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Wednesday, 23 June 2004
Page: 31276

Ms MACKLIN (2:43 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Education, Science and Training. Does the minister share the concern of the principal of the Melbourne Catholic school, St Bede's College, that the wealthy Haileybury College poached four of his students with outstanding sporting ability by offering them scholarships? Why has the government given Haileybury College a 325 per cent increase in Commonwealth funding so that it can, in the words of St Bede's principal, continue:

... trawling through the local talent to shore up their weaknesses?

Minister, does such a wealthy school need an extra $4.2 million a year in federal funding when it is using scholarships to poach students with sporting ability from nearby Catholic schools?

Dr NELSON (Minister for Education, Science and Training) —I thank the member for Jagajaga for her question. The question is about a number of things. It is about non-government schools offering opportunities for students who might not otherwise be able to afford to go to them to do so. It is also about the funding of non-government schools, including Catholic schools. There are a number of things that need to be said.

The first is that, for every single child in a Catholic school or an independent school, every time a parent in this country decides to put their hand in their pocket for their kids to use after-tax dollars for their education, they are receiving less public money in support of their education than if they sent that same child to a public school. As the Prime Minister has said before, the 68 per cent of children in this country who attend government state schools receive not 68 per cent of the public money but 76 per cent, and the 32 per cent in the non-government—

Ms Macklin —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order.

The SPEAKER —Is the point of order on relevance?

Ms Macklin —There was no reference to government schools in this question. It was about which wealthy schools—

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Jagajaga will resume her seat. The question was asked about school funding involving two—

Opposition members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —The minister is in order.

Dr NELSON —Those 1.1 million children attending Catholic and independent schools—that is 32 per cent of the kids in the system—are receiving 24 per cent of all of the public money. And that funding system—which the Labor Party voted for in 2001 and which it indicated yesterday it will be voting for again this year—has now been joined by the Catholic systemic schools. His Eminence Cardinal George Pell has made it very clear to Catholic families and the broader community, amongst others, that it is very important to focus on the federal and the state government funding.

The Labor Party asks this question. By the way, I asked my department to do some work on this—on schools that offer scholarships to kids to give them a break. So, if their families are unable or unwilling to pay to get a certain education for them, what impact does a scholarship have? The impact that it has on the socioeconomic status core that determines the funding is less than 0.1 of a percentage point—when SES scores are from 80 to 130.

The next point that needs to be addressed in this question is that the fellow travellers from the Australian Education Union are currently running ads on television. Many people in the gallery would have seen them. They put up Scots College, which offers scholarships, on one side of the television and then they have a public school, Glen Waverley Secondary College, on the other. The union invites Australians to ask themselves: why is the school on the left, Scots College, getting $3 million and why then is the school on the right, the Glen Waverley Secondary College, a public school, getting $1½ million dollars? So the average Australian—although the member for Chifley would not do this—would be going: `Well, that seems odd to me. Why is that private school getting more than a government school?'

And that is because the union, like these people across the House, only tell half of the story. They tell a half-truth and try to mislead people. Scots College have 1,820 kids—Australian kids—and they get $3½ million in public funding. The Glen Waverley Secondary College has 1,870 Australian kids and gets $20 million in public funding. So what is going on here? There is a deceit in the question, a deceit in what is being told to the public, and I say to Australians and to young people in particular: always scratch away the surface and look for the truth, and you will never find it in questions from the other side.