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Wednesday, 15 October 2003
Page: 21481


Ms MACKLIN (2:40 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Education, Science and Training. Is the minister aware that Dunheved and Shalvey junior secondary schools in the electorate of my colleague the member for Chifley need urgent funding to provide transition support for year 9 and year 10 students who are in danger of dropping out of school? Minister, given this real need, why will Commonwealth government funding for these schools—


Mrs Bronwyn Bishop —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Standing order 142 says that a member may ask a question of a minister relating to public affairs with which the minister is officially connected. The minister for education in the federal parliament is not responsible for the matter that the member is asking questions about. I suggest she writes a letter to Mr Carr.


The SPEAKER —As far as I am aware, the member for Jagajaga had not in fact concluded her question, so it would have been inappropriate for me to indicate where the question should have been addressed. Furthermore, there have been a number of questions in the past asked of ministers about health matters and education matters which were frequently also the responsibility of their state counterparts. I did not feel, on the evidence that I had from the member for Jagajaga's question, that there was anything inappropriate about it. I invite her to conclude her question.


Ms MACKLIN —Thank you, Mr Speaker. Minister, given this real need, why will Commonwealth government funding for these schools, which serve low-socioeconomic communities, increase by 20 per cent between 2001 and 2004 while Trinity Grammar School, one of the wealthiest schools in Australia, will receive a 220 per cent increase in Commonwealth funding?



The SPEAKER —The Minister for Foreign Affairs!

Government members interjecting


The SPEAKER —I am going to invite the member for Jagajaga to conclude her question once again.


Ms MACKLIN —Thank you, Mr Speaker. Minister, given this real need, why will Commonwealth government funding for these schools, which serve low-socioeconomic communities, increase by only 20 per cent between 2001 and 2004 while Trinity Grammar School, one of the wealthiest schools in Australia, will receive a 220 per cent increase in Commonwealth funding?


Dr NELSON (Minister for Education, Science and Training) —I thank the member for Jagajaga for her question. It very helpfully enables us to focus on the facts in relation to school education and funding. The first point that should be made is that state and territory governments are responsible for administering, regulating and primarily funding their state schools. As Australia's minister for education, I am not allowed to visit a public state school without the written permission of the New South Wales minister for education.



The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Shortland is out of her seat, as far as I am aware—unless there has been a permanent move—and yet continues to interject. The minister has the call.


Dr NELSON —For the benefit of the parliament, there are 2.2 million children in Australian state government schools. Those 2.2 million students attract $20 billion in public funding. The 1.1 million students in Catholic and independent schools throughout Australia do not attract $10 billion—half the amount that the state school students are getting—$9 billion, $8 billion or $7 billion; they attract $6.2 billion in public funding. In other words, if those students were to leave the non-government, Catholic and independent schools throughout Australia and suddenly line up at state schools, for which their parents have already paid, there would have to be in excess of another $3.8 billion in public funding invested in the education of Australian school children.

The New South Wales government is responsible for the funding and administration of government state schools—when the member for Jagajaga stops laughing and giggling, I ask her to listen to a couple of facts—and the federal government is responsible for around 12 per cent of the money which goes into these schools. So about $2.5 billion of that $20 billion comes from the Australian government. This year this government has increased its funding to New South Wales government state schools by 5½ per cent, at a time when the inflation rate in this country, thanks to the government's leadership of Australia economically, is running at just under three per cent. We have given a 5½ per cent increase in funding to New South Wales government state schools. What did the New South Wales government do this year with its schools in its budget? What increase in funding did the New South Wales government deliver to these schools, which often service very low-income communities? Was it 5½ per cent?

Government members—No.


Dr NELSON —Was it five per cent?

Government members—No.


Dr NELSON —Was it four per cent?

Government members—No.


Dr NELSON —Was it three per cent?


The SPEAKER —Order! I do not want this chorus response. The minister has the call and will address his remarks through the chair.


Dr NELSON —It was not even one per cent. It was 0.8 per cent. If the New South Wales government—and I suggest the Leader of the Opposition and the member for Jagajaga go and have a meaningful chat to the New South Wales Premier—was of a mind, it could have taken some of the $9.2 billion in GST it will get this year and given a fairer deal to the parents and children in New South Wales relying on state government schools. If the New South Wales government had increased its funding by 5½ per cent, there would be $292 million more this year alone to support the education of children in New South Wales state government schools. In relation to the parents of students at Trinity Grammar, King Abdulaziz or any of the Catholic or independent schools in New South Wales, every single one of those parents paid their taxes and paid for a place at a government state school. A two-parent family works in four jobs, lives in a two-bedroom house and drives a 15-year-old car in order to send their kids to a non-government school. The Labor Party says that they should not do that, but on this side we believe that they should. We believe that they should be free to have a choice and that they should be supported.