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Thursday, 25 May 2017
Page: 5174

Mr KEOGH (Burt) (12:02): Today, like every day, I am standing up for the students, parents, teachers, principals, education assistants at schools in my electorate and across the country. People tell me regularly that they are sick of all the fighting and lies in politics. This legislation is precisely why we need to fight. It is also a shining example of the sort of lies that Australians hate.

It all started back in 2013, when the then Liberal opposition leader, the member for Warringah, said that the coalition were on the unity ticket with Labor on education funding. Come the 2014 budget, the Australian people saw the true colours of the government on education. Now, we have the weasel words of funding increases coming from the Prime Minister and his education minister. They are having trouble bringing themselves to say it, but it is clear from their own documents: the government's policy will cut over $22 billion from Australian schools over the decade. This means fewer teachers and thousands of students who will not get the benefits of specialist programs, additional in-class help, extra literacy and numeracy programs and extension for gifted and talented students. You wonder why Australians turn off politics. It is because of behaviour like this from the Turnbull government.

Today is Public Education Day. It is a day when we should be celebrating the achievements of our public education system, the hard work and dedication of our teachers, and the difference to the lives of our children that they are making. You know what? On our side, Labor does celebrate public education and all that it does to improve the lives of so many Australians through the dedicated hard work of all of those working in public education. However, today is also a sad day. Flags at every school across Australia should be at half-mast, because schools are under attack by this government. In Western Australia, the Turnbull government's new education plan will short-change WA public schools by $93 million next year and have created an alarming funding shortfall for our local schools. That is on top of what looks like $3.5 million that is going to come out of funding for our WA Catholic schools, putting upward pressure on school fees for families that are already struggling to pay them.

I want this to be very clear: the Turnbull Liberal government is asking this parliament to pass a law that will see less funding for Armadale Primary School; Armadale Senior High School; Armadale Education Support Centre; Ashburton Drive Primary School; Bletchley Park Primary School; Brookman Primary School; Caladenia Primary School; Campbell Primary School; Canning Vale College; Canning Vale Primary School; Canning Vale Education Support Centre; Cecil Andrews Senior High School; Challis Community Primary School; Clifton Hills Primary School; Excelsior Primary School; Forest Crescent Primary School; Forestdale Primary School; Gosnells Primary School; Grovelands Primary School; Gwynne Park Primary School; Gwynne Park Education Support Centre; Harrisdale Senior High School, which only just opened this year; Harrisdale Primary School; Huntingdale Primary School; Kelmscott Primary School; Kelmscott Senior High School; Kingsley Primary School; Neerigen Brook Primary School; Piara Waters Primary School; Ranford Primary School; Seaforth Primary School; South Thornlie Primary School; Southern River College; Thornlie Primary School; Thornlie Senior High School; Westfield Park Primary School; Willandra Primary School; Wirrabirra Primary School; Wirrabirra Education Support Centre; Yale Primary School; the Alta-1 College in Canning Vale; the Australian Islamic College in Thornlie; Carey Baptist College; Dale Christian School; Good Shepherd Catholic Primary School; John Calvin Christian College; John Wollaston Anglican Community School; Langford Islamic College; Sacred Heart Primary School; Southern Hills Christian College; Sowilo Community High School; St Emilies Catholic Primary School; St John Bosco College; St Jude's Catholic Primary School; St Munchin's Catholic School; Thornlie Christian College; Xavier Catholic Primary School, my alma mater; and many more surrounding schools that also educate those in my electorate. I and Labor will not let this law happen.

I am a parent and, like all parents in Burt, I want the best education for our kids. Education is fundamental to the core Australian value of a fair go. Education is critical to ensuring that every young Australian has the opportunity to reach their full potential. That is why Labor undertook the landmark review into school funding. It is why we introduced the Schooling Resourcing Standard, a sector-blind model which clearly defined the funding all schools need to deliver a great education. It was a funding model that guaranteed extra funding to give kids with poorer outcomes the extra help that they need.

Labor's funding model and the Australian Education Act 2013 enshrined the following objectives into Australian law:

… all students in all schools are entitled to an excellent education, allowing each student to reach his or her full potential so that they can succeed—

That is, can achieve his or her aspirations.

… and contribute fully to their communities, now and in the future …

Make no mistake, that is what this government is walking away from. This bill proposes to remove those words, that intention and that objective from the act.

They are walking away from the targets that are also in the act, which were:

(a) to ensure that the Australian schooling system provides a high quality and highly equitable education for all students by having regard to the following national targets:

(i) for Australia to be placed, by 2025, in the top 5 highest performing countries based on the performance of school students in reading, mathematics and science;

(ii) for the Australian schooling system to be considered a high quality and highly equitable schooling system by international standards by 2025;

(iii) lift the Year 12 (or equivalent) or Certificate II attainment rate to 90% by 2015;

(iv) lift the Year 12 (or equivalent) or Certificate III attainment rate to 90% by 2020;

(v) at least halve the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and other students, in Year 12 or equivalent attainment rates by 2020 from the baseline in 2006;

(vi) halve the gap between Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, and other students, in reading, writing and numeracy by 2018 from the baseline in 2008—

That is next year. Seriously, you want to remove this? What sort of government are you?

The Liberal Party does not believe in education as a great enabler. That is clear. They do not want to guarantee the rights of every child to receive the best possible education that we can provide them. This legislation is a smokescreen, designed to try to kill a political issue for this government. But like their whole budget, it does not actually deliver on the words that they use. They say the word 'fair', but they do not do anything that is fair. They say the words 'needs based', but they do not deliver on needs. They talk about the right choices yet their priorities are all wrong, preferring tax cuts for Australia's highest earners and biggest businesses over properly funding our education system.

Those opposite have said time and time again in their speeches on this bill that if Labor proposes more funding for schools, then we need to say how we will pay for it. Well, that just shows how much attention they clearly are not giving to this issue, because Labor stands in clear opposition to the more than $30 billion of further corporate tax cuts that the government wishes to hand out to its friends—more than enough to pay for what should be one of our nation's top priorities: the proper education of our kids.

When the review of school funding recommended that all governments work together to ensure that every child has the best chance to succeed in school and in life, that is what the Labor government then did. The review said that what matters are the total resources that a school has for each and every child who walks through the school gate, not whether those resources come from the Commonwealth government or from the state government. People do not care about that issue; they just want to know that their kids are going to get the right education and that it is properly funded. That is why the Labor government worked with the states and territories to ensure that by 2019 every underfunded school would reach its fair level of funding, and in Victoria by 2022. It is very unfortunate, of course, that the then Barnett Liberal government refused to engage in those discussions with the federal government.

Labor said to those states that we would work with them to make sure that funding levels were brought up to the level that was required, and we recognised that they were working from different bases, because what was important was getting to the objective, not where we were starting. But only by working with the states and territories were we able to achieve that objective. The Prime Minister has said that does not matter anymore; it is not the total funding for schools that matters, according to this government. Make no mistake: the Prime Minister, the education minister, this Liberal government are walking away from a fundamental part of the School Resourcing Standard. They are walking back to the past when it was only a Commonwealth funding offer and did not lock in the states to keeping up their share of funding as part of the bargain.

Under what Malcolm Turnbull is proposing, some 85 per cent of public schools will not have reached their fair funding level by 2027. That is 10 years from now and eight years after they would have reached it under funding from Labor. Under their model less than 50 per cent of extra funding goes to public schools. Labor was providing 80 per cent of extra funding for public schools because we know that public schools still cater for seven out of 10 kids with a disability, seven out of 10 kids from a language background other than English, eight out of 10 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and around eight out of 10 kids from low-income families.

Our new funding model also had full public funding for all loadings for disadvantage so that Catholic schools and independent schools that educate kids who have extra needs would also get the extra funding that was necessary. We are very concerned that the government's funding model penalises some Catholic schools, that they will suffer real funding losses and will have to increase their fees or cut teachers and assistants at their schools. We are concerned about the inequities in this model. We support the proposal to gradually reduce funding for the 24 most overfunded schools, but we think what the government is offering is fundamentally unfair. There is no decent detail about how students who have a disability are going to be supported. I know from meeting with principals just this week how much they are concerned about this issue, and that is despite the government promising that it would fix that in the 2013 election.

For years the government has said that what matters is not money for schools but reform. Well, where is the reform package? The bill removes a commitment to deliver quality teaching and learning, to deliver school autonomy and to increase the say of principals and school communities, to deliver transparency and accountability or to deliver for students with extra needs. The government threw out the reform agreement that was in place with the states and has wasted valuable time over the last four years. And now they are saying we will have a new national agreement that will not get taken to COAG until 2018. They simply do not care about the quality learning and outcomes of kids in our schools. If they did, they would have pressed on with Labor's reform agenda. If they did, they would not be taking money out of schools, which prevents the kids from getting the extra help and support they need.

Over the next two years alone, a Labor government would have been investing about $3 billion more than the Liberals in schools, to get each and every school up to their fair share of funding. Labor will restore the $22 billion that the Liberals cut and properly fund our schools, because we believe that every child in every classroom deserves every opportunity. We want better schools, better results and better support for our great teachers. At the heart of our differences with the government lies a difference in values. Labor believes that no matter how rich or how poor your family is, where you grew up or which school you choose to go to, as a community we should make sure that everyone gets a great education. It is a promise we make to every Australian child.

In conclusion, I would like to pay tribute to all of my great teachers at the schools that I attended—St Francis Xavier's School and Mazenod College. They had to put up with me; they deserve some respects for that, and some thanks. They all know that I would not have been able to achieve the things that I have achieved, or be standing in this place, without their great help and dedication. And I pay tribute to my family of teachers—my mum, Helen, my brother, John, and my sister, Jacqui—who are doing great work in teaching the next generation of fine young Australians. And I pay tribute to my friends who are teachers, who have given me a great exposure to understanding the great work and the hardship that goes into making sure we can deliver a great education to young Australians. There are many of them but, in particular, I want to give a shout out to Gerrard, Anne-Marie, Cathy, Lisa and Sarah. Sorry, I am running out of time, so I cannot list any more.

I support the amendment but I very much oppose this legislation and the government's cuts to funding to our schools.