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Tuesday, 29 August 2000
Page: 19515

Mr LEE (3:10 PM) —My question is again to the Prime Minister. Does the Prime Minister recall saying in his speech last Friday while opening a new facility at Melbourne Grammar that `Every last dollar of this wonderful facility was contributed by the parent body and the supporters of the school, the whole $4 or $5 million of it'? Prime Minister, how many government schools or low fee Catholic or independent schools have the ability to raise $5 million from their parents or old boys?

Government members interjecting

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The member for Dobell is entitled to ask his question provided it is within the standing orders, and to ask it in silence.

Mr LEE —Prime Minister, do you really think it is fair that under your new funding system you do not even consider the private fundraising of the very wealthy schools? How does giving an average $800,000 a year to the 62 wealthiest schools in Australia help working-class parents send their kids to school?

Mr HOWARD (Prime Minister) —I do remember saying that and it is the case that the facility that I opened at that particular school, which has produced some students on both sides of Australian politics—

Mr Costello —John Brumby.

Mr Downer —Malcolm Fraser.

Mr HOWARD —I won't get into personalities—

Mr Tanner —You'll have to, because you have got no argument.

Mr HOWARD —The member for Melbourne interjects about no argument. The member for Dobell asks if I take account of the fundraising capacities of different schools. The answer is yes, and that is why schools in category 1 get on average about 17 per cent per capita funding and schools in the Catholic systems get about 70 per cent. This shows the absolute ignorance of the Labor Party's education spokesman about the fundamentals of education funding in this country. The whole fundamental in education funding in this country is that the main per capita recurrent support from the Commonwealth operates on the basis that the poorest schools get the most funding and the not so poor schools get less funding. That is why the school in category 1 or 2 gets about 17 per cent, the sorts of schools that the member for Dobell was yelling his head off about get about 17 per cent, schools like Melbourne Grammar, and the Catholic systemic schools get 70 per cent. That is how it has been for a long time, and I think that is very fair.

That is the system that I thought the Australian Labor Party supported. But what you cannot grasp is that there is another category of schools. The other category of schools is those low fee independent schools, and you voted to stop them expanding. When the bill came before the parliament to abolish the new schools policy that you maintained, you all voted to maintain the old system. The old system would have prevented the establishment of Anglican systemic schools in the western suburbs of Sydney charging fees of $2,000, $3,000 or $4,000 a year. These are the schools that John Aquilina is now wanting to run the ruler over in New South Wales because he has been sooled onto them by the teacher unions in that particular state. That is what you are trying to stop, and no attempt to drag Melbourne Grammar into it is going to alter that reality.