It would seem that both the Greens and Labor have a complete tin ear when it comes to the evidence that we have heard on the subject of this MPI—educational inequality and needs based funding—in the Senate Select Committee on School Funding. Labor and Greens speakers here today sit on that inquiry. We have heard from the department, the Catholic school system, the independent school system and the AEU, and the evidence that we have been given has made it very, very clear that the claims by Senator Wright that there are no needs based funding models are completely erroneous. State governments have needs based funding models. We have heard from the Catholic Education Commission. Their model distributes money from within their system appropriate to needs, to Indigeneity, rural and regional, disability et cetera. Loadings apply from within each system to ensure that funding flows where it is needed. So to say that there is no such thing as a needs based funding model in existence in our nation at the present time ignores what is actually going on in state education systems. In fact, from the evidence we were given last week, the only sector operating under the failed Gonski—'I've walked away from my own model'—system is the independent schools sector. They are the only ones operating under that model, and they do not like it.
Another claim made in the debate today is that those of us on this side of the chamber do not think money matters in education. That is just ridiculous. Of course it matters.
Senator Wright interjecting—
Senator McKENZIE: Senator Wright, I hear you badgering me from the side, but of course it matters. But the reality is: it is a case of diminishing returns. In a constrained fiscal environment, we need to make sure that we get the biggest bang for our buck. Again, that comes from the evidence, but I will go into that later. We have heard that on this side of the chamber we just want to throw blank cheques at education. Could there be any greater and more failed experiment in throwing blank cheques at education than Building the Education Revolution and the $16.2 billion that was wasted?
Senator Wright interjecting—
Senator O'Neill: That was a brilliant investment.
Senator McKENZIE: That is a lot of schools, Senator Wright. That is a lot of teachers, Senator O'Neill. That is a lot of infrastructure that could have been done.
I would like to put some facts onto the Hansard record. The Abbott government is providing $2.8 billion of additional funding to schools over the next four years, beginning in financial year 2014. Total Commonwealth funding to schools is estimated to be $60 billion over the next four financial years. The Abbott government is providing 75 per cent more in additional funding to schools compared to the previous government. I know you do not like to hear it, but it is a fact. We are also increasing Commonwealth funding for government schools, on average by 10 per cent per student over the four years. Senator Wright, I hope you are listening. We are only increasing funding to non-government schools students on average by five per cent, so those students in state government schools are receiving more of our attention, because we do recognise a parent's capacity to pay.
We have made a mockery of the claim that Gonski exists. What we inherited—contrary to the false claims perpetuated by the $20 million education media campaign prior to the election—was different funding arrangements across the three schooling sectors, public, Catholic and independent, and 27 different models. There was not one Gonski model at all, and we had nine governments which had been unable to come up with an agreement with the previous federal government because of the dysfunctional way it approached this particular vexed question.
If we want to go to international comparisons, it is about all of us as a nation deciding the things that need to be done—based on evidence, based on research—that will have a positive impact on the educational outcomes of Australian students. Simply boiling it down to it being all about more money, Senator Wright, ignores the international evidence.
Senator Wright: It depends where you target it.
Senator McKENZIE: If we go to the international results, the latest results are a serious wake-up call for Australian education. They show a serious downwards trend since 2009 in our student performance, Senator Lines, under the previous government. Mathematical literacy in Australia fell from 15th to 19th; reading literacy fell from 9th to 14th; and scientific literacy, of particular importance, fell from 10th to 16th. So under the previous Labor government our international results decreased, but the international evidence also shows that other nations are investing a lot less in their education systems with larger class sizes but are achieving better results—better student outcomes, if that is how you choose to measure educational quality.
But comparisons can be made in our federation. If we look at the states: the amount spent per student in my home state of Victoria is one of the lowest and yet we achieve one of the highest NAPLAN results. That is because we have had a long-term focus on school autonomy which ensures that local principals and communities can make decisions about what works best for their schools and students. We know what works and it is what you do not want to admit—because your benefactors, the AEU, hate it—and it is that teacher quality, which, as Hattie, who did an extensive review of literature, said 'is the single most powerful influence on student achievement'. It is the single most powerful influence, and yet we refuse to look at performance based pay.
I do want to turn briefly to Senator Lines's commentary on the WA election to recognise that under the coalition government in WA teachers are the highest paid in the country and funding to public schools is the highest per capita in the nation. That is a good story. They have independent schools with locals in charge of what occurs in their own communities. That is what 'empowering community' actually means and it can be delivered by a government that is focused on real outcomes in education.