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Monday, 22 September 2014
Page: 10108

Mrs PRENTICE (Ryan) (13:20): I rise today to speak on this farce of a private member's bill, the Australian Education Amendment (School Funding Guarantee) Bill 2014, yet again. Those opposite do not seem to be able to fathom the fact that the coalition government is actually putting more funding into schools. That is right: the coalition government restored the $1.2 billion that the previous Labor government stole from Australian schools. In Queensland, this means $794.3 million more funding, and this fact has been acknowledged by the Queensland Minister for Education, Training and Employment. And the coalition has not stopped there. The annual increase for all Queensland school sectors, government and non-government, for recurrent and capital spending is an increase of 10.8 per cent in 2014-15, an increase of 11.3 per cent in 2015-16, an increase of 10.7 per cent in 2017-18 and—yes, Madam Deputy Speaker—another increase in 2017-18 of 7.5 per cent. That is all increased spending. Total Commonwealth funding to government schools in Queensland will grow by $662.3 million by 2017-18, a 68.7 per cent increase from 2013-14, while the non-government sector will grow by 35 per cent over the same period.

It is indeed unfortunate that we cannot afford Gonski's original recommendations, which I would just like to point out are not at all the same as the model Labor tried to pass off as their Gonski reforms to ensure they got a media splash. No, unfortunately, due to the reckless spending and waste of the previous Labor government, we are currently experiencing the fastest increase of debt in our nation's modern history. Because of Labor, if nothing is done to rein in their spending commitments, we are looking at an interest bill of $3 billion each month, which is $300,000 million, or one new hospital, every month. This money is being wasted on interest repayments which could have been used to fund the full Gonski vision. It is wasted money because Labor put their irresponsible spending on the nation's credit card with no means to pay it off.

Just as bad as Labor's innate ability to rack up record levels of debt, their irresponsible levels of spending were not enough. No, instead they felt the need to pretend to the Australian people that they were spending even more. Indeed, when you look at the projected expenditure of Labor's education funding, it is hard to tell what it is—an economic sleight of hand or some malicious time bomb planted by reckless politicians who knew they would never have to face the reality and pay up.

It is shamelessly simple. The vast majority of Labor's so-called promised funding comes well after the forward estimates, so Labor never wrote it into a budget paper. In true Labor style they made up exciting slogans, printed pretty flyers on high-gloss paper and put out lots of press releases. But the reality behind these grandiose statements is about as genuine as Labor's infamous 'We will return to surplus this budget'—all myths.

As a party that pretend they are the ones who care most about education, not once did those opposite stop to think about how to get best value for the Commonwealth's education spend. Not once did they stop to think that, despite almost two decades of rivers of gold flowing into the school education sector, Australia's school testing scores continued to steadily decline. Yes, that is right: the Productivity Commission's Report on government services 2014 shows a graph clearly outlining Commonwealth spending on schools increasing, yet the program for international student assessment scores has been decreasing in both literacy and numeracy. This is because governments should not just recklessly throw money at our education system and hope for the best, as the previous Labor government did.

Instead, as the coalition government are doing through our Students First plan, we should focus on the four key areas that evidence shows will make a real difference for students. Those key areas are teacher quality, school autonomy, engaging parents and strengthening the curriculum. And, in an important point, Australian school education is actually the responsibility of the state governments. The federal government, which really has no responsibility over schools, contributes approximately 15 per cent of the total schooling budget for states and territories.

Just to recap, we have a coalition government that is actually increasing funding to schools beyond the forward estimates, is adding an additional $1.2 billion that Labor ripped away from schools and is ensuring that the money being spent will actually result in better outcomes for students and teachers. Only the coalition is putting Australian students first.

Debate adjourned.