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Tuesday, 24 June 2003
Page: 17280

Ms MACKLIN (2:14 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Education, Science and Training. Minister, isn't it the case that the government has increased funding to Trinity Grammar School in Sydney by $8.8 million—a 560 per cent increase since 2001—to the benefit of just 1,800 students? Minister, isn't it also the case that the government has cut $345 million over the last six years from funding to the University of Sydney, to the detriment of some 35,000 students? Why is the government massively increasing public spending on elite private schools like Trinity Grammar while Australian students are having to pay 30 per cent more for their university education?

Dr NELSON (Minister for Education, Science and Training) —I thank the member for Jagajaga for her question. Firstly, it ought to be remembered that, when this government came to office in 1996, the Australian government was facing a $10.3 billion deficit that had been left to it by the previous Labor government, which had accumulated $69 billion in additional debt in the last five years of its term alone. Every sector, as the Treasurer reminds me, of Australian life, with the exception of defence, made a contribution to filling what was known as the `Beazley black hole'. One of the things that the government was forced to do was reduce the rate of growth in funding to Australian universities as a result of Labor policies of economic and financial neglect.

One thing that this government strongly believes is that every Australian parent should be free to choose the kind of education which he or she feels best suits the aspirational needs of their children. This government strongly believes that the 2.27 million children in Australian government schools and their parents should be well funded—in particular, by state and territory governments that are responsible for funding those schools—and be supported by the Com-monwealth, which has increased its funding to government schools by 60 per cent in the past seven years when enrolments have increased only 1.6 per cent. Having done that, this government believes that a parent who chooses to send his or her child to a non-government school—whether it is a Catholic, Islamic, Anglican or Jewish school, an Aboriginal community school, an independent school or any other community school—will be supported by this government, both politically and financially, according to the financial circumstances of the families from which those children come. The children in non-government schools who come from the wealthiest families in the country receive 87 per cent less funding than if those children were to go to a state government school; and the children in non-government schools who come from the poorest families receive at least 30 per cent less than if they were educated in a government school.

I table an expanded map of Sydney to show to the House and the Australian Labor Party the new non-government schools established in Sydney in the last 12 years. The Labor Party might care to note that the growth in new non-government schools is not on the north shore of Sydney, nor is it in the eastern suburbs—it is right throughout the western suburbs of Sydney. There has been a 14 per cent growth in enrolments in the schools that serve the poorest communities in the outer western suburbs of Sydney.

The last thing that I would remind the Leader of the Opposition and the member for Jagajaga and those who are desperately trying to rediscover Western Sydney is that, as Greg Fletcher, a factory worker, and his wife Gina said at the Bird in Hand Inn in the electorate of Macquarie on 26 November 2001:

People around here don't have much money, but they save and save so that they can send their kids to a private school and get a good education.

The Labor Party says they should not try to do it but it seems they have not stopped.