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Tuesday, 15 October 2002
Page: 5172

Senator STOTT DESPOJA (5:27 PM) —I thank Senator Carr for outlining why the Australian Labor Party will not be supporting the Democrats' request for amendment to put extra money into capital funding in relation to the States Grants (Primary and Secondary Education Assistance) Amendment Bill (No. 2) 2002, which is before us today. I think it is a bit much, during the second reading stage of this bill, to lament the lack of funding generally and specifically for capital works and then decry as a piecemeal measure something that does not `go to the heart of the problem'. I think it goes a darned sight closer to dealing with some of the real problems facing our schools by providing additional funding, albeit $10 million per annum over a five-year period. So allocating $232,321 million per annum, instead of allocating $222,321 million, I think is a modest and reasonable increase.

For this request for amendment to be, on the one hand, rejected by government for costing too much and having budgetary implications that the government is quite concerned about and, on the other hand, rejected by the other side on the basis of a piecemeal approach to budgeting or assistance for states grants I think is quite ironic. I do not think this represents anything but a significant attempt by our party—and one that we hope that the chamber and the parliament will adopt—to put more money into our government schools so that they can address some of the issues they face in relation to capital works—the very same problems that have been outlined by senators in their contributions to the debate today.

I have read the numbers and, to ensure that the chamber is not further delayed, I will not be calling a division on this, but I do wish to make it clear for the record that the Australian Democrats are receiving little support for the request for amendment that is before us. I think that is sad. I am sure that there are many teachers, school students and community members, particularly parents, who will be wondering why an extra $10 million per annum over five years has such difficult budgetary implications. You only have to look at the budget papers for this year to see that we spent twice as much as that on assistance for Rio Tinto, as far as I recall; I think it was around $100 million. Given that that is off the top of my head, I am happy to stand corrected if I have misrepresented the government's position. But I am fairly confident that, in comparison to some of the spending allocations that this government has made for the next financial year, this is a modest one—and what could be more important than our schools? So I think parents will be quite concerned and quite curious to see how senators vote on this measure, but rather than call a division it is evident which way the parties in this chamber will be voting.

Question negatived.

Bill agreed to.

Bill reported without amendment or request; report adopted.