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Senator Rice on Safe Schools and school chaplain funding

Speeches in Parliament
Janet Rice 1 Jun 2017

Senator RICE:  To change topics, I am looking at page 29, budget paper No. 3, table 2.5 and note that, as expected, there is not a budget line for Safe Schools. Is that correct?

Senator Birmingham:  That is correct.

Senator RICE:  So Safe Schools is not going to be getting any further funding from this government, beyond June this year?

Senator Birmingham:  That is correct, as was indicated some time in the first half of last year.

Senator RICE:  The funding ended basically because a decision was made not to renew it?

Senator Birmingham:  The contract with The Foundation for Young Australians comes to an end and, as was made clear early last year, we will make all of the resources available as part of the Student Wellbeing Hub. They continue to be available to states and territories to utilise as those states and territories deem appropriate, with their school communities and parents, according to their policies.

Senator RICE:  You made a decision not to renew the funding?

Senator Birmingham:  The contract came to an end and, yes, we made a decision that was publicly early last year that we would not be renewing the contract if the proposal came forward.

Senator RICE:  Looking at the National School Chaplaincy Program, in the same table, that funding is currently due to end by 30 June next year.

Senator Birmingham:  Yes.

Senator RICE:  Will that also be the end of the School Chaplaincy Program?

Senator Birmingham:  No decision has been made yet.

Senator RICE:  So the School Chaplaincy Program may get another round of funding?

Senator Birmingham:  As I said, no decision has been made and there have been no budget discussions in that regard.

Senator RICE:  Have you had any discussions or negotiations with state governments or other stakeholders about funding for  chaplains  beyond June next year?

Senator Birmingham:  I have had a couple of stakeholder groups come to me over the course of the last year at various times to make their proposals.

Senator RICE:  Do you expect that the school chaplaincy funding will indeed be renewed?

Senator Birmingham:  That is a matter for budget deliberations next year.

Senator RICE:  When will you make the decision as to whether the School Chaplaincy Program is going to be continued?

Senator Birmingham:  I would anticipate it would be ordained in the budget context next year—so by next year's budget.

Senator RICE:  Do you expect that there will be other advocacy and lobbying to get a decision on the School Chaplaincy Program well before then?

Senator Birmingham:  As a minister, I have become incredibly used to lots of advocacy and lobbying in lots of different directions. Yes, I anticipate advocacy and lobbying on just about anything that is in the budget or could be in the budget.

Senator RICE:  You would not share with us whether you consider the mood of the government at this stage would be to renew the School Chaplaincy Program or not?

Senator Birmingham:  That is a matter for budget deliberations. Not only would it be inappropriate for me to try to guess the thinking of the Expenditure Review Committee of cabinet, it would also be rather courageous of me to seek to guess what the ERC might think at a given point in time.

Senator RICE:  But it is certainly an open question, and there is a possibility of its being renewed, unlike the situation we are in with the Safe Schools program.

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