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Wednesday, 12 September 2012
Page: 10403


Mr TUDGE (Aston) (16:13): There is a lot of hypocrisy that we have to put up with in this chamber, coming from the other side of the House, but perhaps the greatest hypocrisy we have seen today has come from the member for Lyne. We heard the member for Lyne speak for 15 minutes almost exclusively on issues concerned with chambers other than this one. In front of us today, the government has proposals to implement the Gonski review—a government the member for Lyne is holding up—whose proposals would see 3,254 schools lose funding. This is the main game in front of us today, because the predominant funding which is provided from the federal government to Catholic and independent schools, and the minority funding to public schools, is in front of us now. When the government signs off on this agreement, when this parliament passes this agreement, it will lock in funding for the next four years.

What this agreement is likely to do, according to analysis done by departments of education and the independent and Catholic school sectors, is that 3,254 schools are going to lose their funding. Hundreds of schools in regional Australia are going to be targeted. Very low fee Catholic schools in my electorate are going to be targeted. For example, St Luke's School, a small Catholic school in my electorate, which charges about $1,000 in fees, is going to lose $756 per student under the proposals which the minister just said that he was keen to implement. Our Lady of Lourdes, another small Catholic school in my electorate, is due to lose $576 per student under these proposals.

According to the modelling which has been done by the independent and Catholic school sectors and the education department, in the electorate of the member for Lyne, the member who moved this motion, there are 22 schools that would lose funding under the proposals that are currently being considered by the government. Bobin Public School, for example, is going to lose $135,000 and Taree Public School is going to lose $694,000. I would be pleased to table this list for the benefit of the member for Lyne so he can see the schools in his electorate that are potentially under threat if the government moves forward with the proposals that are in front of it today.

The front page of the Sunday Tasmanianhas the headline 'Gonski hit list'—more than 80 Tasmanian Catholic and government schools would lose funding under the proposals. This is what is in front of us today, in this chamber, proposed by this government with the support of the member for Lyne. But he did not mention that once in his 15-minute address. Instead he spent his entire time talking about activities which are going on in other parliaments in this nation over which he has no control.

This analysis which has been done on the Gonski proposals talks about what would occur in year one in terms of funding cuts for those schools. But it is not just about the immediate hit that would occur to schools; there is also the medium-term hit which would occur to schools under the government's proposals. In the medium and longer term, the key issue that schools look at is the indexation rate for future funding increases. We on this side of the House have guaranteed that schools funding will increase by six per cent—year on year on year. On the other side of the chamber they have acknowledged—and the Prime Minister said this the other day—that the indexation rate would no longer apply and, in fact, a lower indexation rate would be applied going forward. This has implications for every single school across the country. The reason we are committed to a six per cent increase is that it matches what school costs have been increasing by. If there is a lower indexation rate, that means every single school across the country will have funding increases which are lower than what school cost increases are. For Catholic and independent schools, that means fees will have to go up considerably.

That is the main issue in terms of what is in front of us today on Gonski. But this is not the only time when the government has cut funding to schools or, indeed, has broken promises of funding to schools. I would like to highlight, for example, the Reward for School Improvement program, which the government promised in the lead-up to the last election. It was a program to provide between $75,000 and $100,000 to high schools that showed fantastic improvement, with year one reward payments to be provided in 2013. But we know that this program has been quietly dropped by the government. We heard from officials at Senate estimates that no longer is it going to be delivered in 2013. We heard that it would be delivered in 2015 at the earliest.

This program was a key condition of Mr Oakeshott, the member for Lyne, signing up to put the Labor Party into government. I have the agreements in front of me. On page 7, under 'Regional Education Investments', it says that at least $125 million of reward payments would be awarded to schools in regional Australia that have shown the most improvement in student outcomes. It was a key condition of the member for Lyne signing up and keeping Prime Minister Gillard in the Lodge, yet it is no longer going to be delivered. If the member for Lyne had any integrity, he would hold the government to account for that—but he has not; he has not said a damned thing.

Can I also give a bit of advice to the government, to the Labor Party, while I am here. If they are going to break an election promise, can I suggest that they take their election commitments down from their website. It is still actively displayed on their website that they are going to deliver this promise by 2013. I know that they took down from their website their commitment to not having a carbon tax. I would suggest that, given that you are going to break this promise also, you take the Reward for School Improvement program down from your website. It is another broken promise that is not going to be delivered and, while it is on your government website, you provide false hope for schools and school communities right across the country.

Let me continue with other cuts. The Computers in Schools program, which was introduced with great fanfare by Kevin Rudd at the 2007 election, is no longer being talked about. It has quietly disappeared. It is not going to occur anymore. But we have not heard a thing from the member for Lyne or, indeed, the education minister in relation to what has happened to the Computers in Schools program. It is the same with the trade training centres program, another program that was introduced with great fanfare. It has been suspended. Maybe we should look at the 2012 budget papers, which show that, despite a promise at the 2010 election that there would be no staff cuts to the public service, 1,145 staff will be cut from the department of education.

Mr Broadbent: Hypocrites!

Mr TUDGE: They are absolute hypocrites. They come in here and talk about cuts in other jurisdictions, but they do not have the courage to talk about their own cuts. I could go on. I am sure the members after me will talk about youth allowance and about how the member for Lyne and the other Independents failed to follow up on our proposals to increase youth allowance and make it apply to more students across regional and rural areas.

It is great hypocrisy for the member for Lyne to come in here and complain about education cuts. He is helping to hold up a government that is doing exactly that. There are 3,200 schools across the country at the moment that are worried about what might happen in the future if this government continues. (Time expired)