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Wednesday, 27 November 1996
Page: 6171

Senator VANSTONE (Minister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs)(6.00 p.m.) —I think Senator Allison is basically asking me the same thing that Senator Carr has just asked me. I believe I made it clear from my answer to him that the numbers stay the same but the proportion changes. You have picked up on the remarks that I made to him, but I think it is a pretty non-supportive proposition to put for government schools. You have suggested that, where there are increases in enrolments because of population change, the government sector will get none of them. That is the assumption that your question is based on.

It is quite right that, if those new students all shift to non-government schools, certainly there should be an adjustment towards the non-government schools because they are taking all the extra students. Of course there should be, and there would be, but only as it relates to the EBA. Senator, I should counsel you against getting this out of perspective. The EBA is a small part of the total funding. If you do not accept the EBA, you are saying that, irrespective of parents making the choice that they want their children to have a different education, irrespective of the fact that parents might choose to send their kids to the local Christian school, total funding as it exists today should stay the same for ever and a day.

You are suggesting that we should keep funding government schools, despite what may be continuing declining enrolments, and fund them at the same level. You are saying that we should provide no incentive whatsoever for government schools to appreciate the consequences of losing students—no incentive at all: just keep performing as they are. You know full well that there are plenty of government schools that are doing really well. They are schools that people want to get their kids into. That is the choice they want to make.

It is important to reflect that choice in funding. If all the new students go to other schools, there should be some adjustment to reflect that. Of course there should be. I am at a loss to understand why you do not think that should be the case. I am equally at a loss to understand why it is that this relatively speaking minor adjustment—because it is a fifty-fifty sharing of the windfall gain to the states—is something that you treat as the whole funding package.

You comment as if funding to government schools is going to fall. If you set up an enrolment benchmark adjustment which is designed to reflect changes in student loads, and someone has a reduction in the proportion of their load, obviously vis-a-vis that benchmark adjustment it will be a negative if they get a lesser proportion. But to pretend that that somehow is a large part of the funding and to ignore the fact that in any event, on the calculations that we have done—which show an increase to non-government schools—government schools get more perplexes me.