PRIVATE MEMBERS' BUSINESS: Education Funding
Mr McCORMACK (Riverina) (20:08): I note that the member for La Trobe gave notice of this particular private member's business on 31 May. Much has happened in relation to education in the ensuing period. Not all of it—indeed, none of it—has the government coming out smelling like roses. This argument being proffered by Labor is a bit rich and the member for La Trobe, who has just left the chamber, knows full well the fact that it is quite hypocritical.
She has been in Victoria long enough to know that the state and its schools did not fare too well under Labor when, firstly, Steve Bracks was Premier from 1999 to 2007, followed by nearly 3½ years under John Brumby.
The Victorian education minister, Martin Dixon, the member for Nepean, is a good man. I know him well. He has been in the Victorian Legislative Assembly since 1996 and is doing his best to clean up the mess left by Labor. Whilst in opposition Mr Dixon served in several shadow cabinet roles, including education and training, education services, skills and employment and innovation. So he knows only too well what is required to give Victorian students the best opportunities to get good marks and a good job or be able to continue in their studies. He is carrying out that task diligently, enthusiastically and successfully.
Just hours after claiming that all schools will get more funding, today the education minister in the federal parliament refused to guarantee that no school would be worse off under Labor 's school funding changes, and this affects Victoria. Just this afternoon in an interview on Sky News PM Agenda, the schools minister was asked to guarantee that no school would be worse off, and he refused to do so on several occasions. It now seems that the truth is finally out there. I can see the member opposite pointing things out to me, but he knows full well that Victorian school students would do a lot better under a coalition government, and after the next election, hopefully that will occur. The Liberal and Nationals will be in government federally to complement the Victorian Liberal-Nationals state government, and students in his state will fare much better.
After cancelling their response to Gonski this week, due to the revelation that modelling based on the department of education's own figures showed that one in three schools in Australia will lose under the Gonski changes, it is time for the federal education minister to provide some answers. He must immediately guarantee that no school, including those in Victoria, will be worse off in real terms, or he must admit that 3,254 Australian schools, including many in the state of the member for McEwen opposite, will lose under Labor's new funding model, including 2,330 government schools. It is a national disgrace that Labor would leave schools and parents in this cloud of uncertainty and we know full well with the school halls fiasco, that cost $16 billion, and we would not even be having this debate about money being wasted in education and provisions for Victorian schools being allegedly taken away, if federal Labor had spent the money wisely and given principals the autonomy to spend the money which would best suit their own school's needs. We have seen in private schools—
An honourable member interjecting—
Mr McCORMACK: I can't hear the interjection, but I am sure it’s silly. We have seen in private schools, right throughout Australia, how their schools benefited from making their own decisions about where their money should be spent and to provide good school halls and good classrooms, at a good cost—not this absolutely wild builders' early retirement fund that unfortunately beset the public system.
Even with the additional $5 billion per year in 2009 dollars proposed by the Gonski review, we have heard today that a third of all schools will be worse off. It is just not acceptable. The member for McEwen knows it. The Victorian opposition knows it. Under a federal Liberal and Nationals government, they will certainly be better off in Victoria and right throughout Australia. Regional schools, right throughout Australia, are not properly funded and not under Gonski, and they need to be because they do it tough. Country schools are doing it very tough and only tonight the shadow parliamentary secretary for regional education, Senator Fiona Nash, explained to our party room just in fact how tough they are doing it. (Time expired)