor now changes, now that you have this common share approach.

Senator Birmingham: I think the bigger point there is more the increasing investment that—obviously what was reflected upon there is that, as in other areas of government, sometimes when additional grants are provided to states or territories, they offset the funding that state or territory ends up receiving under HFE arrangements from the Commonwealth Grants Commission. So, in the context here where we are talking about the Commonwealth providing additional support, obviously the main prerequisite here is that as we give with one hand as the Commonwealth it is not taken away somewhere else. That is still the case and will remain the case in terms of school funding. As we increase the contribution to all of the states—but some of them faster than others—we do not want to see those states disadvantaged in terms of the GST allocation.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Except that in some states, such as we just covered with New South Wales, the Commonwealth share is actually going to decrease not increase.

Senator O'NEILL: Exactly.

Senator Birmingham: No. The Commonwealth share in New South Wales is still increasing from around 17½ per cent at present up to 20 per cent.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Dr Bruniges shakes her head and she is right. Under the agreement—

Dr Bruniges : I am agreeing that it will go to 20 per cent.


Dr Bruniges : Absolutely.

Senator O'NEILL: But it was to go to 22—

Senator Birmingham: From 17½ per cent.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The agreement is that it would go to 22.

Senator GICHUHI: I refer to an article in The Age that was published on 18 May this year. The article was entitled: Education department accused of whitewashing sexual abuse after editing parents' submissions. I am just wondering are you aware of this article?

Senator Birmingham: I think you are referring to the Victorian government so that would not be a matter for us. Proceed if you like with questions. The education department referred to in that article, we think, is probably the Victorian government's education department, not the department at the table here.

Senator GICHUHI: It is a Victorian question but I was just asking if there is a responsibility from a Commonwealth point of view to ensure that systems are in place. This was just an accidental happening. This matter was already discovered accidentally. I am just wondering whether the Commonwealth has any responsibility to ensure that such changes or such breaches of privacy do not occur in the overall education department? In short, I am asking: what systems does the Commonwealth department have in place for things like breaches of privacy, especially when they touch on things like bullying and sexual assault? Do you have any responsibility as a Commonwealth department over what happens in the states?

Dr Bruniges : The state and territory governments own and operate their schooling systems so the ultimate responsibility for that would reside in the state or territory. But there are very broad frameworks. I know at a national level there are often conversations, particularly around child protection issues. That has been a very big issue. There are often national conversations about child protection we see around the country. The royal commission will come out with its findings later this year. It predominantly is a state-by-state responsibility but there are avenues for national consultation and conversations around those very important issues that you raised.

Senator GICHUHI: What additional safeguards does the Commonwealth government put over whatever the state governments have to ensure that it does not happen that reports and submissions can be changed, and especially ensure that all the facts surrounding such an occurrence have been brought to the attention of the states? Is it a criminal issue to be dealt with in the criminal justice system or is it just a system issue to ensure that affected parents are dealt with in accordance with the law?

Dr Bruniges : Sometimes in different states and territories there will be different bodies of legislation for mandatory reporting. For example, I can give the case of New South Wales, where reporting is compulsory on all teachers in school settings. So there is a policy where there is no option and then the state department would write that policy to say that you need to report. There is not an option for you to take a decision not to report in instances where you think educational neglect, child sexual abuse and so forth are occurring. So they are actually, under the law, mandatory reporters. That varies somewhat from jurisdiction to jurisdiction or state and territory to state and territory so we would have to look into in particular what the state of Victoria has in its child protection and reporting requirements. That would be an issue for the state education department to have a policy, and I am sure they would. I am sure they would have a very rigorous policy around notification of those issues once they were found. But I would really need to look at the Victorian, because that is an incident we are referring to in Victoria about what their policies are. But I am happy to take it on notice and have a look to see if we can provide you some further information about the Victorian policies. They often have them on their website and have induction programs around those issues.

Senator GICHUHI: Absolutely, because I think it is not a matter of just mandatory reporting, because by the time we come to mandatory reporting we already have gone through the system. My last question on this is: given that this was a hacking of the computer system, in the information age that we are living in, where we almost are experiencing a revolution in the IT and computer age, have we set funds to retrain their staff? I know people are involved in managing the privacy of information just to make sure we are keeping one step ahead of the hackers.

Dr Bruniges : It is a very good question, and only this week, within the Commonwealth department, we actually had a staff seminar for all our SES staff on cybersecurity and what we could do in our workplace to ensure that any data that we have is indeed protected. A staff member came from the former Australian Signals Directorate and came to speak to us about what we need to do in our work practices. I am fairly sure that most state and territory governments would have similar policies, and part of the issue you have raised is that things are happening so quickly in terms of the IT environment on a range of issues. Basically I think it is referred to as 'hygiene', with the way in which you work in computer environments. It includes things like making sure that you log off and making sure that you have protected nature. There are things called firewalls in systems that protect. We have alert systems in there, and each system would have obligations under privacy acts to ensure that that information is kept. Indeed, I think the Commonwealth government most recently put in notification to the Privacy Commissioner for areas where there are things that are breaches of privacy and compulsory reporting of that. That happens at state level as well, so there would be consultation between a number of departments and information security in terms of ICT systems, as well some of the archives of hard-copy records. There is a records management act and an archival act dealing with how you store that information that may go back, for example, on stolen generation issues. My previous role was in Aboriginal affairs, and some of that documentation goes a long way back and is actually hard copy. It is about making sure they are transposed into electronic means in a very safe way.

Senator O'NEILL: Could you put on the record the difference in dollar terms between the package you have brought forward and Labor's school funding arrangements?

CHAIR: Is this your election policy?

Senator Birmingham: I am aware that Mr Shorten, in his budget reply speech, said that Labor was going to spend $22 billion extra from 2019. I have not seen any detail as to which school systems or sectors would receive that funding.

Senator O'NEILL: Going to the government's fact sheet, which you shared with journalists at the time of your announcement—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I think that might have been a different department. I think that might have the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Senator O'NEILL: Doesn't it clearly detail that there is a difference of $22.3 billion over 10 years? Are you aware of the sheet that I am referring to, Minister?

Senator Birmingham: I am aware of the sheet, Senator O'Neill, and obviously it all depends on a range of assumptions as to what would or would not have happened under a Labor government. Given the paucity of policy detail that has come after Mr Shorten's comments in his budget reply speech, I guess the aggregate figure is all we have got to rely upon.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Hold on—this sheet refers to preferred analysis. It says 'it would be misleading to say a consistent share'. Wasn't that what we have been talking about today? Oh—it is 'common share'. Is there a difference between the language about what is a common share approach as opposed to what is noted as potentially misleading and talking about a consistent share? What is the difference we are talking about here?

Senator Birmingham: I think it is the share that the Commonwealth government is moving to provide across jurisdictions of the schooling resource standard. I would say the words 'common' and 'consistent', by the time you have everybody at 20 per cent or everybody at 80 per cent, are fairly interchangeable.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But what does that note mean? What does 'misleading to say a consistent share' mean?

Senator Birmingham: I am not sure. I do not have it in front of me to understand what the context may be.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: This is one of the problems with the nature of some of the spin that has been coming out around this. It is so complex, and then we see fact sheets—

Senator Birmingham: We are trying to make it less complex. That is the whole point of the reforms.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: coming out of the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, referring to 'preferred analyses' and saying that it might be misleading to say certain things.

Mr Cook : I think it is as simple as saying that for the government sector it is a 20 per cent share and for the non-government sector it is an 80 per cent share. So they are not consistent in that sense; they are two different shares. I think it is as simple as that.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: You think it is only alluding to that?

Mr Cook : I think it is as simple as that, yes.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So then, once you take into account that factor, there should be no difference in referring to this government's common share approach, to use the ministers language, and an approach which delivers a consistent share, once you take into account the 80-20.

Mr Cook : Correct.

Senator O'NEILL: I want to talk about the department's engagement. Did the department provide that $22.3 billion figure as the difference between Labor and the government's arrangements that was in this fact sheet put out by PM&C?

Mr Cook : It would have been modelling. I am assuming that would have been part of the work we have done. I do not know what the assumptions are underneath it. For example, I do not know whether the assumption is that Queensland was participating, when in fact it was not. So I would have to take that on notice. I am sorry, but I do not know whether the assumption under there is that Queensland, WA—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Thank you for taking that on notice. It would be useful to see what assumptions built that figure, from the department's modelling end.

Senator O'NEILL: You do know that you did provide the evidence. That is clear. You gave advice to PM&C and you provided that $22.3 billion figure.

Dr Bruniges : Mr Cook said he would have to take that on notice, so we will do that.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I am sorry, I thought he took the next issue on notice.

Mr Cook : There is a range of information available through the budgeting process. Whether we provided that to Prime Minister and Cabinet or whether it was part of a budget process that they got the information from, I am not sure. I am not trying to be tricky, but I am just not sure, so I will have to take that on notice.

Senator O'NEILL: With the work you are taking on notice, could you provide a breakdown of the $22.3 billion difference between the government package and the Labor package, by year, from 2018 to 2027?

Mr Cook : I am happy to take that on notice.

Senator O'NEILL: On notice, could you also break down the $22.3 billion difference between the government package and Labor's package by each state and territory?

Mr Cook : Yes.

Senator O'NEILL: And could you break down that $22.3 billion difference between the government package and our package by public school, Catholic school, and independent school?

Mr Cook : Ours is on approved authorities, but I am happy to take that on notice, and we will see what we can do.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: When we say 'Catholic school', we are talking about systemic as opposed to independent. So you can put the Catholic independents into the independent class, if you know what I am saying.

Mr Cook : Yes.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Could I follow on from that and go back to—

CHAIR: Sorry, Senator Collins, it is 12.30, so we will suspend and recommence at 1.30.

Proceedings suspended from 12 : 29 to 13 : 29

CHAIR: We will resume with the department of education and outcome 2.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I might pick up briefly from where Senator O'Neill left off. Can I table the document that she was referring to, Chair, which is a fact sheet provided to journalists—I think it was by the PMO rather than by PM&C, as I believed.

CHAIR: Sure.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Can I confirm the accuracy of the second sub dot point to the first dot point on that, which says:

Compared to Labor's arrangements, this represents a savings of $6.3 billion over 4 years (2018 to 2021) and $22.3 billion over 10 years (2018 to 2027).

Is that statement accurate?

Senator Birmingham: I assume so. It all depends on a bunch of assumptions you might make about Labor's arrangements.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: This is not Labor's document; this is a PMO document. So you accept that that is accurate?

Senator Birmingham: I have not contested the argument when it has been put to me.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Sorry, Minister, what does that mean? You accept that it is accurate?

Senator Birmingham: The figure has been variously used and thrown around in discussion since. The government is clear that it is investing an extra $18.6 billion. It is for the Labor Party to draw its conclusions about its policies.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, I am not drawing Labor's conclusions here. I am asking you about a point made in a document circulated from the Prime Minister's office that:

Compared to Labor's arrangements, this represents a savings of $6.3 billion over 4 years (2018 to 2021) and $22.3 billion over 10 years (2018 to 2027).

Is that not accurate?

Senator Birmingham: I said before that I assume it is accurate based on assumptions around the special deals and various treatments that the Labor Party had put in place.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, you are talking about Labor's arrangements based on existing arrangements.

Senator Birmingham: On the 27 different special arrangements and dirty deals that I think we have been through—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Oh, you are repeating that language, are you!

Senator Birmingham: however one might describe these things.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I really do not know how you can get on your high horse about supposed intemperate language when you are the one who has commenced with it. You cannot sit there and say, 'I am Mr Policy Pure, but everyone else got special deals and—

Senator Birmingham: I do not know that I have got a high horse about any intemperate language. You can use whatever language you want, Senator Collins. I have got fairly thick skin.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I do not intend to use language like that. I do not intend to accuse—

Senator PATERSON: Do not get on your high horse, Senator Collins!

CHAIR: All right, everyone, get off your ponies—

Senator Birmingham: Touche, Senator Paterson!

CHAIR: and let's return to the document at hand.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I am happy to move on from that document. I have got some other questions in another area. There was an area I was hoping to cover off on just before lunch, when we are looking at the proportions of the SRS. We got to the New South Wales figures for 2019, and the figures that we were talking about prior to that—what year were they, sorry? Were they 2017? The WA/Tas/ACT figures are all 2017?

Senator Birmingham: Yes, those are the broad terms that we were referring to. Should those jurisdictions be putting more in next year, then that would obviously increase it further.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Could I have the 2019 figures for Victoria? We went through the example of the New South Wales agreement. Let us just leave it at Victoria for the moment. Where would Victoria get to in 2019 under their agreement?

Senator Birmingham: Assuming what? The Victorian government has not confirmed what their funding—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: We were assuming when we were looking at New South Wales that they were meeting what they agreed to meet. We got to the example in New South Wales where they would get to 73.1 per cent New South Wales share and the Commonwealth share would be at 22.1.

Senator Birmingham: The New South Wales government has given firm commitments about what it is doing over the next couple of years; the Victorian government has not.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Has not confirmed—what was the original plan?

Senator Birmingham: Assuming Victoria—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Met its original commitments.

Senator Birmingham: did that which it has not confirmed it would not do.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes. Where does it get them to in 2019?

Mr Cook : It would be 89 per cent.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It gets them to 89 per cent, broken up in what shares?

Mr Cook : Sorry, 92 per cent for Victoria, 89.3 per cent for the government sector, 98.2 per cent for the Catholic sector and 98.4 per cent for the independent sector.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Break up the sector by Commonwealth-state, please.

Mr Cook : Just to be clear, this is 2013 data. These are the agreements made in 2013: Commonwealth government share to Victoria, 24.7; to Catholic, 75; to the independent, 75.9.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I want to explore some issues around the Northern Territory in this context.

Senator Birmingham: Sorry, I want to double-check there. That means the government sector contribution in Victoria was assumed to be around 64 per cent of the Schooling Resource Standard.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is an interesting point. Oh, we are talking about different dollars. That makes sense to me.

Mr Cook : Victoria was the only state that agreed to meet a lower share under the previous government. Everyone else agreed to get to 95 per cent; Victoria agreed to get to 92 per cent, and a lower share for the government sector nationally as well.

Senator PATERSON: Just to clarify, what is the Commonwealth's share of funding to WA?

Mr Cook : Under the previous arrangements the Commonwealth share to WA in 2019 would have been 14.9 per cent.

Senator PATERSON: And under the new arrangements?

Mr Cook : The aim for 2027 would be 20 per cent.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The Northern Territory is getting a 1.3 per cent a year increase in funding under this proposal. Which government school system has the highest concentration of disadvantage?

Senator Birmingham: The dollar figures received by a school system under the consistent application of this model—if we look at the projections out to 2027, where each system would be receiving 20 per cent of the Schooling Resource Standard—are a good reflection of need, including Indigeneity, and the Northern Territory would receive $7,369 per student. The next closest jurisdiction is $4,755 per student, so the Northern Territory clearly indicates the highest level of need when the model is fully implemented by 2027.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I am not asking in relation to the model, other than making the point that they get a 1.3 per cent increase across it. My point, which I think you have confirmed after everything else you just said, is the Northern Territory has the highest concentration of disadvantage.

Senator Birmingham: The Northern Territory has the highest concentration of disadvantage and therefore attracts funding per student far higher than any other jurisdiction.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Can you confirm that the average annual increase for Northern Territory government schools is below inflation?

Senator Birmingham: We have been through that before.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Sorry, where have we been through this before?

Senator Birmingham: Applying 20 per cent of the Schooling Resource Standard on needs based over a period of time which results in that level of indexation still delivers to the Northern Territory far and away the highest per student funding, above any other jurisdiction. We have already talked about some of the additional funding available for the Northern Territory.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: You are in that context talking about Commonwealth share.

Senator Birmingham: That is right.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Which is very different when you look at total share.

Senator Birmingham: Yes, although in actual dollars invested across any system, even with a lower share paid by the NT government, the Territory still sees far higher per-student investment than any other jurisdiction, because a far higher Schooling Resource Standard is calculated,.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, but that is on your common share approach. We are looking at the implications for the Northern Territory in this case, particularly the government school sector, which will not even receive Commonwealth funding sufficient to keep up with the cost of inflation, unless you look at the special additional measures. How many teachers do you estimate they will have to cut to make up for the shortfall in funding?

Senator Birmingham: We are providing funding to ensure that would not be necessary. The Northern Territory itself is also the larger provider of funding into its system, and therefore their funding determinations will determine their staffing arrangements and other resource allocations.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: You are suggesting, then, that the additional funding available will meet the difference between CPI and the 1.3 per cent, so there will not need to be cuts in teaching staff. Is that your assurance to the Northern Territory?

Senator Birmingham: Yes.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is one of the jobs of the additional $70 million we were talking about?

Senator Birmingham: Correct.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: What indexation measure will it meet the difference between? Will it be CPI? Will it be your new hybrid indexation arrangement? What is the commitment?

Senator Birmingham: It is 3.3 per cent.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: For how long?

Senator Birmingham: It is over the initial four years and subject to discussion beyond that.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: . Where does that figure come from?

Mr Cook : That is the figure with the additionality the Northern Territory is getting through the model and through the $36 million adjustment fund we mentioned before. That is what the growth is: 3.3 per cent.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: We know that their increase is expected to be just 1.3 per cent.

Mr Cook : Through the model, yes.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The minister has assured the Northern Territory government schools that they will be topped up to 3.3 per cent. Is that correct?

Mr Cook : Yes.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: What does that notional 3.3 per cent figure represent, if not CPI?

Mr Cook : The 3.3 is the long term projection of combined Wage Price Index and CPI.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It is the new indexation figure.

Mr Cook : That is right.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That was my question earlier.

CHAIR: Which is what, Mr Cook?

Mr Cook : It is 3.3 per cent.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Over the first four years.

Mr Cook : That is correct.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Does the indexation floor commitment apply beyond that as well? Will they get at least three per cent across the 10?

Senator Birmingham: The indexation floor is a floor in the way in which the schooling resource standard based funding is indexed.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So that is not relevant for this question.

Senator Birmingham: No; that is right.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: You have made no commitment beyond four years, is essentially the case. You will have further discussions about what will apply for the Northern Territory beyond four—is that right?

Senator Birmingham: That is right.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I want to go to the issue of the indexation of the SRS. Could you give us an indication of how much moving to the floating indexation rate in 2018, 2019 and 2020 would cost? Is that something you can model easily?

Senator Birmingham: So you mean: in terms of the way in which the schooling resource standard is indexed—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes.

Senator Birmingham: if, instead of guaranteeing—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Having a fixed rate—

Senator Birmingham: the fixed rate of 3.56 per cent for the next three years, we applied the floating indexation that is proposed for beyond 2021?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes.

Senator Birmingham: Your question was how much it would cost. I think, if we did the formula at present—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Or what the funding difference would be.

Senator Birmingham: Right. Yes, because it would probably be a saving based on a lower rate of indexation, I suspect, without the fixed rate in place. Do you want to know if the formula was used in its purest sense or the floor of three per cent that we have put in the legislation were applied?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: No. You would have to have the floor in there.

Senator Birmingham: Mr Cook, you might need to clarify further.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So you have got the fixed period for now and then you go to the floating with the floor, right?

Mr Cook : That is right.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What I want to know is: what would be the difference if you brought the—

Mr Cook : Floating floor?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: floating marker earlier?

Mr Cook : With the floor?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: With the floor, yes.

Mr Cook : So three per cent versus 3.56 over three years is basically the question—yes?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Well—

Mr Cook : The floating in '18, '19 and '20 would be lower than three per cent.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Why is that?

Mr Cook : Because of the Wage Price Index and the calculations that we do based on latest data. So the Wage Price Index is—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So you are saying actually it would be—

Mr Cook : It would be much lower than three per cent.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Could you give us those figures, as to what that difference would be?

Mr Cook : I would be happy to do that. So both the floating and taking the floating off—yes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you. Can I ask you about the rationale around the three per cent floor? Why three per cent? Why did you choose that as the floor as opposed to 2.75 or 3.2?

Mr Cook : That was a government decision.

Senator Birmingham: Feedback from stakeholders was of a concern about a degree of uncertainty in having a fully floated indexation formula, in terms of planning for the future, and stakeholder suggestions included putting in place a floor. The three per cent figure in essence made sense because it was a still generous enough floor without being above historical averages or projections, in terms of what wages and inflation growth actually would be. But it also made sense because under the current act there are three minimum indexation rates that are applied in different circumstances and the floor indexation rate under the current act is three per cent for schools. So, as an established floor in a sense, it seemed logical to transition it across.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: There is a provision in the legislation for ministerial discretion to change the indexation by regs. Why do we need that? Why do you think that is important? If parliament accepts that there is a floor and the rest of it floats, why would we need ministerial intervention?

Senator Birmingham: The secretary and Mr Cook may have other points to add. I would make a couple of points there. One point is that, in talking about the adjustment assistance to the likes of the Northern Territory, this is the mechanism or means by which that additional funding can be provided. So it has a practical application there. The other point is that, in essence, our legislation seeks to put in place a floor, if you like, around government contributions to schooling; it does not prevent this or future governments from coming along and, within the model that has been applied, saying we are going to apply additionality.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: As in extra money—

Senator Birmingham: Extra money, that's right—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: or a higher growth rate?

Senator Birmingham: That's right, increase funding. There are a range of different ways in which a future government could do so. In essence, we have been very conscious to safeguard funding for schools, at a growing record but guaranteed minimum level, to make sure that is embedded in the arrangements in the act, rather than in any different deals or otherwise, so that there is legislative certainty around it. Otherwise, it would then not constrain the capacity of future governments to invest more if they chose to do so. Is there anything else?

Dr Bruniges : That's about it. In essence, getting the model right is critically important. Irrespective of the quantum of money that you put through the algorithm, getting that balance right and getting it in legislation will set the model; and, subsequently, choosing to put more money through the model will guarantee the distribution on a needs basis.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So your explanation of the way it is set up is that, if there was a desire to pour more money in at a later date, that could happen quite simply without throwing out any of the needs-based model or the quirks of the current system?

Mr Cook : That is correct.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: And with that ministerial discretion being through regulation, will it be disallowable?

Mr Cook : Through regulation, I anticipate that it would be.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So it is a disallowable instrument. On the basis that the ministerial discretion is there, and if there is a floor of three per cent in the legislation, does that allow for the indexation rate to be reduced below three per cent or is the minister discretion purely above the floor? Does that make sense?

Mr Cook : Yes.

Dr Bruniges : The floor is the floor. Alex?

Ms Gordon : The floor applies to the composite indexation rate, the floating indexation rate, and that is where the floor the set. The ministerial discretion is a separate provision and is subject to parliamentary oversight through a disallowable instrument.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So the ministerial discretion is not in relation to the indexation of the SRS, it is in relation to—

Ms Gordon : This is all about the indexation of the SRS. In the absence of a regulation the SRS indexation factor is determined as the composite floating indexation rate and that is where the floor set. The separate provision, which overrides the composite indexation rate, is essentially under regulation, which is the disallowable instrument.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So you could have a scenario where the minister chooses to introduce a regulation that sets the indexation rate at 2.5 per cent and that would override the floor of three per cent?

Ms Gordon : As currently drafted, the bill would allow for that. It would only be if the regulation is not disallowed by the parliament.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you. That clarifies it for me. Why did you choose 10 years as the length of time for the package? Was that based purely on budgetary constraints? What kind of evidence or modelling allowed you to come up with a 10-year plan rather than a five-year plan?

Senator Birmingham: As you would expect, through policy consultations and budget analysis a lot of different permutations and options were contemplated. The landing point, at 10 years, was a reflection that current provisions of the act provide that, where people are transitioning, if indeed transition ever really occurs, it might drag out for around 150 years in some instances. We wanted to make sure it was going to be a much tighter time frame them that. Equally, we wanted to minimise the scale of disruption of transition. A 10-year time frame seemed to provide the capacity to have the least number of schools losing funding in either nominal or real terms whilst they were fairly transitioned to the common share of the schooling resource standard. As always, there were budgetary considerations about what rate of growth could affordably be delivered. When all of those factors were brought together, this model, which provides in excess of five per cent per student growth across government schools, was the one that the government thought best balanced all of the competing interests.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What is the additional cost of implementing this plan as opposed to the status quo over that 10-year period, as opposed to just leaving things where they are and, in 10 years time, whichever schools are at the current SRS level are there and those which are not are not?

Senator Birmingham: The cost of this plan is relative to the legislation as it stands full stop. Your earlier questions about what certain sectors, systems or governments would receive obviously impinge upon what you would say the cost is. Over the 10-year horizon, we have increased the budget projections from last year to this year by around $18.6 billion. Mr Cook gave evidence to this committee that the government could have managed to work within last year's budget allocation and still comply with the terms of the act. In that sense, there are some policy decisions for government about how it would index non-participating jurisdictions under the existing legislation. Were our reforms not to get through, we would have to consider exactly what those indexation arrangements might look like. What is clear is that the states will all variously receive more under what we are proposing than even the maximum rate of indexation under the current act.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are you are saying that you cannot give a definite figure because you are going from a different baseline?

Senator Birmingham: We could expend all of this year's budget under the current act, but that still would not be sufficient to bring all of the non-participating states up to the 4.7 per cent indexation, so they would be getting less than that. Last year we could have equally worked within that budget proposition at the time and, of course, those non-participating states would have got even less again. By making some of the changes we are within the model and by transitioning in the way we are proposing, we provide a faster rate of growth for those government sectors than even the maximum allowed under the act.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What would be the additional savings from reducing the overfunded schools if you shortened the time frame? Have you modelled that, or have you only done it based on 10 years?

Senator Birmingham: Budget deliberations considered a range of scenarios. Even your question, I guess, depends on which schools you are seeking to capture there so, if you were only seeking to bring the 24 into a common share in a shorter time frame, that would bring one degree of saving. But there are around 350 non-government schools that are indexed over the life of the proposal below the SRS indexation rate, so they equally are transitioning towards that 80 per cent share as well. That is a long way of saying that, if you want to put a precise question, we would probably have to take it on notice and see what we can come up with.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I will.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Just on this issue, what distinguishes the 24 from the 350? Where have you drawn that line currently?

Mr Cook : The 24 are receiving reducing Commonwealth dollars. The remaining ones have increased Commonwealth dollars, but just not as high as 3.56 per cent in the first three years.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I understand that element, but I am trying to understand what distinguishes the 24 from the 350. How have you determined who the 24 are?

Senator Birmingham: They are starting at a much higher Commonwealth share of their schooling resource standard, so they have a greater transition to come down to the 80 per cent.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Where have you drawn the line, though? What percentage above is it?

Senator Birmingham: It is a function of the maths.

Mr Cook : There is not a line as such; it is depending on wherever they are. The combination of indexation growth plus their first step of coming down to the 80 per cent or the 20 per cent—80 per cent in this case, because they are all non-government schools. That combination results in that school receiving a reduction in Commonwealth dollars, so only the 24 schools that we are talking about in the first four years are actually experiencing a reduction, as in negative dollar grown. All the other 300-and-whatever number I should be saying—312 schools, or something—are actually receiving an increase in Commonwealth dollar growth, year on year.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So the distinction is basically the result of the formula as it is currently designed?

Mr Cook : That is right.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It is not about their particular characteristics, other than the combination of those two factors.

Senator Birmingham: That is right. If you think about a school that is currently getting 81 or 82 per cent of the SRS from the Commonwealth, it only has one or two per cent of that share to shed over a 10-year horizon. The 3.56 per cent indexation means that their quantum of funding is growing faster than the reduction of share that they are losing, whereas—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Can you tell me where that point is, though? Can you tell me it is at 85 per cent, or—at what point does that counterbalance then put 24 schools into the negative?

Mr Cook : It would depend on each individual school's resource standard itself.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So it will depend on what state they are in, and other issues.

Mr Cook : Absolutely—all sorts of things. As you know, some schools are 168 per cent of the SRS currently and some are 50 per cent of the SRS currently. There will be 9,500 SRS schools that we look at.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: To give you the specifics of what to take on notice, I would like to know what the additional savings would be from reducing the overfunding to the 24, but, also, if there were a reduction in the growth rate for those extra 350 schools. What would the additional savings on the budget be if that were implemented in four, six, or seven years?

Mr Cook : Four, six and seven?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Maybe we should put five in there, too.

Mr Cook : Four, five, six and seven.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Leading on from that, once you have done that the other question I would like the answer to is what the rate of indexation would be for the different sectors under that model, because obviously those averages would change. I imagine that if you have to do that model you will be able to get this—it is not that hard. Is that right?

Mr Cook : That is correct.

Dr Bruniges : It is slightly different for four, five, six and seven, depending on that slope.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Exactly. Thank you. If we simply moved the government schools up to their 20 per cent benchmark in half the amount of time—five years, say—would you be able to calculate for us how much that would cost and what the average indexation rate would be over that time?

Mr Cook : At a state level?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: At a state level.

Senator RICE: To change topics, I am looking at page 29, budget paper No. 3, table 2.5 and note that, as expected, there is not a budget line for Safe Schools. Is that correct?

Senator Birmingham: That is correct.

Senator RICE: So Safe Schools is not going to be getting any further funding from this government, beyond June this year?

Senator Birmingham: That is correct, as was indicated some time in the first half of last year.

Senator RICE: The funding ended basically because a decision was made not to renew it?

Senator Birmingham: The contract with The Foundation for Young Australians comes to an end and, as was made clear early last year, we will make all of the resources available as part of the Student Wellbeing Hub. They continue to be available to states and territories to utilise as those states and territories deem appropriate, with their school communities and parents, according to their policies.

Senator RICE: You made a decision not to renew the funding?

Senator Birmingham: The contract came to an end and, yes, we made a decision that was publicly early last year that we would not be renewing the contract if the proposal came forward.

Senator RICE: Looking at the National School Chaplaincy Program, in the same table, that funding is currently due to end by 30 June next year.

Senator Birmingham: Yes.

Senator RICE: Will that also be the end of the School Chaplaincy Program?

Senator Birmingham: No decision has been made yet.

Senator RICE: So the School Chaplaincy Program may get another round of funding?

Senator Birmingham: As I said, no decision has been made and there have been no budget discussions in that regard.

Senator RICE: Have you had any discussions or negotiations with state governments or other stakeholders about funding for chaplains beyond June next year?

Senator Birmingham: I have had a couple of stakeholder groups come to me over the course of the last year at various times to make their proposals.

Senator RICE: Do you expect that the school chaplaincy funding will indeed be renewed?

Senator Birmingham: That is a matter for budget deliberations next year.

Senator RICE: When will you make the decision as to whether the School Chaplaincy Program is going to be continued?

Senator Birmingham: I would anticipate it would be ordained in the budget context next year—so by next year's budget.

Senator RICE: Do you expect that there will be other advocacy and lobbying to get a decision on the School Chaplaincy Program well before then?

Senator Birmingham: As a minister, I have become incredibly used to lots of advocacy and lobbying in lots of different directions. Yes, I anticipate advocacy and lobbying on just about anything that is in the budget or could be in the budget.

Senator RICE: You would not share with us whether you consider the mood of the government at this stage would be to renew the School Chaplaincy Program or not?

Senator Birmingham: That is a matter for budget deliberations. Not only would it be inappropriate for me to try to guess the thinking of the Expenditure Review Committee of cabinet, it would also be rather courageous of me to seek to guess what the ERC might think at a given point in time.

Senator RICE: But it is certainly an open question, and there is a possibility of its being renewed, unlike the situation we are in with the Safe Schools program.

Senator Birmingham: It has not been the subject of any decision or discussion to date.

Senator O'NEILL: Minister, I will go to the matter of correspondence and the critical role that timely correspondence between the government and the opposition plays in the trust that keeps the parliament working and in the capacity for scrutiny. In that context, I will check first that you have received and are aware of the letter from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and shadow minister for education and training, Tanya Plibersek, dated 18 May.

Senator Birmingham: If it is the letter I am thinking of, then, yes.

Senator O'NEILL: Do you have a copy of it?

Senator Birmingham: No.

Senator O'NEILL: Does the department have a copy of that letter?

Mr Cook : Present here? No.

CHAIR: Do you have a copy?

Senator O'NEILL: Yes. Would you like to have a copy of the letter.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Could I have it tabled for the rest of the committee, please, Chair.

CHAIR: I will just have a look at it, first.

Senator O'NEILL: While we are waiting for the letter to return, do you have policies around the timeliness of response to letters? Do you have a triaging system, for want of a better term, to indicate: 'This is a very important letter and it really deserves a response within 24 hours.'?

Senator Birmingham: Yes., my office receives a lot of correspondence and it seeks to respond to it in a timely manner and, yes, recognising that, obviously, some pieces of correspondence are obviously more time critical than others.

Senator O'NEILL: Would a letter from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and shadow minister for the portfolio you represent trigger alarm bells to your office, saying, 'This is pretty serious. We'd actually better pay attention and give this a response. It deserves respect.'

Senator Birmingham: I would like to think that everybody who takes the time to write to us deserves respect, if it is a respectful letter that we have received—there is the odd bit of abuse that perhaps is less respectful—so we try to handle it in an appropriate way. I see this letter is dated 12 days ago. I am not sure exactly when it was received in my office, but I am sure we have been having a look at it. It seems to ask for a lot of information.

Senator O'NEILL: It asks for information that is pretty critical to a discussion that is very alive in the community at the moment. Minister, I think it is a standard that would be expected that if a letter of the import of a letter from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition arrives you would deal with it in a timely way, which would certainly not be leaving it as it is. Why have you not replied to the shadow minister's letter dated 18 May requesting information specifically on the Australian Education Amendment Bill 2017 and the letter that has been provided to the chair of this committee?

Senator Birmingham: I think subsequent to receipt of this letter from Ms Plibersek my office and department have met with Ms Plibersek to provide a briefing and information in relation to the government's proposals.

Senator O'NEILL: When people ask you to respond to correspondence, do you routinely send them to the department for a consultation? Do you just ignore correspondence?

CHAIR: Senator, if you read the first line it says 'I note the department will be briefing me.'

Senator O'NEILL: Yes, but it still requires a response. It was a letter awaiting response.

Senator Birmingham: No, I do not dispatch the department to undertake personalised briefings, or my office to undertake personalised briefings, with every person who writes to me but the Deputy Leader of the Opposition commands sufficient respect to receive personal briefings.

Senator O'NEILL: But not to receive a letter in response?

Senator Birmingham: I would have thought a personal briefing was a higher level of respect than simply a letter of response.

Senator O'NEILL: So many words. When will the information be provided in writing? When will you answer the letter?

Senator Birmingham: I will take that on notice. I will review the letter and the information that has been provided to date. I think we did go through an element of this in estimates last night in relation to higher education reform. I again note that the opposition's position even more so on the schools legislation appears to be simply to vote against it. So, yes, I appreciate that there is a request for information—it is obviously not a request that has been made in good faith in terms of seeking to consider the legislation with an open mind.

Senator O'NEILL: You go about saying that you want support for the bill, but you do not share the information about what each school system will receive. Why have you not responded to that? You just had to provide some serious but accessible information—surely you have that information about what each school and each system will receive.

Senator Birmingham: We would have to work our way through all of that. I will have to consider what information was provided at the private briefing that might still be outstanding. I note that 18 May, when this letter was dated, was well after the opposition had declared its position in relation to this legislation. To that extent, obviously you had already closed your mind to supporting it before writing this letter—

Senator O'NEILL: Are you just saying that you are the minister but you have no power of persuasion; you have no skill in providing details of the implementation for interrogation?

Senator Birmingham: If this letter represents a reopening of the opposition's position in relation to the Turnbull government's implementation of needs based school funding, then I will happily engage, enthusiastically.

Senator O'NEILL: This committee is investigating this bill. How can it be giving—

CHAIR: No, no, no. Just to clarify, we obviously cannot go to the provisions of the bill in estimates but you are welcome to tomorrow.

Senator O'NEILL: But the proper consideration of the bill is live at the moment. How can the committee give it its proper consideration if the details have not been provided?

Senator Birmingham: Senator O'Neill, we have been sitting here all day long providing detail.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Related to that, then, can I ask about a letter dated 24 May requesting that certain information be made available, so essentially giving advanced notice to the department, covering a range of similar matters that were outstanding from the briefing provided to the deputy leader. When can I anticipate the material I sought in that letter?

Senator Birmingham: So this is the letter of 24 May to the committee?


Senator Birmingham: We will go through each of those points, if you like.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I was hoping that that information would be available to me first thing. It is usually the department's response to such requests.

Senator Birmingham: I think the department has sought to prepare some information for the committee.

Dr Bruniges : Yes, we have, so I am happy to go through that now.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Is it something that you can give me in writing that I do not need to—

Dr Bruniges : Yes, I can take that on notice and give it to you in writing.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That would be more useful. We may end up covering some elements of that. How long do you think it would take to give it to me in writing during the course of the day?

Dr Bruniges : I shall undertake to do it is soon as I can.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I just do not want it done on notice.

Dr Bruniges : Let me take it away. We have prepared some. We are happy to answer as many questions as we can today, and then I shall go back and reflect on how much more we need to do in order to complete the request.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: What I would prefer, since I put this request with advance notice, is that you provide me with the answer to those questions. To some extent, we might cover some of that territory in my other questions, since I have not received the advance information I sought. But, to the extent that I do not get the opportunity today, I would still like to hope that during the course of today I will receive an answer to that request for information. Is that feasible?

Dr Bruniges : We will do our very best, Senator.

Senator O'NEILL: Do you have a draft copy of the letter prepared?

Dr Bruniges : I have the letter here that was just tabled.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is my letter.

Senator O'NEILL: You do not have a draft copy of a letter prepared that you could table today?

Dr Bruniges : No, I do not have a draft letter prepared for the information to go back.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Earlier, we were covering the circumstances around the adverse consequences for the Northern Territory of applying this Commonwealth common share approach. We now understand that there is a special adjustment fund to deal with those irregularities. What other irregularities are you anticipating? I think we have discovered that the ACT was the other one that has already been identified.

Dr Bruniges : That is correct. I think Mr Cook's evidence before talked about the ACT and the Northern Territory being the two places where we needed a transition strategy back to the 20 per cent Commonwealth share, and the reason we put some assistance in was to make sure that occurred.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Where else do you anticipate there will be calls on the adjustment fund at this point in time?

Mr Cook : The schools that are eligible to apply the adjustment fund are those schools that are receiving a reduction in Commonwealth funding year on year. So it is the 24 schools we have been talking about over those first four years.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Really.

Senator O'NEILL: They are eligible.

Mr Cook : Yes, and they have been notified of that.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So the 24 overfunded schools that are to lose money—

Mr Cook : Everyone is eligible. Whether they get it or not is another question. We are working with the independent sector as to what the criteria are for that.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Really. You cannot tell us what the criteria are now?

Mr Cook : The criteria are being consulted on, so we are being very open about the criteria.

Senator Birmingham: And we have also been very open that—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So what is that factor worth?

Mr Cook : Sorry?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: What is the factor worth?

Mr Cook : 'What is the factor worth?'—I am sorry, I do not understand what you mean.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: What is the value of the cuts to the 24 'overfunded' schools? How much is that worth to the budget?

Mr Cook : 'What is the value of the cuts'.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: What quantum in funds are we talking about that those schools have lost that they may apply to the adjustment fund to repair?

Mr Cook : I will have to take that on notice. Again, not every school is necessarily going to be successful. Those criteria are the criteria that have to be agreed with the nongovernment sector. And we have a discussion paper in relation to that with the nongovernment sector as to what the criteria will be.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: This is a very interesting new area. The minister complains, for example, that—

Senator Birmingham: It is not a new area. The government was clear from day one that there would be some transitional assistance available. We have said that publicly before.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, but we did not understand previously exactly what you were saying about who that would apply to in this sense.

Senator Birmingham: I think at the very first press conference I indicated that it was applicable in the instances of some of these schools.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Some of them. So what do we mean when we say 'some of them'?

Dr Bruniges : That would depend on the final criteria.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That have not yet been determined.

Senator Birmingham: The types of factors that are being considered and that we have been discussing are that schools where the level of income received from the Commonwealth is a relatively minor part of their revenue stream—that is, they have very large private income sources, largely from parental fees—are unlikely to be eligible for any transitional assistance. That is exactly how we draw the lines we are looking to set. But, of course, we will be mindful in looking at individual school factors that might apply in terms of the debt level that a school may have at this particular point in time. They are some of the factors that we have invited schools and their representatives to provide feedback on. We are not at all stepping away from the proposition that these schools will transition to the lower share of funding, but if there is an argument or a justification over the space of the next couple of years to assist in terms of how they undertake that transition to receiving lower levels of funding, if they are financially vulnerable in some way, then of course we will work constructively with them.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Will it only apply to individual schools or will it apply to non-government systems such as Lutheran schools?

Senator Birmingham: There are no system authorities who are going backwards. We have already covered or discussed in part separate funding to look at the ACT Catholic system, but, otherwise, all system authorities see strong growth.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So this will only apply to schools that are going backwards. It will not apply to the 350 that will have decreased indexation. Is that correct?

Senator Birmingham: Correct.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: If those parameters change, then the call on the adjustment fund may indeed change.

Senator Birmingham: If what parameters change?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The sorts of parameters you were talking to Senator Hanson-Young about earlier—how many schools are in the class of going into negative growth according to the parameters that we were discussing earlier: the time frame and where they are in relation to their current position. If any of those factors change, then the call on this fund may change.

Senator Birmingham: They would be hypothetical scenarios. Obviously the government is presenting its proposal, which is the 10-year transition terms.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Looking at the discussion we were having earlier about the SRS shares—and again presuming states hold their SRS share constant, as per what is required in the bill—what proportion of non-government schools will reach their full SRS entitlement of 95 per cent in 2027?

Senator Birmingham: Their entitlement is 80 per cent under our proposal.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, I know, and I said, 'assuming' that states hold their current share, what proportion of non-government schools will reach their full SRS entitlement in 2027 or will be, indeed, above their full SRS entitlement?

Mr Cook : We would have to take that on notice. The 3,000 or so non-government schools in Australia—I cannot calculate that in my head at the moment.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: We will get to that. While I am on this issue, there is a question I was going to deal with earlier, but I will come to it now. Do you have a copy of the Gonski review report?

Mr Cook : At the table, yes, we do.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I take you to page XXIII and recommendation 11 there. I am just making sure I have the right one here. I will come back to this issue later. I think my notes are a bit at cross-purposes on this one. I will revisit that as we go along.

Senator O'NEILL: I will go back to the letter that we were discussing and its interaction with the briefing that was given to the shadow minister. Your direction was to ask the department to meet with Ms Plibersek.

Senator Birmingham: Ms Plibersek's letter acknowledges that a briefing had been arranged at the time of the signing of that letter so the department and my office were engaged in briefing the shadow minister.

Senator O'NEILL: Did you direct the department to prepare material to answer each of the points that were raised in the letter?

Senator Birmingham: No, I do not believe I directed the department at all, aside from providing a general briefing on the bills and the proposals.

Senator O'NEILL: That was your direction to the department: a general briefing?

Senator Birmingham: I do not think there were particularly prescriptive directions provided at all in that regard.

Senator O'NEILL: Did you provide a copy of the letter to Dr Bruniges—you worked hard for that title; I will make sure I remember it!

Dr Bruniges : I think I was copied into the letter on the Monday.

Senator O'NEILL: In your preparation for the briefing—

Dr Bruniges : The briefing was on the Monday.

Senator O'NEILL: was your expectation that you would be able to—

Dr Bruniges : Sorry, Senator, could I correct that?

Senator O'NEILL: Yes.

Dr Bruniges : I got it late on Friday afternoon.

Senator O'NEILL: Which was what date?

Dr Bruniges : It would have been the Friday before the Monday.

Senator Birmingham: Friday, 19 May.

Mr Cook : Friday, 19 May is right.

Senator O'NEILL: When you received the letter and you were going to brief the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, did you prepare to respond to each of the items that were clearly indicated in the dot points in that letter?

Dr Bruniges : No, I personally did not. I think I recall a letter coming around 5 o'clock on the Friday. I was aware that the briefing was on the Monday, and I think Ms Gordon was part of the briefing on the Monday.

Senator O'NEILL: In your preparation, did you prepare material to address each of the items in the letter?

Mr Cook : I certainly went to the meeting prepared to discuss each of the different issues that were raised in the letter—that is correct.

Senator O'NEILL: Did you provide any detailed material?

Mr Cook : Not at the meeting. We talked through a number of things and provided a copy of one of the reports on the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability. I think I provided a hard copy of that to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition at the meeting.

Senator O'NEILL: I am having trouble understanding the point of a general briefing when clearly specific information was requested.

Dr Bruniges : The meeting was essentially for the Deputy Leader of the Opposition and also the junior minister was there. They both asked quite detailed questions so it was a very detailed discussion that was had on a number of different issues that they clearly had questions on. We went prepared to respond to the questions that they had.

Senator O'NEILL: You 'went' or you 'were not'?

Dr Bruniges : We went to the meeting. I was the department representative and I was accompanied by two people.

Senator O'NEILL: Were you prepared to answer each of the dot points?

Dr Bruniges : There were a number where I was unable to provide the information. It was not publicly available information so I was not at liberty to release it, but we certainly went to the issues related to the questions that were asked and talked about—

Senator O'NEILL: So you discussed the issues but there is material that was requested here that is quite specific that you did not provide. It is my understanding that you promised that the minister would respond, is that correct?

Ms Gordon : The minister's office was at the meeting. I did not make any undertakings in that regard.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: For the information that is not publicly available, is that, essentially, information that informs the FET?

Mr Cook : Some of the information might be COAG Education Council information, I anticipate, in some of those requests.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Or relevant to this request—

Mr Cook : Yes, which is the usual practice.

Senator Birmingham: We will respond to Ms Plibersek's letter. Obviously, some information has been publicly released through this estimates process, but we will do a bit of an analysis against what has been provided already, what has been publicly released and, equally, what may be held in confidence by the Education Council that might require a different process for the release of information.

Senator O'NEILL: The letter is pretty straightforward. You can make sure that the response—when will that happen? When will it come?

Senator Birmingham: I will make sure that we try to get to it as soon as we can.

Senator O'NEILL: Will it be tomorrow?

Senator Birmingham: You well know that I am here until 11 o'clock tonight.

Senator O'NEILL: I am not assuming that you are going to be writing it by yourself. You have a whole department.

Senator Birmingham: Most of the department's senior officials are here, if we need to source information, data and so on as well, until 11 o'clock tonight. We will get to it. I am, of course, not expecting that a miracle will occur and whatever we provide will change the opposition's stubborn opposition to these reforms, but we are happy to do our best to answer the questions.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: While we are on this point of this stubborn opposition, whilst that is—in inverted commas—quoting the minister, Chair, the opposition has already indicated that we will accept the changes to the 24 schools, essentially. Some of this information—

Senator Birmingham: Just the 24? I am not entirely clear on what the opposition's position is.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Maybe you are not clear because you are not providing information. That is the point.

CHAIR: Cherry picking—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, he has been. Thank you—that is the other one.

CHAIR: No, I was talking about the opposition.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: What is the opposition cherry picking from? We are not in government. We do not have access to the information.

CHAIR: I really do not need to remember that I am the Chair.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Exactly. I would like to go back to the discussion we were having at the outset about the accuracy of information that has been provided to schools. There have been reports that the department has provided schools with inaccurate information. Does the department accept that that has occurred, at least in some instances?

Mr Cook : There was one case, which we discovered after we had sent letters. They actually relate to the 24 schools. We gave a figure that was a four-year figure and it should have been a 10-year figure. We contacted those schools immediately. It was as soon as we found that out—the next day. We spoke to those schools personally. We also then resent them a letter with the correct figures and then we gave more detail to those schools as to what that looks like over 10 years for them. There was an error—there was a merge error—from the department. I accept that, and it was a figure that we gave them what that was a four-year figure instead of a ten-year figure. The four-year figure was still correct, but it said that it was a 10-year figure.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So that is the only case that you are aware of?

Mr Cook : That I am aware of—yes.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Have you had a look at any of the submissions to the legislation inquiry?

Mr Cook : My team have. I am still working my way through it.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So you are not aware of the concerns that Anglican schools raise, for instance?

Mr Cook : No, I am not.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Can I encourage you to look at all of the submissions we have received so far? I know we have received the department's submission, but there are a number of concerns raised throughout those submissions that inaccurate data has been provided. I think that is quite apart from fantasy data, if I coin it that way, but inaccurate data has been provided in letters to schools.

I understand that, in certain instances, the minister has contacted schools. On how many occasions has that happened?

Senator Birmingham: I have visited schools, I have spoken to schools and I have had meetings with schools. I would have to take that on—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, you have rung the schools about the data that they have been provided with. On how many occasions has that occurred?

Senator Birmingham: Sorry, what is your specific question there? On how many occasions have I written to schools?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It has been reported that, in this process of providing information at school level about the impact of the Gonski 2 proposals, you have directly phone called schools to talk to them about the projected changes to their funding arrangements. Is that true or not?

Senator Birmingham: I have phoned some schools, yes.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Which schools have you phoned?

Senator PATERSON: What a remarkably hands-on approach. Congratulations, Minister.

Senator Birmingham: I would have to take that on notice. There have been a few.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: What is a few? Is that five or is that 100?

Senator Birmingham: It is not hundreds, but there have been a few where there has been contact made. I will take it on notice.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: What was the purpose of that contact?

Senator PATERSON: Is it all right if I ask a question, Chair?

CHAIR: Yes, Senator Paterson.

Senator PATERSON: Minister, were any of the numbers in the letters actually wrong or was there just an incorrect time frame?

Senator Birmingham: As Mr Cook outlined, a four-year percentage figure, I think it was, was transposed. The adjustment rate over four years was put into the data field for letters whereas it was meant to be the adjustment rate in percentage terms over 10 years. It was an accurate figure put in the wrong spot in the letter for the 24 schools.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So you wrote a further letter to those schools, did you? Is that how you responded to it? Or didn't you contact them?

Mr Cook : We both spoke to them personally and then sent a subsequent corrected letter; that is correct.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So, when you provide me with all the letters you have sent, that first letter and then the corrected letter will be—

Senator Birmingham: It was the same letter just with the right data field put in.

Ms Gordon : The initial letter was from the minister, and then the corrected letter was one that I sent from the department. I spoke to a number of the schools personally and then followed up with a letter.

Mr Cook : It was our error, so it was a letter from us.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So, when you provide me with the letters that have been sent to schools, regardless of whether they were from the minister or the department, I gather I will get two sets of letters for those 24 schools, and I will now understand why.

Mr Cook : That is correct.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Minister, I am going to go to questions across a range of schools now. You will recall that at the outset I declared my own interests in relation to my local primary school, and I suppose I will have to declare an interest in relation to what would be classed as a high-fee independent non-government school as well. I am curious as to whether, in the cabinet considerations of this package, you declared any interests.

Senator Birmingham: My declarations of interest in terms of my wife's role as chair of a school board are all accurate with both the Senate and the Prime Minister's office and were known to the cabinet. Indeed, they are hardly a secret. They have been reported on publicly too.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But I am asking you, as is the tradition—

Senator Birmingham: All declarations appropriately have been made, including through all of these processes.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No; I am asking a specific question. It is the tradition in cabinet that if you have an interest related to the consideration of a particular matter then that interest must be raised at the time. Did that occur?

Senator Birmingham: I am not going to go to the precise discussions in the cabinet. All declarations of interest have been appropriately made by me. Of course, in relation to a matter like schools funding, I would note that quite a number of members of the cabinet have children at school and their families are probably variously engaged in schools, as most members of the parliament are. All declarations have been appropriately made.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: You have not answered my question about a declaration in cabinet when this matter was being considered.

CHAIR: The minister has answered. You do not like the answer, but he has answered the question.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, he has not answered the question.

CHAIR: Yes, he has answered the question.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I will try the question a different way. Did you receive advice from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet about how that interest should be managed in the circumstances of the consideration of this school funding package?

Senator Birmingham: All of my declarations of interest, including of my family members, have been publicly made and appropriately recorded in the right places.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: You are still not answering whether the traditional cabinet processes were addressed in the consideration of this matter. Did you declare your interest when cabinet was considering this matter?

Senator Birmingham: The rules, according to the Cabinet Handbook, were, as far as I am aware, all met in terms of all appropriate declarations being made at the right times.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So you did not declare this when this was being considered before cabinet?

Senator Birmingham: No, but I am not going to start saying what was or was not discussed in the cabinet room, nor would you expect me to.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I am not asking you to.

Senator Birmingham: I am assuring you that all appropriate declarations have been made at the appropriate times.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: All you have assured me of is that you have made a senators' interests declaration. I gather, from what you are saying, it is also represented in your ministerial interests declaration. A senators' interests declaration, for example part B, is not publicly accessible. Your ministerial declaration, equally, is not publicly accessible. There are rules around cabinet considerations and declaring interests as those considerations are occurring so that your colleagues are aware of what potential conflict of interest you may have. And you still have not told me that you did so.

CHAIR: The minister, in his answer, three times, has assured you that all interests have been made and declared at the appropriate time and in the appropriate way.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No. The only assurance he has given me is that he has made a declaration in his ministerial declaration and in his senators' declaration. He will not answer the question about whether he declared it, as he should, in front of his cabinet colleagues when this matter was being addressed. If he can tell me now he did, I will be satisfied.

CHAIR: It seems you will not be satisfied, because I have heard the minister three times give answers to your questions. I would ask that you consider Hansard

Senator O'NEILL: Chair, I raise a point of order. Can the minister speak as himself, not as the minister. That is the problem.

CHAIR: Senator O'Neill, I am asking Senator Collins to review Hansard. If she still has a concern, I am very happy to assist her with that concern.

Senator O'NEILL: I have a point of order. It is the senator asking Senator Birmingham for his answer, not for your response to the question.

CHAIR: There is no point of order. What a surprise!

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I think the level of obfuscation in relation to this is pretty clear to anyone following the record. I think the answer is probably pretty clear too.

Senator Birmingham: I again stress that all appropriate declarations of interest have been made at the appropriate times—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Why can't you assure me that you raised your interest when the matter was being considered?

Senator Birmingham: I am not going to go to what was or what was not discussed at the cabinet, as that is not something any minister sitting at this table goes to.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: They do, if they have a potential conflict of interest.

Senator Birmingham: I have been very clear that all appropriate declarations were made at the appropriate times. All rules, as far as I am aware, have been complied with, and—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: 'As far as I am aware'—now we have that rider.

Senator Birmingham: And I am far from clear quite what it is you are attempting to insinuate, but—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I am not insinuating anything. I asked you a straightforward question, which you have refused to answer.

Senator Birmingham: You have chased down this rabbit hole before.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, I have not.

Senator Birmingham: Yes, you have. You have put freedom of information requests in to my department about my wife previously. Of course, there were no documents there for release, but I appreciate that you have an interest there. Ultimately, I am assuring you that all appropriate declarations have been made at the appropriate times and have all been appropriately complied with.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: We will follow this up further because I am not satisfied that a failure to answer a simple question about what was before cabinet—nothing that deals, at all, with cabinet consideration—

Senator PATERSON: Chair, I think I should make a declaration. I went to a school. It was not that long ago. It is called McKinnon Secondary College, a good public school in Melbourne. I am very fond of it, and I am sure that will be a consideration in my voting on this—

Senator O'NEILL: Year 12 humour!

Senator PATERSON: because, like many schools, it will do well—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Very childish.

Senator Birmingham: I do appreciate the fact that Senator Collins, at least, has not named my wife or the school in public proceedings. Thank you, Senator Collins. For the record, that particular school is actually one of the 300-odd schools that have a downward transition over time. So, if anybody thinks that there was any particular special favour done during this process, the evidence speaks to the opposite.

CHAIR: That was unnecessary, Minister, but thank you.

Senator Birmingham: I do appreciate the fact that, by and large, the media have been respectful of the fact that that is my wife's role. It is a volunteer role that she undertakes. But I assure you that all declarations were made, and, I think, as the evidence demonstrates, certainly no special treatment was demonstrated towards it, nor any particular consideration at all during the deliberations.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Well, in part, the considerations of that one of many schools—and you highlight 350—but there is a range of high-fee independent schools that get windfalls out of this process. In that context, I think, an appropriate declaration would have been appropriate. If we want to go to the details of a number of them, I will start with Scotch College in Western Australia—97 per cent of students there are in the top two SES quartiles, 81 per cent of students are in the top. Scotch College is currently overfunded, receiving 134.89 per cent of its schooling resource standard. This was information provided in question on notice SQ16000852. Why then is the Commonwealth increasing the proportion of the SRS it pays to this school? Why is it fair that this school, currently overfunded, will get an increase of $13.2 million over 10 years, according to your estimator?

Senator Birmingham: Based on the information to my hand, the Commonwealth share of funding for Scotch College under the needs based formula is around 72 per cent and, therefore, under the consistent treatment of all schools, as some high-fee independent schools transition down to 80 per cent, others transition up to 80 per cent—according to the same equal needs based formula.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: We understand the formula; it is the impact of that formula that the public at large probably do not yet comprehend. Let me go to another example. At Christ Church Grammar School in Western Australia, 87 per cent of students are from the highest SES quartile. Christ Church Grammar is currently overfunded, receiving 141.51 per cent of its schooling resource standard. This was provided also in the same question on notice as the previous example. Why then is the Commonwealth increasing the proportion of the SRS it pays to this school? Why is it fair that this school, currently overfunded, will get an increase of $6.8 million over 10 years, according to your estimator?

Senator Birmingham: Christ Church Grammar School appears to be one of the schools transitioning down from 86.9 per cent of the schooling resource standard to around 80 per cent of the schooling resource standard. I suspect it is quite possible, in the case of Christ Church Grammar School, that they may well be receiving less under our legislative changes than they would if we left the legislation as it is intact.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I would like to see you demonstrate that point, Minister.

Senator Birmingham: They would be receiving three per cent growth per annum, under the current legislation at a bare minimum.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: And you reckon that that will equate to $6.8 million over 10 years.

Senator Birmingham: I would have to check elsewhere here as to how many students there are, which of course is a rather significant variable in these figures. Of course $6.8 million over 10 years sounds like a lot of money, and it is a lot of money, but if you also have 1,200 students in a school and you are talking over a 10-year horizon, it starts to breakdown a reasonable amount.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Let me move to my next example while you consider that factor. At Sydney Church of England Grammar School, 95 per cent of students are in the top two SES categories. The school is currently overfunded, receiving 122.06 per cent of its schooling resource standard. The same question on notice was the source of that material. Why then is the Commonwealth increasing the proportion of the SRS it pays to this school? Why is it fair that this school, currently overfunded, will get an increase of $11.5 million over 10 years, according to your estimator?

Senator Birmingham: That school currently receives 66.1 per cent of the schooling resource standard.

It is a school that has 1,595 children at it. It has 124 students with a disability. It, of course, will transition from that 66.1 per cent share of the schooling resource standard to the common share of 80 per cent. If I look at the per-student funding for that school, it is per-student funding that goes from $2,633 per student in 2017 to $3,104 per student by 2027. On per-student terms—

CHAIR: A little under $500 per student over 10 years increase.

Senator Birmingham: That is not inflation-adjusted, Senator McKenzie. In per-student terms, it remains a very low-funded school relative to many others at 80 per cent of the schooling resource standard.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Except if you look at their other income sources—

Senator Birmingham: Yes, indeed.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: which is what you are not doing with this common share approach that you have applied.

Senator Birmingham: Their other income sources in terms of private income are discounted through the capacity to contribute discount mechanism within the calculation of the schooling resource standard.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I have mentioned a couple of other examples here of schools that are 'transitioning down', in your words, so that people understand the windfall that is going to some of these schools, despite the fact that they might be transitioning down because of the Commonwealth's decision to increase its share of funding up to a common 80 per cent. Let us look at St Peter's, since you mentioned it.

Senator Birmingham: I did not, actually, Senator Collins, but we can.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: You did, actually. I did not mention it.

Senator Birmingham: I did not mention it by name, Senator Collins.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: My apologies.

Senator Birmingham: I thank you for not doing so, but anyway—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I think it is on the public record anyway, but my apologies; that was not my intention.

Senator Birmingham: It is. I will thank the media, who have generally been respectful when seeking to—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The case at point there is that, despite the fact—as compared to the two or three schools that I have just mentioned—that they are transitioning down, the windfall they receive as a result of the Commonwealth moving to a common 80 per cent share is an increase of $5.7 million in Commonwealth funding.

Senator Birmingham: I think, in that instance, you are looking at a school that, under our formula, attracts 3.3 per cent growth per annum or something like that. Under the existing legislation passed by your parliament, it would receive 4.7 per cent.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: What difference would that make to the final quantum?

Senator Birmingham: It would make it millions of dollars more if you did not support our changes.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I am not so sure about that. We would have to go back to what the Commonwealth share was that that is being applied to. Your increase to an 80 per cent Commonwealth share is what is generating this windfall for a lot high-fee independent schools.

Senator Birmingham: No. Yes, we are transitioning them to 80 per cent, but the reality is that in transitioning to 80 per cent that equates to per student growth of about 3.3 per cent, I think, in that instance. Your current legislation guarantees them 4.7 per cent growth, I believe, in that instance. I will double-check those figures—

Mr Cook : Yes.

Senator Birmingham: Mr Cook has confirmed. In fact, there is significant additional funding that that school would receive if the legislation the government is proposing is defeated. The point there, and I guess in terms of the overall average examples, is that the growth rate for non-government schools on average is about 4.1 per cent under our proposed reforms per student. Most non-government schools are below the schooling resource standard. Most non-government schools would, if the legislation was unchanged, receive 4.7 per cent growth per annum in the future.

If you want to refer to different submissions, it is why ISCA, in their submission, has actually cited more than 400 schools who will be worse off in the independent sector under the government's legislation than under legislation if it is left in place. A number of the examples that you have provided, Senator Collins, are schools who would be better off under the legislation as it stands today, than they would be under the government's proposal. And you are sitting here talking about windfall gains to these schools!

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, I am.

Senator Birmingham: The way your party is voting on this legislation will lock in a greater level of funding for a number of these schools than what the government is proposing. If you think it is a windfall gain already, your current model provides for higher levels of funding in a number of these instances.

Senator PATERSON: Chair, can I ask a clarifying question, please?

CHAIR: There are clarifying questions going to and thro.

Senator PATERSON: Thank you. I appreciate that. Just on that, Minister, on schools which are generously funded under the current system, perhaps some would say overfunded. I am thinking of one such as Loreto Kirribilli. What would they be receiving under the current model devised by Labor, as compared to the new model that you are proposing?

Senator Birmingham: They would receive annualised growth off of their current funding level of three per cent per annum under current legislation. Under our reforms, they are one of the 24 schools that has a reduction in relation to their funding, which I would have to check as to exactly what the scale of that reduction is.

Mr Cook : I think it is about five per cent per annum over 10 years.

Senator PATERSON: How much above the standard are they currently receiving?

Dr Bruniges : I think they are about 196. Let me just check that. I think it is quite high above the SRS.

Senator PATERSON: Wow!

Dr Bruniges : Let me just confirm that.

Senator Birmingham: We are talking about the fact that under our adjustment, they will receive an annualised reduction in their funding of about five per cent. Under existing legislation, they would receive an annualised increase in their funding of about three per cent. The difference is they go backwards by some millions of dollars under our model. My understanding is that if the legislation is left in place, their funding will grow by another $12 million over the next few years.

Senator PATERSON: If this legislation were not to pass, a grossly overfunded school would continue to be overfunded—in fact, it would increase.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: By $12 million, to Loreto?

Mr Cook : Correct. That particular school is currently 276 per cent of the SRS.

Senator PATERSON: Wow! Where was the 196 per cent figure from? I thought that was bad enough—276!

Mr Cook : That would have been just the Commonwealth share. The total share—the Commonwealth and state—is 276.

Senator PATERSON: Wow—276!

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Chair, clarification is going on very long way.

CHAIR: I think it is important to clarify these things, Senator Collins.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It is. Indeed, I will clarify further. The minister refers to if the legislation remains unchanged. Mr Cook, when was the interest rate due to be reviewed under the Gonski 1 package?

Mr Cook : That was only an agreement with those people who signed the NERA, so there was no legislative requirement.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, I understand. When was it due to be reviewed?

Mr Cook : Under the NERA—I would have to find that.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Okay, find that for me if you can. The next issue is: are you confident of the indexation rates that you have provided in relation to those examples? My understanding is that it would be three per cent, not 4.7 per cent?

Senator Birmingham: It depends on the different examples.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I know. And that is why I am confused that you said 4.7 per cent in, I think it was, the St Peter's one.

Mr Cook : Just to clarify, which school exactly are we talking about?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Let's talk about St Peter's for now.

Mr Cook : There are a few St Peter's in South Australia.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Is it three, or is it 4.7 per cent?

Mr Cook : The data I have around two St Peter's schools in South Australia have them both below 100 per cent of the SRS, which means they would have 4.7 per cent.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The earlier examples, where they were over the SRS—

Mr Cook : If they are over the SRS they are getting three per cent.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: that would be three per cent, not the 4.7 per cent which was suggested?

Mr Cook : I am assuming the earlier examples were above the SRS?

Dr Bruniges : You are referring to Loreto?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, Loreto was coming from the government side.

Dr Bruniges : Sorry.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I was referring to Scotch College in Western Australia, Christ Church Grammar in Western Australia and Sydney Church of England Grammar School. What is the relevant indexation rate for them?

Mr Cook : Sydney Church of England Grammar School—they would be three per cent.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Okay. I think that was part of the earlier confusion in the discussion, but we can both look back at the Hansardand see.

Mr Cook : And, sorry, the other ones were WA?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: The Darwin [inaudible] they are already over.

Mr Cook : That is right.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is right. In the cases of schools where they are currently under—

Mr Cook : They get 4.7 per cent.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: the 4.7 per cent will apply.

Mr Cook : That is right. St Peter's, for example, is under, so 4.7 per cent would be applying to its SRS.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, in that case. Okay.

Senator Birmingham: Which is more than what the government's model will apply.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Well, I am waiting to hear from Mr Cook about when some of these indexation rates were proposed to be reviewed, given that we are talking about this in the context of the legislation remaining unchanged. But, whilst we are doing that, I ask: how many overfunded schools were there when the level was set at 95 per cent total funding? So, when we had an SRS related to total funding sources, how many overfunded schools were there then, in comparison to how many overfunded schools there are, now that we have defined the question as Commonwealth 80 per cent share of the SRS?

Mr Cook : Sorry, Senator, I think I took it on notice earlier to try and work out the number of schools that are over the combined SRS—sorry, the total public funding SRS. I think that was for Senator Hanson-Young.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: That was one of the lists that we asked for in the beginning.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Okay. So will be able to make that comparison when that information is available to us.

Mr Cook : My anticipation would be that there would be over 500 schools—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: In the original group?

Mr Cook : in the original group that are above the SRS—at least 500, if not more.


Mr Cook : Because there will be schools above the SRS within the system that have been masked, in a sense, because we have always talked about 250 schools; they are only independent schools. But in some systems—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Sorry—only independent non-systemic schools.

CHAIR: Not part of the system, yes.

Mr Cook : That is right.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I think we need to be careful about the language here.

Mr Cook : But there are also several hundred schools in government systems and several hundred schools in Catholic systems that are above the SRS as well.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: What about non-Catholic systems?

Mr Cook : Yes, sorry—and in the non-government system. I do know about the Catholic system. I am not sure about the Lutheran system, for example. So, in the non-government system, there might be some as well.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: And there are some Anglican systems, too, aren't there?

Mr Cook : There are. There are 18 non-government systems, I understand. Not all of them have chosen to have system weighting applied, but there are some.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I understand that there was a request for one Anglican system to be classified as a system for the purposes of the act and that that request simply was not progressed.

Mr Cook : That would not be my understanding. If a request has come through, we would attend to that request. If there are details—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Could you on notice advise me if there is one, or if there was one—or I should say 'is one', because the act has not passed yet—outstanding request, and when that request was made?

Mr Cook : Sure. Happy to look into that.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Okay. Let me go to schools according to the FET. So, rather than the My School estimator comparison, we will look at a couple of FET-to-estimator comparisons.

The first of those is St Jerome's Catholic Primary School, Punchbowl. Your calculator shows that St Jerome's Catholic Primary School in Punchbowl, New South Wales, have a 2017 allocation of $10,151 per student, yet the data from the financial estimator tool shows that their actual 2017 allocation, based on the current act, is $13,492. So, in this case, 2017 to 2017, looking at the calculator, it is showing that 2017 figures are based on your new model, even though they will be funded under the old act.

Senator Birmingham: Just for clarity—I do not have that school in front of me—is that a school in the Catholic Education Commission NSW?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That would be my assumption.

Senator Birmingham: Thank you. As we canvassed this morning, of course, the overall payment is made to the Catholic Education Commission NSW for all of its systemic schools. The FET, the estimator—all of them end at the same end point, which is the same quantum of dollars, increasing for the Catholic Education Commission of New South Wales.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But I am more interested in the start point, Minister, because the figure—this fantasy figure in your estimator—is a completely illusionary starting point. We have covered that point in relation to the 2015 My School data. I now have available some of the FET data, since the department have indicated that they will make that available for our consideration, and this shows the comparison—$10,151 per student, according to the FET. That is not the redistributed allocation that the system has done; that is the FET calculation with respect to that school. And the comparison there is $10,151 per student to $13,492 per student, so that is not quite $3½ thousand difference between the FET figure for this school and your estimator.

Senator Birmingham: I gather some of this data, or all of the ones you have quoted, are examples already published in The Australian. The FET is a modelling tool that is used. The key number in the FET ultimately is what gets paid to a system authority, which is the aggregate of all the schools in the Catholic Education Commission of New South Wales. The same applies, in a sense—as I explained this morning—with the estimator. If you looked at all of the systemic schools in the Catholic Education Commission in New South Wales, you would find that that aggregates to the same end number in terms of what is paid to that system for distribution by that system amongst their different schools.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: This is just your scenario of trying to count the dollar twice, again. This is your saying to individual schools, in letters sent to them according to your estimator, that this is the funding increase that they can consider between 2017-18, without providing real information about what their 2017 real-time school funding is and indeed will continue to be, even under your bill, right throughout 2017. What you are doing here, Minister, is concealing cuts to Catholic schools by reducing their 2017 figures on the calculator so that the increase is perceived to be bigger.

Senator Birmingham: Senator Collins, the real-time amount in 2017, 2018, 2019 or anytime beyond, which is relevant in terms of the funding for that school is, of course, the funding that is provided to the Catholic Education Commission NSW for them to distribute amongst their schools. That quantum of funding goes up on a per-student basis from $8,700 per student on average this year—I think it is—to $9,100 the year after, to $9,400-odd the year after that, to $9,800-odd the year after that and so forth into the future. Their overall level of funding that they receive goes from $1.915 billion this year to $1.989 billion the year after, to $2.065 billion the year after that and so forth. So it is very clear that when all of those schools are aggregated together, whichever means you want to use, whether it is the FET or the estimator, the end result is growth in funding for the Catholic Education Commission in New South Wales to distribute across their schools.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Minister, let us go to the factors in the 2017 figures. The 2017 estimator figures include the removal of the system weighted average, the current student with disability settings and the current primary capacity to contribute curve. They utilise the new settings in the bill for 2017—is that not the case?

Mr Cook : The total dollar amount for New South Wales government schools in the estimator will equate to the settings in the current bill.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, but the information at school level applies the removal of the system weighted average, the new student with disability settings and the new primary capacity to contribute curve.

Mr Cook : It is not removed, no, because the dollars have to be at the school level—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But when you allocate those dollars to the school level, how is that—

Mr Cook : That has to still be in it, because it is what has made up the calculation in the first place. The total dollar down the bottom includes all the current settings in the act. Therefore, that has to have been distributed across the schools to enable that total dollar down the bottom—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But, when you work out what distribution a particular school receives, is that done under the 2017 settings or is that done under the proposed settings?

Senator Birmingham: Whichever way you add up the notional allocations across the schools for the Catholic Education Commission of New South Wales, you will end up with $1,915,382,472 in funding in 2017. The commission decides how its schools receive that funding and the way in which it is allocated. As was explained earlier in terms of the way the estimator was built, we looked at what $1.915 billion in 2017 meant in terms of the share of the schooling resource standard that the Catholic Education Commission in New South Wales will receive in 2017, and that share, based on the arrangements in the legislation before the parliament, is around 78 per cent. So that 78 per cent share of the schooling resource standard was then applied consistently using the same methodology for the purposes of the estimator across all of those schools.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But using the proposed settings—that is right. That is why we have a difference between the FET—

Senator Birmingham: Because we are demonstrating on the estimator how the Catholic Education Commission of New South Wales or anybody else—and the schools within their transition from the 78 per cent share that they receive under the government's proposal to the 80 per cent share that they will receive under the government's proposal.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Minister, all those factors are relevant for 2018; they are not relevant for 2017, other than to produce a convenient and overly simplified message at school level, which is completely inaccurate.

Senator Birmingham: No, it is relevant. It is the $1.915 billion that the Catholic Education Commission of New South Wales will receive in 2017. Based on the way in which the legislation is drafted, the starting point for them under the legislation is a 78 per cent schooling resource standard. That is the relevant figure starting in 2017 for their transition to getting 80 per cent of the schooling resource standard.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is a different issue.

CHAIR: Given the Greiner report, they might be distributing it differently going forward.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: We will have an opportunity, I hope, to discuss the Greiner report if she chooses to appear before the legislation committee. That will be very interesting, because what I saw in the public airing was a 2015 draft report that had actually been commissioned by New South Wales bishops to help guide them to ensure they were distributing appropriately.

CHAIR: I am just saying it can change depending on how they implement the recommendations out of that report.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I think they already have implemented recommendations—that is the point. It was 2015.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: There is another one.

CHAIR: There is another one.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Good. If they have been seeking advice—this is one of the problems for the government: they have not consulted with Catholic education about the implications of these changes for their existing distribution arrangements and how indeed they might redistribute such large amounts of money across schools that this estimator has calculated and sent to every school. In some cases, which we will probably get to in the inquiry, there are fiduciary arrangements around particularly high schools that will make that process extremely difficult. For the minister to be saying, 'I'll give these schools these extra dollars' without saying to those schools, 'But, by the way, I'm telling your system they are going to have to redistribute it to deal with the issues around the losses for other schools' is incredulous.

Senator Birmingham: We have been clear from day one that the autonomy of systems to make their own allocative decisions was retained within the government's proposals.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Why then have you taken away what was recommended in the Gonski review whilst we maintained the SES formula that systems should continue to be assessed at a system weighted average level? That was, I think, recommendation 21. Why have you ignored that?

Senator Birmingham: I am not sure that it was a recommendation.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It led to recommendation 20, sorry.

Senator Birmingham: In looking at the arrangements across the country, the government's decision was wanting to create a circumstance that treated all schools in the non-government sector in an equal manner in terms of the funding available to those schools or those school systems, and the methodology that had applied previously did provide a financial advantage to some school systems relative to other schools by removing that and applying a consistent approach across all. We are still able to aggregate the funding provided to a school system and enable them to make their distributions around their system. But we do so in a way that does not provide a relative financial advantage in one part of the non-government schooling sector relative to another. They instead are all assessed on the same consistent needs based approach.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I suggest this will be a lengthy debate about what is relative advantage and what anomalies in the system were being addressed by the Gonski review recommendations. But, since you are not that clear on them, let me take the committee to them in detail:

The panel considers that work should commence as a priority to develop a more precise measure of capacity to contribute to replace the existing SES measure.

None of this work has been undertaken. But, the review panel says:

In the meantime, the existing SES measure has been used by the panel as the basis for estimating the quantum of the private contribution that should count towards meeting the resource standard in non-government systems and schools. In the case of a non-government system this would be the enrolment weighted average SES score of all the schools in the system.

This then leads to recommendation 20, about how that process should occur but indeed never did occur. The review panel said to take into account some of the anomalies in the SES arrangement and to continue to fund systems as systems, and you have ignored that advice.

Senator Birmingham: The review panel also said that the panel believes that systems and schools should be resourced on an equal per student basis if they have the same characteristics or serve student populations with similar levels of need. The practical effect of the way in which the averaging methodology worked was that it distorted that equal per student funding basis for schools or systems, which is why the government, in wanting to ensure that there was equal treatment across the board, determined that an identical methodology based on need for the calculation of funding across non-government schools was the most appropriate way in which to undertake that calculation, and then of course for systems to retain the practice of aggregating that funding and paying it in a lump sum.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It is your claim that it distorted it, which is contrary to the Gonski review panel saying there are issues with the SES model and, until such time as those issues are addressed, these things should be assessed at a system level. That is the Gonski recommendation that you have ignored. Apart from your claims that there is a distortion in how the Gonski review panel recommended that these matters should be addressed, there is no information before us that suggests that is genuinely the case. I am waiting to hear from the ABS about their material, which is likely to inform a reasonable view that the capacity for parents who have children in non-government schools to contribute to their children's education is quite different for primary schools than it is for secondary schools. And this is quite critical to the survival of many low-fee, non-government primary schools, as opposed to high-fee independent—I should declare an interest, because my daughter attends one, but I think I have said that in previous estimates—schools that do K to 12. They are very different schools.

Senator Birmingham: Each of them will have their funding calculated in terms of the nominal allocation for those in systems or the actual allocation for those who are standalones based on their own individual circumstances. The end result of that for schools of different need, for schools whose families come from different backgrounds, is, yes: thousands of dollars in potential per-student funding, reflective of those different need circumstances. With the SES model—whilst I hear criticisms of it—I am yet to see any of the different schooling sectors propose a specific alternative to the SES model of funding. The SES model that has been in place—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: They have been proposed.

Senator Birmingham: and applied for a couple of decades now provides the capacity for greater government support to go to the non-government schools of the lowest means and for less government support to go to non-government schools of higher means, such as the ones you spoke of at the end of your question. That is the intent of it. In a system, we are proposing that all of those funds be aggregated—whether that system includes high-fee or low-fee schools, high-SES or low-SES schools—and it will all be pulled together at the end of the calculation, the system retains the autonomy to make its distribution, and all of those systems in the states see continued growth in their funding against which to make those distributions.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is simply not accurate.

CHAIR: Senator Collins, Senator Paterson has been seeking the call.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: You have got proposals before you about alternative measures. I have seen them. The ABS has looked at them.

Senator Birmingham: No, Senator Collins, there are criticisms of the SES that have been made.

CHAIR: Minister, Senator Collins does not have the call.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: And there are measures that the ABS canvassed with me yesterday. I suggest you read the Hansard.

Senator Birmingham: I happened to be here yesterday, Senator Collins.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I did not say read it yesterday, I said read it now.

Senator PATERSON: Senator Collins, I did not interrupt your—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: You did, actually. The chair was very generous to you.

Senator PATERSON: I asked some clarifying questions; I did not heckle constantly over the questions you asked. In the few minutes we have before the break, let us start from the basics on the changes that are happening. What is the major change to Catholic systemic schools, and why have these changes be made?

Mr Cook : There are a number of changes being proposed by the government in relation to the current model. The first change is to update the data—the base data—to generate the model, to make it the most recent available data. At the moment, the model has been using data from 2011. We are now using the latest data available to us, which is 2015 data. That is the first thing—the data is much more reflective of what is happening in relation to—

Senator PATERSON: Surely no-one is defending the use of old data; no-one is saying we should stick to using old data, I hope.

Mr Cook : No, I think everyone is of the view that more up-to-date data is probably a more accurate representation. The other thing, as the minister has indicated previously, is that in terms of capacity to contribute non-government systems could choose to have their funding allocated on what we call 'system weighted'. So, even though you were a school that might have had an SES score of 116, which means you would have received quite a large amount of discount from government, rather than getting the full amount of the $11,000 for a primary kid or $13,000 for a secondary kid, you would actually have that discounted by a particular amount. The higher your SES score, the larger your discount. A maximum discount would be 80 per cent. If you were a high SES score of 125, you would receive 20 per cent of that funding from the government. Under system weighted, you would get your state average. So, if you were a school that was 125 SES score, you would actually get a score of 101, for example, in some states. So, rather than getting a discount of 80 per cent, that high-end school would actually only get a discount of about 50 per cent. On that basis, they would effectively get more funding allocated from the Commonwealth under system weighted than they would have if they were a standalone school. If you are a low-SES school, you would actually get less funding allocated from the Commonwealth under system weighted than you would if you were standalone school. If you were an SES score of 73 or 80, you would only get a 10 per cent discount from the government. But we are assuming you are 101, because you have given a system weighted.

Senator PATERSON: What was the policy reason for doing that?

Mr Cook : I think it was a decision of government at the time.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It was recommended in the Gonski report.

Senator PATERSON: I do have further questions, but I note the time frame.

CHAIR: The committee will suspend.

Proceedings suspended from 15:31 to 15:50

CHAIR: We will now reconvene with Senator Hanson-Young.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Just following on from some of the questions that I had previously, I wanted to ask about the states' role in all of this. If the SRS, as suggested by David Gonski and the Gonski review, is the point that we are seeking to get to, to set the base level, how is your model, as is proposed by the government, going to ensure that this will happen for all government schools when the legislation as it has been drafted is only talking about 20 per cent? You are only talking about the 20 per cent. How can you justify that we will ever get to the SRS level for government schools?

Senator Birmingham: I will start. As I outlined before on estimations, a number of jurisdictions will get their government school systems to the schooling resource standard. Beyond that, our legislation will guarantee that those schools should get further away from the schooling resource standard and it will also stop the states from cost-shifting, as the current mechanisms allow them to do.

But for the jurisdictions which do not get to the schooling resource standard, then that is rightly a question between them and their constituent bodies—the teacher unions, the voters, the parents and the principals associations. All the same people who have been very active in the Gonski debate until now about what the Commonwealth should do, ought rightly to be questioning state and territory governments about why it is that the Victorian, or Queensland or New South Wales governments do not invest as much per student as the South Australian, or Western Australian, or Tasmanian or ACT governments do. By having a common share it sets up that transparency; it is not the Commonwealth treating a state differently that makes a big difference it is the state funding its own schools that makes a big difference.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Sure, but we are not going to know that until we get to the 10-year mark under the way that package is currently laid out. Is that right? We are not going to know which states they are?

Senator Birmingham: The gap closes each year. Yes, each of the states starts from a different starting point to get to that and to the 20 per cent share because of all the old deals that were done. But, obviously, the gap closes each year because a state like WA is getting more than seven per cent indexation per student, SA gets nearly six per cent in the first couple of years and so on. So their gap with New South Wales, which gets 4.9 per cent, closes to get them closer and closer in terms of sharing that common 20 per cent standard.

I guess that the transparency that is built into all of that should make it clearer as to what the states doing. And the immediate effect, in a sense, of having this new model in place, if the legislation passes, is that logically there comes a political pressure point and a policy pressure point on those states and territories which are furthest away from applying 80 per cent of the share.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So you are saying that will become clearer throughout the 10-year period?

Senator Birmingham: Even today we have had a lot more questions about what the states are contributing than, frankly, there have been in the political debate around this topic for a number of years. If our legislation passes—and it is clear that the only thing that stops Victoria reaching the schooling resource standard versus Tasmania reaching the schooling resource standard is that Victoria invests less as a government per student than the Tasmanian government invests per student—it would then become a pretty clear and powerful juxtaposition for people to use in those state political landscapes. They can hold governments and/or oppositions of whichever political persuasion at the state level to the same account that the Commonwealth has been held to in the debates around school funding for a number of years now.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Why did you choose the level to be 20 per cent rather than 30?

Senator Birmingham: Twenty per cent gets several of the jurisdictions to 100 per cent—and indeed nudges them over in a couple of cases. It gets South Australia, our state, pretty close to the 95 benchmark. So it seemed like a reasonable benchmark for the Commonwealth that was not too far removed from previous propositions around the types of share that might be reached. But those previous propositions were at disparate levels for different states and territories; they ranged from still being in the teens to being in the 20s. So 20 per cent seemed like an appropriate target to set considering all of the budget and other considerations.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It was obviously cheaper to do it at 20 per cent for the federal government than it is to do it at 30 per cent. That is what you are saying.

Senator Birmingham: Yes, transparently it is. If we did it at 30 per cent then there would be, based on the current estimates, five jurisdictions in excess of 100 per cent. So I think at that point you would have to argue that 30 per cent is the Commonwealth volunteering to enable a cost shift to occur. If you are saying that the 100 per cent is the perfect amount—I think there are arguments as to whether it is entirely perfect—then those states would actually be free to wind back their support down to the 100 per cent level, if we were putting in 30 per cent. As I say, 20 per cent still tips a couple of jurisdictions over the 100 per cent. It tips the ACT clearly over 100 per cent; it tips WA over 100 per cent by a bit; Tassie, on current projections, would land almost precisely on 100 per cent; and South Australia would be getting pretty close to 95 per cent.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What do you mean in terms of the requirements for states to maintain the current funding levels? Is that simply on dollar terms based on 2017 levels or is that indexed? Can we have some clarification around that?

Senator Birmingham: Per student indexed to the schooling resource standard formula—to spell that out.

Mr Cook : The proposal is that we will look at what the state contribution is to the SRS in 2017. So that is 60 or 70 per cent. The expectation is that the state, at a per student level, will maintain that in real indexation—that is, 3.56, 3.56, 3.56, or matching, actually, Commonwealth indexation, at 3.56 for three years—and then the floating index or the three per cent floor.

What that actually means in reality then is that there will be more stringent requirements on the states than there are in the current act, because there is no requirement in the act at the moment for states to maintain funding. There is a NERA, which some states have signed up to, and the requirement there is only three per cent. So this is actually a higher requirement than there is under the current arrangements. What that means is that under the current arrangements very few government schools will actually ever reach 100 per cent of the SRS, because the goal under the current arrangements for those people that signed the national agreement was only 95 per cent. After that additional money that states were putting in is finished in 2019—if it went ahead—the only thing states are required to meet is three per cent growth after that. The SRS is actually growing under legislation at the moment by 3.6 per cent. So state funding will start to decline, and government schools may reach 95, 92 or 93 per cent in 2019 under the current arrangements but they will start to go backwards—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do you have that modelling?

Mr Cook : That is from some of the public fact sheets that we have about that and so we can provide that information to you.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Can states maintain their existing levels of funding in real terms? Are there any restrictions? Are states free to shift money between sectors?

Mr Cook : We are consulting with states and sectors on this at the moment, and that will be defined in the regulations. The proposition at the moment is that you cannot move it from government sector to non-government sector. We are consulting on it because it will inform the regulations, but that is the proposal at the moment.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: To keep them separate?

Mr Cook : That is right.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: And that will be incorporated in some form of legislation, perhaps as a regulation.

Mr Cook : That is correct.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: If the combined state and Commonwealth contribution falls below 100 per cent of SRS, who makes up the shortfall?

Mr Cook : The government has been clear that the government's contribution is 20 per cent and 80 per cent—

Senator Birmingham: I am not sure of the circumstances you mean there, Senator Hanson-Young. Are you meaning that, if the jurisdictions maintain the current level of investment and we put in the proposed increased investment to 20 per cent but it still does not get to the SRS, who makes up the gap?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I meant more about a state that does not comply.

Senator Birmingham: If a state reduces their level of funding—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes.

Senator Birmingham: compared to what is required?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes.

Senator Birmingham: That is where we are proposing to have penalty provisions. Ultimately, the state is running—let's assume it is a government school system in a state—their government school system and they obviously still have to fund teachers, wages and salaries, principals, infrastructure and everything else. If they wind back their level of contribution, we are making it clear that the minister of the day would have the power to withhold a level of Commonwealth funding as a penalty for them winding back their level of state funding. There is more detail, and I am happy to have that added.

Mr Cook : As I said, we propose that will be in the regulations as well, and there may be a sliding scale of potential penalties. In the act at the moment the minister can withhold or reduce funding if states do not do certain things but the act currently does not allow that to happen in relation to a state contribution in terms of funding—it is only around policy requirements to do with national reforms and things like that. This will put more stringency around the financial aspect into the legislation. It may be a proportion of indexation or it may be something where we match the level of indexation—for example, reduce the Commonwealth indexation to match the level of reduced indexation of the state. Again, that is part of the consultation that we are doing at the moment with states and territories and the non-government sector.

Senator Birmingham: It is worth adding to that the enhanced transparency and checking requirements that are proposed as well.

Mr Cook : The states will be required to provide an annual report, both from a financial maintenance and effort perspective and from a national reform perspective. The intent is to get to a national agreement and bilateral agreements by the middle of next year. States will have to report around their reform efforts as well as their financial maintenance and effort. The requirement will be that states and territories have to have that independently verified by either their auditor general or an independent body or person to be agreed between the Commonwealth and the state. I understand they will have to table that in their state parliament as well as in the Commonwealth parliament. The minister may also be free to form his own assurance panel where those reports go and which gives advice independent from the department around whether the states and territories have met the requirements.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are those requirements going to be similar for other systems—the Catholic system and so on?

Mr Cook : The Catholic system—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: In terms of reporting?

Mr Cook : In terms of reporting and in terms of reforms, yes. Obviously, the Catholic system does not put in the funding mechanism, but we have something included in the amendment to the bill where the minister has the ability to be more transparent about the Commonwealth funding that goes to Catholic systems than is currently occurring.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Right. But we still will not necessarily be able to see the real books within the Catholic school system?

Mr Cook : They are required at the moment to provide that report to the Commonwealth annually for financial questionnaires and things like that. That already does exist.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But not publicly?

Mr Cook : It is not public at the moment. No.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is there any reason why you would not make it public?

Ms Gordon : There is My School.

Mr Cook : Yes, I guess it is My School, which is the more generic funding. That is what the Catholic sector has allocated to that school. The difference with My School, as we said earlier, was that that includes a whole range of corporate costs as well.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Have you ever audited the Catholic system?

Mr Cook : Audited?

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes.

Mr Cook : Not an official audit. If we identify anything to do with either government or non-government schools that we think is unusual in terms of their financial returns, we have the ability to go in and audit schools.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Have you had done that?

Mr Cook : We have done that with a number of schools, yes. Every year, we do random audits and all sorts of things we do around data collection, and our school assurance process sets that up.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Have you done that in any of the Catholic systems across the country?

Mr Cook : Not that I am aware of. We normally go at a school level rather than a systemic level—that is my understanding. I would be happy to take that on notice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Could you take that on notice.

Mr Cook : Sure.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I would be interested to know if it has ever been done. Do you have a sense of how much extra funding states will have to contribute to ensure that they get to 100 per cent of SRS? Have you crunched those numbers? Do you have a sense of how much extra Victoria is going to have to put in and how much extra SA will have to put in?

Mr Cook : We have not. I am happy to take it on notice but, no, we have not done that. We anticipate that some states—as the minister has indicated—like WA and probably the ACT will reach 100 per cent. We have done some rough guesstimates in terms of percentages of what we can get out of state budget papers, but one of our challenges is the opaqueness of state budget papers and the fact that it is very hard to find information which directly provides you the information you need about what they put into their schools. I am happy to take it on notice to see what we could do.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: If you could. You can see what I am asking.

Mr Cook : Yes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I want to know what that gap is for some of those states.

Mr Cook : Sure.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What happens if a state is currently funding its schools above 80 per cent? Granted, there are not many of them. Under this model, what do you foresee happening if a state like WA is funding above 80 per cent? Do you just not give the 20 per cent, or will it tip over as you described?

Mr Cook : It will tip over. What we will propose to have in regulations is that that state is free to make decisions but it cannot go below 100 per cent of the SRS.

Senator Birmingham: They will still get 20 per cent from the Commonwealth consistent with applying consistency in our treatment of all the states and territories, but they will have whatever they input.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: If they are two per cent over, that puts them—

Senator Birmingham: If they are 102 per cent and they chose to do so, our requirement is that they not drop below the 100 per cent, or the 80 per cent of state contribution, once they are above it.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay. Is that going to be in regulation or is that already in the ledger?

Mr Cook : The definition of maintenance of effort we propose would be in regulations. What is on the ledger at the moment is 'at least maintain', I think.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are those regulations disallowable?

Mr Cook : Yes.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Okay. You mentioned that you have been talking to states and territories and consulting with them. Where are the previously signed agreements left standing?

Do you consider them to be null and void? Do they still exist in some form? As you are going around talking to the states, are you talking to them in context of this agreement that you have already signed?

Senator Birmingham: The government's policy has been quite clear since the 2014 budget, if not earlier, that this would be the last year in which those agreements would be applicable, in terms of future funding, and that they would come to an end by the end of this calendar year. In terms of the consultations—

Mr Cook : That is consistent. The five states that signed the National Education Reform Agreement —and that is the only agreement that exists—as the minister said, 2017 is the last year that the government has announced for those five states.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So it exists at the moment, but your view is that it finishes on what—31 December?

Mr Cook : There is a standard clause in any state/territory-Commonwealth agreement which talks about how any party to the agreement can terminate the agreement in writing. The Commonwealth has announced that it will terminate that agreement at the end of 2017.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So you have announced that you have done that, but you have not written to them yet?

Senator Birmingham: No. Obviously we indicated that we would continue to honour the agreement up to and including the 2017 year. Even though the previous government before the 2013 election had taken a bunch of savings in relation to different jurisdictions to the tune of $1.2 billion, we put that additional funding back in in the 2014 budget and have been providing the funding under that four years as we had said prior to the 2013 election. It has been very clear at least since the 2014 budget, if not earlier depending on people's interpretations, that this would be the final year of those arrangements. That is why we have proposed new arrangements commencing from next year.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So effectively there is a let-out clause?

Mr Cook : For any party.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: When do you foresee that you will write to the states and formally say that?

Senator Birmingham: Before the end of the calendar year. Obviously I would rather see legislation passed to provide absolute certainty to all the jurisdictions before we do so. But that will happen one way or another before the end of the year.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How come there is a conflict between the evidence that you are giving here today and what the minister in New South Wales is saying—that you cannot just end the agreement?

Senator Birmingham: I have not followed closely every comment of Minister Stokes, but I know there has been media hype at times about whether or not the agreement can be brought to an end. I think a number of comments by Minister Stokes in more recent times following a story or two have been much more measured in terms of the reality that, whilst they would prefer that the 2013 arrangements continued, he does not seem to be talking in quite the same terms. Mr Cook or the secretary look like they have some details further.

Dr Bruniges : In the NERA document it is very clear. There is a heading about withdrawal of parties at 1.5:

A Party to this Agreement may terminate its participation in this Agreement at any time by notifying all the other Parties in writing.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Have you had to seek legal advice about what New South Wales has said about challenging the decision that you have made?

Mr Cook : We have not sought particular legal advice in relation to New South Wales. Over the course of the last year or so the department generally has sought advice in relation to the operation of the act and the agreement. The agreement is not a legal document. The legal document is the act and the legislation. While it refers to relevant agreements, the actual relevant agreement, the NERA itself, is not a legal document according to our legal advice.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Have you communicated that the states?

Mr Cook : Probably not the legal advice, no. But in all the conversations that I have had with states and territories I have made clear that under the construct of the NERA any party can withdraw from the NERA at any time.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So is this purely political posturing from the New South Wales minister—is that right?

Mr Cook : We probably cannot answer that question.

Senator Birmingham: I think there has been more media hype than ministerial encouragement of it in some of that. It is for the New South Wales minister and the other minister to comment on. I would simply emphasise that the position of the federal government has been crystal clear since at least the 2014 budget.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I just want to clarify that when we are talking about ending the NERA agreement, that is what people refer to as the Gonski years 5 and 6—is that fair to say?

Mr Cook : The six-year agreement is the National Education Reform Agreement. That agreement only applies to five states, because three states never signed it.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: When people are talking about fulfilling the funding commitments made under Gonski years 5 and 6, that only relates to NERA—not to anything in the act?

Mr Cook : That is right.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It is going to take a lot of effort to get the states on board on something like this. On the one hand you are saying that you are ripping up an agreement that they had previously made, and they are rightly pissed off about that; on the other hand you are putting in place a new model. There must be a lot of negotiation and smoothing of feathers going on.

Senator Birmingham: The states have very high level of interest in the topic you asked about before about what the definitions are around maintaining real effort. They have a variety of questions. I am sure the department can speak for their own consultations, but in my engagements if there is one aspect that seems to have focused the minds of the states more than anything else, it is the requirement that they must maintain their real funding effort and the implementation for the first time of a potential financial penalty if they do not do so.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Can I just clarify: states that are currently above 80 per cent of their contribution will be allowed to drop their contribution to 80 per cent, despite the act providing that states must maintain their effort—is that correct?

Senator Birmingham: We covered this with Senator Hanson-Young before, but the short answer is yes—the requirement is that the state must either maintain their real effort or stay at or above 80 per cent of the SRS.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: We were talking about overfunded schools previously. There has been a lot of talk about the 24 schools. I would like to know how much in total the 24 schools lose under this government proposal, and how much they would continue to gain under the status quo. Do you have those figures or is it something you would need to take on notice?

Mr Cook : I do not have them with me because we would have to look at each individual school and where they are in relation to the schooling resource standard. However, if I assume—which may be the wrong thing to do—that it is factual that all 24 schools are above the SRS at the moment they will get at least three per cent growth.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: But I want to know real dollars here.

Mr Cook : Sorry, Senator, I will have to take that on notice because we will have to model that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It would be helpful if you could. There will obviously be a difference.

Mr Cook : There will be probably a significant difference.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: The difference between the three per cent and the reduction—

Mr Cook : That is right.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: It is almost like an eight point difference.

Mr Cook : It could be.

Senator Birmingham: That is right. We went through the example before with Senator Paterson of a school where the per student reduction or the financial annual reduction each year is about five per cent. At present, of course, they would under the current law be getting an increase of three per cent each year. So in net terms there is about an eight per cent differential for that school. It is probably less for all of the others, I suspect, given the schools in question.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I would be very interested to know what that figure is. I want to know how much they are going to lose and I want to know how much they get to keep.

Mr Cook : That is a per student basis. So if they are a large school it is the eight per cent per student. If you have 1,500 children it will probably be a large amount of money for that school.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: If you could take that on notice that would be helpful. Senator Collins, before I go on to another section I am happy to go to you, if that works.

CHAIR: Senator Paterson was asking questions prior to the break and was unable to complete them.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: That is fine. I am just saying, there is no point in me starting the next tranche.

CHAIR: If you have finished yours, we will return to Senator Paterson, who is going to continue his questions.

Senator PATERSON: Ken Boston said in a speech last year that the system-weighted average ought to be replaced by aggregated socioeducational disadvantage of each individual Catholic school. Why does removing the system-weighted average provide for greater fairness for low SES students in the Catholic system in particular?

Mr Cook : It has brought me back to my response earlier. Under the current arrangements, if you have a low SES score you are treated as if you have a higher SES score. If your score is below the state average—if your SES score is 73, you are treated as if you are 101 in New South Wales, for example. What that means in terms of the notional allocation from the Commonwealth is you receive less funding notionally from the Commonwealth than you would if you were treated at your real score of SES.

Senator PATERSON: Catholic education system leaders have confirmed in letters to parents that their funding increases. You may need to take this on notice, but if you have it to hand that would be even better. How much does funding grow in total dollars and in percentage terms over the next four and 10 years for, firstly, the Queensland Catholic Education Commission?

Mr Cook : I have some of this information. I will have it over 10.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Chair, whilst we are waiting for the department I have a document here I am going to ask questions about when I come back. I am hoping I can table that and you can distribute it to try to save time. That is what I am thinking. It is the report into the Catholic Education Commission.

CHAIR: Thank you, Senator Hanson-Young. That will be tabled and we will get copies organised for you to ask questions when we return. Sorry, Senator Paterson, you can continue.

Senator PATERSON: Mr Cook?

Mr Cook : Actually, Senator, I do not think I do have the right numbers. I thought I had them. Apologies for that.

Senator PATERSON: We can do it on notice if necessary. Just to recap, I am interested in both the total dollars and percentage terms increases, and I am interested in them over the next four years and the next 10 years, essentially for every Catholic system in the country—Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales, Western Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. Rather than going through all of them verbally, it may be easier to provide a table on notice.

Mr Cook : Yes.

Senator PATERSON: I will move on to other questions. Does the current act allow systems to distribute the Commonwealth funding they receive from the department to their own schools according to their own models of need?

Mr Cook : It does.

Senator PATERSON: The current act does?

Mr Cook : The current act does.

Senator PATERSON: And the proposed act?

Mr Cook : It would keep the same arrangements in place.

Dr Bruniges : There are examples of that in the New South Wales government sector. I think I previously spoke about the resources allocation model being used there. The money would come in for government schooling and what is known as the RAM—the resources allocation model—is the way in which they distribute both state and Commonwealth funding to schools.

Senator PATERSON: So, as before, under the new system, essentially the Commonwealth will hand over a bucket of money to a system, and it is up to the system, such as the Catholic education system, to allocate it to the schools within their system, according to their own judgement of how that money should be allocated.

Dr Bruniges : That is correct—the owners and operators of the system. As the minister has said before, it is very important that they have the flexibility to be able to do that.

Senator PATERSON: And there will be no restrictions on how they can do that? We will not try and seek to intervene in any way about how they do that?

Dr Bruniges : No, not at all. We don't currently and we wouldn't in the future.

Senator PATERSON: Good. I was seeking to ensure that that was on the record. Thank you

Mr Cook : Senator, I do have the four-year figures for the Catholic sector, if that helps. I do have them in front of me now, or do you want them on notice?

Senator PATERSON: If it is easier, if you could read them out quickly that would be good.

Mr Cook : New South Wales Catholics additional funding from basically this year 2017 to 2021—so, over the four-year period—is $332 million. For the Victorian Catholics, it is $375 million. For the Queensland Catholics, it is $266 million. For the South Australia Catholics, it is $36.7 million. One of the reasons it is lower for South Australia is that they had negative enrolment growth in the South Australian Catholic sector. For the WA Catholics, it is $137 million. For the Tasmanian Catholics, it is $31 million. For the ACT Catholics, it is $1.4 million. For the Northern Territory Catholics, it is $26.1 million. This makes a total for the Catholic sector of $1.2 billion additional over the next four years.

Senator PATERSON: Can you put any further figures on notice.

Mr Cook : I will do the 10-year figures on notice.

Senator PATERSON: I want to talk about the use of SES data in order to calculate the needs of the schools. When was the SES measure first introduced?

Mr Cook : I think it was 2001.

Senator PATERSON: To your knowledge, Mr Cook, has any government since that time proposed changing or scrapping that system or attempted to change or scrap that system?

Mr Cook : Not the system that I am aware of, Senator, but I am aware that there was a change in terms of the data in that the data now uses what we call the smallest mesh block available. Whereas in the past it has been larger districts—39,000 or so districts—the latest data in the 2014 to 2017 calculations used data from 55,000 different collection districts. So it is a more focused, smaller group than it has been in the past.

Senator PATERSON: In colloquial terms, sometimes people refer to it as 'postcodes'. Is that an accurate way of talking about it?

Mr Cook : It is roughly that, but it is actually more about the number of people that are in a collection district. Now it is about 400 people in a collection district which we collect the data from in terms of allocating SES scores.

Senator Birmingham: Which is a lot smaller than a postcode.

Senator PATERSON: Exactly. This is the point I want to tease out a bit. It is not assumed that, if you live in a wealthy postcode, you have the same wealth as everyone else in that postcode. It is in fact much more granular data than that. It goes to an even more local measure of wealth than that.

Mr Cook : That is right.

Senator Birmingham: This changed some time—

Mr Cook : In the 2011 election.

Dr Bruniges : Yes.

Mr Cook : It went from 220 households to basically 400 people. There used to be, as I said, 39,000 separate districts before 2011. There are now 55,000 separate districts. So it is a much smaller what we call 'mesh block'. It is much more targeted, I guess, in that sense.

Senator PATERSON: Are there any proposals for future changes that you are aware of to the SES system?

Dr Bruniges : As the census data comes in, after every census, there is always a look at that data to update it.

Senator PATERSON: Of course. Everyone would want the most up-to-date quality data, but I am talking about the system itself. Has any major player said, 'We shouldn't use this model for calculating disadvantage'?

Mr Cook : Yes, the Catholic sector has.

Senator Birmingham: Concerns about aspects of the model have been expressed. Clear positions from any sector on a third alternative to using SES data are less obvious.

Senator PATERSON: That was going to be my follow-up question: what is the alternative method that has been suggested?

Dr Bruniges : I think what we have seen over time is that the move from collector districts down to statistical areas—the 400 people—has really been documented and in the upgrade of the data, recalculated in 2011, it was clear that that move has provided additional precision, because of the slightly smaller geographic, but in the main, not really—you would have to go to a much, much finer level of detail. The socioeducational index used by ACARA around some of its work that looks at not socioeconomic but socioeducational is something different but not to do with SES.

Senator PATERSON: So if you did not use the SES system, what would you use? What would you be able to use?

Mr Cook : This is where we talk about area based measures versus individual measures. Individual measures means every nongovernment parent—because it only applies to nongovernment schools. If you used individual parent measures it would actually have to be parents providing information around their income, I guess, in a sense.

Senator PATERSON: What limitations would there be on a model like that?

Mr Cook : It depends how they provide it. At the moment there is an appeal process, so if a school does not believe that their SES score is correct they can appeal to the government or to the department. What we do then is send out a survey to parents. The only validation of that is whatever the parent says on that form—they say they are earning $30,000, or whatever the case may be. Similarly, with taxation data, it is whatever the taxation data says. Taxation data can say different things. You can have trust funds; you can have all sorts of things in relation to that. There would be, similarly, limitations around individual data sources as well as area based data sources.

Senator PATERSON: So we could not have complete confidence in the accuracy of data that was collected under that method?

Mr Cook : Not necessarily, that is correct.

Senator PATERSON: It sounds to me like that would be quite a resource intensive task to complete?

Mr Cook : Again, it depends how it is applied. If each parent is asked to fill in information in terms of their income data to schools, yes, you would have hundreds of thousands of parents filling in that information to provide it to the government.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I did not hear Senator Paterson's earlier question clearly. What was Ken Boston recommending as an alternative?

Senator PATERSON: I can clarify, Senator Collins, if it assists. Ken Boston said in a speech last year that the system weighted average ought to be replaced by the aggregated socioeducational disadvantage of each individual Catholic school.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So not the SES, but moving to educational disadvantage. That is an interesting proposal.

Dr Bruniges : I think from memory the educational disadvantage index—I am happy to get a definition from ACARA—takes into account highest qualifications, mother's occupation et cetera. It is really quite a different measure.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I understand; I just did not quite hear what Mr Boston had recommended. The post-2011 circumstances, once we moved to the 400 individuals, were still what concerned the Gonski review panel when they made the recommendations that a comprehensive review of this should occur.

Mr Cook : Gonski said in their report that one way to resolve the SES methodology is to move to a smaller mesh block.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, I know. They said one way, and I think they might even have said what some other considerations might be, and then they recommend that government should review this measure, and that is what has never occurred.

Mr Cook : It says:

A more precise measure of the SES … This could take the form of a measure based on smaller areas, such as the mesh blocks which represent the smallest unit of the 2011 census …

So that actually happened

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So the mesh block is the 400 persons?

Mr Cook : 'Mesh block' is just a term to describe the size, and with the mesh block for school area one, SA1, we moved from a larger mesh block to a smaller mesh block, which the commentary around the Gonski report actually suggested happen.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: They did not quite suggest it; they said that one way of addressing some of these issues could be that.

Mr Cook : To do that—yes.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But they also said—

Senator Birmingham: And that was done.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: —a comprehensive review of the options should occur, didn't they?

Mr Cook : They did. That is correct.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: They also said that certain mechanisms should continue to occur until that is done, such as a system-weighted average?

Mr Cook : There are mixed views in terms of—

Senator Birmingham: Equally, I read a quote before that the report elsewhere indicates that a consistent methodology should be used.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I understand that one. That is why I wanted to go back to recommendation 11, because I think recommendation 11 really does set down the difference between the government's 'common share' approach and the Gonski approach. Recommendation 11, which I have already referred to in my recommendations about the Commonwealth grants arrangement, also said:

The Australian Government should negotiate with state and territory governments and consult with the non-government sector with a view to implementing a national schooling resource standard that allows flexibility in how it is applied across jurisdictions.

This is where the Gonski review essentially says that you may need to do this to achieve a common student resource standard across 24 different agreements, but that was the approach they recommended. They did not recommend a common-share approach, which this government has now adopted. It could not be clearer than recommendation 11.

Senator Birmingham: The legislation that was passed, the Australian Education Act 2013, put in place the broad methodology for a schooling resource standard to be applied at the national level. I would argue that the approach we are taking in providing consistent support for states and territories, based on their need under that model, but then purely mandating that they maintain effort that does allow flexibility across jurisdictions as to how they then apply schooling resource methodology within their jurisdictions. So they retain their autonomy as to how they establish their different needs based funding models, just as other systems have their own autonomy for their own application of needs based funding models. Mr Cook was about to say something, too.

Mr Cook : The former government did not accept that recommendation.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Which part of it?

Mr Cook : About the flexibility, because if you read the Gonski report they then say that Victoria should have had a smaller resourcing standard than any other state or territory.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The report says that?

Mr Cook : The report talks about state adjustments, which is where this recommendation is focused. As I said, the state adjustments, which the former government did not accept, should apply to every state and territory, so Victoria should get only a certain percentage of the schooling resource standard—a smaller percentage, below 100 per cent—compared with other states and territories.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Because?

Mr Cook : Because their state allocation was smaller. They are actually investing less money in the state education—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: This is essentially the consequences of the 2-for-1 arrangement?

Mr Cook : No. This was about how much funding Victoria gives their schools at the moment.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So this essentially is about a penalty about the starting point?

Mr Cook : That is right. So the flexibility that the Gonski report actually talks about, if you look at the state adjustment section—recommendation 11 is based in that state adjustment section—it talks about their adjustment looking at things like what costs were happening in that state and what that state was allocating. So the recommendation around Gonski in relation to this was that every state would have a different schooling resource standard. The Commonwealth did not actually accept that.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So you are suggesting, even more extremely, that the Gonski review recommendation was not that we should reach a common student resource standard but that we should reach an adjusted student resource standard.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is what it says—it says 'flexibility'.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Flexibility in that context. I will take your point and read the discussion around it, but the flexibility in that context is around the circumstances that apply in a particular jurisdiction towards reaching a student resource standard.

Mr Cook : It was not reaching; it was that everyone would have a different resource standard actually defined. That is not what happened in the current legislation—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, I understand. I will reread that element of Gonski as well.

Mr Cook : It was rejected in that sense.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It is quite intriguing that interpretation.

Senator Birmingham: The rationale for that, Mr Cook, I assume was different embedded approaches already in different states.

Mr Cook : Exactly right.

Senator Birmingham: It probably explains why Victoria invests so much less than Tasmania or WA.

Mr Cook : That is right. It was very much about the structure of the education systems in these states; that is right.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I understand that element of it. I will relook at that one. Senator Paterson raised issues around an appeal mechanism. Looking, for instance, at the Jewish schools submission to the legislation inquiry, I am wondering to what extent the department has factored in a growing incidence of appeals with the removal for systems to apply a system weighted average.

Mr Cook : Factored in?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Into your costings.

Mr Cook : Into our costings, Senator?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The point is this—

Mr Cook : It is a bit hypothetical for me because I do not know who is going to appeal until they appeal.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, but the point is this. The system weighted average has enabled school systems, where they believe that to be to their advantage, to average out kinks and bumps in how the SES formula works. If you remove that capacity then are you not more likely to have schools from within systems appealing their SES score?

Mr Cook : I would imagine anyone below the state average would not because they are going to attract additional funding or have an allocation of additional funding from the Commonwealth under those arrangements.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: They would be weighing what that additional allocation amounts to in comparison to an adjustment to their SES score, wouldn't they? Some of those adjustments for Jewish schools are incredible.

Mr Cook : The act enables that to happen.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes. At this point you have not anticipated an increase in the number of schools who might seek relief that way?

Mr Cook : We have not anticipated it in the sense that the act allows it to happen, as it always has. If they take that action then they can have a new score deemed to them and that will happen through the usual process. It is a budget adjustment, as it always is.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: To date, as an example, have you had any Lutheran schools appeal their SES score?

Mr Cook : No. The current SES score is what stands there at the moment. They would appeal their new SES score.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, I understand. But, historically, whilst they have had access to an avenue to apply a system weighted average they have not appealed the score of any of their particular schools? It is still available for a school within a system to appeal their SES score?

Mr Cook : Yes, that is right.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Historically, have any Catholic schools appealed their SES score?

Mr Cook : I am not aware whether they even appealed it before system weighted was applied. I do not think so, but we can take that on notice. I know who has appealed in this process. There are about 11 schools in the last four years that have appealed. But, before that, I do not know. I would have to take that on notice.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: At this point you have not anticipated in your costings that some of the schools with significant impacts under the new proposals will file appeals on the basis that their SES score does not match the—what do we call the area of 400 individuals?

Mr Cook : Statistical area 1.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: statistical area 1 classification?

Mr Cook : It would be very difficult for us in a budget process to be able to do that because I would have to talk to my Treasury and Finance colleagues about what my hypothetical assumptions were as to the number of schools that may choose to take that up, so, no. Like I said, in terms of the normal budgetary process, if a school does appeal and the minister approves the outcome of that appeal then the budget automatically adjusts as part of an adjustment variation.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So, under the proposed arrangements, there is an option for the Catholic school I am thinking of in Kensington. I cannot remember the exact SES score, but it is well over the average and represents Kensington rather than the community that it serves. The community it serves pretty much reflects an unfortunate syndrome that occurs right around Australia and in some regional areas as well and that is characterised by the fairly crude term 'white flight'. This school is essentially serving the communities of the high-rise flats in Kensington, predominantly kids from Vietnamese and Chinese families and other emerging communities. Actually, I see some of those factors in my own local primary school. A very high proportion of its students are on healthcare cards. It possibly would not be very difficult at all for them to demonstrate that the SES score that is attached to them does not match their student population. Would it not be the avenue for them to essentially file an appeal?

Dr Bruniges : They could do that right now, I think; they could have done it in the past.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I understand that, but presumably they have not done that in the past because the Catholic education system, in this case in Victoria, has been reasonably satisfied with the compromise that the Gonski review recommended, which is that they got a system weighted average calculation until such time as kinks and bumps in the SES criteria were rectified, and they managed those anomalies themselves internally. Now that the bill is proposing that system weighted average be removed, that leaves open a very different consideration, especially under the new capacity to contribute curve. If they are above the average and the government is anticipating in its assumptions a higher level of parental contribution because their SES score is higher, they have an even greater incentive to appeal, I would have thought.

Mr Cook : They have that right open to them. I discussed this with the NCEC specifically—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Oh, you did?

Mr Cook : Yes.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So there has been some level of anticipation.

Mr Cook : I had a slide in relation to that when we did our consultations about the appeal process, but again—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Sorry, consultations about the appeal process?

Mr Cook : Sorry. I have met with all states and territories, the independent sector and the Catholic sector over the last couple of weeks since the government announcement and gone through the details in relation to this.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: This is in the context of the proposals in the bill?

Mr Cook : That is right. I indicated that, for any non-government school in both the Catholic and the independent sector, the current appeal processes exist and those current appeal processes continue.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But you have not measured the potential cost implications of these systems resorting to that avenue.

Mr Cook : I do not know—it is a hypothetical for me.

Senator Birmingham: That is right. It is a mechanism that, as you have heard, has always been available to schools. It will continue to be available to schools. The budget impact of it would depend entirely upon whether schools choose to take that option and then, of course, the outcome of those options, which is unknown. But, as Mr Cook said, that would be a standard budget adjustment, just as shifts between government and non-government sectors, enrolment trends and different levels of loadings being attracted are all budget adjustments that are made at each budget update.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, but the two changes that I just mentioned produce a big incentive for systems that have been operating as usual to find alternative arrangements to address that problem. It sounds to me as if, whilst it has been offered by Mr Cook as a potential relief to school systems that are concerned about these issues, no thought to date has been given to the consequences if, given these incentives, they do seek that relief. They have not done it historically because they have been able to operate at a system level—

Mr Cook : Only in the last four years.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes. They have not used it in the last four years because they have been able to operate at a system level. That capacity has been curtailed to some extent, and that curtailment will produce new incentives to look for other means of relief to deal with these issues.

Senator Birmingham: It is a valid option within the existing act. I have discussed it with people as well, recognising that in terms of addressing examples such as the one you just gave, if the school and their administrators are genuinely convinced that the SES score does not accurately reflect the circumstances of the school community, then there is a pathway for them to have that fixed. That is only fair, and you have heard exactly how that could work, the fact that it has been done before for other schools and, yes, there would need to be budget adjustments made in the normal order of events were schools to exercise their rights to make that request.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But we cannot understand at this point what the scale of those adjustments might be.

Senator Birmingham: That would depend entirely, as you know, on the number of schools and the outcomes of those assessments. That is not something that is foreseeable, but it is a fair process that ensures schools and systems, if they genuinely believe their SES score is not representative of their school community, do have an outlet to have that tested and addressed.

Senator PATERSON: Just a clarifying question: it is true, though, that schools can get a loading on top of the base amount for social disadvantage, isn't it?

Mr Cook : The low SES loading—that is correct, yes.

Senator PATERSON: What else can they get loadings for?

Mr Cook : There are six loadings on top of what we call the base, primary and secondary amounts. There are loadings for disability, for low socio-economic, for English-language proficiency and for Indigeneity—Indigenous children at the school. They are effectively the student loadings, and then there are two school loadings. One is in relation to location, where you are in the country, and one is in relation to size.

Senator PATERSON: And location—is that remoteness?

Mr Cook : That is right.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Looking at that option, it would be an interesting question to ask the various systems what proportion of their schools they believe are overclassified under the SES. That might give you some sense of the magnitude of what we are talking about here. Of course, the appeal mechanism only adjusts the SES score if it is regarded as too high. It will not adjust it if it is regarded as too low, will it?

Mr Cook : The outcome is the outcome.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But no-one is going to seek an appeal of an SES score that is lower than their real school population, are they?

Senator Birmingham: I think you are right that, if you thought you had an SES score lower than your actual school population, or if you were operating on the margins and were uncertain of the outcome, then you would be unlikely to seek that appeal.

Mr Cook : That is right.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: If there is a fundamental problem—as has been suggested to me—with the SES measure, that it underrepresents wealth, income, affluence, then in a policy sense the appeal mechanism is not really going to help, is it?

Senator Birmingham: But the example you just gave before is an argument that it is overrepresenting wealth and income.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: No, no. That was in a particular case. Certainly there are cases of schools—like the case I gave, of Kensington, for instance—but the broader concern is that, overall, the SES measure undermeasures income, wealth. You have heard that concern as well, Dr Bruniges?

Dr Bruniges : I have got a copy of Mr Elder's paper, and I think it is implicit within his opening summary. He actually talks about that in that paper.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I must say, though, that that paper is not the only thing that informs my understanding of this.

Dr Bruniges : This is one place, but, until you look at nearly unit record data, it is very hard to make a big generalisation like that. We need to be really careful. As Mr Cook said, moving from collector district down to the next size, of SA1s—down to the 400—gives us a better look. Then the appeal mechanism really is at the individual school level—so depending on the size of the school and the kids. That is another thing. But it actually may be bigger than a SA block. If a school has, for example, 1,000 students who are travelling from diverse areas across an area, then the parent survey from the appeal would have to capture that, which would give us a bigger amount of students in that area. In dealing with the data, I am always very cautious not to make too many generalisations. I think that is where we need to look very carefully at the data sources, at what they are telling us, and at how it is being analysed before we do that. As I said, I have certainly noted that from the paper that has been provided.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That leads to the further issue where, if that is the case, the implications for Commonwealth spending are pretty obvious.

Dr Bruniges : I think the other thing, though, is that every system will make decisions about how they distribute their money. I think I have given the case of New South Wales and the resource allocation model, and what weighting you put on those variables when you distribute the funding to areas of greatest need. At a system level you have far more details, or other considerations, that you might want to do, whether it is really remote—western New South Wales—or whether you are dealing with Dubbo, or with a city. A number of considerations, and rightly so, should be made at the system level to make that finer distribution once the money comes in, whether it is state or federal. Basically, you get those two sources of money, you put that through your model, and you distribute it. The determinants of the model can rightly vary from system to system. I think in WA it is different, and I think Richard Teese did some work in the WA context. Indeed, in constructing the RAM, we did a lot of research in New South Wales—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Sorry, constructing the—

Dr Bruniges : The resource allocation model for the New South Wales government system. It only applies to the government system.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Is that publicly available?

Dr Bruniges : I think there is a great deal on the New South Wales education and training website about the resource allocation model.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That would be very interesting, because there has been a lot of fairly superficial talk around allocation models that government systems, Catholic systems, and, indeed, other systems might apply, but it has not been particularly well informed from what I have seen in public reporting of it. In fact, I am disappointed that Senator Hanson-Young is not here to hear you talk about the New South Wales government distribution arrangements. The problem now for non-government school systems is that this model adds a further consideration to their existing distribution arrangements, and that is: how do they deal with schools all having been provided with the information the department has sent out and which is online in the funding estimator, and letters from the department, as opposed to how they manage schools that will be losing funds under the changes proposed with the capacity-to-contribute arrangements. They are probably in a situation where they cannot win either way. If they try and apply their existing needs-based distribution arrangements—I have seen the detail of the Catholic Education Commission of Victoria's one—then they will have issues and problems around how information has been provided to schools in the estimator and in relation to what schools might expect without understanding the whole scope of the factors that you have discussed.

Dr Bruniges : I think, from the systems model, the transparency of those models is incredibly important for community—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I agree.

Dr Bruniges : about how it is determined. When you go to My School, you see Australian government recurrent funding and state government recurrent funding. They are separated, indeed, in a very public way on My School already. I think the difference there is the overhead costs or the system factors—such as the use of curriculum consultants, regional structures and so forth—that are built into that. The amounts on My School will never match with the exact funding flows for systems because there are additional variables added into that for My School.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is right; in fact, like in Victoria, where they have some additional loadings to the federal loadings that Senator Paterson was asking about before. They also have to accommodate students that, essentially, are not funded—emerging communities, refugees and the like—who really are not absorbed into the model in the same way.

Senator Birmingham: To the last point, the school census picks up all students. Obviously, yes—different jurisdictions, different systems, will apply different considerations of particular need. So whilst there are loadings for students from backgrounds with languages other than English or backgrounds of low socio-educational advantage, clearly systems may choose to apply those in different ways for recent migrants, refugees or otherwise.

As Dr Bruniges has indicated, the transparency of systems with their constituent bodies about their approach, the distribution of their funding, is something that we would encourage to make sure that all in their constituent bodies have confidence about the way in which those allocations occur. That is a matter between them and their bodies, but there is nothing under what is proposed that necessitates systems to change their allocative mechanisms that they currently have based on their own needs-based approaches.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Except that the minister is telling the schools that lose dollars under these nominal arrangements that their system can redistribute those dollars.

Senator Birmingham: The system can redistribute those dollars.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Sorry, and accept also that the minister has put out fantasy figures.

Senator Birmingham: The system can redistribute all of the dollars within the system, and do so in a manner where they explain to their school communities the needs-based funding approach that they are applying to do so.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: As I said, when you put out fantasy figures to schools and then when you also tell them—well, we have been through this before. You cannot count a dollar twice.

Dr Bruniges : Can I make another point: if I were in a system—it would not matter what kind of system I am in—and I was looking at my Commonwealth flow and my state flow, what I would do is take into consideration both of those, and then distribute. If I were in a non-government system, 80 per cent of that flow comes from the Commonwealth and you have another 20 per cent coming in if you get 100 per cent of the resourcing standard from the state and territory. Those two things go together, which gives you the capacity to distribute both of those amounts through your own model.

If you are in a government school, then you are watching the flow from the state recurrent flow that comes from the state government—the 20 per cent flow at the end of 2017 from the Commonwealth government added to whatever that state flow is, given the maintenance of EfS clause. Then you would put that through your model and distribute. Just looking at Commonwealth money will not give you a picture of the total amount for either sector, and just looking at state money would do the same.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Which is why Gonski recommended that we should look at total.

Senator Birmingham: And there is an extra factor, which is that in most systems the schools themselves are not engaging in the payroll function for teachers and the payment of a lot of those overheads. So even where My School reports what a system is spending on a school, the dollars the school actually sees in that school that might be discretionary for that principal and school community to allocate are a mere fraction of any of the overall quantum of funds that are overwhelmingly tied up in teacher costs, salaries and other overheads.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: We understand that and, indeed, that is one of the issues which informs the discussion we had earlier about exactly what was recommended about some of those disparities. Of course, teacher wage costs are very different across state jurisdictions, and this is why the Commonwealth share will potentially produce some quite bizarre windfalls.

Mr Cook : Noting that those different teaching wage costs are actually built into the model in the sense that the basis of the whole model is the data that is actually on My School, which has teacher wage costs built into it. So the 1,600 schools or so that are the basis for calculating—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Sorry. Back to what year?

Mr Cook : That is 2015 now. So using the 2013-14-15 NAPLAN data—this is about how that number was calculated—the teacher wages of all those schools in all those different states are actually built into that. So there are a whole range of different teacher wage enterprise agreements, effectively, built into that base primary and secondary price.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: The new SRS price?

Mr Cook : That is right. The latest data that is available—2015 financial data—would be capturing, basically, the 2015 enterprise agreements that were in place.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So why is there a concern suggesting that that is skewed towards the wage costs represented in Victoria and New South Wales?

Mr Cook : I guess it comes down to who makes up the reference schools. Gonski was very clear: reference schools would be based on performance. So that is the original recommendation that has been accepted by all.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I fully understand where the high-performing schools are. But that then helps inform why the teacher wages costs may not be adequately reflected in the 2015 data.

Mr Cook : There is representation of all schools in every state and territory in relation to the data.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But we know from our outcome data—

Mr Cook : But, similarly, if a state or territory of those two states increases and we update that data, then the costs will go up, as well.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is a performance incentive for the states. If they start producing better outcomes, they are more likely to have their schools in the reference schools groups—

Mr Cook : That is correct. That is a good thing.

Senator Birmingham: We would like to have lots more schools in the reference group.

Mr Cook : Unfortunately, when we updated the data we had 17 per cent of schools meeting this benchmark in 2011. There is now 18.6 per cent, I think. Unfortunately, we would like to have more incentive to get that number up a little higher, I think it would be fair to say.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It would be nice to know how proportionate that data was in relation to population for the states.

Mr Cook : We have a technical report which, actually, we are about to provide to states and territories around that.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: So you mentioned that there are schools in each state and territory, but I am just curious about how proportionate that representation is.

Mr Cook : We can provide that information on notice.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Dr Bruniges, as we were discussing before, there are a number of different systems. I prefer not to focus exclusively on just one system. Could you supplement the question that Senator Paterson asked before with the state-by-state figures that were just provided for Catholic systems?

Mr Cook : So the growth in funding by states?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes. Can you do that now? We had the other ones.

Mr Cook : Yes. So the New South Wales government: $610 million additional over the period, using 2017 as the base—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Do you have a table or something that does this?

Mr Cook : It is in Budget Paper No. 3. So if you look at BP3—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: On what page?

Mr Cook : Page 30, according to my very wise colleague behind me.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Budget Paper No. 3, page 30 will give me—

Mr Cook : A breakdown of government and non-government. Non-government is not broken down by Catholic and independent.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Okay. Let's start again!

Mr Cook : It is the consistent practice that we have had for quite a while now.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is fine, but it does not really give me what I want, does it?

Senator Birmingham: You were asking about government, weren't you?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I suppose I could take the figures that you gave to Senator Paterson and I could subtract them from the non-government, which would then give me the other non-government.

Mr Cook : With one other caveat, I am sorry. The other caveat was that the funding information I gave to Senator Paterson was recurrent funding. BP3 has total funding, which includes capital funding and a whole range of things in there as well.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Oh, no.

Senator Birmingham: And, I note, it is by financial year, whereas you were probably doing it by calendar year to Senator Paterson. So perhaps we will shut BP3—

Mr Cook : We will take it on notice.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: All right, let's start again! New South Wales government—

Senator Birmingham: I can happily say, Senator Collins, that the fact that we fund by calendar year and we budget by financial year is a very frustrating thing for everybody.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I know—yes. But let's talk apples. So apples to Senator Paterson: New South Wales government.

Mr Cook : To be clear, this is the recurrent funding growth from the Commonwealth over four calendar years, using 2017 as the starting point and the benchmark how much additional funding since 2017.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It is not the fantasy 2017—is it?

Mr Cook : This is what is recorded in the budget papers.

Senator Birmingham: The aggregate is the aggregate under any circumstances for 2017.

Mr Cook : That is right.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: That is true. Sorry, the fantasy only applies at school level!

Senator Birmingham: I am not accepting that. If we can at least agree on the aggregate that would be helpful.

Mr Cook : An additional $610 million for New South Wales government sector over four years. Do you want just government sectors?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I also want non-Catholic non-government.

Mr Cook : Independent?


Mr Cook : The New South Wales independent sector, $337 million; the Victorian government, $540 million—these are rounded up, by the way; Victorian independent, $303 million; Queensland government, $542 million; Queensland independent, $237 million; South Australian government, $147 million; South Australian independent, $91 million; WA government, $277 million; WA independent, $127 million; Tasmanian government, $30 million; Tasmanian independent, $14 million; ACT government, $45 million; ACT independent $8 million; Northern Territory government, $24 million; and Northern Territory independent, $33 million.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Now that I have all those figures, remind me of the time period.

Mr Cook : That is over four years.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Okay. You took on notice doing the over-10?

Mr Cook : That is right.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Could you also take on notice the over-10 for the other sectors. Thank you. Can I go to some other school examples. In this case, I want to include consideration of public schools as well. How is it fair that the calculator shows that Lauriston Girls School in Armadale in Melbourne with 83 per cent of students from the top income quarter gets a funding increase of $4,085 per student, yet Tennant Creek High School, with 73 per cent of its students in the bottom income quarter, gets an increase of just $1,300 per student over 10 years? How is that fair?

Mr Cook : You are comparing government versus non-government.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: In this case, that is the comparison.

Mr Cook : Part of that will be the fact that from the Commonwealth perspective, it is 20 per cent share for government and 80 per cent share for non-government. That will make a significant difference.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: It is a Commonwealth common share factor?

Mr Cook : It is history in that the Commonwealth has always provided more funding to the non-government on a per student basis than they do in the government sector.

Senator O'NEILL: That does not make it fair.

Mr Cook : I am not saying it is fair; I am saying it is history. It is the way it has always been.

Senator O'NEILL: The government is trying to say it is fair.

Senator Birmingham: I am not aware that any party has proposed to change that reality, that the Commonwealth remains the dominant—

Senator Hanson-Young interjecting

Senator Birmingham: Perhaps aside from the Greens—

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I think Mr Gonski recommended it too.

Senator O'NEILL: Absolutely.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: He thought it would end the funding wars.

Senator Birmingham: Mr Gonski did not recommend that the Commonwealth and the states would all fund an equal level of government to non-government schools.

Senator O'NEILL: It was never about the states; it was always about the students. That is what has been missing. I have been sitting here all day listening to this conversation and it is about money and states, not about students and equity and a guarantee that Australians—

Senator Birmingham: You must have been listening to your own questions.

CHAIR: You want to talk about how New South Wales students are treated?

Senator O'NEILL: I would love to, Chair, but I want to ask the minister a question. My concern through the whole of the debate that we have had today is the understanding that there was going to be a balancing out of the gross inadequacy of some students' experience of schooling by comparison with others. That was the goal of the report that Senator Collins is referring to today. That is what Australians bought into. That is what they were expecting. That is what you promised to support when you said 'dollar for dollar', and that was about students walking through the gate of any school, anywhere in the country, and getting an equitable experience of education. I have not heard you mention students and the capacity for learning once today. You have talked about being fair to states. As a parent, I am concerned about being fair to children.

Senator Birmingham: We are here to answer questions and we have been answering questions all day, and I have not really heard—

Senator O'NEILL: How is your model fair to children, Minister? How is your model fair to children?

Senator Birmingham: And, until now, Senator O'Neill, I am not sure I have heard to words 'student' or 'children' used all day either—

CHAIR: That is right.

Senator Birmingham: in your questions or Senator Collins's questions.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I have described student populations pretty clearly on several occasions, so I would like you to withdraw that assertion, please!

Senator Birmingham: I am more than happy to talk about the fact that we are investing an additional $18.6 billion—

Senator O'NEILL: It still does not make it fair.

Senator Birmingham: across schools; that the greatest numbers of schools seeing growth are in the government sector; that 4,135 government schools will see funding growth in excess of five per cent per student per annum and that there is strong growth of funding into those schools. Indeed, of the overall funding growth, we are seeing growth of 94 per cent over the decade into the government sector overall, clearly above the other sectors. It is because we are delivering a needs based model to help schools provide for students and children the resources they need and the support in their schools. And of course we are not just doing it focused on money. That is why Mr Gonski has agreed to lead the further review, looking at achieving educational excellence in Australian schools, so that we can arm schools with the best knowledge and expertise and resources in the future as to how they take our record and growing share of funding and apply it most effectively to help students across the country, especially those in the most disadvantaged schools, who will see the greatest increase in terms of the funding that they receive from the Commonwealth under this proposal. So, Senator O'Neill, we are absolutely determined to make sure that, yes, we provide a funding model that treats the states fairly and that encourages those states who underfund their schools, like Victoria or New South Wales, to invest more.

Senator O'NEILL: I am sure the states' feelings will be very happy about that! What about their children's learning?

Senator Birmingham: But, in terms of the children, we are also making sure that that extra funding we are applying goes to the schools that, from the federal government, are getting the rawest deal at present.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Let us have another example of raw deals and of how this common Commonwealth share is not going to deliver. How is it fair that Wanguri Primary School, with around one-quarter Indigenous kids, gets an increase of just $565 per student, yet Geelong Grammar, with 70 per cent of its kids in the higher income grouping—

Senator Birmingham: What was the first school, please?

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Wanguri Primary School. Seventy per cent of Geelong Grammar's kids are in the highest income quartile; it gets $2,309 per student. How is it fair that Geelong Grammar gets an increase of $16.6 million over you applying a common Commonwealth share?

Senator O'NEILL: 'Fair'—oh my! In another world, it could be fair!

Senator Birmingham: Even with the Commonwealth applying 80 per cent of the schooling resource standard to Geelong Grammar, and 20 per cent to children across the Northern Territory government system, there will still be more funding for that student in the Northern Territory government system, on average—without even taking into context the fact that you have cited a particular Northern Territory government school whose funding would be well above the Northern Territory government average, and that there is still greater support that we would expect to flow through. So it is about having a needs based formula that ensures, in the Northern Territory, their funding, on a per student basis, even at 20 per cent of the share, is not only well above every other government system but, at 80 per cent of the share for the ACT, is above the independent sector in the ACT and the Catholic sector in the ACT when the model is fully implemented. So it gives you some sense that there is a very high level of additionality provided under the model based on need for students exactly in that type of school to make sure that there is additional support and resourcing available to help those schools help those students.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: But lifting to an 80 per cent Commonwealth share in this fashion is delivering a windfall for some particular high-fee independent schools, including my own.

Senator Birmingham: Senator Collins, your alleged windfall, in a number of circumstances, is less than what the existing legislation provides for those schools in terms of their growth.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I am yet to be convinced of that, and that has been taken on notice by the department. Will we get a chance to look at that material before we have you on Monday?

Senator Birmingham: As I said, for 4,135 out of the nation's 6,619 government schools, we anticipate funding growth per student in excess of five per cent per student, compared with the maximum indexation rate under the existing legislation of 4.7 per cent per student.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, but it is the five per cent across some particular schools that have been characterised as having negative growth or close to negative growth that is the concerning factor here. So I look forward to the material Mr Cook has said he will make available, because I think we need an opportunity to investigate that material when we come back to the department on Monday. So I am hoping it will be with me by Monday. Chair, you mentioned a couple of questions. I have a final one, if I may, before you move on.

CHAIR: Excellent, thank you.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Minister, regarding the discussion about a more balanced funding role, I go back again to recommendation 22 from the Gonski review, where it clearly recommended that:

The Australian Government and the states and territories, in consultation with the non-government sector, should negotiate more balanced funding roles as part of the transition to a new funding model for all schools—

with the government taking a greater role for government schools and with states taking a greater role for nongovernment schools. This was all in the context of ending the funding wars.

CHAIR: Exactly.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I take it that, despite agreements and arrangements in some cases providing for different, greater shares of Commonwealth contribution for government schools—I think we went through New South Wales, which was the $22.3 billion—your answer to that recommendation is to embed for 10 years an 80-20 break-up between government and nongovernment schools. Do you really think that is an adequate response to that recommendation? It is a three per cent increase for the Commonwealth's contribution for government schools. If I recall, that is right, isn't it, Mr Cook—from 17 to 20 per cent for government schools.

Mr Cook : That is correct. The national average at the moment is 17 per cent. It will be going to 20 per cent by 2027.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Do you really think that is an adequate response to recommendation 22?

CHAIR: That is an opinion, Senator Collins.

Senator Birmingham: I am happy to oblige with a response, if you will indulge me for a second, Chair. Senator Collins, as the evidence earlier today demonstrated, in 2014-15 the Commonwealth was funding about 13.4 per cent of the schooling resource standard. It has grown under this government to about 17 per cent, and we are proposing under these reforms to continue to grow it to 20 per cent. That has taken the Commonwealth's share, in terms of the schooling resource standard—which, in practical terms, for states like Victoria, is actually an even greater component of what is funded in the school, because the state does not provide the other 80 per cent—and grown that from 13.4 per cent to ultimately 20 per cent. That is adding an extra 48 per cent or so onto where it was previously, in terms of the responsibility the Commonwealth will be taking by the time it gets to 20 per cent. It is a record level of federal government investment in government schools in the history of the Commonwealth, and is already forecast to continue to grow, in terms of that share and responsibility. It does absolutely entail a more balanced funding role and, ultimately, a greater role for the Commonwealth, in terms of government schools. So I think, against every measure of that recommendation, it is clear that the action reflects the recommendation.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Gonski 1 got it to 17 per cent. I know you have nicely described that as 'under this government', but the four years of the Gonski 1 plan got it to 17 per cent, and you are going to embed it at 20 per cent for 10 years.

Senator Birmingham: Senator Collins, you can say 'Gonski 1'. This government came to office, and there was no funding under Gonski for Queensland, Western Australia or the Northern Territory.

CHAIR: That is right—so much for a national model!

Senator Birmingham: We had to put an additional $1.2 billion back in that had been stripped out in the pre-election outlook.

CHAIR: Let's talk about those students.

Senator O'NEILL: No, no, no.

CHAIR: No, let's talk about the WA students. Let's talk about the Queensland students.

Senator O'NEILL: We have unpicked that line over and over again. We have interrogated that at multiple estimates.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: I did not think you were playing Christopher Pyne games, but if we want to retreat to that—

Senator Birmingham: No, Senator Collins, you were the one wanting to go back to 2013-14.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Do not go to the Abbott scenario, please.

Senator Birmingham: I was very happy to go back to 2013-14.

CHAIR: Please, Minister. Please do.

Senator Birmingham: We have delivered the funding to increase the share from 13.4 to 17 per cent—

Senator O'NEILL: 'Dollar for dollar'—wasn't that what he said?

Senator Birmingham: even though not all of the funding was there in the budget.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: For four years.

Senator O'NEILL: Oh, fine print!

Senator Birmingham: The $1.2 billion was not there when we came to office.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Yes, but your budget does not include 10 years.

Senator Birmingham: We put it in, and we are now budgeting.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Minister, your budget, does not include 10 years. You are only doing four years.

Senator Birmingham: We are now budgeting with $18.6 billion of extra funding this year to take it out to a 20 per cent share, a greater role for the Commonwealth than ever before.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: Minister, you cannot use those lines twice. You cannot attack us for funding over the forwards—

CHAIR: Thank you, Minister. I think I have indulged enough. Senator Paterson, you have the call.

Senator JACINTA COLLINS: when you are doing exactly the same.

CHAIR: Senator Collins, Senator Paterson has the call.

Senator PATERSON: Thank you, Chair. I think it may be helpful to go back to first principles here and reflect on why the changes are proposed. In what way—perhaps, Minister, you are the best person to answer this—will the proposed legislation make the system fairer?

Senator Birmingham: As I think we said before, it sees the Commonwealth take on a greater role in school funding, but it sees the Commonwealth balance out its role across the jurisdictions and across the non-government sectors. But what does that mean for schools and kids? It means that, in a school of particular need and particular demographic composition in one state or territory, if they have exactly the same numbers of kids and circumstances of need as a school in another state or territory, under our proposal they will receive the same level of federal government support. Right now you can have a school of 700 kids of high needs sitting in one jurisdiction that gets thousands of dollars less per student than the federal government provides to an identical school in a different state. That is not fair. That is not providing consistent support for kids and schools who need it across the country. The same distinction can be drawn not just in government schools but in non-government schools across either different sectors or the same sector between states and territories. We are proposing a funding approach that means that a school will be funded by the national government based on a consistent needs based formula regardless of a state or territory boundary and regardless of a sectoral difference within the non-government sector.

Senator PATERSON: You have mentioned some general examples in your answer about how the current system is unfair, and we have talked about one or two specific ones today. Are there any other more specific examples of how the current system results in these kinds of perverse and unfair outcomes?

Senator Birmingham: In terms of looking at the way it translates in reality to schools in one state versus another, as I have indicated, in Western Australia the Commonwealth only provides support for government students at around 14.3 per cent of the schooling resource standard. On average, that translates to about $2,200 per student. Yet in Queensland, for example, we are providing 17.4 per cent of the schooling resource standard, a full three percentage points extra in Queensland relative to WA, just because of the deals that were done, which sees Queensland attracting around $600 more per student than WA. That is just on an average. If you take a school of particularly high needs in either of those jurisdictions, you will see an even greater disparity in the per-student funding provided to a high-need school in Queensland versus a high-need school in WA, again clearly showing that there are real inequities there. In the non-government sector, you have a situation at present where you could literally walk up to—because of the way some of the things we have been discussing today like system averaging and so on works—a non-government school in some parts of the country, or almost anywhere in the country, and change the name on the gate of that school. You could put in a different administrator who was part of a system, as distinct from it being managed as a standalone school, and the government funding attracted for that school with the same kids, the same families and the same need sitting inside it would change just because the name on the gate and who administers it had changed.

We are trying to apply something here that, again, would ensure consistency in the treatment of that school while still respecting the fact that the bulk of Australian schools operate in systems, whether they are government systems or non-government systems, and that they have a better granular understanding of how to distribute their funding amongst their schools.

Senator PATERSON: That name-on-the-gate scenario seems extremely perverse. For the record, can you just explain, again, how such a patchwork system was put in place where schools and students, just because they go to a school that has a different religious denomination, for example, can be treated in such different and adverse ways.

Senator Birmingham: The outcomes in a range of these areas are a result of history and legacy arrangements in so many instances. They are the impacts, particularly in aspects of state government funding, of the different deals that were stitched up prior to the 2013 election. Then there is also an embedding and a rolling over of legacy funding arrangements that in some cases go back almost literally decades in terms of their existence and being rolled through one's funding change to another. So what we are confronted with today are a whole lot of very different approaches and schools whose future indexation is just an indexation based on what they are currently getting, not with a view to where we want to get that school to. The existing legislative model simply says, 'We'll index schools by this percentage each year based on three different circumstances,' and they keep getting that indexation on top of what they have currently got.' However, the fundamental change in our model is to say: 'Actually, we have a vision of where we want schools to get to in terms of consistent, equal treatment under the schooling resource standard, and we will apply a steady transition path over 10 years, rather than 10-plus decades, to actually get those schools to that end point.'

Senator PATERSON: Thank you.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: I want to go to some more questions around the model as outlined in the package. Just for the record so we can go from there: can you just remind us all of the various categories for loadings.

Mr Cook : There are six loadings. Four of those loadings are student based: so a low-SES loading—or low-socioeducational advantage it is, not socioeconomic; an Indigenous loading; an English language proficiency loading; and a disability loading—they are the four student loadings. Then there are two school loadings: one in relation to location of the school—remoteness et cetera; and one on the size of the school.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Am I correct in thinking that location and size of the school interrelate in some ways?

Mr Cook : That is right, and that is described in the act as it currently stands, and that has not changed.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Are all of those loadings the same under the current act, or is that the only one?

Mr Cook : The calculation of those loadings, other than the student disability loading—which will change and use nationally consistent collection data for the first time ever; a consistent national definition—remains the same.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Can you explain how the loadings are actually calculated.

Mr Cook : Sure. The loadings, other than the size loading, feed off what we call the base student amount—so the primary amount of $11,000 and the secondary amount of $13,000, rounded. If you have got an Indigenous child in your school, there will be a percentage loading for that Indigenous child—that one child—and that percentage will be multiplied by, if it is a primary school, the $11,000 that is for a primary school. That is all additive, so each loading will then be added on top of the other and that is how you get the school's Schooling Resource Standard. There are roughly 9,400 schools and there are 9,400 Schooling Resource Standards in the country. Each school has a different standard, depending on the demographics of that school.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is the calculation that you are using under this proposal different to what is in the current act?

Mr Cook : The calculations are the same. The difference is in the transition arrangements that currently exist. There will be different arrangements under the new proposal.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Can you explain that for me?

Mr Cook : In every state and territory there is a different transition arrangement, depending on what the agreement was with the former government. So in South Australia, for example, their transition—the proportion they would get of their Schooling Resource Standard—depends on what the agreement was with the former government and the South Australian government. And so moving to 95 per cent of the Schooling Resource Standard, which was the goal, was slower in the first four years and then moved quicker in the last two years. For every state and territory that is different, so every arrangement is different and that is why we have so many different arrangements in the country.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Can you explain how you account for that? For a student in South Australia who has particular loadings—an Indigenous kid or a child with disabilities—how do you now account for the fact that they really have not had any extra support over the last four years while other states have? You were talking about transitional arrangements; does that kid have to wait until 10 years' time in order to actually be confident that they are going to a school that can cater to their needs?

Mr Cook : Cater for their needs? It is a bit hard to talk about that in a sense, but, as a result of former arrangements, each state will start in a different place from 2017.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Yes. So there is no ability to ensure that those students in schools that are further behind can catch up faster? We are just hoping that by the end of the 10 years they are there?

Mr Cook : Those states that are further behind will get a greater increased share because they are further behind.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Where does that fit into the calculation?

Mr Cook : I will use WA. So 14 per cent or so of the SRS is where they start in 2017. For that six per cent difference to get to 20 per cent, they will get a 10th of that six in the first year, whereas, if it were New South Wales, which might be 19 per cent, they would get a 10th of their one per cent. So the WA student is getting a lot more money than the New South Wales student because the New South Wales student, at the moment, is closer than the WA student. Those who are further behind will actually get significantly more money from the Commonwealth to get to their particular point, whereas at the moment everyone just gets the same percentage. Under the act at the moment, no matter how far you are behind, you get 4.7 per cent. So you may be really close—you will get 4.7 per cent; you may be a long way behind and you will get 4.7 per cent.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do you have an example of a school that is significantly behind and what that would look like—to get them up? You are saying that there are 10 equal steps; for a school that is well and truly behind—high needs—what do those increments look like? Are you able to do that?

Mr Cook : We can take that on notice. We can do that—that is not a problem at all.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Thank you. I know there has been some discussion already, of course, about the capacity-to-contribute element in this for non-government schools. I just want to tease that out a bit more. Do the loadings themselves take into consideration capacity to contribute, or is that calculated somewhere else?

Mr Cook : No. The capacity to contribute for non-government schools only applies to that base primary and secondary amount. So if that—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So the $11,000—

Mr Cook : And the $13,000—that is right. If a child with disability goes to a non-government school their disability loading is calculated on $11,000 and $13,000, whereas their base amount would be discounted by 20 per cent, 80 per cent, whatever it might be. Each of the loadings applies equally to the government and non-government sector, but then, of course, it would just be—

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: The base might be lower depending on your capacity.

Mr Cook : Yes, that is right. And then the Commonwealth share will be different across government and non-government.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: You mentioned before—correct me if I am wrong—in relation to this capacity to contribute that the private income is discounted through the model of the SRS. Can you explain that.

Mr Cook : That is correct. In the act there are defined capacity-to-contribute percentages. If you are a school that is fairly affluent you may have an SES score of 125, for example. Any school that is 125 or above will have an 80 per cent discount applied to their primary amount of $11,000 or to their secondary amount of $13,000. Any less-affluent school—I think the SES score is 93 or below—will have a 10 per cent discount to their $11,000 or their $13,000. That is how it is applied through the model. Between the SES scores of 93 and 125 there are variation discount amounts, which are defined in the act.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: For the record, that capacity to contribute is based on the SES model?

Mr Cook : That is correct. So the calculations using the ABS data—that is correct.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: High-SES schools often have at least a few students who attract loadings for disadvantage. We hear this quite a bit from the schools themselves in the various sectors. Just to be clear, the loading follows the student, effectively.

Mr Cook : Effectively. That is based on the enrolment data that we get, and we update our annual estimates when we get real census data in every year. We provide funding to the non-government sector three times a year. Our last payment is effectively the adjustment payment, where there might have been students that have come in through the enrolment in that year's process.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: So even a high-SES school, if there are a few kids with disability, Indigenous kids or refugee children or something, will still get its loading, regardless of where the base is.

Mr Cook : Yes, but under the current arrangement it also depends on where they are in relation to the schooling resource standard. If the school is above the schooling resource standard there will then be a calculation between—if they are 160 per cent of the SRS, for example, and another child with disability arrives they will get an enrolment amount of money, but in fact they may already have more money than that student has generated through the model.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: This touches on part of the conversation we were having earlier around the relationship with states and how you tie states into this: how will states distribute their funding on the basis of need? You have your formula for 20 per cent. How do we know that states are going to distribute their 80 per cent, or vice versa for non-government schools? How do we know that that is going to be done on the basis of need?

Mr Cook : In the current act there is a requirement that any approved system authority, which includes non-government systems and government systems like a state government, are required to distribute their funding based on need.

CHAIR: Using the same formula or their own?

Mr Cook : Not the same formula. It is the same construct. It says they must have six loadings—the same loadings I read out before—but how they calculate those loadings is a decision for them. They must have a loading for Indigeneity, they must have a loading for et cetera. How they calculate is then up to them.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do you have any idea as to how that calculation works in each jurisdiction?

Mr Cook : We have some idea, based on information being made public. The New South Wales model, for example, is public, so we would know that. I think the schooling resource package in Victoria is public. It is a requirement under the act for them also to make the information public. Not all systems, I believe, have done so, but generally for most states and territories we would be aware of that.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: We continue to hear that New South Wales, for example, are doing quite well with their implementation of what was much closer to the original recommendations of the Gonski report. Is the way that New South Wales calculate their loadings on the basis of need in line with what is currently in our act, the formula that is currently used?

Mr Cook : I will ask the expert next to me.

Dr Bruniges : Yes, it would be aligned currently to the act. Remember that the resource allocation model in New South Wales applies only to the government schooling sector, so it is not a New South Wales model as such; it is a New South Wales government model.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: What happens to any money that is given to non-government schools? How is that distributed?

Dr Bruniges : They would have their own model based on need. It might be that the New South Wales Catholic Education Commission would have some way of distributing between the dioceses, and they would determine their areas of need. So there are different models. We had a conversation earlier about flexibility to take in a finer grain of detail. For example, in your example of communities that may have a particular concentration or a group moving in, such as refugee students, having that model, and flexibility at a systems manager level, enables you to account for some of those differences at a much finer level than the Commonwealth could with statistical area or collector districts from the ABS data.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: We know that the New South Wales formula for calculating it for government schools is in line with the federal government. Is the Victorian one in line with the federal government?

Mr Cook : Broadly, yes. Under the former government, those states that signed a bilateral agreement—and that was only three states—had to define what their state model was.

CHAIR: So we really only know three state models?

Mr Cook : Effectively. In terms of documentation I could provide, we would know New South Wales, ACT and South Australia because they signed a bilateral that required them to actually define that. No other states did that.

CHAIR: Did any other system do that?

Mr Cook : There was no requirement for it. The only requirement for a bilateral agreement was between the Commonwealth government and a state government.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Do you have any concern, or information that suggests, that money that is being distributed in other systems is not in line with the way the act currently suggests it should be?

Mr Cook : It is probably fair to say that I personally am not aware. I guess there are 20 or more systems. If you look at each state government, and then obviously the Catholic system, and then another 18, that adds up to more than 20. I am not personally aware of how each of those systems allocates its funding.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Has there been any concern raised with the department that perhaps money is not being distributed in line with what was intended in the act?

Mr Cook : I can only speak personally. Nothing has come to me personally. Schools would not normally contact us about that; they would raise that with their system rather than with us.

Dr Bruniges : They would probably go to their system.

Mr Cook : There is public discussion about the allocation of funding. I have just had a quick look, because Senator Collins talked about the submissions, and I do know that the primary principals have raised concern that there is not much transparency as to how systems actually allocate the funding to their schools. I think the Primary Principals' Association, in their submission to the inquiry, have said they really support greater transparency as to how a system has allocated money to their schools, because they, as principals of schools, often do not understand it themselves.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: How are we going to fix that, then? How are we going to make sure there is more transparency so we know, if you are a public school in any of the states, that the money is distributed in the same way and that, if you are a school within the non-government sector, it is being distributed in the same way?

Mr Cook : The current provisions will continue, which is that they must have a needs based funding system and that it must also be public. Part of that will be the assurance process that the department might put in place to ensure that information is actually public and made available.

Senator HANSON-YOUNG: Is the requirement that the model needs to be made public a requirement on non-government schools currently?