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Wednesday, 23 March 2011
Page: 1539

Senator XENOPHON (10:10 AM) —by leave—I wish to put on the record my support for Senator Hanson-Young’s second reading amendment. I think it is appropriate that the government respond to the review of funding for schooling chaired by David Gonski AC by March 2012. I think there ought to be a comprehensive response to that review that would fully outline the government’s plans for Commonwealth funding for government and non-government schools, and I do so having received concerns in relation to the funding of some non-government schools, which may mean that other perhaps more worthy non-government schools and, indeed, public schools have missed out on funding. I note an article by Michael Bachelard in the Sunday Age on 6 April 2008, and some more recent stories, about one particular type of school that is getting some significant funding and there being concerns about the transparency of that. I think that there ought to be adequate scrutiny of this.

I was asked to comment recently about the funding for some Exclusive Brethren schools. I absolutely respect the right of the Exclusive Brethren and other religions to set up schools, but where public funding is involved there ought to be levels of transparency, scrutiny and equity applied in relation to those schools. The information I have received about the level of funding for some of those schools, and arguably the efficacy of that funding, has left me with some very real concerns, because money for one school means money cannot be delivered to another school that could well be much needier, whether that is a non-government school or a public school.

I understand that this bill will go into committee stage at some later time and I will be asking more questions about the nature of the review and the nature of the scrutiny there is at the moment for degrees of funding for some non-government schools, where there has been a proliferation of certain types of non-government schools in recent times. I will be asking for further details on that. Having said that, I can indicate my strong support for Senator Hanson-Young’s amendment and I look forward to the committee stages of this bill so that I can ask for further details in relation to some of the funding arrangements that seem to have proliferated in recent times and the efficacy of them.