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Wednesday, 11 August 2004
Page: 2095

Mr PEARCE (4:09 PM) —I start by reassuring the member for Ballarat that I will not be involved in any scaremongering at all. It is a great pleasure for me to rise in the House today to talk about the government's education policy. From the outset, I want to say something that I think is very important in a debate like this. I want to record the absolute respect and admiration I have for all of the people who teach young Australians throughout this country. Australian schoolteachers are the great unsung heroes of this country, in my view. Their role and their responsibility are critical to the future prosperity of this nation.

This MPI reveals something about the Labor Party. It reveals at its core the difficulty that they have in and around the area of choice. I cannot for the life of me work out what it is that they are so opposed to. From my point of view and from the government's point of view, every parent has the right to choose the system that they wish to educate their child in. That is the fundamental basis of the government's position. That is what the Labor Party of Australia, federally and state based, cannot get over. They do not want parents to have that choice. They want to force parents into one particular decision, not provide them with choice.

The other fact that you heard about earlier from the outstanding Minister for Education, Science and Training was that parents who choose to send their children to non-government schools are taxpayers too. Before we get into any other areas of the debate, our principle is that every child in Australia deserves some support from the Australian government. Every child in Australia deserves some support. It is a point of logic. All reasonable people would have to declare that that is in the nation's interest. It is in the national interest that every child be supported. Parents who send their children to non-government schools are just as entitled to government funding of their children's education as parents who do not.

I want to talk about a couple of different points in today's debate. Firstly, I want to touch on the area of school funding. I know that the Labor Party does not like to hear this, but the facts are that under this government all schools have received greater support than they have ever received before. In every budget, and in grants to every state and territory for every year since the Howard government came to office in 1996, school funding has increased. As a matter of fact, over the next four years this government will deliver over $31 billion to Australian schools. That is the largest funding commitment to education in Australia that we have ever seen—by any government.

What is important about this is that this funding commitment will be not only for government schools but also for non-government schools. As you have heard from the federal minister, the Catholic systemic schools will now form part of the SES funding model. For the first time they will receive a significant increase from the federal government. During question time today the Prime Minister again touched on what is important about this funding model. I want to refer to comments the Prime Minister made in the parliament on Monday, 21 June. I want to read from Hansard, because this is an important point that must be made in this debate about education funding. The Prime Minister said:

I will take the opportunity of pointing out to the parliament that every time a state government in this country spends $1 on a government school, 44c in that dollar has come from the GST or Commonwealth government grants. I will say that again: every time a state government around Australia spends $1 on a government school, 44c in that dollar has come directly from the GST or Commonwealth government specific purpose payments. So when you add that to the direct funding of government schools by the federal government, the reality is that federal governments provide more money for the funding of government schools than, indeed, do the state governments from their own revenue sources.

That is a remarkable fact. The federal government deliver more funding to government schools, from our own sources of funding, than the state and territory governments do. Mr Deputy Speaker, you know, as all members in this place know, that state and territory schools are the responsibility of the states and territories. But the fact of the matter is that, from our federal funding sources, we are giving a higher proportion of funds to those schools than the sovereign entities responsible for them—the states and territories—are delivering. I know the Labor Party find that a difficult concept to come to terms with, but it is something that links with the concept of choice that they just will not embrace and will not come to terms with.

Mr Martin Ferguson —It's called the tax base!

Mr PEARCE —You hear the interjections—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. I.R. Causley)—If the member for Braddon thinks he has a licence, I might remind him of standing order 55.

Mr PEARCE —Thank you very much, Mr Deputy Speaker. The member for Braddon has trouble understanding standing order 55, as we know.

They do not like hearing it. It is a fact. This is one of the problems that, in my three years of being in this place, I still have not got used to. The Labor Party do not want to deal in facts; they want to deal in rhetoric. For the life of me I cannot work out why we cannot get this education debate right in all of our minds in this chamber. We are talking about the future of our children. Education is beyond politics and we should not be having this type of adversarial debate about the future of our children.

The fact is that, since the Howard government was elected in 1996, we have done an outstanding job in the area of education. Mr Deputy Speaker, you of course know about the National History Project that we have implemented. That is valued at $2.3 million. The National School Science Project is valued at $2.5 million. The national Values Education Study to support values education in schools is valued at $580,000. Values is a strong area of our government policy.

Mr Martin Ferguson —That's less than the King's School gets in one year!

Mr PEARCE —The member for Batman would have trouble coming to terms with any sort of value, but values education is something that the government are committed to. We are committed to reinforcing values and standards in our schools. Our fantastic federal minister recently announced part of that values and citizenship policy, and that is the need for all schools in Australia to have a flagpole, but most importantly to make sure that that flagpole works and the flag is flown on that flagpole.

Mr PEARCE —This is the sort of thing that parents in my electorate—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Shortland is warned!

Mr PEARCE —and parents in other outer metropolitan electorates care about. Parents want to know that their children, when they go to school, are being taught civics and values. They are very happy that this government is supportive—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Sydney is warned!

Mr PEARCE —This MPI talks about the need for a fair, needs based funding system. We have a fair needs based funding system. It is called the SES model.

A government member—Labor voted for it.

Mr PEARCE —That is right. The Labor Party supported this. The member for Jagajaga, who would be the minister for education and the Deputy Prime Minister, voted for it. People need to look back through the Hansard and see that she voted for this model. This is a fair, needs based funding system. This is a funding system that has worked well throughout Australia, and one of its key principles is that private investment in education should not be discouraged.

Labor's policy is all about so-called resourcing in schools. Let us examine what that seems to mean if you are a school and you have got an active school council and an active school community and you go out and raise, through all your various fundraising activities, a wonderful plethora of money so you can build resources at your school. If at your school you get together and raise money to build a fantastic new gymnasium through your own efforts as a school community, under Labor's policy they are going to look at you as a school and say, `You are resourced well so you do not need any support.' Because the parents go out and raise all these funds they are now going to be punished. Where is the logic in that? Where is the logic in punishing Australian parents for going out, raising funds and being involved in their children's education at their local school? The Australian Labor Party, the communists of this country, are going to come in and punish them for doing that sort of thing. It is an absolute farce. It is an absolute disgrace. The Labor Party need to get their act together. Talking about getting their act together, I am going to refer to the Australian Financial Review editorial that was published on 4 August, just recently. The editorial has the heading `Macklin flunks the policy test'. The reality is that Macklin has flunked the MPI test as well. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —Order! The discussion is now concluded.