Impact of Abbott Government’s $30 billion cuts to schools on North Queensland.

WEDNESDAY, 30 JULY 2014

KATE ELLIS, SHADOW MINISTER FOR EDUCATION: We know that schools across North Queensland are already being hit hard by the Abbott Government’s Budget cuts, but unfortunately new analysis shows that the worst is yet to come.

 

We meet here at Town High which is one of 19 schools across North Queensland which will never get a Trade Training Centre because the Abbott Government scrapped the program. We know in Townsville that this hits hard, that we have high youth unemployment on the rise and important programs like this are vital to give students the best start in the trade that may go on and be their employment.

 

But we now see that analysis shows that North Queensland schools will be $468 million worse off over the next decade as a result of budget cuts. This is having an impact right now where Principals are unable to put on more teachers, to start new programs, to invest in new subject choices, and increase literacy support because they know that the biggest cuts that Queensland schools have ever seen has been announced by the Abbott Government.

 

We meet here today to see that education should be an investment in Australia. It should not be seen as a cost. And it should not be first on the chopping block by the Abbott Government who went to the polls promising Australians that there’d be no cuts to education.

 

JOURNALIST: How much money is being lost by Queensland schools over the next decade?

 

ELLIS: Look, we know that it is $6.29 billion which will be cut from Queensland schools over the next decade. That is $6.29 billion that could have been invested in Australia’s future, in making sure that Australian children have the best hope of going on and making every opportunity that they deserve. That is $6.29 billion which means that Queensland schools will be hit harder than they’ve ever been hit before and we know that in North Queensland where there is a young population and a growing population, this is going to be particularly devastating.

 

JOURNALIST: How did you come up with the new figures?

 

ELLIS: These are the Government’s own figures. In the Budget they announced $80 billion in cuts to schools and hospitals and that $30 billion of that was from our schools. What we’ve now been able to do is analyse where those figures are going to hit and see that North Queensland is going to suffer really hard.

 

JOURNALIST: The Government claims that these aren’t cuts because the money was never there to start with. Isn’t that the case?

 

ELLIS: Look I think we need to be really clear that in Opposition, Education Minister Christopher Pyne described possible indexation of school funding of 3 per cent as being a frightening prospect. What they have introduced is worse than that. What they have introduced is indexation of school funding at CPI which is currently 2.5 per cent, despite the fact that the cost of running schools are increasing at over 5 per cent a year. What this means is that every school will go backwards. This is simply not enough funding to sustain the quality of our schools that we all expect.

 

JOURNALIST: You were saying that they can’t put on more teachers and begin new programs. Are you saying that it’s a question of quantity and not quality?

 

ELLIS: No what we certainly know is what schools need, what Principals need is certainty about their funding. They need to be able to plan for the future. And there is no point the Government saying to Principals - this is how much money you’re getting next year to go off and spend and invest in education. When they are also saying in just a few years’ time, we will see the biggest cuts to school funding we’ve ever seen.

 

Principals simply can’t set up programs which are just going to have to be shut down. They can’t simply hire teachers who are just going to have to be sacked. This is why this is having an impact right now. And it’s why the Government needs to make clear that education should not be at the forefront of these Budget cuts. It should not be Queensland schools which are bearing the brunt of Tony Abbott’s lies before the last election.

 

JOURNALIST: You’re talking about cuts over 10 years. Don’t future estimates only cover four years though, given the Budget?

 

ELLIS: Certainly the forward estimates cover four years but what we know is that the Budget has 10 year projections and the Government has started making decisions based on those projections. This is about the fact that they’ve announced $80 billion in savings from schools and hospitals. They are their figures, not mine. But that $80 billion is already being redirected to other projects and other priorities and we’re saying that education needs to be a priority, our schools need to be a priority, and these cuts cannot continue.

 

JOURNALIST: Do the States need to take more of the burden?

 

ELLIS: Of course we’d like to see Campbell Newman stand up for Queensland schools and not just stand up for his political mates. But we know that the States are being hit hard by these Federal Budget cuts. That the States are seeing hospital funding and school funding which is going to see the biggest hit that this nation has ever seen and have to make some hard decisions as a result of it. My advice to the states and my advice to Campbell Newman would be to join us in calling on Tony Abbott and Christopher Pyne to reverse these cuts which are going to hit every school.

 

JOURNALIST: Correct me if I’m wrong, hadn’t the Labor Party planned to cut about $900 million out of education? Is that right?

 

ELLIS: No. We’re really proud that we were investing in education and education reform. We’d gone through the biggest review of Australia’s school system in over 40 years and were adopting those reforms which the Australian public were on board with. That’s the reason why Christopher Pyne and Tony Abbott tried to assure the Australian public before the last election that they were on a unity ticket with Labor when it came to school funding. What we’ve seen with these biggest cuts that Australian schools have ever seen is that that was nothing more than a sham in order to get elected and it should not be our schools, it should not be our students who pay the price for the Government’s dishonesty.