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Thursday, 21 June 2007
Page: 152


Mr FAWCETT (11:28 AM) —I rise today to draw the attention of the House to the discussion about an education revolution. There is an education revolution occurring in South Australia and it is a revolt by parents, the education union, teachers and parents and teachers associations against Labor’s education policy. The South Australian Labor government wants to tax all public childcare centres, kindergartens, primary schools and secondary schools to recover part of its workers compensation costs. Schools say that this tax, combined with other cuts to education by the Labor government, will cost secondary schools more than $100,000 annually, about $50,000 for primary schools and $4,000 for kindergartens. Schools in South Australia are saying that the Labor education policy means less equipment replaced, fewer books replaced, cuts to curriculum, no new computers, less professional development for teachers and more parent fundraising. Labor’s education policy is even going to attack parent fundraising. The government is considering taking back interest earned by schools on bank accounts, and these bank accounts are where the schools keep money that they have either saved or fundraised.

The Labor government tax comes on top of cancelling the Be Active: Let’s Go program, as well as the proposed cuts to music and aquatic programs and cuts to the $30,000 small schools grants and first aid training which has now been passed on to schools as a cost. Parents are revolting against Labor’s education policy because the Labor government has spent some $24 million on extra spin doctors and staffers at the same time as it is expecting parents to pay more for education. This is Labor policy. It also stretches to the federal level. The basis of the Latham schools hit-list policy from the 2004 election was a resource index in terms of funding according to need. The Labor Party national platform and constitution of 2007 identifies that they will still fund according to the principles of assessing against financial need. The Leader of the Opposition now says that all schools will be funded according to need—that is, according to the resource index. Parents across Australia can see that there is a real difference between the rhetoric and the reality of Labor’s education policy.

This is in stark contrast to the actions of this government—not just what we say we will do but what we have done over the last 10 years. The funding that the Howard government has given to the South Australian government has increased. Our funding, which has gone to state schools in South Australia, increased 102 per cent between 1996 and 2007-08. In addition, we have put significant funds into capital works—not just funding per student under the agreement but funding under the capital grants program—for state schools in South Australia. In 2007-08, $24.4 million all-up goes to all schools and some $34 million goes to capital works and infrastructure. I particularly welcome developments that are taking place at Craigmore High School and Kapunda High School at the moment. These state schools are the responsibility of the state government but have been funded in large part by the Australian government.

There is also the Investing in Our Schools Program. Some $20 million has gone to state schools in South Australia. All-up around $30 million has gone to schools. Altogether the Australian government has committed some $64 million to schools in South Australia. Rather than cuts and penalties, we are partnering with schools to make substantial and record investments. The Howard government has provided record funding to state schools in every year since 1996. The reality of funding, despite the TV ads, is that this government has provided record funding to state schools. Sixty-seven per cent of students are in state schools but they receive 75 per cent of total taxpayer funding. The $1.2 billion Investing in Our Schools Program and the $1.8 billion Literacy, Numeracy and Special Needs Learning Program highlight the value that this government places on education and the fact that our statements and our vision are matched by action and money. Rather than penalising parents, schools and students, we are increasing opportunities for students and increasing the value and the efficacy of the environment in which they work. We are investing in teachers and education for the future of Australia.