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Tuesday, 5 June 2001
Page: 27251

Mr BEAZLEY (3:17 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs and it follows the answer that he gave just a moment or two ago when he seemed to suggest that the category 1 schools were not obviously wealthy. Does the minister recall his letter published in the Australian on Tuesday, 3 April, in which he finally admits that some of the category 1 schools are `exceptionally resourced and serving obviously wealthy communities'? Minister, exactly how many of the 58 category 1 schools do you now admit are `exceptionally resourced'? Minister, how can you say that your system is fair when the 58 category 1 schools will get an average increase of more than $1,000 per student per year, five times more than the poorest 86 category 12 private schools that only get an average of $182 per student per year?

Dr KEMP (Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —There is something almost pathetic about the reliance of the Leader of the Opposition on the categories of the education resources index. You would think that he would have followed the analysis and demolition of the education resources index over the last few years. There have been several reports on this. He could have had his staff look at these reports.

Dr KEMP —He just says it's—

Mr SPEAKER —The minister has the call and will be heard in silence.

Dr KEMP —The Leader of the Opposition has just stated—let us just put this in the Hansard on the record—that the ERI is still retained for 70 per cent of the schools. That is absolutely false.

Dr KEMP —That is absolutely false. The ERI, which Labor used, that unjust, inequitable index which finally lost the support of the entire non-government sector—the Catholic school systems were very keen to see it abolished—

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Dobell!

Dr KEMP —It shows you the Labor Party has not got the slightest grasp of what has happened. The Catholic—

Dr KEMP —The National Catholic Education Commission was one of the strongest supporters of the government in getting rid of that index, the ERI. The Catholic schools are not funded according to the education resources index; they are funded at equivalent level 96 to the SES.

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Dobell is warned!

Dr KEMP —They are funded on a proportion of total government school costs, but they are not funded according to the education resources index. So that index has been abandoned by every group, every section, of the non-government schools that was subject to it. The reason that it has been abandoned is that there was an analysis of this index over several years which showed that it was totally flawed, and the government received a report from KPMG which indicated that it was a completely unsatisfactory index to judge the need of schools.

What the Leader of the Opposition has done, in developing his hit-list of schools— his scapegoat schools—is to retain one category, category 1, from this utterly discredited index, and it was discredited because when you look at the schools grouped in any category there was no obvious rationale for that grouping. That category 1 groups together, as I said in my previous answer, some schools that obviously serve very wealthy communities and they get very little—

Ms Gillard —Which ones?

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Lalor!

Dr KEMP —I just named some—SCEGGS Redlands, for example, and Shore, who get very little under our index. And some schools, at the other extreme, are just community schools which have an SES index which indicates that the parents have a level of resources below that of the Catholic parish schools. The Leader of the Opposition has been so lazy in his policy work that he has not even bothered to look at what the list of wealthiest schools in Australia might look like. What he has put together is an arbitrary list drawn from a totally discredited system. It is no wonder that parents of students at these schools are angry. Many of these schools, of course, are in Labor marginal seats, and I have no doubt whatsoever that the anger of these parents will become particularly clear to the Leader of the Opposition as we move towards the election campaign. I know that the member for Melbourne Ports is worried because he has six of these schools in his electorate. The member for Isaacs must be very worried; she should go to the Leader of the Opposition and tell him whether she thinks that Mentone Grammar and Mentone Girls Grammar are rich schools serving rich communities. I am sure that those communities do not believe that that is the case, and those schools have students supported by parents who are working very hard to send them there.

The Leader of the Opposition is totally out of touch. He has adopted this policy for one reason and one reason only: he has to placate the extremists of the Australian Education Union, who want all funding to non-government schools abolished. Because he is not prepared to do that, he has decided to offer them a list of scapegoats. He has put forward this hit list, a very unjust list which will impact very unfairly on middle income families and parents and on community schools. It shows his utter unfitness to lead the government of this country.