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Thursday, 9 February 2017
Page: 558

Ms CHESTERS (Bendigo) (15:52): Perhaps a bit of a history lesson is required for the new members of the House who were not here in the last parliament when a former education minister, Christopher Pyne, the member for Sturt, said, 'No strings attached,' signed a deal with the Liberal government in WA and the Liberal government in the Northern Territory. No strings attached. He took away any accountability for those states to deliver dollar-for-dollar to the schools. We know what the Northern Territorians did to their government which did not invest in schools, and perhaps it is about to happen in WA as well. But it is your side of politics that took away the conditions that the previous government set to ensure that the funding went into the schools and into the programs that would deliver better outcomes.

It is such a coalition-Liberal thing to say that, after you have cut funding, increased funding does not improve standards and increased funding does not improve outcomes. Go to any primary school in Mallee or any primary school in Bendigo and ask those teachers what the needs based equity funding is doing to help those schools and what it is doing to improve numeracy and literacy outcomes in those states. I am not surprised that this government is denying what is going on when you look at the level of cuts. Perhaps some of those opposite need to return to school to understand how to read their own budget. In the member for Mallee's electorate, which he did not address, $33 million was cut from schools in 2017, 2018 and 2019. That kicks in next year. The member for Goldstein is in the chamber. Fifteen million dollars has been cut from his schools next year and the year after. In the member for Higgins' electorate, $12 million was cut from the schools.

The other reason I raise those issues is that there is also something going on in our country between the inner-city wealthy seats and the outer-metropolitan seats and the regional seats. The reason why we need a needs based funding model is to ensure that schools in the most disadvantaged areas, where there is very low household income, get the extra resources that they need. We all know that the seats of Higgins and Goldstein are some of the most wealthy seats we have. Those families have done well. Their capacity and ability to fundraise is higher. But it is a lot harder for a school in my electorate of Bendigo to make up the money that this government has cut.

I have a few examples. Just last week the principal of Bendigo Senior Secondary College spoke out about how the funding cuts this government has made will affect his school. This is not just any secondary school. This is Bendigo Senior Secondary College which has the largest VCE program in the state of Victoria. They also have the largest VET in Schools and apprenticeship and VCAL program in the state of Victoria. Next year, because of this government's cuts, they will lose $1.6 million and the year after $1.9 million. The principal, Dale Pearce, said:

It puts a lot of our programs and a lot of our students at risk ...

For us, we have introduced a study schools program, we run a netschool program to re-engage young people, we would like to be doing more in terms of literacy programs and some enrichment opportunities for our really gifted students.

It creates uncertainty for parents as well, they need to know what we are able to deliver ...

They are not able to deliver the programs they were hoping to. They need to develop their programs in advance and are looking at May. So the government has an opportunity to do the right thing by these students. The NETschool program that I mentioned helps young mums get an education. The badge that I am wearing was made by their arts students as part of their art competition.

It is not just our public schools in Bendigo that will miss out. There are our Catholic schools. We have a large Catholic network within Sandhurst, and those schools will be hit just as hard as our public schools. Our Catholic school system also runs an engagement program, the Doxa program, which helps young people back into education. Four million dollars was cut from our secondary schools and $1.6 million was cut from our senior secondary schools, not to mention hundreds of thousands of dollars from regional schools—schools with fewer than 100 students. The government has a chance to admit their mistake and restore this funding. Give the students a chance.