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Monday, 25 May 1998
Page: 3586

Mr HATTON (4:26 PM) —I want to go back to the core of this debate: the three keys points that were put forward by the member for Barton (Mr McClelland). The first point notes that the current federal government has diverted funding into private education at the direct expense of public education. When the Minister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs (Dr Kemp) was elected to this office, after despatching Senator Vanstone to other places, he sought to introduce a new sectarianism into education in Australia. He did that because he is absolutely committed to destroying the public sector—in this instance, the public sector in education at the school level, the TAFE level and the university level. His preference is for the private sector. The entire preference of this government is sectarian with regard to the public and private sectors. It does not believe that this Commonwealth government should provide one single direct service to any individual in Australia. This direct shift that the minister has introduced is to push people out of the public education system and into the private educa tion system. He bases this upon the notion of choice. With that notion of choice, the minister says that parents can choose to take their children out of the public education system and put them into the private education system, and the funding for every one of those children will follow them directly. There will be no compensation to any government school in any state in Australia for the funding that they have been deprived of.

The member for Hunter (Mr Fitzgibbon) and the member for Barton pointed out the consequences of this. If you take away funding from those government schools, then the pressure that exists on those schools will continue to get much greater. It will be a greater impost and a greater burden; it will inexorably lead to a lower quality of education for those children still in government schools. This minister validates what he calls `choice' by adopting a sectarian program. This is one where he says that `choice' is really about dismantling the public education system because he is ideologically against it.

The second point that the member for Barton made in his argument on this motion acknowledges that a properly resourced public education system is vitally important to equity of access to quality education. No more important thing could be done for every student in every Australian school than that we seek to strive for quality of education and that we do it on the basis of an equitable and equal allocation of Commonwealth funds to the public and private sectors. Whether those students come from Yagoona Public School, Bankstown Grammar School or De La Salle College, Bankstown, they should be treated equally by the Commonwealth. Any student leaving Yagoona Public School to go to another school, whether it be Bankstown Grammar or De La Salle in Bankstown or any other, should not be put in a position where their leaving and taking the funding with them prejudices the state school system.

This is a sectarian weapon to beat the public education system down. This is a weapon to destroy it bit by bit, to take out of it any equity, any equal treatment, any concern for all of those children who are still in public education in Australia. We have a combination of public and private systems, as we have a combination of public and private parts of the economy. Both sides should be treated equally. Students in all of the system should be given the chance to do the best that they can in terms of their ability and their circumstances.

The third point is that the member for Barton called on the minister to properly resource public education. It is time now, after three budgets brought down by this government, for them to reverse this sectarian approach to the provision of moneys for public education, to be real and to be truthful and to reverse what they have done and put Commonwealth moneys back into public education, and to treat those in the public and private sectors equally and fairly. It is important that that should be done. This minister finally should tell the truth about the situation and about the real cuts that he has made to public education in Australia. (Time expired)