Doorstop interview, Queanbeyan Public School 
Delivering real needs-based funding for schools and fixing Labor’s model

Simon Birmingham:     Thanks for coming along today to the National Simultaneous Storytime, and it’s brilliant to be able to be here at the Queanbeyan Public School and to celebrate this event that is happening right around Australia with thousands and thousands of young children reading and sharing the same book: A story about resilience, a story trying and trying again, and ultimately a story about success. And there are some wonderful lessons in this, but, of course, it’s importantly an opportunity to focus on literacy skills, on the importance of reading, reading together, and how we establish those foundational skills on which the rest of educational success depends. 

I’m thrilled to be here at a time when the Parliament is debating support for Australian school children in schools around the country and the true implementation of David Gonski’s vision for needs-based funding in Australian schools that is delivered fairly, consistently, equitably right around the country. This is one school that will benefit from millions of additional dollars flowing into the future as a result of our reforms, as so many others do, but based each and every one of them on their own individual circumstances, on their own individual need. And that need is comprised of the different needs of each of those children that I saw before and all of the others here – the family backgrounds they come from, the challenges that they individually face, collectively as a school community – and that’s why it’s so important that the Parliament backs consistent application of needs-based funding in the future to give a fair model for every Australian school.

Journalist:                                Will the Turnbull Government’s schools plan give schools more funding in 2018-19 than the indexation rates in the Australian Education Act?

Simon Birmingham:     Well, for schools like this absolutely. What we are seeing and what we are driving towards is a model that gives a fairer application of school funding, transitioning every school, every school system across the country, to a consistent rate of the Gonski-informed Schooling Resource Standard. And it’s really important because that standard applies a base level of funding for every student, but then gives additional support for students based on the educational and family backgrounds they come from, based on other measures of potential disadvantage, such as a student’s disability, or Indigenous students, or students with language backgrounds other than English. 

These are really important measures that are all put together, and what we see under our reforms is growth across government schools, forecast to be for 10 years, in excess of 5 per cent per student per annum in funding. It is clearly above the current maximum rate allowed in the Australian Education Act. 

Journalist:                                But overall, not just for schools like this, but in aggregate all schools around Australia, will it be more under the Turnbull Government plan or under the indexation rates in the Australian Education Act?

Simon Birmingham:     Overall, we are investing record sums into Australian schools, and of course the bulk of Australian schools are Government schools. And so by committing more than five per cent growth per annum for those Government schools – which is in excess of the maximum applicable indexation rate under the Australian Education Act – it is clear that there is strong growth in our funding and that that growth is geared most heavily towards the schools with the greatest need who deserve it. 

Journalist:                                Senator Hanson-Young yesterday said that the Turnbull plan gives less money, not just compared to Labor’s promises, but also compared to indexation in the current legislation. Is she wrong?

Simon Birmingham:     Well, I’ll look forward to working with Sarah and with the Greens and with every other non-government member and senator, who have all to date largely kept an open mind in relation to our reforms, and I welcome that. I welcome that because, of course, it is a stark contrast sadly to the Labor Party, who’ve junked their commitment to needs-based funding and instead said that what they just want to do is tip more money into the current special deals, the current broken models. That’s not acceptable for the future. What we need for the future is an environment in which school funding is delivered fairly, consistently, equitably, regardless of state borders, regardless of non-government sectoral divisions. 

Journalist:                                But you won’t say whether she’s wrong on that point about whether indexation will give more funding that the Turnbull Government plan?

Simon Birmingham:     I’ve been clear that government schools like this one will see indexation rates clearly over and above those that are in the legislation at present, and so if people support more funding for our neediest government schools around the country, then they should support our reforms. 

Journalist:                                Mike Kelly said there was going to be decrease of 4.5 million for 2018-19. Is that true? For Queanbeyan-Palerang?

Simon Birmingham:     He should clearly go back to do some maths lessons because funding for this school – as it will for government schools right around the country – will go up year-on-year into the future: Around $5 million of additional funding over the next 10 years for the Queanbeyan Public School and, of course, growth rates, as I say, in excess of 5 per cent per student per annum locked in for the next 10 years.

Journalist:                                Are you worried the Catholics are going to keep campaigning against the plan because if they convince the crossbench and the Greens to block it they would stand to gain under the current indexation rates as compared to the Turnbull plan?

Simon Birmingham:     Look, I acknowledge everybody’s free to campaign, to speak their mind through these types of proposals and reforms. We’re committed to continuing to work will all school sectors, including the representatives of Catholic education, to make sure there’s fair application of funding. But again, as I’ve stressed at numerous times, Catholic parents need to understand and appreciate that there’s an additional $1.2 billion that will flow into the Catholic education system over the next four years, and an additional $3.4 billion that will flow in over the next 10 years.

This is strong growth. It’s growth that guarantees at least, in every state, indexation of 3.5 per cent per student, and that is growth, of course, on top of current record levels of funding. There’s no reason for Catholic schools to face any prospect of a reduction in their funding in any state because ultimately, in those schools, in those systems, if they choose to maintain their current distribution arrangements they’re able to do so, and they’ll be doing so with an increasing total pot of funding.

Thanks everybody. Cheers.