Mr RAMSEY (Grey–Government Whip) (12:16): This bill-the bill, not the amendment-should be greeted with nothing but acclaim in this parliament; it ticks all the boxes. Sadly, Labor members come in here bleating about non-existent cuts to non-existent funding. The funding that the Labor Party promised under Julia Gillard was virtual funding; it was the funding you have when you do not have funding. Remember that ad for Claytons, ‘the drink you have when you’re not having a drink’? Well, the Labor Party did not know where this funding was coming from; it did not exist.
So why are the Labor Party so upset? Why do they come in here all bitter and twisted? They are upset because, on a range of subjects, the government continues to do what they could not do. We have delivered tax cuts. They used to support tax cuts for businesses. We delivered them and now, of course, they oppose them. We delivered a free and independent Fair Work Commission. Fair Work Australia-remember that? The Leader of the Opposition told the Liberal Party to keep its hands off Fair Work Australia. And yet, when it came to the penalty rates decision, the member for Maribyrnong says, ‘You Liberals must now interfere with the Fair Work Commission.’
We have established a naval shipbuilding industry in an area where they could not lodge one order for six years-and that is why we have a ‘valley of death’ that this government is dealing with as effectively and quickly as we can in the naval shipbuilding industry. We have delivered tax cuts for small and medium businesses. That is something they used to support. We have fully funded the NDIS. That is something they once espoused they would do. And now they will not reach across the chamber to assist us to do exactly what they did to fund the first half of the NDIS, and that is raise the Medicare rate.
Up until now, Labor has supported a true needs-based school funding policy. And of course we have delivered that-the true Gonski. But they no longer support that either. In fact, they support a system that has 27 different deals. That is not needs-based funding; that is political expediency. And Australians hate it. They try to convince Australians that the $18.6 billion extra that this government is allocating for education is not an increase but a cut! It is preposterous. And they hark back to the virtual $22 billion-the $22 billion that you have when you are not having $22 billion. Labor’s contribution to the Gonski plan was to announce a six-year program, backloading the contribution, backloading the final two years, which were beyond the forward estimates. There was not much in the first four years, but beyond that point they said, ‘The rivers of gold will suddenly materialise and we don’t know where they will come from.’ That policy had fairies at the bottom of the garden about it.
The reforms in this bill deliver to the Australian education system the true Gonski-the full Gonski, if you like, but I like to call it the true Gonski. How do we know it is the true Gonski? We know it is the true Gonski because it is endorsed by none other than David Gonski. It is true needs based funding, not based on 27 different funding models, not based on secret deals but based on a totally transparent system where every school, every student and every parent can look up their school and find out how much money it is receiving. Over the next 10 years-over the next 12 months-it is a considerable amount extra for all but about 24 schools in Australia.
Very importantly, this legislation locks in the proportion of Commonwealth contributions over the next decade, and it is rising. For independent and Catholic schools, the federal government contribution will rise to 80 per cent of the Schooling Resource Standard, up from the current 77 per cent. The reason for the different accelerator factors in different schools and different schooling systems is that they are coming off different bases, and we are heading for an even platform.
The Catholic sector has been voicing some concerns, highlighting the fact that their rate of increase over the next 10 years is not as high as that of the independent sector, but that is because they are currently funded at a higher level, nationally, on average, than the independent sector. As we move to an even funding platform, it is absolutely unavoidable that the independent sector’s rate of increase will have to rise, in percentage terms, faster than that of the Catholic sector, until we reach the point where all non-government schools are funded at the same level-that is, at 80 per cent of the Schooling Resource Standard from the federal government.
Most importantly, for the majority of students, including in my electorate of Grey, who are in the non-government school sector, the rate of SRS will increase from 17 per cent to 20 per cent. Over the next 10 years that will come in equal instalments, and that is very important. So there is not a frontloading for the first four years or a backloading for the last six years or whatever it might be that the Labor Party concocted. This is a simple, step-by-step 10-year progression, fully predictable, fully anticipated by the schools. It is a huge increase. The federal share of SRS funding to these schools increased from 8.9 per cent in 2005-06 to 13.4 per cent in 2013-14. This year that figure will rise to 17 per cent, and by 2027 we will be funding 20 per cent of the Schooling Resource Standard. This mechanism will ensure that all schools will end up on the same platform. We remind ourselves that state schools are owned and operated by the states.
Over the next 10 years, there will increase of 94.1 per cent or $6.4 billion in funding to the state school system-a new record amount in real terms every year. For non-government schools there will be an increase of 62.2 per cent or $6.7 billion. This is a huge extra investment in tomorrow’s generation. There will no longer be any room for defenders of the education system to sheet home the failure to educate students to a lack of finance. This level of funding ensures that every child in Australia should have the opportunity to reach a good standard of education. Whether or not they achieve it will be determined by other factors in the education system.
I have looked at the schools of Grey, and every one of the over 130 schools is a winner. They are all better off this year, next year and for every year for the next 10 years-record funding every year. Take Ceduna Area School, for instance. This year it will receive $2.398 million. Next year, an extra $136,000. By 2027 a total of $31 million extra is going to the Ceduna Area School, taking their per-student assistance from $4,164 to $7,184. This is the 20 per cent contribution that the state is making to Ceduna Area School.
At John Pirie Secondary School in Port Pirie, this year they receive $2.137 million from the Commonwealth; Next year, an extra $129,000; and by 2027 a total of $29.38 million, or an extra $8 million over business as normal. Per student, they go from $3,518 to $6.070.
Let’s look at a small primary school. Let’s take Wirrabara, with 54 students. This year, they receive $163,000 from the Commonwealth. Next year they will receive an extra $9,800, and by 2027 they will have received an extra $611,000, and per-student will have been lifted from $3,023 to $5,216. These are very significant increases for government schools, and they lock this solid platform in.
I would also like to look at some schools in the non-government sector. Going through my list, I find that the schools that most need the help will get it. I recognise that some in the Catholic sector have taken issue with the model and are concerned that their low-fee schools will not receive as much money as they would hope. In this case, I have taken the opportunity to look at St Joseph’s in Peterborough. It is a small Catholic primary school with 52 students. I point out that Peterborough is the lowest socioeconomic status community in my electorate of Grey outside the remote Indigenous communities. This is, essentially, the poorest town in the electorate. Next year St Joseph’s will get an increase of $36,600, or an extra $620 per student. Even better, over the next 10 years the total increase is $2.17 million. On a per-student basis they will go from $16,075 to $23,057. This is a very clear example of the needs based formula at work. This, the most needy of communities, will get a very large premium over the less needy communities, the communities with more. It is an absolute graphic demonstration of the needs based formula at work.
A part from just a few-24 to be exact-extremely wealthy schools across the nation, every school is either no worse off or better off, and most by a great deal. That is certainly the case in the electorate of Grey, where every school is better off. So the non-government sector is pretty happy as well.
Just as a point of demonstration, I have been in parliament now for a little over 9½ years. At times when governments have announced policies that they have had to retreat from later, normally my phone is running hot. Whether it was when we were in opposition and the Labor Party may have got a couple of policy calls wrong-that happened on more than one occasion, as I recall-or when we have been in government and we have made decisions that people are really unhappy about, my phone runs hot. I have not yet received one call from a dissatisfied school-not one. No-one has initiated contact with me to complain about the funding future that is put in front of them. That demonstrates to me that they are all pretty happy.
We have hit the button on this. We have a number of sectors that have come out and expressed their support. The only people we can find who do not support this are those who sit on the other side and their bedfellows, the AEU, who are funding advertisements on our televisions telling people what a terrible job this government is doing. They have no other backers. They are on their own. This is a purely political argument that is brought to this place by those on the other side. It is disgraceful. Those opposite got what they want and the schools have got what they want. We have a true needs-based formula for true needs-based funding, and we have set in place a mechanism that will bring the entire sector level within 10 years. It is something those opposite should warmly endorse.
Even better, Mr Deputy Speaker-sadly, I have to say I have run out of time. I will have to tell you what is even better later on. (Time expired)