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Wednesday, 12 September 2012
Page: 10468


Mr HUSIC (ChifleyGovernment Whip) (09:57): I rise to speak up for parents, teachers and students in the electorate of Chifley, who are rightly outraged at the news that the New South Wales coalition government has cut funding to schools by nearly $2 billion over four years. At a time when we are trying to get governments, schools and P&Cs working together to bring life to the promising reforms outlined by the Gonski review, the New South Wales coalition government's cuts are a crushing blow. No-one who voted for local state coalition MPs Bart Bassett and Kevin Conolly was ever told their child's public, Catholic or independent school would face a cut or freeze to their funding. Not one of the 67 schools in the Chifley electorate was given advance notice about this rip-off, not before the election and certainly not after. It has caused alarm locally, with Holy Family Primary School Principal Sister Brenda Kennedy saying:

We have over 200 families at the school, the majority of them struggling to pay any fees. This places a burden on our system as a whole because we carry these families financially.

This is just a forerunner to what we can expect if the coalition are elected federally, and here is the proof. We have had their education spokesperson argue that bigger class sizes are not a big deal. They will not support the Gonski reforms.

They have also floated the notion of capping university places and lifting HECS fees, plus who knows what else given the $70 billion of spending cuts they have already flagged. So, at the state level, you get funding cuts, increased TAFE fees and job losses, and federally you get the coalition promising larger class sizes, no support for Gonski, fewer uni places and higher uni fees. I want to read this quote from the front page of today's Sydney Morning Herald:

The Pittwater MP, Rob Stokes, was quoted as saying: 'I can't see why building the north-west rail link and keeping the [electricity] 'poles and wires' is more important than education.'

That is an ominous statement. I agree: many Western Sydney residents want better transport options—but schoolkids should not foot the bill for it.

I read somewhere else that former New South Wales Premier Nick Greiner reportedly said that the North West Rail Link could be the project that eats the New South Wales government. Now it looks like it is the project that is eating school funding. Do not forget: the New South Wales government dragged their feet in supporting the National Disability Insurance Scheme and they also hiked up public housing rents for 5,000 pensioners in Chifley. What is next? What vital public projects and spending will be cut to meet the needs of the North West Rail Link? It is clear the New South Wales government will refuse to change their mind on this awful school funding cut, but parents, teachers and students should rightly demand to know what the federal coalition's plans are for their schools.

I could not agree more with Sister Brenda's concluding comments to me:

Education should be last place for funding cuts as those most affected by this are the most important people in our society, our children.

(Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Order! In accordance with standing order 193 the time for members constituency statements has concluded.