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Wednesday, 17 November 2004
Page: 6


Dr NELSON (Minister for Education, Science and Training) (9:22 AM) —I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill renews the government's commitment to school education for the next four years. It provides $33 billion for schools in 2005-2008. This is an increase of $9.5 billion over the current quadrennium and represents the largest ever funding commitment to Australian schools.

The bill reflects the government's policy decisions relating to the 2005-2008 funding quadrennium and provides funding to implement key election promises with regard to school capital infrastructure and school term hostels. The bill succeeds the States Grants (Primary and Secondary Education Assistance) Act 2000, which authorised funding and arrangements for the 2001-2004 funding quadrennium.

Over the next four years the Australian government will deliver $10.8 billion in supplementary funding for state schools—an increase of $2.9 billion over the current quadrennium. The average government school recurrent cost (AGSRC) method of indexation will also be retained as the basis for determining the increases of Australian government funds to state schools and also to non-government schools.

The socioeconomic status (SES) funding model will be more deeply embedded as the basis for Australian government funding for non-government schools in Australia. From 2005 Catholic systemic schools will become fully integrated into the SES system. This means that every non-government school, regardless of denomination, will attract funding according to the same funding formula. As a consequence of the Catholic schools joining the SES system, they will receive $368 million in additional funding above and beyond indexation. This will bring their general recurrent funding in 2005-2008 to $12.8 billion.

Independent schools will receive a total of $7.8 billion in general recurrent funding. The system of `funding maintenance' will continue and a funding guarantee mechanism will be introduced to ensure that, when schools' SES scores are updated, no school will have its funding reduced.

This bill also continues the Australian government's commitment to improving literacy and numeracy for all Australian students. Students who are most in need of additional learning assistance will benefit from an estimated $2.1 billion for a new overarching targeted program, the Literacy, Numeracy and Special Learning Needs program.

The bill also includes $117 million to assist geographically isolated children, $245.8 million to assist newly arrived students of non-English-speaking background and $114.2 million to improve learning outcomes of students learning languages other than English.

The Australian government contributes very significantly to school infrastructure funding for both government and non-government schools. This bill provides $2.5 billion for school capital over the next four years, including an additional $1 billion that was committed during the election campaign. Of this additional funding, $700 million will be provided directly to state schools. Each state school community will determine its priority projects and apply directly to the Australian government for funding. Examples of projects that will be funded include library resources, computer facilities, airconditioning, heating, outdoor shade structures, playing fields and amenity refurbishments. Projects of this nature are often desperately needed by school communities but never seem to make it onto the priority list of state education bureaucracies. Delivery of the additional $300 million for non-government schools will be administered through block grant authorities using the arrangements that are currently in place.

This bill also fulfils the election commitment to provide non-government school term hostels across Australia with a grant of $2,500 per child per year over the next four years. This additional funding will support rural communities by providing an affordable alternative to boarding school or distance education for rural and isolated families.

A key feature of this bill is the strengthening of the performance framework for Australian government funding, which will reinforce the link between the funding provided under Australian government programs and improved outcomes for all Australian students. The requirements contained in the bill will underpin the Australian government's national priorities in schooling, and they include:

greater national consistency in schooling, requiring implementation by 2010 of a common school starting age and implementing common testing standards in key subject areas

better reporting to parents by ensuring that school reports are written in plain language and that assessment of the child's achievement is reported against national standards and relative to the child's peer group

making values a core part of schooling, including requiring schools to fly the Australian flag

ensuring that information is available to parents about a school's performance

greater autonomy to school principals

creating safer schools by the implementation of the National Safe Schools Framework in all schools

a common commitment to physical activity.

This bill represents a major investment in the future of Australian society. We remain committed to quality schooling for all Australian students regardless of the school that they attend, and the government will continue to provide record funding to all Australian schools and schoolchildren. The additional funding for school infrastructure will have a significant impact on the quality of our school buildings and amenities. Our national priorities will deliver higher standards and values for Australian schools and ensure greater consistency across the nation.

I commend the bill to the House and present the explanatory memorandum.

Debate (on motion by Mr McClelland) adjourned.