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Wednesday, 4 November 1992
Page: 2603


Mr BEAZLEY (Minister for Employment, Education and Training) (6.22 p.m.) —I move:

  That the Bill be now read a second time.

Recognising this Government's responsibility for all Australians, the States Grants (Primary and Secondary Education Assistance) Bill 1992 continues this Government's commitment to equity, quality and excellence in primary and secondary education in Australia. It secures funding for these purposes for the next funding period, 1993 to 1996, and provides for substantial increases in funding in 1993.

  The Commonwealth shares responsibility with the States for the quality of public education and is a partner with the States and parents in supporting private education. In both relationships it is concerned with improving educational outcomes so that young Australians can adapt better to changing economic, industrial and social circumstances.

  The Bill supersedes the States Grants (Schools Assistance) Act 1988, which authorised funding for the 1989 to 1992 funding period. The new title of the Bill more accurately reflects the Commonwealth's leadership role in primary and secondary education and its interest in educational activities that support improved outcomes, regardless of where they take place. The Bill also gives effect to a number of measures announced in the context of, and subsequent to, the 1992-93 Budget.

  In the area of general recurrent funding, it provides for increases in per capita grant levels for all schools arising from the roll back of the award restructuring assistance program into general recurrent grants from 1993; for additional real increases in per capita grant levels for non-government schools in categories five to 12 in each year from 1993 to 1996, guaranteed in legislation; and for maintenance in real terms of per capita grant levels for non-government schools in categories one to four and for government schools over the period 1993 to 1996, also guaranteed in legislation.

  From 1993, average government school recurrent costs will replace the community standard as the benchmark for general recurrent funding levels. Supplementation arrangements, formalised in legislation for the first time in 1993, will also reflect this change with all recurrent programs to be supplemented annually for the full annual movement in latest known average government school recurrent costs.

  Changes to be introduced through the revised new schools policy will reduce the level of regulation of established non-government schools to allow these schools greater flexibility to plan their own development. The assessment provisions applying to new schools and schools undertaking certain changes in operation are to be strengthened.

  The Bill provides some $60m in 1993 in additional capital grants for the refurbishment of government secondary schools and some $45m in additional capital grants for non-government schools, with additional funds to be provided for non-government schools in subsequent years.  These changes to general recurrent and capital funding will ensure that non-government schools will enjoy stability and security of funding over the next eight years, from a substantially increased funding base. This will enable schools to continue to respond to the growth in participation, to the agreed national curriculum framework and to the challenges emerging from recent reports on post compulsory education. The certainty of funding which the non-government sector has enjoyed over the past eight years, certainty which is now critical to the survival and success of a substantial non-government system, will continue.

  The Bill embodies the Government's belief that education is not a toy to be played with at the whim of political ideologues. Education is too important to be the victim of misguided, free market ideology. Freedom of conscience is the issue here. This Bill will provide increased educational opportunities for millions of young Australians, within a funding framework which guarantees stability, security and certainty for government and non-government schools through to the next century.

  The Bill also establishes the framework for the new national equity program for schools. The proposed new broad banding arrangements, endorsed recently by the Australian Education Council and to be introduced from 1994, will provide for financial assistance under four elements focused on access, equity, incentives and national priorities. Subject to agreement with school authorities, new provisions giving effect to broad banding from 1994 will be introduced in the 1993 Budget session of Parliament. In the interim, in 1993 the provisions relating to education in English as a second language, special education, education in disadvantaged schools and schools in country areas, for students with disabilities and for projects enhancing literacy and learning have been grouped together under part 6 of the Bill to reflect this new structure.

  As part of the national equity program for schools from 1993, the Government will also introduce grants for national projects to assist gifted and talented students and to improve the learning experiences of girls. The students at risk program will continue in 1993 and will be extended to the non-government sector.

  Funds appropriated by the Bill for the 1993 program year are estimated to total some $2,873.2m, comprising some $2,180.0m for general recurrent grants to government and non-government schools, $400.2m for capital grants for government and non-government schools, $271.7m for national equity programs, $16.5m for the school language program and $4.8m for other joint programs. I commend the Bill to the House and present the explanatory memorandum to this Bill.

  Debate (on motion by Mr Anderson) adjourned.

Sitting suspended from 6.29 to 8 p.m.

(Quorum formed)