Mr SOUTHWICK (Caulfield) — It is my pleasure to rise and speak on the motion moved by the Minister for Education noting our school funding reform plan which ensures that no student is worse off, provides additional funding for disadvantaged students and greater choice for parents, and seeks to focus on improving outcomes for students. It stands in contrast to the lack of detail and uncertainty in Labor’s plan. What a rant we heard from the member for Monbulk, who is absolutely dripping with hatred for non-government and independent schools. It reminds me of the Latham years, when we had the hit list that Latham created. It has been reinvented in the Parliament today by the member for Monbulk and the opposition.
The Gonski plan has an absolute lack of detail.
Acting Speaker, could you envisage any members of Parliament or anyone for that matter going out to purchase a new model car with no detail about the model or the price it might be and then purchasing it anyway? This is not about a Goggomobil; we are referring to a Gonski-mobile. There is no detail about the Gonski-mobile, yet the Victorian government is expected to sign up to that plan. The federal Labor Party had 12 months to go out and consult with the states, but it missed that opportunity. With weeks to go the federal government now wants us to sign up to a deal with no detail. We hear the rabble from the opposition, who have once again saddled up for their mates in Canberra. In contrast we have a plan that is great for disadvantaged students. Labor does not have a plan.
Our plan provides additional support through separate reform elements, including more funding for government schools with a high concentration of students from low-socioeconomic backgrounds and additional funding — the pupil premium — to allow educationally disadvantaged students to enter the most appropriate school settings in the government, Catholic or independent sectors. It allows parents and students to choose. Today we heard the member for Monbulk categorically reject any type of voucher system. He said people in the community should not have the opportunity to choose where they send their kids. I put on the record that many people choose to send their kids to an independent or private school and make huge sacrifices in doing so. In my electorate there are many people who for religious reasons make that choice. I refer to schools like Yeshivah Beth Rivkah colleges, where 60 per cent of the kids are being subsidised by the community because the parents cannot afford to send their children to those schools but choose to on religious grounds.
Some of those kids have disabilities, and some of those parents want the opportunity of a voucher-type system to give their kids the same opportunities that everyone else gets. That is what our plan does.
Very simply our plan allows the parents to choose what school is appropriate for their child, particularly when it comes to disadvantaged students and students with disabilities. Our plan provides more consistent funding for children with a disability across government and non-government schools. It is a plan that calls for a fair contribution from the commonwealth government. When fully implemented it will see $400 million of additional funding put on the table for students each year. The plan also ensures that where the money is going and what the money is doing is spelt out, and that the money is being spent right across the board. This is relevant regardless of what school you want to send your child to, and it is in contrast to the commonwealth proposal.
Traditionally the commonwealth has been responsible for the majority of funding to non-government schools and the states have provided the majority of funding for the public system. The current Gonski proposal is for more federal intervention in something that has traditionally been the jurisdiction of state governments. I am surprised that members of the state Labor opposition would sign up to something like this and again allow their federal colleagues to take more power. Specialised services for education are important and traditionally have been a state responsibility. Labor members are abdicating that state responsibility to their federal colleagues. Our minister has shown leadership in this area. He has written to all his state and territory colleagues, inviting them to consider Victoria’s plan — and we have a plan — for school funding reform as a template for each jurisdiction to develop its own locally tailored response to the Gonski report. That is what we should be doing. We should be receiving the signal. The Gonski review was a good thing.
It demonstrated that money should be spent to support kids with disabilities and kids who are disadvantaged.
The problem was that there was no detail. Non-binding legislation was passed in the federal Parliament. It was rushed through the Parliament as quickly as possible. There has been no detail in the past 12 months. We have been asked to sign up to something without being given any detail. It is policy on the run. We have seen it in health, and we now see it in education. When the federal government has run out of money it creates these quick responses as a way to get a headline, without looking at the detail that goes with it.
This is a very important sector on which all of us as parliamentarians should be working to ensure that all kids with a disability and all kids from low socioeconomic backgrounds have the best possible education we can provide, and that is what this government is doing through this particular reform.
I draw members’ attention to an article in the Herald Sun with the headline ‘Private schools fear funding hit list’. The article refers to private schools’ fear of a new hit list that could slash taxpayer funding to up to 1000 schools. It refers to federal education minister Peter Garrett suggesting that there are no assurances private school funding will be maintained in real terms.
Today we heard the member for Monbulk say on the record that there will be challenges for people in the private and Catholic school systems. There will be challenges when it comes to that detail. I think there would be more challenges when we have a federal Labor government not committing to Victoria’s 1076 non-government schools in terms of how they are going to be funded in and above real terms. Further to that, the Australian Education Union has also said that funding should be stripped from non-government schools and put into government schools.
We have heard from the Labor Party and from the Australian Education Union that we should in effect take money from one area and put it into another area — that is, that there should be winners and losers when it comes to funding schools. Does that not remind us of something? Does that not remind us of the dark Latham years of old?
During the dark Latham years that proposal was put out there as a policy, but it was shouted down by the independent sector, by the Catholic sector and by parents, and ultimately was rejected. It is very unfortunate that this proposal has come back to haunt the Labor Party.
This is not what this government’s policy is about; this is not what it is doing. Our position is very clear, our policies are very clear and our funding reform is clear that no school will be worse off, whether it is a public school or an independent school. No school will be worse off, and we will ensure that all schools have the best possible funding when it comes to people with low socioeconomic needs and kids with a disability, so that they get to choose the best education possible. In contrast to Labor, this government has a plan, and it is a disgrace that the state opposition is again saddling up to its commonwealth mates in Canberra, again doing something that combines the spin that it has been used to since — —