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Tuesday, 21 December 1993
Page: 5518

Senator MARGETTS (1.20 a.m.) —The decision was a difficult one, as I said at the time we supported the opposition in this amendment. It was difficult because equity considerations are involved with country areas as well as city areas. The changes that will be taking place as a result of this new program will enable some schools to receive the benefits of equity funding in country areas that did not have access to that equity funding before because they had access to only one type of funding.

  There has been some degree of concern about accountability in states such as Victoria. There have been a lot of arguments on both sides. I do not think that this is the best way of addressing either the equity or the country areas funding. I have concerns about whether the accountability problems, if there were such serious problems, could not have dealt with, and the equity funding dealt with as a separate issue.

  The Greens made a decision carefully that the risk of losing the funding package in general was too high. We have decided that we will not insist. The government has clearly made up its mind on this decision. If it were clear that there was going to be inequity in the country because of this, there is no doubt in the world that we would have stood up and insisted on this amendment, come what may. The problem is that there are arguments on both sides, and we concede them. We have been assured that the funding for country schools will be allocated specifically for country schools and cannot be syphoned off for—

Senator Tierney —That is nonsense. It has already happened. I have shown you the letter.

Senator MARGETTS —That is the old program, not the new program, because we have not voted on it yet. Obviously, if it is the case with the new schools program that funding does go from country areas, then we will be up yelling with everybody else—I am sure the Democrats will yell as loudly as possible—that there has been a misallocation or an inequity in the funding. However, that is the old program. In this case, we will not insist. We will, like everybody else, be watching carefully. We do not believe that we should necessarily judge the new equity program until we have seen the results. Let us hope that it will bring a better deal for all people in country and city schools. If it does not, then we will all move to make sure the situation changes.