JOINT SECONDARY SCHOOLS-TAFE CLASS FEES
The Hon. B. H. VAUGHAN: My question without notice is to the Minister for School Education and Youth Affairs. Why does the State pay the fees for secondary students who attend government schools to attend joint secondary school TAFE classes, but students who attend non-government schools are required to pay their own fees?
The Hon. VIRGINIA CHADWICK: I thank the Deputy Leader of the Opposition for his question. The joint school TAFE initiative is one of the more important and successful initiatives of the Government. Despite the administrative difficulties between TAFE and the Department of School Education and, in my view, some of the cumbersome administrative arrangements that are necessary to get two government departments to co-operate in the delivery of a joint service from one sector to another, it has been a remarkably popular and successful program. However, in the functioning of that program the courses are accredited by TAFE and provided to schools in New South Wales, both government and non-government, on a fee for service basis. That is to say, in simple terms, that TAFE quite properly charges for the delivery of services. Those services are charged to the Department of School Education, which allocates funds from its budget to pay for our students to attend and participate in those courses. In most things to do with human services, whether education, health, public transport or community services, demand often exceeds available funds. Such is the case with the joint school-TAFE program though, from memory, we have an increase of the order of 15 per cent in the budgetary allocation of fees to TAFE so that our public school students can participate in those courses.
The same principle applies to the non-government sector, that if TAFE stands ready, willing and capable to present its courses to children in the non-government sector, whether that happens to be in independent schools or in the Catholic sector, it is on precisely the same basis that those courses are available to public schools and their students, that is, on a fee for service basis. If any school, whether a Catholic school or a school from the independent system, wishes to participate in a joint school-TAFE course, it must pay fees to TAFE. One could argue with TAFE, as no doubt my department does and other schools do, about the fees charged. But it would be extraordinary if the Deputy Leader of the Opposition were suggesting that I should take money from the Department of School Education and, hence, from public schools, and allocate those funds to the non-government school sector - presumably in excess of the 25 per cent of the cost of educating a child in a government school and that is already a record financial commitment to non-government schools. It would be extraordinary if he were asking me to deny public schoolchildren funding that would be available to them for these courses by transferring that funding to non-government schools, cross-subsidise them so that they can pay TAFE. Though I have the greatest support for parental choice and great admiration for many of our Catholic and non-government schools, I am somewhat startled at the proposition of the honourable member, particularly as he is a representative of the Australian Labor Party, which has not had a history of support, certainly not to the degree the coalition parties have, for non-government schools. I look forward to the inclusion of this exciting and innovative financial cross-subsidy development that I presume is now to be included in the Labor Party's education policy.
The PRESIDENT: Order! If honourable members will cease interjecting, I will give the call.