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Wednesday, 20 June 2001
Page: 28084

Mr LEE (2:11 PM) —My question without notice is addressed to the Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs. Minister, is it correct that funding for establishment grants—

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The level of conversation is far too high.

Mr Albanese —It was about as successful as your attempt to get Beattie.

Mr SPEAKER —Member for Grayndler! The member for Dobell has the call.

Mr LEE —My question is addressed to the minister for education. Minister, is it correct that funding for establishment grants for non-government schools has blown out by almost $10 million, tripling from $4 million to $14 million? Is the minister aware that his department have admitted that they knew that the grants had blown out in October last year? When was the minister told about this blow-out in extra funding for non-government schools, which is not matched by any increase for public schools? Finally, why was spending $20 million a month on advertising more important than fixing this blow-out?

Dr KEMP (Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —The opposition really dislikes new schools and dislikes additional funding for new schools, because that has been the traditional policy of the Australian Education Union, which calls the shots in education policy for the Labor Party. The change in funding requirements for establishment grants for new schools is simply the result of parameter changes. It is of no significance when that was first known, because the government constantly brings forward parameter changes at times when it believes that that will allow the correct funding to flow through, and that is what this government has done—brought forward legislation at this time to allow that additional funding to flow through to new schools. The parameter change occurs because there is an increasing number of students in those schools. That is why the funding is required.

The only obstacle to making sure that those schools are paid and do not suffer financial disadvantage is the action of the Labor Party in the Senate delaying that legislation. This gives the lie to the claim of the member for Dobell that the only schools that would be suffering financially as a result of the Labor Party's policy are the schools on the hit list of the Leader of the Opposition, because what is now obvious is that the Labor Party is planning to impose financial disadvantage on a large number of new schools that have come into existence. Many—in fact, the vast majority—of these schools are schools serving low income communities. They include Catholic parish schools and Aboriginal community schools. And we have the Labor Party getting up in this parliament and complaining that the government is helping these schools to establish themselves and seeking to make an issue of the funding for these schools. This government will stand up for funding justice for parents in communities around Australia and will continue to oppose the efforts of the Labor Party to cut funding to needy parents and needy communities for the education of their children.