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- Start of Business
- AUSTRALIAN WOOL RESEARCH AND PROMOTION ORGANISATION AMENDMENT BILL 1998
- INDUSTRY RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT AMENDMENT BILL 1998
- CIVIL AVIATION AMENDMENT BILL 1998
- NATIONAL MEASUREMENT AMENDMENT (UTILITY METERS) BILL 1998
- HIGHER EDUCATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT BILL (No. 1) 1998
- WILLIS, HON. M.
- DELEGATION REPORTS
- STATES GRANTS (PRIMARY AND SECONDARY EDUCATION ASSISTANCE) AMENDMENT BILL 1998
- SUPERANNUATION LEGISLATION (COMMONWEALTH EMPLOYMENT) REPEAL AND AMENDMENT (CONSEQUENTIAL AMENDMENTS) BILL 1998
- ELECTORAL AND REFERENDUM AMENDMENT BILL 1998
- SOCIAL SECURITY AND VETERANS' AFFAIRS LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (BUDGET AND OTHER MEASURES) BILL 1997
- STATES GRANTS (GENERAL PURPOSES) AMENDMENT BILL 1998
- MINISTERIAL ARRANGEMENTS
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
One Nation Party: National Party Preferences
(Beazley, Kim, MP, Fischer, Tim, MP)
(Billson, Bruce, MP, Reith, Peter, MP)
One Nation Party
(Beazley, Kim, MP, Howard, John, MP)
Australian Financial System
(Hawker, David, MP, Costello, Peter, MP)
Industrial Relations: Outworkers
(McMullan, Bob, MP, Howard, John, MP)
Work for the Dole
(Randall, Don, MP, Kemp, Dr David, MP)
Industrial Relations: Red Cross Blood Donations
(Lee, Michael, MP, Reith, Peter, MP)
(Charles, Bob, MP, Costello, Peter, MP)
Industrial Relations: Defence Leave
(Bevis, Arch, MP, Bishop, Bronwyn, MP)
(Bartlett, Kerry, MP, Ruddock, Philip, MP)
(Macklin, Jenny, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Andrew, Neil, MP, Vaile, Mark, MP)
(Campbell, Graeme, MP, Fischer, Tim, MP)
(Georgiou, Petro, MP, Ruddock, Philip, MP)
Goods and Services Tax
(Crosio, Janice, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Cobb, Michael, MP, Truss, Warren, MP)
Goods and Services Tax
(Lawrence, Carmen, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Hockey, Joe, MP, Downer, Alexander, MP)
- One Nation Party: National Party Preferences
- PERSONAL EXPLANATIONS
- SUPERANNUATION LEGISLATION (COMMONWEALTH EMPLOYMENT) REPEAL AND AMENDMENT (CONSEQUENTIAL AMENDMENTS) LEGISLATION
- QUESTIONS TO MR SPEAKER
- MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
- MAIN COMMITTEE
- ASSENT TO BILLS
- MATTERS REFERRED TO MAIN COMMITTEE
- STATES GRANTS (GENERAL PURPOSES) AMENDMENT BILL 1998
- CRIMINAL CODE AMENDMENT (SLAVERY AND SEXUAL SERVITUDE) BILL 1998
- STATUTE STOCKTAKE BILL 1998
- ADELAIDE AIRPORT CURFEW LEGISLATION
- Member for Warringah: One Nation Party
- Drug Courts
- Dental Health
- One Nation Party
- One Nation Party
QUESTIONS ON NOTICE
Essendon Airport: Departures
(Thomson, Kelvin, MP, Vaile, Mark, MP)
Airservices Australia: Nally, Mr P.
(Tanner, Lindsay, MP, Vaile, Mark, MP)
Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport: Preferred Runway Selection
(McClelland, Robert, MP, Vaile, Mark, MP)
Sydney (Kingsford-Smith) Airport: Long Term Operating Plan
(McClelland, Robert, MP, Vaile, Mark, MP)
Australian Exports: Value
(Jones, Barry, MP, Fischer, Tim, MP)
Prime Minister's 1997 Christmas Function
(Ellis, Annette, MP, Howard, John, MP)
Migrant Welfare Workers
(Ellis, Annette, MP, Ruddock, Philip, MP)
- Essendon Airport: Departures
Wednesday, 1 July 1998
Mr SLIPPER (12:05 PM) —Education is one of those matters near and dear to the hearts of those of us who have children, and I can understand the ongoing debate in the Australian community over funding and concerning the relative division of resources between the government sector and the non-government sector, but the government does not apologise for seeking to provide free choice to parents, and the abolition of the new schools policy has in fact given parents an economic as well as a legal choice to select which school their children ought to be sent to.
There has been a wide-ranging debate on the States Grants (Primary and Secondary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill 1998 . I understand, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you and your predecessors in the chair during this debate have been quite tolerant as members have roamed widely across the common youth allowance, enrolment benchmark adjustment and other matters.
At the outset, though, I would like to point out that this particular bill gives effect to certain initiatives announced in the 1998-99 budget. Firstly, $20 million will be allocated for the introduction of full-service schools over three years from 1998 to provide additional support to schools to develop innovative programs and services that address the needs of young people returning to school following the introduction of the youth allowance and for current students who are at risk of not completing year 12 or making a successful transition from school to training or employment. There is also $40.2 million for the extension of the national Asian languages and studies in Australian schools strategy over two years from 1998 to support enhanced and expanded Asian languages and Asian studies provision through all school systems in order to improve Australia's capacity and preparedness to interact internationally, particularly with key Asian economies.
I would also like to refer to the employment benchmark adjustment arrangements and also to some of the inaccuracies which have been peddled in the chamber by members of the opposition. There has been a suggestion that, as a government, the coalition has reduced funding for government schools. Mr Deputy Speaker, you would know that that is in fact not the case, because direct Commonwealth funding for government schools for the year 1998 was more than $127 million over the amount of money provided in 1996, the last year of the Keating government.
Each of the six states and the territories will be receiving more, not less, funding from the Commonwealth compared with the last year of the Labor government. It ought to be noted that the Australian people do not appreciate the way in which some members in this place seek to fudge the facts and the truth. The Commonwealth government provides funds to government schools through two mechanisms: by means of tied specific purpose payments for recurrent capital and targeted programs and through untied financial assistance grants which states apply to schools. In addition, states provide funds for government schools from within their own revenues. It ought to be recognised that under our constitution education is primarily a state, not Commonwealth, responsibility.
Some people have had the audacity to suggest that the Commonwealth is actually cutting $20 million from funding for government schools. This is part of a campaign of deliberate misinformation and should be rejected by all thinking Australians. The Commonwealth government does not apologise for the enrolment benchmark adjustment, which is designed to adjust the funding between the Commonwealth and the states.
Mr Fitzgibbon —You should apologise.
Mr SLIPPER —The member for Hunter will have his opportunity soon. If the member for Hunter were honest, he would support the enrolment benchmark adjustment as being fair and equitable, and appropriate. The EBA is triggered when the proportion of enrolment shifts significantly from the government to the non-government sector. It is not aimed at individual schools or affected by movement in actual numbers of students. The honourable member for Barton (Mr McClelland) during his speech wrongly asserted that for every one child moving from the government sector to the non-government sector there was a loss of government funding. Funding is only affected by shifts in proportion of enrolments in each state and territory. I believe that it is quite reasonable that, if the state is educating a lower proportion of students, funding should indeed follow where the proportions of students are moving.
The EBA includes a buffer arrangement to protect states from minor adjustments to the proportion of non-government student enrolments. The federal government's policy is to support the development of free choice between a strong and competitive government school sector and a strong and competitive private school sector.
We aim to provide maximum possible choice for parents and students, and through competition and choice that enables parents to vote with their feet and to select which school and system is indeed suitable for the education of their children. In Australia, which is a diverse country, parents have differing values and they have opportunities now to choose which school and which system is right and appropriate for their children.
The expansion and maintenance of government schools is the responsibility of state and territory governments and the existence of the enrolment benchmark adjustment will encourage them to uphold this role. It ought to be recognised also that the EBA simply was not imposed from on high; it was developed after consultation with state and territory governments and is being implemented in a way that is fair to all states and territories and which takes into account their individual circumstances.
There was also a mention by the honourable member for Barton of the new schools policy. He claimed that its abolition was shifting funding to people whom he referred to as fringe religious groups. Australia is a multicultural and a tolerant society and I do not believe that it is appropriate that the federal government should sit in judgment and determine which groups should be entitled to set up schools to educate children in accordance with their own values.
It ought to be noted that enrolments in the non-government sector in 1998 grew by about 20,000 students, the same number as in the last year of operation of the old, discredited new schools policy. If our aim was to abolish the new schools policy with a view to gutting government sector enrolments, then clearly once the new schools policy had gone there would have been a dramatic increase in the numbers of people who were enrolling in private schools.
The federal government believes—and we do not apologise for stating—that parents who wish to take on the onerous task of establishing and running a school should be able to do so, with a very key proviso. That proviso is that they meet state and territory registration requirements. We do not support substandard schools, we do not support people who are seeking to set up schools in circumstances which are not appropriate. But, as I said a moment ago, education is primarily a matter of state, not Commonwealth, responsibility and the key trigger for federal funding of schools is whether or not the particular new school meets state and territory registration requirements.
It is up to the states to have the benchmark for registration sufficiently high to make sure that only those schools which are of a satisfactory standard are appropriate for funding. I reiterate that Commonwealth funding is only available for a non-government school which has received state or territory registration and operates on a non-profit basis. The states and territories have always been responsible for the registration of non-government schools and it is a matter for them to determine registration requirements. This government refuses absolutely to discriminate against schools on the basis of religion.
Some people have also sought to criticise the youth allowance, which will provide for students right across the nation new opportunities and incentives for them to study rather than to leave school. Students will no longer be paid less money than the unemployed. How rational is it for some members opposite to suggest that students should be paid less money than those who are out of work? The new policy will remove the financial disincentives to study. These disincentives existed during the 13 dark years of Labor rule. For the first time students will gain access to rent assistance of up to $74.80 a fortnight. This is a measure that students have been asking for for some 20 years.
Much has been claimed about those people who will lose access to the youth allowance or how some people might be worse off. Of the 416,000 students affected by youth allowance, 70,000 will gain from access to rent assistance, 16,600 will gain from the independence criteria changes, 41,200 will gain from the abolition of the $1,000 minimum rate for Austudy, 19,900 will gain from the abolition of the education leavers waiting period and 3,720 will gain from removing maintenance from the personal income test.
It is clear, therefore, that this is a fair and reasonable policy, a policy which is forward thinking and which will encourage students to stay at school. The legislation currently before the chamber obviously assists all of this to be brought about. Students and young Australians from rural and regional areas will be big winners. I dare say you, Mr Deputy Speaker Quick, being one of the last surviving—in a political sense—rural or regional Labor members, would know that your own constituents would be very much better off through the introduction of the common youth allowance.
The Minister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs (Dr Kemp) ought to be congratulated for this legislation, which is very forward thinking, which is very positive and which encourages young people to stay at school. The honourable member for Wakefield, the Chief Government Whip (Mr Andrew), pointed out that young people who do not complete year 12 or the equivalent are 2½ times more likely than their counterparts to join the ranks of the long-term unemployed. It is vital—and you, Mr Deputy Speaker, as a former teacher would know—that young people in their formative years are not given the easy option to drop out and join the dole queue. It is so easy for kids to leave school. If we give them a financial incentive to do so, then obviously more people will join the dole queue.
The statistics speak for themselves. People who leave before year 12 are 2½ times more likely to join the ranks of the long-term unemployed than are those who finish their schooling. So the government does not apologise for introducing policies which will encourage young people to stay at school, to continue their education, because when this happens these people are more likely to gain jobs and less likely to join the ranks of the long-term unemployed.
I think it is despicable that the Labor Party during its 13 years in office supported the principle that it is okay to walk out of school and straight on to the dole queue. I do not think any person with any sense of reality could support such an approach. It is regrettable that the Labor Party is seeking to frustrate the attempts by this government to implement policies which will keep young people in education and give them a greater chance of obtaining a job.
The honourable member for Barton in his contribution also claimed that the government was statistic shifting. When we look at all of those mickey mouse training programs, training people for jobs that did not exist, members of the Labor Party have an absolute hide and complete audacity to suggest that this government is statistic shifting when they were shuffling people from the dole queue into training programs and then back on to the dole queue.
Labor were hiding people in the dole queue. They were the people, particularly when elections approached, who were prepared to do anything to reduce artificially the number of people who showed up in the unemployment statistics. Labor just cannot bring themselves to admit that the measure before the parliament at the present time is a good measure, it is a positive measure and it will be of long-term benefit not only to the nation but also to young Australians.
The honourable member for Barton was generous enough and accurate enough to point out that the economic fundamentals of Australia are good. The only reason that the economic fundamentals of Australia are good is that this government accepted the responsibility for fixing the $10.3 billion deficit it inherited even though it did not create the problem. That is why we have brought forward changes with our policies which we believe make the country better able to live within its means and that is why at the next election we will receive the ongoing strong support of the Australian people.
This legislation before the chamber provides an extra $20 million for the introduction of full-service schools and $40.2 million for the extension of the national Asian languages and studies in Australian schools strategy. The learning of foreign languages has been one of my personal hobbyhorses. I believe it is unfortunate that in many Australian schools we do not have the opportunity for young Australians from year 1 to learn foreign languages. When those of us who are fortunate enough to travel overseas do so, we so often meet people who are fluent in two, three, four, five or six languages, but we who come from English speaking countries, particularly those like Australia, often speak only one language. Most of us have been, shall we say, embarrassed when out of courtesy and generosity to us people have switched from another common language that they have been using to using English.
The $40.2 million being provided for the extension of the national Asian languages and studies in Australian schools strategy is a positive move. It is a good move. It provides extra money for the teaching of Asian languages in Australian schools. I think it is also important not to forget European languages. It is statistically eight times easier for a person whose mother tongue is a European language to learn another European language than to learn an Asian language, except maybe Indonesian, which is somewhat easier than Chinese, Japanese or some of the more complicated languages.
I believe that, as we approach the next millennium, it is important to support the aim of this bill which is to provide extra money for Asian language teaching. But I think that it is vital for our students to continue to learn French, German, Spanish and Italian so that people have real choice in language study. The fact that we are situated in the Asia-Pacific region ought not preclude students in Australia continuing to learn a wide diversity of languages. Given the events in the European Union and the new role that Germany, the powerhouse of central Europe, plays in it, I think that German language teaching ought to be encouraged in Australian schools, along with other European and Asian languages. If we are to take up our role as a key trading nation, given all the new opportunities in central and eastern Europe, then it is important to be able to speak the languages.
I would like every Australian child to have the opportunity of learning foreign languages from year 1. As in so many other matters, finance is a problem. The government has finite resources, and obviously this applies to all governments in this country. But, in other parts of the world, it is possible for students to learn foreign languages from year 1. I would hope that, as we move towards the next millennium, governments on both sides of the political spectrum will acknowledge the desirability of doing whatever they can to continue to encourage young Australians to learn languages other than English.
As I was saying, the States Grants (Primary and Secondary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill 1998 is positive legislation. It is important reform which has two arms to it. Firstly, there is the provision of $20 million for the introduction of full-service schools over three years from 1998 to provide additional support to schools to help develop innovative programs and services that address the needs of young people returning to school following the introduction of the youth allowance and current students who are at risk of not completing year 12 or making a successful transition from school to training or employment. Secondly, there is the provision of the vital $40.2 million for the extension of the national Asian languages and studies in Australian schools strategy over two years from 1998 to support, enhance and expand Asian languages and Asian studies provision through all school systems in order to improve Australia's capacity and preparedness to interact internationally, particularly with key Asian economies. These are important reforms, they are vital reforms and they are reforms which I believe have the strong support of the Australian community.