In Parliament

Matter of Public Importance - Children



Wednesday, 18 October 2023.

Mr NEWBURY (Brighton) (17:52): It is astonishing to think that the government has brought in a matter of public importance today and has not filled their own speakers list when talking about schools.

The SPEAKER: Order! I believe the member for Bentleigh was about to stand and speak.

James NEWBURY: You called me.

The SPEAKER: Because I thought you were going to call a point of order or something.

James NEWBURY: Speaker, with respect, you called me, and I am speaking.

The SPEAKER: Is it a point of order?

James NEWBURY: No, you have called me to speak, and I am speaking.

The SPEAKER: What are you speaking on?

James NEWBURY: I am speaking on the matter.

The SPEAKER: We alternate speakers across the table, as you would be aware, Manager of Opposition Business. It was my understanding that you were standing to take a point of order given what you referred to at the start of your contribution when the member for Bentleigh was ready to rise as well to speak on the matter of public importance. I am not quite sure –

James NEWBURY: When I stood, Speaker, it was based on the fact that, number one, the government had advised they did not have a last speaker. They had advised us formally of that. And the Member was not standing. I looked across, the Member was not standing, as the camera will show.

The SPEAKER: Manager of Opposition Business, I will not have this argument with you in the Chamber. I am prepared to allow you to have the call, but I believe that the government also was seeking the call.

James NEWBURY: We have a Matter of Public Importance that is important. It is important because in terms of government funding 93 per cent of education funding is directed to Labor seats – 93 per cent of school funding is directed to Labor seats. Despite the Coalition representing a third of the seats in this Chamber, our seats receive 6 per cent of funding. Is there any other definition than pork-barrelling to that breakdown of funding? There is no other way to describe what is being done in terms of government funding. I would say to the new Deputy Premier that as Minister for Education he has inherited an important portfolio that will make and can make incredible differences to the children of our great State, and I would ask him to consider the way that the government currently funds our schools and schools that are not in Labor seats and to look to adjust the funding to just be fair.

If you would like to, I would be more than happy to talk to you about the needs of schools – good schools – outside Labor seats. I will give you one example: Brighton Primary. Brighton Primary has a specialist hearing unit and has students who cannot hear properly. It is a wonderful unit. It is one of the only specialist units for kids with hearing difficulties in Melbourne, and guess where it is? It is next to a train line – directly next to a train line – because the Government in living memory has never committed funding to Brighton Primary School. The last record we have of capital works funding at Brighton Primary was when people were last wearing flares – not when they are wearing flares now, it was when they were trendy previously, 50 years ago. To think that we have a school with a specialist hearing unit in Melbourne where the children are being housed and taught next to a train line because the Government is directing funding to Labor seats not Liberal seats purely because of the representation of the seat is outrageous.

Mary-Anne Thomas: Rubbish. That is rubbish.

James NEWBURY: The facts do not lie, Leader of the House. The facts do not lie – they never do. The funding is clear, the statistics are clear: 6 per cent of funding goes to Liberal electorates – the facts do not lie – despite the Coalition representing a third of the seats in this place. Ninety-three per cent is porkbarrelled into Labor seats. These are children we are talking about. I understand and anybody who has been around politics understands that Governments always play politics and they always play politics with what they are doing, but doing it with school funding and neglecting children in non-Labor-held seats is just wrong. It is just wrong. And I am sure that my colleagues would all have examples in their electorates. Every single one of them would have multiple examples where schools have not had funding for decades and decades and decades because those electorates are Liberal held.

But to think there is an example where children have hearing difficulties and are at one of the specialist units in Melbourne – this is not a Brighton thing, this is a unit that teaches children with hearing difficulties, a specialist unit, for the whole of Melbourne. And they are not just based next to a train line, guess where they are? They are in a demountable, and the demountable was placed there in the 1970s. I do not like talking down the quality of the infrastructure, but to think that the demountable has been there for 50 years, I am sure you can imagine. And it is only reasonable to think that that demountable needs attention. Of course it needs attention. How much soundproofing do you think it has? None. It has literally no soundproofing, and the Members on the other side are laughing. They are laughing about children not having the capital infrastructure they deserve.

Every child in this State deserves to be treated fairly. Every child deserves to be treated reasonably. The Government should be allocating funds on the basis of need, not on the colour of the seat, and that is not what is happening. So the challenge that I put to the new Deputy Premier, taking over that role, is I would be happy to talk to you about what we are seeing in terms of Government funding, but the Minister needs to consider the way that funding is allocated and consider the children of the State and the fair and reasonable way that school funding should be allocated. But that is not the only example in my Electorate; there are numerous examples in my electorate. I am sure that every member on this side could get up and deliver frankly hours of debate on every single school in their electorate that has not been funded. They have not been funded in my case, for most of my schools, for half a century.

Hampton Primary School was promised some funding at the last election – after the Liberal Party made a commitment – as an election commitment, and they were told they would receive the money and the cheque would be in the mail on the, day after the election. Guess what they got told after the election – ‘The funding ain’t coming, and it isn’t in the budget.’ The funding was not in the Budget. What an outrageous broken promise. How dare the Government promise my school, the kids in my community, funding as an election commitment and then on the day after the election break their promise. Now they have been told maybe in three years. Read the Budget every year for the next three years – keep looking, keep flicking through the Budget. These are children we are talking about. And Hampton Primary School is not the only example. Multiple schools were promised funding for the day after the election by Labor during the election campaign, and all of them had have had that promise broken. It is outrageous. School funding is totally pork-barrelled in this State