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Thursday, 25 June 1998
Page: 5374

Dr KEMP (Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs;Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) (9:53 AM) —I move:

That the bill be now read a second time.

The bill amends the States Grants (Primary and Secondary Education Assistance) Act 1996 to give effect to initiatives announced in the 1998-99 budget.

These initiatives will provide $20 million for the introduction of full service schools over three years from 1998 to deliver additional support for schools to develop innovative programs and services that address the needs of young people returning to school following the introduction of the youth allowance and for current students who are at risk of not completing year 12 or making a successful transition from school to training, further education or employment.

The bill also provides $40.2 million for the extension of the national Asian languages and studies in Australian schools (NALSAS) strategy over two years from 1998 to support enhanced and expanded Asian languages and Asian studies provision through all school systems in order to improve Australia's capacity and preparedness to interact internationally, particularly with key Asian economies.

The bill also contains a number of other minor amendments which will, firstly, allow for flexibility of funding allocations under the literacy and country areas programs so that funding allocated to state and territory government and non-government education authorities under these programs is based on relative need using the most up-to-date Australian Bureau of Statistics census data. Secondly, the bill contains changed funding schedules for capital grants for government and non-government schools to insert amounts of capital funding for 2001 and vary the amounts of 1997 recurrent and capital grants in respect of the 1997 supplementation and provide for its flow-on effects for 1998, 1999 and 2000.

The bill will also rectify an inadvertent omission in the original act for grants for expenditure on special education at or in connection with non-government centres to allow the full range of special education services to be provided under the legislation; incorporate a technical amendment to clearly define the role of the Governor-General in making regulations under the act; and incorporate a minor stylistic change to the format of the act.

The government is committed to reducing youth unemployment and believes that it is important to encourage our young people under 18 to complete their schooling or, if they leave school early, to move on to further training or employment. The new youth allowance is an important element of the government's strategy to achieve these goals. Youth allowance, which begins on 1 July, is a major social policy reform which provides more financial incentives for young people to develop the skills they so desperately need to improve their chances of finding a job. The youth allowance is a big win for young people. It will mean students will no longer be financially disadvantaged in comparison to the young unemployed.

The youth allowance provides a simplified system of income support which better caters for the various circumstances faced by young people, while ensuring that incentives for education and training are maximised. It is a simpler, more flexible payment system which incorporates five payments into one and 13 different rates of payment into five. As well as providing positive incentives for young Australians to take up education and training to improve their long-term job prospects, youth allowance removes the financial incentives for young people to go on the dole rather than undertaking skills acquisition.

Introduction of the youth allowance will mean additional expenditure to the social security budget of $212 million over the next four years. Some 153,750 young Australians will receive more money under the youth allowance, while 358,600 will continue to receive the same amount of money as they do now. In short, the youth allowance will provide a better deal for young Australians who receive income support. In order to receive the youth allowance from January 1999, eligible young people under 18 years who have not completed year 12 or equivalent must be in full-time education or training unless specifically exempted.

In recognition of the possible additional costs associated with these high needs students, the Commonwealth has established the full service schools program. It will target students who are not likely to benefit from mainstream pathways and enable them to achieve quality learning outcomes. The $20 million for thefull service schools program is part of a package of Commonwealth initiatives which provide additional funding to schools, industry and community groups to provide education and training for these young people. The other measures are an additional $13.5 million over the years 1998-2000 for the jobs pathway program and an additional $6.21 million over 1998-2000 for the new apprenticeship access program.

During 1998-99, the jobs pathway program will assist around 20,000 young people while the new apprenticeship access program will assist some 7,000 young people. Funds for full service schools projects will be directed to schools in areas with the highest numbers of young people affected by the implementation of the youth allowance. Funds will be available to schools for a variety of activities, including the employment of specialist teachers or counsellors; providing professional development for teachers and other staff; delivering and developing special courses such as courses in pre-vocational education or training; and assisting students to access other government and community support services.

To facilitate links between the government and non-government sectors and to ensure comprehensive services are provided in any given regional area, a steering committee will manage the implementation of full service schools in each state and territory. State and territory steering committees will consist of representatives of government and non-government education authorities, the Commonwealth, principals' organisations and parent groups.

The NALSAS strategy is a cooperative initiative between Commonwealth, state and territory governments. The NALSAS strategy assists government and non-government schools to improve participation and proficiency levels in language learning, particularly in four targeted Asian languages—Japanese, Chinese (Mandarin), Indonesian and Korean, and to introduce or increase Asian studies content across the curriculum.

Commonwealth funding is matched by the states and territories. Most of the Commonwealth funds are paid direct to the state, territory and non-government education systems on the basis of student enrolments up to the limit of the available funds. Part of the Commonwealth's contribution is also used to fund projects developed in collaboration with the states and territories to support the implementation of the strategy. The Commonwealth agreed to fund the program for four years, with further funding subject to an evaluation of the program.

New funds of $40.2 million were provided in the budget to take the program through to the end of 1999 to allow full consideration of the evaluation. This extra funding for the NALSAS strategy will be used to provide continued support to teachers and students.

The government's funding policies for schools will assist in ensuring quality educational outcomes for students in government and non-government schools. Total direct Commonwealth schools funding will provide in excess of $16 billion for schools over the period 1997 to 2000. The Commonwealth budget papers show that funding for schools is estimated to increase each year to 1999-2000, with an average increase of around 3.6 per cent per year. This funding affirms the Commonwealth's commitment to schooling in Australia. I commend the bill to the House and present the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Mr Laurie Ferguson) adjourned.