Thursday, 21 June 2012
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth, Senator Kim Carr. Is the minister aware of New South Wales Treasury modelling, based on the federal government's own carbon modelling, which shows that the Labor-Greens carbon tax will cost New South Wales public schools $77 million over the next four years, or $9,000 per school per year?
Honourable senators interjecting—
What compensation does the government intend to provide for this heavy burden on New South Wales schools, particularly those in regional areas? How is this consistent with Labor's so-called education revolution?
I thank Senator Nash for her sudden interest in schools. It has been a long time since we have heard anything from the National Party on the question of schools. What we can say with confidence is that this is a government that has delivered record funding for school education, almost doubling the amount of money available for every schoolchild across the Commonwealth of Australia. We can contrast that with the cuts that are occurring by conservative state governments to education across the Commonwealth. We can also say with absolute confidence that the 2012-13 budget includes $13.9 billion for schools and youth programs and that this is a government that is maintaining a substantial commitment to the improvement of the resourcing of schooling right across Australia.
We can also be absolutely confident that the Commonwealth is funding schools on a basis of appropriate indexation. The funding is based on average government school recurrent costs, which takes into account the effects of increases in the operational costs, including such matters as electricity. So the whole premise of your question, Senator Nash, is fundamentally flawed, like your thinking on so many matters when it comes to education. It is a sad, sad day when the National Party tries to lecture this government about the value of education and tries to lecture us about supporting it.
I also draw the Senate's attention to the $16 billion for the BER. Every country school across the Commonwealth benefits. We know the truth of this because of the National Party members and senators who turn up for the openings. They will argue the case here that it is no good, but they will turn up for the opening and get their photograph in the local paper. (Time expired)
Senator Cameron interjecting—
Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, does the government consider schools like Bargo Public School in Wollondilly Shire, a primary school which I visited last week, to be major polluters? If not, why is the government failing to compensate them for the impact of the world's biggest carbon tax?
This government provides support for schools across the Commonwealth. Every single school across the Commonwealth gets support from the federal government—every single one. Every single school across the Commonwealth gets support for the increase in costs of operations. The premise of your question is just wrong. I would also say that we have an obligation in this country to do something about pollution. We have to ensure for the future of this country that we change the way in which people behave. What we are seeing through our climate change programs is an attempt to shift that and invest in the future of this country. Every school across the Commonwealth of Australia will benefit from that approach. Every school will benefit from the almost doubling of funding this government provides, and every school child across this Commonwealth will see the benefits of us investing in the future for all. (Time expired)
The list of beneficial things that schools … could do with this money is probably infinite, and almost all of them would have a more positive effect—
Senator Cameron interjecting—
… and almost all of them would have a more positive effect than sending those funds to Canberra—
which is effectively what the schools will be doing through their increased power bills.
I have explained now on three occasions that the funding that the Commonwealth provides is indexed. The amount of money we are providing this year is $13.6 billion. That compares with $8.5 billion in the last year of the Howard government. According to the figures I have seen on the opposition's funding cut proposals, they would seek to take $2.8 billion off the current programs. It is the height of hypocrisy for Senator Nash to come into this chamber and argue that this government is doing something when it is not, while at the same time having a policy of cutting funding.
This government is providing $1.5 billion for disadvantaged schools. It is providing $550 million for teacher education, to support quality teaching education. It is providing $2.5 billion for schools to access new trade-training centres. It is providing $1.1 billion in rewards for greater teacher schemes, and $475 million over seven years for schools' autonomy. (Time expired)