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Tuesday, 20 June 2017
Page: 4328


Senator DUNIAM (Tasmania) (14:24): My question is to the Minister for Education and Training, Senator Birmingham. Could the minister inform the Senate how the Turnbull government's new schools funding reforms will benefit Australian school students such as those in my home state of Tasmania, including in public and Catholic schools?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:24): I thank Senator Duniam for his question and his passionate commitment to ensure the best for schoolchildren in Tasmania and particularly the best of school funding for schoolchildren across Tasmania.

Under our reforms, children across all school systems in Tasmania will be beneficiaries of a fairer funding model. In particular, as I alluded to before, take the Catholic education system in Tasmania: it will see funding growth of an average of 4.4 per cent under the Turnbull government's reforms. That is a higher level of growth than for some other Catholic education systems because, historically, Tasmania has had a raw deal under previous funding arrangements. Our application of consistency across the country helps to ensure that students in Tasmania—Mr President, it is your home state as well, I acknowledge—get fair and equal treatment from the federal government, as they should across every state and territory. That 4.4 per cent funding growth for the Tasmanian Catholic education system will see growth from $149 million this year to more than $180 million for Catholic education in Tasmania by 2021—growth of around 21 per cent over that four-year time horizon.

Equally, Tasmanian public schools in the government system will see strong growth as well—four per cent growth above inflation and above wages growth. It is a commitment to ensure that they receive a common share of the schooling resource standard and, indeed, with the commitment and investment from the Tasmanian government, that they will reach the schooling resource standard as a result of the combined efforts of the Commonwealth and the Tasmanian governments.

Take Andrews Creek Primary School in Wesley Vale, for instance, with just around 140 students. That school will receive an estimated $3,255 per student in Commonwealth funding in 2018 under the Turnbull government's reforms, but that will grow to more than $4½ thousand dollars per student over the period to 2027—a $1,400 increase per student over that time. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Duniam, a supplementary question.

Senator DUNIAM (Tasmania) (14:27): I thank the minister for that answer. Could the minister apprise the Senate of the support received for the new schools funding reforms?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:27): There has been strong support. A good example of that comes from Tasmania. There is a national body, the Australian Council of State School Organisations, representing parents of government school systems across the country. Their president, Mr Phillip Spratt, who is based in Tasmania, has described the Turnbull government's reforms as 'deeply gratifying' because, as he acknowledged, they are addressing peculiar advantages and providing for everybody on a consistent, fair, needs based platform.

Of course, today we see news that even a former president of the Australian Education Union, Dianne Foggo, has come out urging the Labor Party and the education union to back the Turnbull government's reforms. That is right: there is a split in the education union ranks because, of course, finally people there are realising that the best thing for public education and the neediest schools in Australia is to ensure that the Turnbull government's reforms pass, to give the best additional support to the schools who need it most, particularly those in public education systems. (Time expired)

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order, Senator Cameron and Senator Brown! Senator Duniam, a final supplementary question.

Senator DUNIAM (Tasmania) (14:28): I am pleased my Tasmanian colleagues are so active on this issue. Finally, I will ask the minister if he is aware of any alternative proposals for school funding being put forward?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:28): The only alternative proposal that I am aware of is the embarrassing proposition of those opposite, who pretend that there is a bunch of funny money out there that they can keep giving away, who want to embed 27 different arrangements and who want to see a situation where government school students in Western Australia continue to get a raw deal from the federal government relative to government school students elsewhere in the country, or where Catholic school students in Tasmania get a raw deal relative to Catholic school students elsewhere in the country. We want to ensure they are all treated fairly, equally and consistently by the Australian government as Australian school students, regardless of the state boundaries that exist. That is what our proposal seeks to do. Of course, we have the situation, as I have said, with the AEU starting to splinter. Indeed, the Grattan Institute has described the official AEU position as being a bizarre position of arguing for less money for government schools. That, of course, would be the effect if the AEU got their way. I just hope that the AEU and the Labor Party change their minds and get on board with the proper reform. (Time expired)