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Wednesday, 6 December 2006
Page: 148

Mr SAWFORD (9:42 AM) —When consideration is given to the allocation of resources to Australian schools, it might be expected that the allocation would be based on a sound educational rationale and fairness and would be in the national interest. How wrong that would be! The allocation is actually based on historical tradition and privilege. At least the Minister for Education, Science and Training, Julie Bishop, acknowledges that the first part of that statement is true.

Recently I received a note from Leonie Trimper, President of the Australian Primary Principals Association. She correctly claims that under the Commonwealth’s funding arrangements government primary schools receive 8.9 per cent of estimated average government school recurrent costs, while government secondary schools receive 10 per cent. This approach contrasts with the funding of non-government schools, where there is no distinction whatsoever being made between primary and secondary schools in terms of their percentage of average government school recurrent costs. This funding for non-government schools ranges from 13.7 per cent to 70 per cent of these costs.

If this inconsistency were removed, an extra $101 million would be injected into government primary schools. Last year the average government school recurrent costs for government primary schools were $6,787 per student, compared to $8,994 for secondary students. Total federal funding for primary schools would therefore increase from the existing $263.9 million to $272.6 million if the percentage used were the same as the government’s secondary counterparts. This anomaly ought to be removed, because, basically, if you cannot get the foundation of education right you cannot get the end right either.

It is interesting that since my maiden speech nothing much has changed in almost 20 years. In that maiden speech I used an example of two Australian government schools, both with an enrolment of 430 kids. Just have a look at the comparison. In the secondary school you would have 170 per cent more staff, 34 to 20; 400 per cent more senior staff, eight to two; 225 per cent more ancillary staff; 500 per cent more base state government grant; 244 per cent more per capita state government grant; and 250 per cent more preparation time for teachers.

What goes on in the Christmas holidays with the kids in our country? What magic thing happens that in one circumstance you have that set of resources and then they increase dramatically over the Christmas vacation? Because that is what we do and that is why our education system, both public and private, is in big trouble. We do not give a solid foundation to the children of this country, whether they be in private or public schools. These comparisons apply to private schools as well. (Time expired)