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Monday, 6 December 2004
Page: 116

Senator VANSTONE (Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Indigenous Affairs) (9:19 PM) —I will just make two points about the two propositions being put here, one of which is that any school that charges fees over the AGSRC should not get any funding. We have a fundamentally different view. We say that, if parents by their own endeavours want to pool their resources and send their kids to a school where the fees are above that, we should not say to them, `Your aspirations for your children are such that we think you can afford to go it alone.' We think that all Australian kids are entitled to some level of government support in the choice of education. What the parents add to that is up to the parents but they are entitled to some contribution. This proposition is more of the stuff we expect from the Democrats of the lowest common denominator: `Once you get more than that you are on your own; we are not interested in you and your kids any more.' These comparative indicators do all have their flaws. In part I agree with some of what Senator Carr has said—not all, and I put that qualifier on it very quickly.

Senator Carr —Do you think I would ever quote you?

Senator VANSTONE —No, I think you would be too embarrassed. But you might sink to that level one day. Hard times might strike you. I see that you laugh at this proposition, and I find it pretty humorous myself, but never mind.

Our basic proposition is that we believe that every Australian child deserves a contribution. The states make very significant contributions to kids who go to state schools and we make contributions for the kids that go to private schools. We do not see why we should withdraw our contribution for kids whose parents have either been just lucky or are prepared to work hard and pay higher than the AGSRC to send their children to a private school with a view to their children getting better opportunities.

As to the other limb to this, that no funds will go to a new school unless the placement of the school has been agreed by the state government, Senator Allison, you might like to help me, but I can assure you that nothing you say will change my mind in this respect. If a private body want to set up a new school and we want to give them support, what business is it of the state governments as to where they put it? With respect, Senator, I think this amendment is just an encouragement for states to place private schools where they want them. If the states want schools in particular places, the states can put them there. Where a private school chooses to place itself seems to me to be very little of the business of the states since they make very little contribution to it.