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Tuesday, 2 December 2008
Page: 66

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) (8:08 PM) —It is my understanding that St Pat’s will actually get an increase in funding.

Senator Ian Macdonald —Not according to them.

Senator CARR —That is the problem, Senator; if they are talking to you, I can understand why they might be confused! Systemic schools—and most of the schools you have spoken of, Senator, are systemic schools—have received support through the Commonwealth in the manner contained in this bill. Under our government, it is as it was under your government. Nothing has changed. There is a funding guarantee that schools will be maintained, or do better, if they are non-systemic. In the case of the school in Townsville that you have mentioned, it is my understanding that they will do better.

Senator Milne, some Catholic boarding school providers believe that, in addition to receiving Abstudy, the additional remote funding should follow the student to the schools in non-remote locations. That has led to claims that students will be worse off. But that is not the case. That is not what the bill actually says. What it does is provide a funding guarantee. Furthermore, with regard to Abstudy entitlements for secondary students approved to live away from home to attend a boarding school, in 2008 prices, students are entitled to one or more of the following Abstudy allowances: a means tested living allowance of up to $5,085 per student per year for students below 16 years of age and up to $9,291 per student per year for 16- to 20-year-olds; a school fees allowance at a boarding rate, part of which is income tested, of up to $8,694 per head—

Opposition senators interjecting—

Senator CARR —I was asked a series of questions but I do not see any of the Liberal senators actually listening to the answers. So I wonder whether we are wasting our time, Madam Chair, or whether we should seek to have an amendment actually moved.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN (Senator Moore)—Minister, please continue.

Senator CARR —Rent assistance of $107 per fortnight, or some $2,144 per year, can be paid. A remote area allowance of $18 per fortnight, or some $291 per student per year, can be paid for the first eight weeks of a temporary absence. There is a pharmaceutical allowance of $5.80 per student per fortnight, or $116 per year. There is also an under-16 boarding supplement of $4,206 per student per year, and fares or actual costs can be approved for transport or motor vehicle allowance. There is a whole series of allowances under Abstudy, which students are entitled to. Combined with the funding guarantee in the bill, it strikes me that it is not possible to realistically argue that schools or students are worse off under this legislation. Any fair reading of clause 70 of the bill and any understanding of the way in which education legislation has been written for probably the last 25 years would show that the claims that are being made are incorrect.

The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN —Senator Macdonald, I am intending to move on to the amendments.