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Matters of Public Importance: School funding

I want to thank Senator Tyrrell for bringing on this very important motion. I want to start by saying that it is very clear that Senator Sheldon does not understand anything about school funding, because he has just profoundly misled the Senate. The fact of the matter is that, under the Gonski school funding model, the Commonwealth is meeting its share of public school funding, which is 20 per cent of the schooling resource standard. Senator Tyrrell is quite right, as she spells out in this motion, that the shortfall is the responsibility of the states. In fact, only the ACT is meeting 80 per cent, the full share—20 plus 80, of course, is 100 per cent—of the SRS.

I am just going to go through the table of contributions to demonstrate where the shortfall is. New South Wales is at 72.2 per cent. Victoria is at 70.43 per cent. Queensland is at 69.26 per cent. South Australia is at 75 per cent. WA is at 75 per cent. Tasmania is at almost 75 per cent at 74.08 per cent. The Northern Territory is at a very dismal 59 per cent. So the failure is occurring at the state level. I want to place on record the ridiculous and pathetic misrepresentation of Senator Sheldon in relation to Commonwealth funding under the former coalition government. The fact is that, under the former coalition government, school funding nearly doubled, from $13 billion to $25.3 billion. The shortfall in funding for public schools, which absolutely deserve full funding, is courtesy of the states.

But what is extraordinary about this school funding war which Labor has now created is that it’s misled Australians. Labor went to the election promising full and fair funding. While the states are delivering a serious shortfall in relation to what they should be contributing to public schools under the Gonski funding model, the fact of the matter is that Labor misled Australians and, I think it is fair to say, misled the states. When it talked about ‘full and fair funding’, the states took that to mean that the Commonwealth contribution to public schools was going to increase from 20 per cent to 25 per cent. So now, with the exception of WA and the Northern Territory, which have reached in-principle deals with the federal government, we have a full-scale funding war courtesy of this incompetent Labor education minister, who is offering only 2.5 per cent more. The states are saying, ‘No deal.’ Even worse than that, the national school reform agreement has been delayed for more than a year because this incompetent minister cannot deliver the reforms that Australian students and parents deserve.

We know that we have a dire situation in this country, with one in three children failing NAPLAN. Despite what Senator Sheldon has said, after the last couple of years under Labor, we now have a full-blown teacher shortage crisis, attendance levels have got worse, our international PISA results are stagnating but showing long-term decline and the average year 10 student is a full year behind in their learning compared to 20 years ago. So it is a dire situation. This incompetent government has not bothered to deliver the reforms that we know will lift school standards and allow each and every child to reach his or her best potential.

So I say: Shame on this government. Stop misleading the parliament. Don’t mislead the Australian people. Get on with the job. Resolve the school funding war that you have created. Frankly, what we have seen from this government is an absolute shambles—declining school standards, a school funding war, no action on indoctrination in schools, the shocking attack on non-government schools, including the potential loss of DGR status for school library funds and scholarship funds, the teacher shortage crisis, the failure to do anything on classroom disruption, which is also driving very poor results, and the failure of this government to stand up to antisemitism and all of the activity in schools

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