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Tuesday, 20 June 2017
Page: 4330


Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:30): My question is also to the Minister for Education and Training, Senator Birmingham. Since announcing his education package some seven weeks ago, this minister has consistently stated that he would not be blackmailed or bullied by any sector into doing what he called 'special deals'. Has the minister done a so-called 'special deal' with the Catholic education sector?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:30): There have been no deals. As we have been very clear, the government continues to have discussions with a range of interested stakeholders and parties and will keep having those discussions. But, equally, our commitment to ensure consistency and a needs based approach to funding is resolute and will not waver.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, a supplementary question.

Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:30): Reports indicate that the independent schools sector is considering withdrawing its support for the minister's education policy if concessions are made to Catholic schools. Doesn't this demonstrate yet again that this minister cannot convince the education sectors, let alone his own colleagues, of the merit of his education package?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:31): I am very pleased to see that there are strong endorsements for the Turnbull government's reforms. We can start from day 1 in terms of what it is that David Gonski himself said and note that David Gonski said 'the Turnbull government has accepted the fundamental recommendations of our 2011 report, and particularly regarding a needs-based' funding arrangement. We have seen before endorsements from other representatives of both government school organisations and non-government school organisations. They absolutely do want to see consistency, fairness, equity and needs based treatment. That, as I said before, is precisely what the Turnbull government is committed to delivering and what we will deliver.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Wong, a final supplementary question.

Senator WONG (South AustraliaLeader of the Opposition in the Senate) (14:31): Given that this minister has announced an educational policy without any consultation, has provided data his own department has said is flawed, was not honest with his own party room and is desperately pursuing a special deal with one sector despite saying that he would never do so, is it any wonder that this minister has lost the trust of public schools, independent schools, Catholic schools and his own party room to deliver his schools package?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:32): The Turnbull government will deliver the schools funding package. It is a schools funding package that puts record investment into Australian schools, ensures that record investment goes to the schools that need it most and treats people fairly and equally—school-system students in particular—regardless of the state borders that they may be in. That is absolutely our intention, that is our resolve and that is what we will keep working to do. We want to make sure that, rather than continuing a mess of different deals, different arrangements and special treatment that those opposite put in place, we do address school funding and that we do target it to those kids who need it most and those schools that need it most, because they are the ones who will benefit most from a fair and equal outcome for all Australian schools.