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Tuesday, 28 November 2017
Page: 8988


Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (14:13): My question is to the Minister for Education and Training, Senator Birmingham. Can the government provide an update on the latest student enrolment census and student characteristics and the consequent impact on school funding over the next 10 years?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:13): I thank Senator Williams for his question and his continued interest in school funding, particularly in New South Wales and especially in rural and regional communities of New South Wales. I'm pleased to inform the Senate that updated figures, as of 17 November, which take account of the latest 2017 school census data, demonstrate that over the next decade there will be record funding to Australian schools from the Commonwealth totalling $250 billion. That's $250 billion! That is an increase, going into next year, over the next decade of some $25.3 billion over and above what last year's or previous years' budget projections had forecast.

It's a demonstration that our needs based funding formula is providing growing investment in Australian schools, investment that will grow from some $1½ billion this year in 2017 to some $31 billion by 2027. That is strong growth well above any rate of inflation. It continues a trend of the federal government enhancing investment in our school system, even while states and territories have neglected those school systems. From 2005-06 to 2014-15, federal funding grew by 72 per cent in real terms, while state and territory funding only grew by 9.4 per cent. Sometimes that state and territory funding even went backwards—I think of the period around 2010 in the state of New South Wales when state funding for their schools declined by some $316 million. Who was the Premier of New South Wales in 2010 when funding was cut to New South Wales schools by the New South Wales government? That's right, it was Premier Kristina Keneally, who is now the Labor candidate for Bennelong. She now wants to talk about school funding endlessly, but when she had the chance to do so, she cut school funding. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Williams, a supplementary question.

Senator Cameron: $26 million—

The PRESIDENT: Can we at least hear the question, Senator Cameron.

Senator Cameron interjecting

Senator Williams: I wish the President would tell you to be quiet, Senator Cameron.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Cameron, please, can we hear the question.

Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (14:16): He's like a scratched record, isn't he? Can I ask the minister to explain to the Senate the impact on the Catholic sector in New South Wales in terms of overall funding growth?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:16): I know there's been some particular commentary around Catholic schools funding, and I want to make sure that the facts are clear and reassurance is provided that in New South Wales funding for the Catholic education system will grow by an average of some 4.1 per cent on a per student basis over the next few years. This will see, over the course of the next decade, total funding grow by some 50 per cent. That's up from a previous estimate of 47.8 per cent. Funding for New South Wales Catholic sector will now be some $24.3 billion over the next decade, a further increase of $163 million compared with the previous estimates as recently as June. In per student terms, the Catholic sector in New South Wales will remain the highest funded sector of all with, ultimately, funding growing from $8,700 this year to some $12,700 per student by 2027.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Williams, a final supplementary question.

Senator WILLIAMS (New South WalesNationals Whip in the Senate) (14:17): I thank the minister for that good news. Can the minister inform the Senate about growth in the funding for students with disabilities across sectors and states?

Senator BIRMINGHAM (South AustraliaMinister for Education and Training) (14:17): Because it's a needs based formula, there is particular additional assistance for the students who need it most and, importantly, for students with disability. Total Commonwealth funding for students with disability will be some $22.7 billion over the next decade. That's an increase over time of $1 billion compared with previous estimates. We will see strong growth in the disability loading from the Commonwealth during that time. It will grow by 33½ per cent over four years and by 83½ per cent over 10 years. We'll see strong growth in the state of New South Wales as well, and it will be aligned better to student needs. The utilisation of the Nationally Consistent Collection of Data on School Students with Disability will ensure that students with the highest need and the highest level of adjustment assistance get the greatest level of support, because that's what a needs based system does and, importantly for students with disability, it ensures the greatest support goes to those who have the greatest need.