Parliament – South Australian schools

Wednesday, 07 February 2018

It was interesting listening to the assistant minister at the table, because in one breath she said, ‘There’ve been no cuts; there’ve been no changes—nothing to see here,’ and then, in the next breath, she said, ‘Look, we changed the system because Labor’s system wasn’t right.’ Well, it’s time the assistant minister called it for what it is. The truth is that the government ripped up the agreements with the states and territories when it came to school funding. They ripped them up. And they got into government and said, ‘We will not honour this,’ despite having, at the election in 2013, run with: ‘We will match Labor dollar for dollar.’ Of course, when they got into government they ripped it up.

What that has meant is that, coming into 2018-19, $210 million has been ripped from South Australian schools. There are so many schools in my electorate that are missing out as a result. Just in the state seat of Black, a very important state seat, Hallett Cove East Primary School is going to miss out on $340,000, while Hallett Cove school will miss out on $1 million. These are serious cuts to schools in 2018-19. No matter how many times the government says that these are not cuts, they are cuts. The funding was written into agreements, signed by states and territories, but the then opposition—now the government—said they would abide by them but, when they got in, they ripped them up. If there wasn’t any change and there weren’t any cuts, as the assistant minister suggested, then why did we vote in the parliament about it? Why did we actually vote to change legislation about how we fund our schools? We voted because this government ripped up the agreement to fund our schools and, as a result, it cut billions from our schools.

Now, we are facing a state election in South Australia and, when it comes to state elections, there’s always a lot of discussion about education. I’m sure the opposition leader Steven Marshall has been talking about education. Although I have not heard much about it, but what was he doing when this government was voting to rip money out of schools? He was silent. He didn’t say a word—not a peep from that mouth. But I’m not surprised about that because he hasn’t been very vocal in sticking up for South Australia against this government in so many areas.

I was surprised about the way that the Nick Xenophon Team voted, because they say they are the champion of education. I wasn’t surprised the Nick Xenophon Team did a deal with the Liberal Party—that was not surprising. In fact, the Nick Xenophon Team has done many deals with the Liberal Party, including the changes to child care that will leave 279,000 families worse off. In South Australia, that equates to 16,037 families worse off. That is what the Nick Xenophon Team voted for when it came to childcare changes. So I wasn’t surprised that they voted and did a deal with the Liberal Party. I was surprised about the Nick Xenophon Team’s vote, because of this letter which came out just before the 2016 election. He wrote it to the Australian Education Union, saying: ‘I write to reiterate in the strongest possible terms the commitment of the Nick Xenophon Team in relation to the implementation of the Gonski funding model. In particular, we support the current system of indexation and will oppose any moves to change it.’ Then they came into the parliament hoping that no-one in South Australia would notice, hoping that over in Canberra it wouldn’t get back to South Australia, and they voted to cut money from our schools.

This is what we are facing here. We are facing a Liberal government that teams up with the crossbench to cut money from South Australian schools. In this state election, the issue of education should come up, and voters should very clearly think about which party will be best for South Australian schools. Who will stand up to Canberra and this Liberal government to fight for South Australian schools—not come in here and cut $210 million from our schools? Every school is affected. In fact, 86 per cent of public schools will be affected. The government needs to be held to account. This cut will hurt schools, it will hurt children and it will hurt families.

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