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Monday, 4 July 2011
Page: 7284

Mr RIPOLL (Oxley) (11:49): It is important to start this debate by saying that Australia has a world-class education system that is providing top outcomes for all children who attend schools in Australia. The principals, the teachers, the staff and parents I meet when I visit schools in Oxley, and in other places as well, are hardworking and dedicated people. I acknowledge that there are issues in the system that need to be fixed, and that is why this government is working hard doing the things that the previous government did not do to address those specific issues.

The motion put by the member for Sturt is nothing more than scaremongering and fear tactics and bears no relationship to the reality of school funding or to the issues that we are dealing with here today. In reality, and as best as is possible, this government is doing the hard work that was not done in the past. The Gillard government is backing its commitment to a great education for all students, not just schools, with record investment in schooling of over $64 billion across four years in government and non-government schools. That is almost double the amount that was invested by the previous government in their last term. We are committed to ending the ideological war regarding school funding that has gone on in this country for almost 50 years—far too long—and that is why we have tasked a panel of eminent Australians, led by Mr David Gonski, to conduct the Review of Funding for Schooling. We have made it clear to the panel that the review needs to be an open and transparent process, with all Australians who care about the future of schooling given a chance to have their say, and that is exactly what is taking place, with thousands of submissions from people and stakeholders right across the country. People do have a view—a strong view. It ought to be about the educational outcomes of individual students.

A thriving and fully-functioning education system needs to include both government and non-government schools. Each of them plays a vital and important role. All schools in Australia play an important role in reflecting the diversity in Australian society. It is we who are breaking down the barriers that have existed for far too long. But every time I hear speeches from the opposite side they want to reintroduce the ideological warfare. They want to reintroduce the discus¬≠sions about private versus public and government versus non-government. We thought that that debate was long gone, buried and dead, and it is not we on the government side who are talking about those issues. We are talking about reform. We are talking about funding. We are talking about changing a system which everybody agrees no longer works—a system that is opaque, that is complex and that muddies the waters in terms of educational outcomes. Yet the opposition want to have it both ways. You hear the member for Sturt in this place saying that he fully supports the review by David Gonski but, at the same time, he does not want it. Those opposite want to keep the old system but, at the same time, they want reform. It is simple: you cannot have it both ways; you cannot walk both sides of the street. It is far too easy for people like the member for Sturt to come into this place when in opposition and basically introduce scaremongering, fear tactics, and a campaign that just opposes, when everybody knows and acknowledges in the education sector that there needs to be significant change.

We cannot continue with the old system, we cannot continue with the ideological division and we cannot continue with these old tired debates of one school versus another, of a government school versus a non-government school. It ought to be about educational outcomes; it ought to be about individual students; and it ought to be about their needs to make sure that, in the end, their education, a world-class education, is the government's No. 1 priority. That is why this government stands firm on the Gonski review to make sure that we get it right, to make sure that we have a transparent, open process—a process that is simpler, a process that delivers funding to all students and to all schools and that it does so fairly and equitably and for the right reasons.

We have made it clear through this process that we have not as yet made a decision on an outcome, because an outcome cannot be made until we see the recomm­endations of the review. But we have made this clear: no school will lose a single dollar per student as a result of this review. It is important to note that. Government needs to make that commitment so that we can ease the fears that are being placed in the hearts and minds of students, teachers and parents. Current funding arrangements for non-government schools have also been extended to the end of 2013 and for capital funding to the end of 2014. All of this is being done at a time when this government has been at the forefront of delivering what is once-in-a-generation funding to schools and capital investment through the Building the Education Revolution. Halls, schools and buildings are working to help deliver a better educational outcome. (Time expired)