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Monday, 6 December 2004
Page: 126

Senator CARR (9:55 PM) —The opposition will not be supporting this measure by the Democrats. We obviously support the principles of increased funding for government schools. During the last election campaign we committed to providing increased funding—in fact, in our election policy we pledged to provide an extra $1.9 billion—but we are not convinced that the proposals that are before the chamber in this request for amendments are the best way of securing additional support for primary schools.

The Labor Party say that funding is not provided separately for the primary and secondary education sectors, despite the way in which the formulas are presented in this bill. The Democrats are seeking to lift the primary AGSRC rate to the same proportion as that which applies to secondary schools. That would have a quite significant impact on the budgetary allocation in this bill. It is appropriate that there be an increase in the general recurrent funding for all government schools to reach the national standards of resourcing. In particular, the Labor Party support an increase in funding for priority areas through the targeted programs—the quality teaching programs, the best teachers in struggling schools, school discipline, Indigenous education, programs for students with disabilities, early learning and post compulsory education reform.

We support measures that would guarantee education, training and employment for Australian young people. They are quite specific programs. In recent years I have read the funding reports, despite the fact that it takes so long for the government to get them published. I think they are now running two or three years behind in publication of the national reports on schooling but every time I raise this I get told that there will be an improvement next year. I know it is always the states' fault—it always is! It is a great thing to have the states because you need someone to blame when things go wrong—and this is clearly a case where that occurs. When I read those reports I saw in the higher education sector that performance is falling in all the targeted equity groups.

In this country our capacity to provide educational services or quality education for some of our most disadvantaged is not producing significant improvements. This particularly shows up in the higher education system. In the last triennium report on the higher education system it was quite evident that there had been a drop-off in all of those targeted areas. A better way to spend the money would be to put additional resourcing behind targeted equity programs at the school level. That would require concrete and clear commitments to be provided by the Commonwealth. That is the view that the Labor Party would take in government.