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Wednesday, 29 February 2012
Page: 2373

Mrs D'ATH (Petrie) (19:04): It comes as no surprise to many in my community and to those in this House who have heard me speak before that I am passionate about education and skills. The Gillard Labor government has endeavoured to pursue many important reforms in the education sector, such as the trade training centres that we are building in our schools, the science and language centres, the new libraries and the new multipurpose halls, and importantly also introducing the national partnership funding to assist schools in literacy and numeracy programs and the national curriculum, something that no other government has been able to achieve prior to Labor coming back into government in 2007. We are finally going to have consistency in relation to the curriculum being delivered across all of our public and private schools across every state and territory.

What we saw last Monday was another important step forward in the release of the Gonski report. The government had said from day one that it was committed to looking at a review into school funding and understood the importance of doing a comprehensive review in this area. There had been many criticisms well before I was elected where I met with different sectors of the education area that all talked about the need for reform, that the system was broken, it did not provide transparency, it did not provide equity. What the Gonski report found is that the current system is complex and fragmented, lacks transparency and does not allocate resources efficiently. Similar schools with similar needs are getting different amounts of money. This is contributing to a situation where the gap between our best and worst performing students is widening.

The panel made a number of recommendations to make the funding system better. Central to the panel's proposal is a new funding model, referred to as a schooling resource standard. It would mean each student at any school—public, Catholic or independent—would receive Commonwealth funding based on the schooling resource standard. Extra money would be given to students and schools that needed it most, including schools with kids from poorer backgrounds, students with disability, students with poor English proficiency, Indigenous students and remote students.

This is an important step forward, but there is still much work to be done. The Australian government are conscious of the recommendations which have been made, and have come out and said that we will embrace a model of the kind recommended by Gonski if we are convinced it can achieve better student results; equitable access to a great education; excellent teaching and learning outcomes; support for school choice; fairness, transparency and accountability; continuous improvement and innovation in school performance; and financial sustainability.

These are key elements which have to be considered in whatever we put forward, because the model put forward by the government has to be a model which is going to last for decades to come. We cannot rush the process. It has to be a process which is worked through methodically, taking into account the findings of the Gonski report. That is why the government has notified the stakeholders that it will be putting together a ministerial reference group. The Ministerial Schools Funding Reference Group will be made up of key stakeholders. I believe it is important to have this reference group to work through these recommendations and to move the process forward from here.

I also believe it is important for members of parliament, including me, to engage at a local level. That is why this Friday I will be having a roundtable with principals from schools in my electorate. I have invited all of the principals in my electorate to come together and we will sit down and have a frank discussion about their initial views on the Gonski report and its recommendations and where they see things going from here.

I am pleased that many groups have already come out with their views. The Australian Primary Principals Association was one, and I had the honour of attending the Parliamentary Friends of Primary Education dinner last night. The Australian Secondary Principals Association, the Australian Parents Council and the Independent Schools Council of Australia have all come out with supporting comments welcoming the release of the Gonski report. Of course they have also raised issues, and they want to work through those issues. That is why it is important that this reference group be formed. I am proud of the work that has been done in education. (Time expired)