26 June 2017

This government's approach to education funding is certainly yet another example of their chaotic, divided and out of touch approach. Fairness it certainly is not. This is not some political argument removed from the lives of Australians. In fact, it is about a fundamental issue: the education of our children and who gets access to a decent, fair and equitable education system. Yet again, the Turnbull government is selling Australians short. They are doing it to our kids and our young people.

In the Northern Territory this attack on education, in a way, is about shattering the hopes and dreams of the education of our young people. It is actually starting to erode any thoughts of what our future will look likein a positive way. How can Mr Turnbull's policy be needs based when the nation's most disadvantaged schools systemsour schools in the Northern Territoryget the least help. We just want a fair deal for our kids, but fairness is not what we are receiving. Instead of supporting Territory schools and students, the Prime Minister is punishing them.

One of the government's own, Senator Back, said this morning that he will cross the floor and vote against these changes$22 billion in cuts to schools across the country. These are real cuts that will impact on the standard and delivery of education in our schools and that directly affect our children. To talk about needs based funding is almost laughableif there weren't such serious consequences.

If you want to talk about need, let's continue to look at the schools in need in the Northern Territory. Every government school in the Northern Territory will lose money under the model put forward by the Turnbull government151 government schools across the Northern Territory will lose funding. The Commonwealth's funding proposal will see federal funds cut to 20 per cent of the School Resourcing Standard. Currently, NT government schools received 23 per cent of the SRS. Under the Turnbull schools policy, all 151 government schools across the Northern Territory will lose funding, because they have been classified as over-funded

The coalition must be the only people in Australia who think Northern Territory public schools, on average the nation's disadvantaged, are overfunded. I visit a lot of schools across the Northern Territory and I know of the great work of teachers, principals and students in those schools. They deserve proper funding. More than 40 per cent of students in Northern Territory schools are Indigenous. We heard here in February that theClosing the gap: Prime Minister's report 2017shows that none of the eight literacy and numeracy targets are on track. The gap will never close without adequate schools funding.

I ask again: how can this policy be needs based when the nation's most disadvantaged school systems, and particularly our schools in the Northern Territory, get the least help? Cutting the funding to the most disadvantaged schools and students with the most need is definitely not fair, not just and is certainly not reasonable. It is such a bad idea that even members of the Turnbull government are sceptical of supporting it. A senator from WA is prepared to cross the floor to vote against it.

But this is not the only cut this government is inflicting on education in the Territory. Federal disability funding to public schools in the Northern Territory will be cut by $10 million next year. Commonwealth funding figures for students with disability loading by state show that the NT's take of $27 million in 2017 will be cut by more than a third, to $17 million, in 2018. The more vulnerable you are, the more education funding the Turnbull government will take away from you. That is the message being given to the people of the Northern Territory. This government is about giving tax cuts to big business while making schoolchildren pay. Investing in schools is smart. What this government is doing is totally the opposite.