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Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Page: 975


Senator PATERSON (Victoria) (14:07): It is a very hard act to follow! My question is to the Minister for Education and Training, Senator Birmingham. Can the minister update the Senate on what the latest report on government services shows in relation to school funding?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:07): Thank you, Senator Paterson, for your question. I know that you, Senator Paterson, are driven by wanting the facts and accurate data and information. Quite recently the Productivity Commission released its annual report on government services, and that report provides for interesting reading, which those opposite in particular would benefit from undertaking. It shows that between 2005-06 and 2014-15—over a decade up to the most recent data that is available—total funding from state governments, territories and the Commonwealth to all schools increased by 58.2 per cent, with Commonwealth funding during that time going by 58.2 per cent, compared with state and territory increases of only 18 per cent. Commonwealth funding for government schools has grown in real terms on a per student basis over that decade by 72.4 per cent, compared with average state and territory funding growth over that time of only 9.4 per cent—a vast difference and notably far higher than Commonwealth growth in funding to non-government schools of 25.7 per cent. The total Commonwealth per student increase in funding in real terms grew by 43.7 per cent, compared with that of the states and territories, which grew by just 7.2 per cent.

But what is remarkable is that if you look at a shorter time frame over the five years of the most recently available data, six of the eight state and territory jurisdictions actually reduced their investment in Australian schools. It came at the same time as the Commonwealth government was increasing its investment.

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator BIRMINGHAM: And the worst offender, I am sad to say to the South Australian senator, was the South Australian Labor government, which cut by five times the amount of extra federal funding they received, on a per student basis. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Paterson, a supplementary question?

Senator PATERSON (Victoria) (14:09): Will the minister advise the Senate on which states are cost-shifting?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:09): We do see that over that five period six of eight states, all except for New South Wales and Tasmania, were states in which funding went backwards. But South Australia well and truly was the worst offender by far, with a cut of 2.1 per cent to their government schools and across the board. Yet the same state is quite happy to go out and attack the federal government, even though we are giving them money on one hand while they are pocketing it with the other. They are happy to spend South Australian taxpayers' money on campaigns attacking us, on campaigns that are bordering on corruption, when you see the state government getting a grant application on one day and approving it on the same day, to run a partisan political campaign in the middle of the federal election campaign. All the while they are deceitfully failing to actually use the extra federal funding we have given for increases in schools instead of pocketing it as budget savings— (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Paterson, a final supplementary question?

Senator PATERSON (Victoria) (14:10): Can the minister outline the Turnbull government's vision for future school funding?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:10): The Turnbull government absolutely will continue to grow school funding in the future, from last year's record level of $16 billion to more than $20 billion by 2020. That is funding growth above inflation and above projected enrolment growth. It is real growth into Australian schools, despite all the lies that we hear from those opposite and some of those on the crossbenches. Yesterday Dr Ken Boston, one of the authors of the Gonski report, called out the fact that what Labor pretend is the Gonski report is of course far from what was recommended.

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Senator O'Neill!

Senator BIRMINGHAM: Dr Boston said, 'The Gillard and Rudd governments did not adopt the Gonski report, and neither has the current Labor opposition.'

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator BIRMINGHAM: No, listen to this: 'The Gonski report did not see additional funding as the key to improving Australian education.' The Gonski report, if you bothered to read it, was a far more complicated document than those pretending that billions of dollars makes a difference. It is about how you use it most effectively— (Time expired)