MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE;Schools Funding – 03 May 2016

At the last election, at polling booths across the country, the Liberal government erected corflute posters saying, ‘Liberals will match Labor’s school funding dollar for dollar.’ They went out of their way to say that they were on a unity ticket with Labor. We know that that was untrue. We know that they have comprehensively broken that promise. In fact, their promise on education was broken at the first opportunity. I suggest that maybe the government was not serious about school funding in the first place. After the election, Mr Turnbull’s government decided to dump the Gonski reforms and rip over $30 billion from our schools. It is really interesting to sit here and listen to the contributions from the other side. They were out there saying, ‘Gonski is evil, Gonski is bad, Gonski is no good. But they said they were on ‘a unity ticket’, and the corflute posters said the Liberals would ‘match Labor school funding dollar for dollar’. I do not think the people of Australia are likely to forget that.

What does $30 billion ripped from our schools mean for my home state of Tassie? Over 10 years, it will mean $682 million will be ripped out of classrooms in Tasmania—$295 million in the greater Hobart region, $116 million in the electorate of Franklin, $154 million in the electorate of Bass, $142 million in the electorate of Braddon, $178 million in the electorate of Denison and $90 million in the electorate of Lyons.

Yesterday’s announcement by the government was truly pathetic. We have had so many thought bubbles about education. They said, ‘We’re not going to fund public education.’ It might not be parliamentary to say this, but I was gobsmacked by that. Both of my kids went through the public school system in Tasmania—a state primary school, a state high school and the University of Tasmania—and they had an absolutely great education. My son has worked overseas for a few years. He came back and, a few months later, was able to pick up work. My daughter has never not worked.

I am astounded that the government could have so little regard for public education that they would actually say, ‘We won’t fund public education.’ But then, oops-a-daisy, they realised what they had said. But I do not trust them not to do it. That was a little slip of the tongue, but my big concern is about what they will do in cutting money to public schools if they are re-elected. Having decided to rip $30 billion out over the next 10 years, they have committed to return just $1.2 billion over three years and they are trying to claim that they are heroes. It is absolutely astounding. It is not a genuine attempt to properly fund schools or education. It is a cynical attempt to make them look like they are providing extra funding to education when they have really walked away from it. They have walked away from the funding commitments that they promised the Australian people at the last election. It is an utter betrayal of the 81,132 students in government schools and the 39,798 students in non-government schools throughout Tasmania and their parents and their carers. Those opposite should truly be ashamed.

The failure of the Turnbull government to fully fund years 5 and 6 of the Gonski education model is going to have a devastating impact on Tasmania’s budgetary position and educational outcomes for all of Tasmania’s school children. Even the Tasmanian education minister understands the importance of this funding, the short-sightedness of the Turnbull cuts and the need for it to be maintained. I think there is a bit of angst happening there between the state minister and Mr Turnbull, because the state minister has said that he will actually fund it. That is money he is going to have to find somewhere that he will be cutting out of other services—and where that goes is anybody’s business. But he will have to find the money and, obviously, that is money Tasmanians will not have to spend on health care or other essential services.

Mr Turnbull’s belief that Australians will not notice the $30 billion cut if they return $1.2 billion is condescending and it is arrogant, which is pretty typical of what we have come to expect— (Time expired)