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Wednesday, 29 March 2006
Page: 83

Mr VASTA (2:53 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Education, Science and Training. Would the minister update the House on how the government is providing record funding to government and non-government schools? Is the minister aware of any alternative policies?

Ms JULIE BISHOP (Minister for Education, Science and Training and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Women’s Issues) —I thank the member for Bonner for his question and note his deep interest in schools in his electorate. The Howard government believes that it is the right of every parent to send a child to a school that best suits their individual needs, and that includes a choice of school in the government or the non-government sector. The Howard government also believes that parents, having paid their taxes, deserve some public support for their child’s education, regardless of the school.

The Australian government has now provided a record $33 billion in funding for all Australian schools over the 2005-08 period. This is a 59 per cent increase in funding for all schools over that of the previous four-year funding period. Members would be aware that non-government schools are funded by the Australian government according to the socioeconomic status formula, which means that students in the neediest communities receive 70 per cent of the cost of educating a child at a state school and students from the wealthiest communities receive some 13.7 per cent of the cost of funding a child at a state school. It is also worth remembering that 68 per cent of the total student population attends a state government school and that they receive 75 per cent of total public funding. Some 32 per cent of the student population attends a non-government school and receives 25 per cent of total government funding.

I am asked about any alternative policies. Once again the Labor Party are in disarray. Members will recall the Latham schools hit list. Remember the former Leader of the Opposition’s schools hit list that they took to the last election targeting the parents of the 1.1 million children who attend Catholic and independent schools?

Honourable members interjecting—

The SPEAKER —Order! The minister has the call!

Ms JULIE BISHOP —Members would then recall that, after the last election, the member for Jagajaga thought that the schools hit list was such a vote winner that she confirmed that the Labor caucus had voted to retain this unfair schools policy. The Leader of the Opposition last year on Meet the Press confirmed Labor’s unfair schools policy. He said it was a Labor position and always will be.

Last week the member for Rankin popped up with an idea. It was his view that the difference between public and private schools should be abandoned by Labor, and he distanced himself from Labor’s unfair schools policy. What did the Leader of the Opposition do? He quietly said, ‘I like the direction Craig’s thinking is going.’ So what is Labor’s position on the Latham schools hit list? What is Labor’s schools policy? You have a backbench distancing itself from the policy, you have a shadow spokesperson still engaged in class warfare and envy, and you have a Leader of the Opposition who just does not know where he stands. The Howard government is committed to a fair and equitable schools policy.