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Thursday, 6 March 2014
Page: 1968

Ms KATE ELLIS (Adelaide) (10:53): I rise today to remind the House that Australians were told before the last election that the Abbott government was on a unity ticket with Labor when it came to education and school funding reform. What an absolute sham that has turned out to be. I would like to take this opportunity to place on the record once more some of the now government's words before the election. Before the election Prime Minister Tony Abbott said:

We will honour the agreements that Labor has entered into. We will match the offers that Labor has made. We will make sure that no school is worse off. We think that money is important.

Well, that promise that no school should be worse off is a promise that this government has now refused to repeat in the parliament because they know that it was nothing more than a cruel joke. But there was more. The now Minister for Education, Christopher Pyne, said:

You can vote Liberal or Labor and you'll get exactly the same about of funding for your school

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said:

As far as I am concerned, as far as Christopher Pyne is concerned, as far as the coalition is concerned, we want to end the uncertainty by guaranteeing that no school will be worse off.

Further, the education minister said in print in The Daily Telegraph on 29 August—in written form, so that we can take it that it should be believed:

We have agreed to the government's school funding model.

He went on to say:

We are committed to the student resource standard, of course we are. We are committed to this new school funding model.

We know that is nothing more than a farce. We know that the model that Labor put forward would have seen an extra $14.65 billion flowing to Australian schools. We know that under the model that has now been adopted by the Abbott government that figure is now just $2.8 billion. Far from a unity ticket: 2.8 billion versus 14.65.

An opposition member interjecting

Ms KATE ELLIS: And while my colleague says it is shameful, and I absolutely wholeheartedly agree with her, what is even worse is there is no guarantee that the $2.8 billion will not be entirely undermined by the fact that they have opened the door to state government cuts of the magnitude that we have seen in Western Australia by the Barnett government.

We know it is in years 5 and 6 of the school funding model that we really see the money start to flow. In years 5 and 6 we would expect to see $7 billion in additional money flowing from the Commonwealth to Australian schools. And while I believe that all of those statements before the election were nothing more than a sham, were nothing more than cynical politics, dishonesty and an absolute betrayal of the Australian public, we will find out for sure in just 10 weeks when we see the federal budget. The budget will speak far louder than any of the statements that the government tried to put forward. We can expect that if they are on a unity ticket with Labor when it comes to school funding reform, then we should expect that we will see part of this $7 billion of additional funding for our schools included in this budget. Over the next 10 weeks, in the lead-up to budget day, we will hear from parents and we will hear from teachers from across Australia—all of whom believe that they were misled by this government—urging those opposite to do the right thing and include this funding in the budget.

The other commitment that we expect to see in the budget is the commitment for students with disabilities so that the additional loading will be rolled out in Australian schools from next year, as was promised in the coalition's media release of 23 August. They explicitly stated:

… [this] will be used to deliver more funding for people with disability through the ‘disability loading’ in 2015.

There is no room for excuses. There is no room for weasel words. There is no room for the education minister to try to argue that black is white and white is purple. This is the time when we see for sure: we need to see the beginnings of this $7 billion in additional funding in the budget in just 10 weeks. And if this funding is not included in the upcoming budget, we will make sure that every parent, that every educator, that every principal, that every student in Australian schools know full well that all of these statements were nothing other than the biggest betrayal of the Australian community in a cynical move to try to get elected without meaning an absolute word of it.