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Faith in Our Future speech, Sydney

Mark, thank you very much, and to Vanessa, to Alistair and my wonderful colleagues, Michaelia and Julian, and to all of you. Thank you so much.

Ladies and gentlemen. Together we can win this fight. This is a very big fight and the reason your voice matters so much is because, regrettably, on the bills that only Michaelia has seen, that we know take our schools of faith backwards and not forwards, regrettably, the government has the numbers in the House of Representatives and combined with the Greens and one or two Senators on the crossbench, it has the numbers in the Senate. So this government has the capacity to push this legislation through the parliament, and that is really scary. So this is why your voice is so powerful, because the only thing that I believe, and Michaelia believes, is going to stop bad laws, is going to undermine your schools, is going to undermine your faith, is your collective voice to say no government of ours in this country can deny us the choice, can deny us the freedom, can deny us what is so fundamental to our being, to our families, to our kids.

So, ladies and gentlemen, the Coalition has faith in your future because your faith matters, and like Michaelia, I was so inspired by the stories that we heard tonight. They were incredible. Millie said the very next branch in this blossoming tree is who she wants to be. Well I believe schools of faith, Christian Schools and other schools of faith work so incredibly hard to ensure that every student is part of a blossoming tree. Millie, that was a wonderful speech, and all the speeches that we heard tonight were just absolutely incredible, and they really moved me and I know they moved you as well. I just want to briefly share with you and also just reiterate, the concerns that Michaelia has raised, that since I became the Shadow Minister for Education, the Coalition has been very concerned about the growing attack on non-government schools. Schools of faith and independent schools, not just on this legislation, of course, but also the Productivity Commission’s recommendations to abolish DGR status deductible gift recipients.

So what does that mean? That means an end to school library funds. That means an end to school building funds. That means an end to school scholarship funds. That means an end to other investments in religious education. I mean, that is appalling because school communities work so hard to raise funds, whether it’s fetes or sausage sizzles. You work so incredibly hard and a loss of DGR status for non-government schools would cost independent schools, schools of faith, more than $1 billion a year in investment and the Catholic school sector, $2 billion a year. But this is how callous this proposal is from the Productivity Commission. It also affects government schools. There are many government schools that have building funds where parents work really hard to raise money to invest in their school, whether it’s maintenance or whether it’s a new school building.

We just cannot believe what is happening and we don’t believe this is by coincidence, because we’ve called on the government to unequivocally give those families who send their child to a non-government school, the confidence that their schools are not under attack and we do not get that assurance. So we’ve also seen $50 million announced for teacher scholarships.

We know there is a big teacher shortage in this country, and we supported that (teacher scholarships). We thought, great, an incentive for more young people to become teachers, such a wonderful calling in life, such a noble vocation. But those scholarships, we found out when the details were announced, were only going to student teachers who were going to go to a government school, which is just blatant discrimination.

So the bottom line is, more than 35 per cent of students attend schools of faith or independent schools in this country. This is found in the respect that we place in parental choice. In your choice, the choice to believe, the choice to pray, the choice to follow your faith, the choice to provide your children with an education which aligns with your values, the tenets and beliefs of your religion.

And I can assure you, ladies and gentlemen, as the Shadow Minister for Education, I’ve been so proud to fight for higher school standards founded in evidence-based teaching. I’ve been so proud of my colleagues to fight indoctrination because the classroom is for education, not indoctrination. I’ve been so proud to fight division and hatred on our university campuses and I’m working very closely with Julian, who is doing an amazing job in advocating against antisemitism, that we are currently seeing horrific levels of antisemitism on university campuses.

I am so proud to fight for your freedom, the freedom to follow your faith. And together, on behalf of the Coalition, we are so proud to fight for you. Thank you.

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