Federation Chamber PRIVATE MEMBERS’ BUSINESS Education Funding

Mr HUSIC (Chifley—Government Whip) (18:40): Again, this is an example of politics above policy. The inference in this motion is that there is some move afoot to reduce funding to non-government schools. This is simply not the case. The motion wants to exploit the fears of some teachers and parents about how the government might respond to the Gonski review. That review was exhaustive and detailed, and provided a roadmap for where we can go in terms of future support for schools. But in the period immediately following the announcement of the review the Prime Minister committed that no school in any sector will lose a dollar in funding per student from the review of the school funding arrangements we have in this country.

The government does not support any proposal to reduce funding to non-government schools. In fact, I am proud today that the government has invested over $65 billion in schools over the last four years—double the funding the coalition provided in its last term. We have arguably the most enviable record on spending in our school system for both government and non-government schools.

I do not have to look far to see the benefit of the record funding in schools, with 32 schools in Chifley receiving funding under one of the three Smarter Schools National Partnerships. Most of these were funded under the Low-SES National Partnership, which is supporting student engagement and attendance through whole-of-school strategies and also providing targeted intervention for specific groups, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students. This funds reforms in leadership, teaching and learning in about 1,700 schools nationally.

Other schools in Chifley received funding from the Literacy and Numeracy National Partnership, providing individualised support for students and targeted professional learning for school leaders and classroom teachers. Six schools in the Chifley electorate benefited from the National School Chaplaincy and Student Welfare Program, which provides schools the opportunity to employ either a religious chaplain or a secular student welfare worker. In last year's budget, we committed to an increase of some $222 million for this program, and that is just the tip of the iceberg.

As of term 1 this year, the government's computers in schools program had distributed 8,672 computers to 25 schools in the electorate that I am proud to represent. This $2.4 billion investment across our nation's schools is designed to harness the potential of technology to transform teaching and learning in our schools.

With a large population of Aboriginal students in Chifley, it is great to see targeted funding to help lift school attendance and engagement for local students. Under the Focus Schools Next Steps program Marayong Public School in Chifley has received just a shade over $250 000 to provide extra training, resources and temporary employment of extra staff to achieve the program objectives.

In March, I was delighted to join with my colleague the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth in opening the Greater Western Sydney Performing Arts Centre at Plumpton High School, funded to the tune of just over $2 million under the Local Schools Working Together Program. I was really proud about this because the centre will be shared by students from Plumpton Public School, Plumpton House School, William Dean Public School, Glendenning Public School, Good Shepherd Primary School and the Australian Islamic College of Sydney. This program encourages government, Catholic and independent schools to work together to develop a shared educational facility to increase the benefits of government investment in capital infrastructure.

We always have a lot of platforms to be able to promote athletic achievement of students, and there are other avenues to put a spotlight on academic achievement. When I visit a lot of the schools in my area, I am proud to see the performing arts and creative arts talent that exists out our way but does not necessarily have the physical infrastructure to support it. This centre, through its design, its consideration of acoustic features and its layout, is providing something of quality to the people and young people in Western Sydney to be able to develop their performing and creative arts talent. I am particularly pleased that our investment will be able to foster that within them.

Again, this is not focused on the system; it is focused on the student. It has not focused on government or non-government; it has sought to bring schools together from across systems and to provide greater opportunities for students in our area. It is a very tangible way in which the government supports non-government schools, and that is on top of the Capital Grants Program, which has provided funding to schools over and above state and territory contributions. It is also funded from school community and block grant authorities.

In the three years from 2009 to 2012, capital grants totalling over $4.2 million were provided to nine independent and Catholic school building projects in our area. I have had the opportunity on a number of occasions to spruik in this place the great educational and employment benefits being provided to students in Chifley, for example, through another good program, trade training centres. Fourteen million dollars has benefited seven schools in the suburbs of Blacktown, Doonside, Hassall Grove, Marayong, Mount Druitt and Rooty Hill through three trade training centres, and a further million dollars is committed to another trade training centre.

I am particularly pleased to see that we have lifted the opportunities for students, particularly those from a low-income background, to go to university through the University of Western Sydney. But, for students who do not see that as their path, they can pursue vocational training through trade training centres in our area. This is something that I am particularly proud of and that a lot of parents, schools and industries in our local area have been happy to see.

In the 2012-13 budget, $13.9 billion has been allocated to schools and youth programs to lift science and maths education. I was pleased to attend a briefing given upstairs by Nobel laureate and physicist Professor Brian Schmidt. He has done work here in Australia, and the type of work we are trying to do to promote science and maths in schools potentially could promote further great work in this area.

I want to end on these points: the Gonski report proposed a funding model which would see every school in the country funded under the same system. It would be fair, transparent and effective. In our area, principal Mark Burnard, from the Chifley College Bidwell Campus said: 'It is not about the system; it is about the student—that is, to focus on student needs, regardless of what system they are in.'

What we have seen from the member for Kooyong, from the member for Higgins and from a lot of those opposite is this slow-burning campaign designed to whip up the fears of parents about where funding will go to into the future, who will gain and who will lose out. In our area, regardless of whether someone is in a government or non-government school, my main priority is to see funding lifted, particularly for students from a low-income background to ensure they have the support required. They were neglected in the years of Howard government and you guys are seeking to whip up fears again. It does not hold those opposite in good standing. With a noted savings target of $70 billion to be ripped out by those opposite, it will be interesting to see if the passion and fervour which we are seeing demonstrated in relation to school funding will be there in years to come should those opposite be in government. As I said, $65 billion invested by us in school spending over four years is under the $70 billion target that those opposite want to rip out. The opposition spokesperson, the member for Sturt, has refused to rule out where savings will be made in this budget, yet those opposite go around trying to whip up fears about what might happen post Gonski. Frankly, if they were serious about policy, they would put their policy forward, but they simply do not have that there. All they do have is a scare campaign, as it always is.

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Ed Husic MP
Federal Labor Member for Chifley


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