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Tuesday, 2 December 2008
Page: 80

Senator MILNE (9:53 PM) —Having sat through the committee inquiry into this legislation and having had a briefing on it, I am reasonably satisfied that the issues that were raised in the committee and that were of concern to the committee about making sure that Indigenous students were no worse off—and, in fact, trying to ensure that they would be better off—have been dealt with by the bill. Having said that, I am concerned about those non-systemic schools. I am concerned, as I said before, about the fact that, whilst this may deal with Indigenous students in non-government schools, it will, in fact, increase the gap in funding for the 80 per cent of Indigenous students who go to government schools. That is my concern.

Inasmuch as giving the Minister for Education the discretionary power to strike a regulation if she chooses, I do not see this as a problem. I would like to see this transferred across to government schools as well. Because I am satisfied that this is simply providing the discretionary power for the minister to act in the event that students from remote communities are worse off, it can be dealt with. It does not actually require the government to spend any money. It does not even require the minister to actually regulate. It simply gives her the power to regulate should she choose to do so. I am happy to give her that power. If, as the government has said, it is not a problem any more and the issue has been dealt with and Indigenous students from remote communities are not affected adversely then there would be no requirement for her to actually exercise the discretion and strike the regulation. On that basis, I will support the amendment.