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Tuesday, 19 June 2001
Page: 27939

Dr KEMP (Minister for Education, Training and Youth Affairs and Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) (10:11 PM) —It is hard to have respect for the opposition's views on this matter when we hear the quality of arguments brought forward by the member for Dobell. The Leader of the Opposition—I say this to the member for Dobell quite seriously, and I hope he takes note of it—has made no secret of the fact that he intends to cut funding for schools. There is no doubt about that. The Labor Party has not dissembled that fact. Indeed, the Leader of the Opposition and the member for Dobell have been quite proud to get up in this House and say that they intend to cut funding for schools for the children of 100,000 parents in the non-government sector.

Mr Lee —Category 1 schools.

Dr KEMP —Many of those category 1 schools are boarding schools for the children of people on farms in rural and remote Australia who are dependent on those schools for the education of their children, because they offer boarding facilities. The opposition has made no secret of this fact. Yet the member for Dobell gets up and attempts to dissemble that by saying that the government has cut funding and, therefore, why is it criticising the Labor Party. The simple fact is that the government has not cut funding for government schools. The government has invested very heavily in increased support for government schools over the last five years. In fact, in the year 2002, funding for government schools from the Commonwealth will be some $669 million more than it was when we came to office. Yet the Orwellian doublespeak, the dishonesty of the opposition, is that this is a cut. All the member for Dobell can bring up to suggest that there has been some secret cut—although it looks like an increase of almost $700 million, it is actually a cut—is that the federal government has told the state governments that it wants to share the savings that the state treasuries are making on the drift to non-government schools because the Commonwealth is bearing a significant extra cost and it is not prepared to allow the states to cost shift.

The opposition have an extremely weak policy on the EBA. Let us be quite clear about that. The opposition's policy is simply to abolish the EBA. What does that mean? It simply means that the state treasuries will be allowed to cost shift in the future under Labor as they have in the past, to take that money out of schools and to put it into other areas of the state budgets. There are going to be no conditions attached to that abolition. They proudly get up in this House and say, `We are going to abolish the EBA. We are going to hand back that money to the state treasuries. They can have the savings. We are not going to say anything to them about whether that will be spent on education.'

The difference between the opposition and the government is that we have said that that money must be spent on education, spent in public schools, spent in helping students to gain the vital skills and knowledge in science, mathematics, information technology and innovation that they are going to need as part of the knowledge society. That is the difference. Our policy on the EBA is to put that extra money, which would not otherwise be there in the education budget, back into the government schools. It is quite plain from everything that the Leader of the Opposition and the member for Dobell have said that they do not understand that simple fact.

The member for Dobell is greatly exercised over the fact that there is a parameter change reflected in the funding in this legislation for establishment grants for new schools in the non-government sector. Parameter changes occur all the time. They are absolutely consistent in legislation. Legislation is introduced again and again and, indeed, there are several other pieces of legislation before the parliament which reflect parameter changes. The opposition is trying to manufacture an issue out of nothing in relation to this parameter change, to justify its capitulation once again to the Australian Education Union, which wants these establishment grants delayed. What utter hypocrisy from the member for Dobell, who gets up in this House and says there will be no further impact on funding for non-government schools and then immediately is dragged screaming to the bar by Senator Carr to make a further impact. (Time expired)