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Thursday, 24 June 2004
Page: 31742

Ms MACKLIN (9:46 AM) —I am very pleased to present a petition to the parliament signed by 12,720 people. This is a petition about the extraordinary importance of our public education system to the democratic development of our country. The petition emphasises the role that our public schools play in the development of not only highly skilled individuals but also an economically strong country. The most important thing that the petitioners emphasise is the critical role that public schools play in our national identity and in our democratic traditions, so I am very pleased to be able to present the petition today. The petitioners call on all members to accept national responsibility for priority in funding to our public schools, because they, like I, want to make sure that our public schools do continue to provide a high quality of education to each and every Australian.

I just want to make reference to another petition, which I unfortunately cannot present because it is not in order. I want to make reference to the importance of the issues that the petitioners have raised with me. The petition is titled `Ride for refugees'. The petitioners have asked us to support fairer treatment for people arriving in Australia seeking asylum. They are specifically asking that children and families currently in custody be released into the community; that people who have been proven to be refugees be provided with permanent protection, with assistance to return home on a voluntary basis; that the long periods of detention be reduced to a short-term assessment period and that people be released into the community whilst determination of refugee status is reached. I thank the committee for the opportunity to present this petition here today.

The petition read as follows-

To the Honourable the Speaker and members of the House of Representatives assembled in Parliament

The petition of certain citizens of Australia draws to the attention of the House.

For over 150 years our country has been served by a comprehensive and inclusive system of public education. Public education has contributed to successful lives and democratic social development in an Australia which is highly skilled and economically strong. It has built our national identity and democratic traditions and given the capacity for active citizenship to the Australian people.

All of this has been possible only because the system has enjoyed public confidence and public investment. At this time both are under threat. Public confidence has been undermined by divisive attacks and public investment has been distorted by an unfair system of federal funding which favours an already well-off minority to the detriment of those in genuine need.

We therefore call on all Members to condemn these unjust attacks, and to:

accept national responsibility to provide priority in funding to public schools to enable them to continue to provide high quality education to all, regardless of wealth, location, ethnicity, religion or special needs; and,

replace the current unfair SES funding model with a new Commonwealth and State system which provides enhanced educational resources to schools allocated on the basis of educational need and which ends public funding to wealthy schools which are already well resourced.

from 12,720 citizens.