Shayne Neumann MP
Federal Member for Blair

Australian Labor
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School Funding

17/09/2015

As shadow minister for Indigenous affairs I have travelled to many remote communities around the country.

As I have gone around to those communities and looked at some of the schools in some of those communities and regional communities I know that it is a fact that Indigenous children, as well as kids from a non-Indigenous background, are often two years behind children living in urban areas, like Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.

But also in regional areas they can be up to one year behind—say, in a regional country town in Queensland.

This is why it is so tragic that in its first budget the Abbott government, now Turnbull government, ripped $30 billion away from schools, including $12.5 billion from country classrooms.

When Labor was in government we brought in the Gonski reforms.

About 40 per cent of the additional investment was set to flow to regional and remote classrooms on the basis of student need.

The additional funding was for small schools, remote schools, socioeconomically disadvantaged students, Indigenous students, students with disability and students with low levels of English.

The tragedy of this government is that they cut $80 billion from schools and hospitals over the next 10 years. It kicks in from 2018 onwards.

In my region, in the Ipswich region, we are seeing a cut of $601.48 million from the region's schools, that includes, of course, the electorates of Oxley and Wright.

In the electorate of Blair specifically it is $228 million; in Oxley, $192.8 million; and in Wright, $180.75 million.

These are the regional areas west and south-west of Brisbane.

There are 71,712 students enrolled in 176 schools in this region, and not all of them are living in the best of circumstances.

I recall before the last election the corflutes that were placed around school gates, at polling booths, by the coalition that said that when voters went into those polling booths in those state schools it did not matter who they voted for because the coalition and Labor were absolutely on a unity ticket with respect to school funding.

The now minister, then spokesperson, the member for Sturt, said that you could vote Liberal or Labor and you would get exactly the same amount of funding for your school. Indeed, the then opposition leader and former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, the member for Warringah, said:

So, we will honour the agreements that Labor has entered into. We will make sure that no school is worse off. We think that money is important.

I have about 80 schools in my electorate, ranging from very large schools, like Bremer State High School, where there are nearly 1,900 students, to little schools like Linville, up in the top of the Brisbane Valley, and the school at Mount Kilcoy as well as the one up near the state forest near Jimna.

These schools will all benefit from the Gonski needs-based funding.

I call on the new Prime Minister to reverse the government's school cuts. They have put students at risk in terms of their educational outcomes and employment opportunities.

Every school principal I have gone to in those schools in my electorate has told me that the No. 1 thing that could be done federally would be to bring in the Gonski needs based funding.

I call on members of the LNP and the National Party to finally grow a backbone and do the right thing with respect to school funding.

Improve our country, regional and remote schools.

Now is more than ever the time to do it.

They have an opportunity to do this with a new Prime Minister, but I do not have much hope because the National Party always seems to speak loud back in the constituency and in fact do little in Canberra with respect to standing up for people in regional areas.

The state schools in Queensland by 2023-24 will be worse off by $3.4 billion. That is the fact, and I call on the government to do the right thing.

I commend the Queensland Minister for Education, Kate Jones, who has pointed out to the public in Queensland that the Turnbull government proposes to rip $6 billion from Queensland schools. New Prime Minister, do the right thing—reverse the cuts.