THE HON TANYA PLIBERSEK MP
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING
SHADOW MINISTER FOR WOMEN
MEMBER FOR SYDNEY
ABC RN WITH FRAN KELLY
FRIDAY 21 SEPTEMBER 2018
SUBJECTS: School funding.
FRAN KELLY, PRESENTER: Catholic and independent schools have welcomed the boost to their funding, after the Morrison Government announced a $4.5 billion extra for the two non-government sectors. The multi-billion dollar deal has put an end to more than a year to arguing and negotiations with the Catholic education sector. The new funding model will also take into account now parents’ income, actual income rather than Census data based around geographic areas, as they try to work out how much a school should be funded. But Federal Labor is criticising this package, it says the Government is turning its back on public schools. Tanya Plibersek is the Deputy Opposition Leader and the Shadow Minister for Education. Tanya Plibersek welcome back to Breakfast.
TANYA PLIBERSEK, DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION: Hi Fran, how are you?
KELLY: I'm well. Labor has been demanding more money for the Catholic sector, now the Government has given it, and you still are not happy, why not?
PLIBERSEK: Well we are not happy because while this restores some of the funding to Catholic and independents schools the Government has turned its back on children in public schools. It is completely unacceptable to fund two sectors but not the third sector. The Government has cut $17 billion from schools over the decade, and now they have said to Catholic and independent schools - they have acknowledged that, they have finally confessed to the fact that they have cut billions of dollars, despite saying all this time saying that there have been no cuts. They have confessed to the Catholics and independents, they have said “OK we will give you back your money”. But to public schools, too bad. There are two and a half million students in public schools around Australia, two out of three of all Australian students go to public school and public schools teach 84 per cent of indigenous kids, 74 per cent of children with disabilities, 82 per cent of children in the bottom income group, and those schools are being told that they don't get a dollar extra from this Government. Now when the New South Wales, the current New South Wales Liberal Education Minister says it’s unfair, the previous Coalition Education Minister from New South Wales, Adrian Piccoli, says it’s unfair, The Grattan Institute and other organisations that follow school funding very closely say it’s unfair, you have got to listen to that, Fran.
KELLY: Except that there can be, we will go to the issue about funding for Government schools in a moment, but Labor has been saying that the Government has to put money into the Catholic sector-
KELLY: -it’s been promising it would put money into the Catholic sector now the Government has done that and your politicising that as well. Isn't it better to acknowledge that that's the right thing for the Government to do and then look at where this leaves the Government schools in comparison?
PLIBERSEK: We're not upset that that they're giving extra money to Catholics and independents, we're upset that public schools miss out. How can you only restore funding to Catholic and independent school and tell public schools to go jump? I mean, I heard the Prime Minister talking about this $1.2 billion fund that he's got, he can’t explain how it'll be distributed...
KELLY: To drought stricken areas apparently.
PLIBERSEK: Well are there no public schools in drought stricken areas Fran? Is that really his intention? He calls this a sector-blind fund, but public schools aren't allowed to apply. Is he really saying there are no drought stricken public schools that would benefit from extra funding that could help their kids with social and emotional well-being programs at a time of incredible hardship for them and their families?
KELLY: What's your view of that fund because others have labelled it a hush fund and a slush fund. What's your view of it?
PLIBERSEK: It's impossible to know. There are no details, you heard that the Prime Minister can't explain to you how the money will be distributed other than to say public schools aren't eligible to apply. It is unbelievable that the Government has finally admitted their cuts and have said that they would restore funding to two sectors but not the biggest school sector in Australia, the one that teaches the most kids and the greatest number of kids with special needs.
KELLY: Does this right a wrong though for the small Catholic schools in particular, who have students from lower socio-economic backgrounds and who have said that the old SES model, the funding model that was based on the Census information around geographical areas wasn't fair. Here's Dr Dan White the Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools:
KELLY: That's Dr Dan White the Executive Director of Sydney Catholic Schools yesterday and basically their argument is that they have low cost schools as well in their sector and they need to be, people need to have the choice in that low cost, affordable choice in non-state school funding as the Prime Minister put it. Do you agree with that?
PLIBERSEK: Fran we opposed the cuts to public schools and Catholic schools and independent schools from day one. We have been saying all along that the funding should be restored to Catholic and independent schools. The difference is we say the funding should be restored to public schools as well. We have stood with Catholic school parents. I have met with hundreds of Catholic school parents in recent months and independent school parents, reassuring them that they would not lose a dollar under Labor, that we would restore every dollar of the $17 billion cut by the Government. But we say for there to be genuine choice, genuine choice, we need a well-funded properly resourced public school system as well and this Government has turned its back on two and a half million children in Australia, saying their education doesn't matter.
KELLY: Just before we get to the Government sector, the funding for that sector, do you agree though with the change in the school funding model? The change from the old SES model to this one which now feeds in parents actual taxable income. Is that a good improvement?
PLIBERSEK: Yes in broad terms we agree that we should be looking more at individual parental income. We in fact, when we were last in Government said that we would have the review into the socio-economic status funding model, the SES funding model. We've supported the review we are examining the outcome of the review, the principle that individual parental incomes should guide funding distribution more than the wealth of the area that the school is in, I think is the right principle.
KELLY: You're listening to RN Breakfast, its 16 to eight our guest is Tanya Plibersek, the Shadow Education Minister. Let’s go to Government school funding. Peter Goss from the Grattan Institute wrote recently that quote "As the most underfunded sector Government schools will get the fastest growth in future Commonwealth funding. They will also benefit from the new incentive mechanism the Commonwealth has introduced to encourage states to lift their funding. And the state school sector will get almost $7 billion more over the next ten years". Should this conversation be about what more state governments can do to fund Government schools?
PLIBERSEK: Have you seen what Peter Goss has said about this announcement yesterday?
KELLY: I haven't no.
PLIBERSEK: Well it's not very complimentary Fran.
KELLY: But the Prime Minister's point is that the state schools fund Government schools, state governments fund Government schools
PLIBERSEK: So the difference between Labor's approach when we were in Government is that we said together with the states and territories, we have to reach a fair funding for every school, irrespective, state independent and public. And we'll work with states and territories. We put in $2 extra for every dollar extra, we wanted the states to put in, yes they need to lift their efforts. What the Government now has said is that the maximum amount that the Commonwealth government should give for the education of a child in a public school is 20 per cent of the cost of educating a child in the public system but it should give 80 per cent of the cost of educating a child in a Catholic or independent school. Why would the Commonwealth be responsible for just 20 per cent? That number is completely arbitrary, completely arbitrary. The Northern Territory which is, as you know, a small jurisdiction with very limited ability to raise revenue they, were getting about 25 per cent of the funding from the Commonwealth, they’re being told that they have to transition down to 20 per cent of funding from the Commonwealth-
KELLY: So they only way we can measure this-
PLIBERSEK: -how is that fair?
KELLY: - well so the instrument we have to measure this thanks to Gonski is the SRS, the school resourcing standard and this package from the Government yesterday will lift the Commonwealth funding commitment to the non-government sector from 76 per cent of that standard to 80 per cent. How does that compare to where Government schools will be placed?
PLIBERSEK: Well Government schools will get a maximum of 20 percent of their funding from the Commonwealth and-
KELLY: - yes but it depends on what each state government's putting in turns where we end up around that 80 per cent target.
PLIBERSEK: That’s why absolutely states and territories have to work together with the Commonwealth to get to 100 per cent but why you would pick a share that is 20 percent from the Commonwealth government and 80 per cent from the states government, that's completely arbitrary. What we say is that every school over time should get to 100 per cent of the schooling resource standard and we need to do that together with states and territories. Are we really saying that the Northern Territory has the same ability to fund its schools as New South Wales or Victoria? Of course it doesn't and that's where the most disadvantaged children are, these are kids with the greatest educational needs they're in some cases years behind their peers in the southern states and we're saying too bad tough luck you're on your own to those kids. That's what yesterday's announcement said to those children in tiny remote schools in outback Australia - tough luck you're on your own.
KELLY: Tanya Plibersek, thank you very much for joining us.
PLIBERSEK: Thanks Fran.