Australian Education Amendment Bill 2017

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Mr HAWKE (Mitchell—Assistant Minister for Immigration and Border Protection) (11:47): It is a pleasure to rise on the Turnbull government's Australian Education Amendment Bill 2017. The amendments that the government is proposing will introduce real needs based school funding and increase the investment as part of a new initiative that will give Australian students the quality education they deserve. If the member for Bendigo wants to trade quips about education and the lack of some of the subjects that she was mentioning on our side, I would say that it always frightens me that our school system has not taught people the value of money and financial prudence. In her speech, the member for Bendigo continued to reveal that, if you do not understand where money comes from, what money is and how you pay for things, you will never be able to govern this country properly. What we have heard from her today is actually a recording of the fact that the government is increasing the amount of money we are spending on education again. In fact—and the member opposite shakes his head—the government is committing an additional $18.6 billion for Australian schools over the next decade. At the moment the case that the Labor Party is making is that $18.6 billion is not enough of an increase—that they would somehow, theoretically, increase it by much, much more. I will get to that shortly.

Of course, the one thing that the Labor Party does not talk about in this House and will not address in this debate is performance. Why is performance declining when funding is increasing? The government is growing record levels of recurrent funding. You will see $17.5 billion in this year, 2017—a record level of recurrent funding—and over the decade that will increase to $30.6 billion. That is a record increase by a Commonwealth government. It grows in real terms by 15.4 per cent over that decade. Of course, compare that to the states—their funding growth is only nine per cent. The member for Bendigo did not address that, because her Labor chardonnay socialist mates are in government in Victoria. But they are only growing state school funding by nine per cent over the decade, when the Commonwealth is growing it by 15 per cent over the decade—again, not mentioned by the Labor Party. This is money that is budgeted for, that is paid for, that is a real increase and sees a truly national model for the first time, delivering on the Gonski promise.

I am glad to see that the member for Macquarie is here. Her office is near my office and, I have to say, at the beginning of this sitting fortnight I walked in early in the morning and noticed that there was a Gonski poster in the member for Macquarie's office. I invite all members here and those listening to go past the member for Macquarie's office right now—you can walk out of here, go down the corridor and go past her office—and in the window you will see four pieces of tape where the Gonski poster used to be. There is no Gonski poster anymore. What happened between the Monday of this sitting fortnight and now? Gonski is gone-ski in the member for Macquarie's office. It is important to note that David Gonski has endorsed the government's plans, because this is truly a national model that is for the first time ripping away Labor's 27 separate agreements.

I was in this chamber, unlike, I think, both Labor members opposite, when these agreements were done. I remember the unedifying spectacle of the then Labor Prime Minister Julia Gillard running out to the states, offering them as much money as they would accept. It was not a traditional Commonwealth-state negotiation or bargaining deal. She was offering any deal she could put on the table to get them to sign it. What did the state premiers do? They all ran around and signed because the Commonwealth was offering a blank cheque. There was no money there. There was no revenue stream that could possibly ever pay for it. There was no intention of ever paying for it. Those premiers signed on to those 27 separate deals at a premium price that would never have to be accounted for by the then Prime Minister Julia Gillard or a Labor government.

Every time a Labor member stands at this dispatch box and says, 'The government is taking away this money from schools,' it is absolutely and utterly not true. You can theoretically offer any amount of money for any purpose in this Commonwealth if you have no intention of ever meeting that commitment or funding that commitment—that is really phoney money. Those opposite know that almost every school in the country is getting a substantial increase in funding over the decade. They know that it is a needs based model that we are producing—and I can point to my own electorate in this regard. My electorate does have some big non-government schools. I have only two schools losing money over the decade, and they are the biggest and perhaps the best of schools in my electorate. There are only two in my electorate that are losing money. But the most pleasing thing as the local member, who has been elected for 10 years and has worked through, as all of us do, the great challenges in helping those with disabilities and most in need, is that every single one of the schools in my electorate that specifically provides services for students with disabilities is getting not a small increase but a massive, a substantial increase over the decade. I look at that and I think: 'Here is what Gonski was talking about.'

Why would the member for Macquarie take down the Gonski poster when what David Gonski's model and his report say is that you have to provide needs based funding, and the people who need it the most are students with disabilities? It is the whole case for the taxation system; it is the whole case for government to take so much money out of people's pockets. It is to help those most in need and those with disabilities. It is starting at that point. I will speak to my electorate. In my electorate—and it will be the case in your electorate, member for Macquarie; I am happy to go through it school by school with you—those schools that help with disabilities will receive the biggest funding increase over the decade.

Mr Giles: Speak to the bill.

Mr HAWKE: I am speaking to the bill. The member here is really losing the plot if he thinks I am not speaking to the bill. These are schools in my electorate that are getting funding increases because of the bill before us here in the House. They will receive those funding increases as a result of this bill.

Mr Giles: I don't think you've read the bill.

Mr HAWKE: What don't you understand about that? This bill is about the Schooling Resource Standard and the Commonwealth's contribution. I really do think that opposing for the sake of opposing, opposition for the sake of opposition, is a really bad place to be. I do not want to give you any advice, because I think you are doing a stellar job of being in opposition—and all power to your arm. But I would say this: we are massively increasing funding for schools over the decade, and you know we are increasing funding over the decade, but every Labor speaker who stands at this dispatch box says: 'The government is only increasing it by this much in real terms. We would have increased it by so much more.' If you believe those amounts then you have any think coming. I do not think people in this country do believe that. I think parents, principals and anyone who has taken the time to have a look at their individual school result—and they can go to the app, they can go to the website, they can go to the department—can see the funding increases over the decade. Those parents, citizens committees and principals do see that, as everyone does. For the first time, it is open to complete transparency and scrutiny.

That brings me to another point about this debate. Under Labor's 27 separate agreements which did not give the promise of the Gonski model, or one national model, transparency was absolutely missing from the entire schools funding debate. It was the case that there were complete distortions in the outcomes between states because of the special deals that were signed off by the previous Labor government. I will give you a good example of what happened under the 27 deals. Labor implemented a deal that saw one needy student in one state get up to $1,500 less than if the same student were in the same school, just because of the state they were in. There was no SES factor and no other relevant factor; it was just that that happened to be the deal that the Premier signed with the Prime Minister at the time—a $1,500 disparity between the same student and the same SES standard, just because of the state they came from. Everybody knows that that was unsustainable. Everybody knows that that was not a truly national model.

Everybody knows that the reforms that Minister Birmingham has brought to this parliament, the bill that the government is presenting to the House today and taking through this parliament, is a worthwhile bill. The Labor Party of course have decided to oppose it, purely because they keep positioning to the left on every single issue. They want to go further to the left on this issue and further to the left on education funding, pretending that we do not have an ongoing debt and deficit challenge in Australia, where government has to, in an economically environment, continue to fund vital services.

We are proposing a bill that will ensure that we meet a share of the Gonski recommended Schooling Resource Standard—up for government schools from 17 per cent to 20 per cent. And we are seeing an increasing from 77 per cent for non-government schools to 80 per cent—maintaining the Commonwealth's role as the majority funder of non-government schools but increasing the shares for both sectors and increasing the outcomes for all schools. But the Labor Party are saying, 'We're going to oppose this bill, because that is not good enough,' and they are going to oppose this historic $18 billion increase in schools funding—

Ms Templeman interjecting—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Broadbent ): Order! The member for Macquarie will stop interjecting.

Mr HAWKE: at a time when revenues are declining, whether it is company tax receipts or income tax receipts, and when expenditure is a challenge. The Labor Party will not help us with that challenge either here or in the Senate. The government has cut $26 billion out of the budget since the election but, of course, had more savings stymied by the irresponsible approach of those opposite to fiscal management.

We are putting forward a bill for education that will increase education funding by $18 billion. Of course, Labor say that they want to want to do it by an almost unquantifiable amount more for every single school without the ability to attach the real money to it. I think that, when people examine this debate and they look at the individual outcome for their school, they are going to see that this government's approach meetings the expectations of the community.

We have heard a lot about the different debates in the systemic systems around the place, including in the Catholic system. I can record that certainly in my community, in Western Sydney and the Parramatta diocese—having dealt with the Parramatta diocese extensively—the system and the model for the Catholic system in Western Sydney works very well. There are not challenges in funding for the schools in Western Sydney, and the Parramatta diocese knows it. So it would be good to see if the member for Macquarie can point to a Catholic school where there has been a reduction of funds. That would be good to understand from her point of view—as she shakes her head. So please name one.

If you go to government schools, independent schools, Christian schools and the Catholic system throughout Western Sydney you will see increases in funding under this model, as you would expect from any fair model put forward by a government. So I would encourage all parents to not listen to the rhetoric of the Labor Party, who are seeking to create pure political mileage out of opposing something that they know is a substantial increase for schools, almost across the board. Even in my own electorate I find that there are only two schools that are losing money over the decade—and, indeed, they are the schools that you could point to in my electorate that have historically been the most overfunded.

I look at the endorsement from David Gonski himself. I will quote him, as the member opposite challenges my assertion. This is David Gonski:

I'm very pleased to hear that the Turnbull Government has accepted the fundamental recommendations of our 2011 report—

That is David Gonski, saying that we have accepted the fundamental recommendations of the 2011 report—

particularly regarding a needs-based situation … I'm very pleased that there is substantial additional money, even over indexation and in the foreseeable future … when we did the 2011 review, our whole concept was that there would be a school's resource standard which would be nominated and we nominated one, and I'm very pleased that the Turnbull Government has taken that.

That is not me—that is David Gonski, who presented his report. I know you are in denial about this. I know you are shaking your heads, but you can check it. That is an accurate quote. He has endorsed all of the elements of the government's plan as in line with what David Gonski recommended.

If members opposite would think about it in the real sense of what the government is trying to do, I think that is a sign that this is the right way to proceed with education funding in Australia. It will, of course, deliver a better outcome, a fairer outcome that will remove Labor's 27 separate agreements. It will certainly be welcomed by many of the sectors. I have pages and pages of endorsements, whether it be from independent Christian schools, from independent schools in general, from the Mitchell Institute, from the Grattan Institute, from the Secondary Principals' Council. There is page after page of endorsements that the government has received for its plan because it is a fair plan.

We are going to hear rhetoric from the opposition. We are going to hear some members attempt to persuade their individual schools that they are losing money, when in fact they are gaining real money. That is the purpose of the bill that the government is presenting. I think it is disingenuous for Labor members to get up and stand that this is a bad plan, when they actually know this is a good plan. The Gonski posters have come down out of the member for Macquarie's office, because they really have a problem in handling what has happened and in dealing with the challenge that David Gonski himself, who was regarded as the arbiter of what is fair and necessary for our education system, has himself endorsed the government's changes. He is a man of integrity. He would not do so without his complete and utter confidence that what the government was proposing was a national resourcing standard that he agreed to and a national needs based model that truly reflected his 2011 report.

I commend this bill to the House. I say to my electorate that I look forward to these funding increases being passed by the parliament, because it will ensure that education in my electorate, our state and our country continues to be well funded and well serviced by the Commonwealth.