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Wednesday, 3 December 2008
Page: 12330

Mr PYNE (11:54 AM) —There are just two other items I want to add. One is that the opposition will support amendments (6) to (9), which will ensure that Indigenous students from very remote areas who are boarding at schools in towns and cities will not be disadvantaged by the bill. These amendments improve the funding arrangements. It was particularly called for by the Queensland Catholic Education Commission and arose out of evidence that the commission gave to the Senate inquiry. I thank the Senate for raising those amendments yesterday at the behest of the opposition and I thank the government for adopting those. Like the minister, I am not sure they are absolutely necessary, but they do make certain and clear the intention of the bill.

The last thing I say on these matters that we are agreeing to is that the real reason, of course, for the funding disclosure part of the bill, which I have not touched on yet, is that it was part of the hidden agenda in this schools bill. The hidden agenda in this schools bill was, ‘Let’s publish all the information we can about funding sources for non-government schools and build the case over the next two years to undo the SES funding model.’ The objective: to undo the SES funding model that the previous government introduced that the Labor Party has always hated. The hidden agenda in this bill was, ‘If we give the Australian Education Union—and others in the community who do not like the SES funding model—the tools they need we can tear it down in 2010 when the review of the model is slated to begin.’ That is one of the reasons the opposition was so strong in opposing that part of the bill and in moving its amendments. I am not sure that they were the reasons that motivated other senators, but it was certainly one reason that motivated us in the Senate.

One of the key people, of course, who hates the SES funding model is the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education. In the Hansard of 16 October I quoted what she said in September 2000:

The last objection to the SES model is more philosophical, that the model makes no allowance for the amassed resources of any particular school. As we are all aware, over the years many prestige schools have amassed wealth—wealth in terms of buildings and facilities, wealth in terms of the equipment available, wealth in terms of alumni funding raising, trust funds, endowment funds and the like.

        …         …         …

… it must follow as a matter of logic that the economic capacity of a school is affected by both its income generation potential—from the current class of parents whose kids are enrolled in the school—and the assets of the school. The SES funding system makes some attempt to measure the income generation potential of the parents of the kids in the school but absolutely no attempt to measure the latter, the assets of the school. This is a gaping flaw …

She was joined by the Assistant Treasurer and the new member for Eden-Monaro in publicly condemning the SES funding model over the years. Of course, the member for Fowler, as recently as the debate on this bill in October, criticised the SES funding model. So we know that on the other side of the House there is a deep wound about the introduction of the SES funding model and the removal of the hated education resource index. In 2004, the Minister for Education, then the opposition spokesman, supported the then Leader of the Opposition’s schools hit list, but also particularly—

Mr Briggs —She was Latham’s numbers man.

Mr PYNE —In fact, the Deputy Prime Minister was the numbers man for the member for Werriwa—the numbers woman in this case or the numbers person. She supported the return of what they called the national resources index. They changed one word. It was the return of the hated ERI system and the dismantling of the SES funding model. The hidden agenda in this bill, the funding disclosure aspects, was of course to undo the SES funding model. So at least the school sector has some comfort, because of the adoption of our amendments, that the day that the SES funding model goes to the guillotine has been put off for a little while yet.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. Peter Slipper)—The question is that Senate amendments Nos (1) to (3) and (5) to (9) be agreed to.

Question agreed to.