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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 10106

Ms RISHWORTH (Kingston) (13:15): I rise in support of the Australian Education Amendment (School Funding Guarantee) Bill 2014. This bill is very important for two main reasons. Firstly, this government, since coming to office, has broken its promise that no school would be worse off and the promise it made at the last election that it would keep the Gonski school funding model. This model is so critically important to ensure funding and resources are allocated on a needs basis. Unfortunately, the government has trashed that model. Secondly, Labor opposes this government's savage cuts to school education, whether it be in early childhood, primary or secondary school and all the way through to higher education. That legislation is currently before the Senate committee. These cuts will have devastating impacts on Australian students, the education sector and the economy. This bill should not be necessary, and it would not be necessary if the government had kept its word and fully implemented the Gonski school funding model.

Labor recognises the need for a national needs-based funding model designed to support the student resource standard by allocating extra funding for students with a disability, students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and students from rural and regional communities to ensure that every student across the country is allocated the resources they need to achieve their best and that every school can be its best. Students support this model. Mums and dads support this model. Schools support this model. The sector supports this model. The Liberal Party supposedly also supported this model.

I remind the House that it was the now Minister for Education who on 29 August 2013, days before the last election, said to the mums and dads and the teachers of Australia:

… you can vote Liberal or Labor and you'll get exactly the same amount of funding for your school …

Like most things promised by those opposite before the election, the minister was misleading the Australian people.

Despite the reckless actions of this government, the bill before us today will stop Australian schools sliding backwards. It will put a stop to the savage cuts to schools that have been occurring under state Liberal governments, including more than $180 million in cuts inflicted upon students in Western Australia by Premier Barnett this year alone. These cuts are leaving our schools worse off. Left to continue, these cuts will lead to the decline of our educational facilities and education standards, leaving Australia poorer as a nation. Australian education standards and Australian graduates are world class. This government, with its budget of broken promises, wants to diminish Australia's intellectual reputation.

Labor had a plan for our schools, a plan that would have seen the Commonwealth, states and territories work together to improve educational standards for Australians everywhere. Tony Abbott pledged to honour his agreement to the Gonski school funding model but has since walked away from it. He has walked away for cynical political purposes. In doing this, he has put at risk a once-in-a-generation opportunity to ensure that every Australian school is of the highest standard and that every student gets a fair and equal opportunity to achieve their best.

It is time for Tony Abbott to start admitting he got it wrong. It is time for the Prime Minister to fund years 5 and 6 in the budget and roll out the full agreement, as he promised to do before the election. No weasel words from the Prime Minister or from the Minister for Education can take away the fact that there was a clear commitment to Gonski—including signs in the member for Boothby's electorate on election day saying that the Liberal Party would match the Labor Party dollar for dollar. It is time for the government to keep that promise. But it is also important that we ensure that the states and territories do their bit to lift our education standards.

This bill will tie the Commonwealth funding for schools in every state and territory to the very basic principle that there are no more state education budget cuts. This bill is an important part of Labor's plan that the states and territories have signed up to, but we need a Commonwealth government that will hold them to account and ensure that together we are working to lift the education standards of our country. So I call on the government to support this important bill before the House today, and I hope that they will reconsider decent school funding. (Time expired)