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Monday, 6 December 2004
Page: 97

Senator ALLISON (8:02 PM) —The minister needs to understand this is going to be a very long debate if this is going to be the tenor of the discussion. I think it is worth while reading the definition. I am sure Senator Carr would do this in his own time, too. We are not actually talking about the affordability of fees. The definition of `need', according to this amendment, is:

... an assessment of the educational and financial circumstances of a school and its community, including the varying educational programs required for individual students and groups of students to achieve national educational goals and the level of recurrent and capital resources available to a school from all public and private sources.

So before we get on with the age-old debate from the minister and the argument about parents struggling to pay fees for their students, perhaps the minister should read the amendment and try to understand what it means. The point, I think, that those on this side of the chamber have been making through this debate is that it is wise to allocate funding to schools on the basis of the needs of those students. Minister, you can talk about the needs of struggling parents paying fees and so on, but the point of this amendment is about the educational needs of students.

Some students are much more expensive to educate than others—that is a sad fact of life. Some of them are easy: they turn up at school and they can already read. Others do not come from English-speaking backgrounds and others have learning disabilities. There is a whole range of reasons why some children are more expensive to teach than others. It has nothing to do with private versus public; it is about educational need. So, Minister, if you are going to keep on making the sorts of references you have just made, this debate is going to be a very long one.