WA’s Safe Schools program would be cut under a Liberal government, the Opposition Leader has announced.
Mike Nahan made the announcement at the Liberals’ state conference in Perth, saying he wanted to divert the funds to rural education.
“The people at Moora, Moora Residential College and the Landsdale College, we will look after you, we will re-fund you,” he said.
“The cuts to these schools and these programs are not large, they’re not a large amount of money, and most of the money wasn’t put into the debt reduction — it hasn’t happened — or deficit reduction, it hasn’t happened.
“It was used to fund the Safe School program, a Labor program.
“Well, we will defund Safe Schools and re-fund Moora Residential College and Landsdale.”
The Safe Schools initiative is designed to create a more inclusive school environment for same sex attracted, intersex and gender-diverse students, staff and families.
Doctor Nahan explained that every time he announced a funding initiative, he wanted to explain where the money would be coming from.
Speaking to the media afterwards, Dr Nahan said it was his decision that the Safe Schools program should be cut.
“We noticed a new program — there are very few new programs that the Labor Government has come up with, one of them is Safe Schools — and it’s $1.2 million dollars additional money [that] went into Safe Schools,” he said.
“If we win government, [we will] renew the funding for Moore Residential College, no operating costs. Landsdale College, Herdsman Eco Centre and the farm schools, not a large amount of money, by cutting back at Safe Schools and putting that money back into existing programs for education.”
Dr Nahan said he did not have a problem with an anti-bullying program, but said similar schemes already existed and Safe Schools represented new spending which he believed was unnecessary.
The Liberal Leader denied it was a play to the religious base of the party.
“No people have come and lobbied me against that,” he said.
“The Government has come and cut a whole range of programs to fund Safe Schools. My statement is — the better allocation is going back to the programs they cut, rather than Safe Schools,
“I’m making a decision about priorities for spending.”
Safe Schools defended
The WA Government has said support for Safe Schools was a commitment to ensure public secondary schools could access the program once the Federal Government chose to discontinue funding.
The amount was for $350,000 a year for four years.
“Safe Schools is an important program designed to ensure safer school environments, for those public secondary schools that decide to access it,” Education Minister Sue Ellery said.
“The McGowan Government is committed to the continued provision of professional learning and support to principals, teachers and support staff to understand the individual needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and/or intersex students in public secondary schools.
“Students who have been subjected to bullying have told me this program saves lives.
“I think it’s unwise of the Opposition to discourage support of the program.”
Dr Nahan said the required works at Moora Residential College, previously estimated at $8.7 million, would only cost up to $700,000.
“I’ve been there, I’ve looked at it in detail, it didn’t require the money that they claim,” he said.
“It will not cost $8.7 million, the Government has claimed, it will cost between 500,000 and 700,000 dollars to refurbish the Moora Residential College to an adequate state.”
The WA Government has issued a response, attacking the Liberals’ estimates.
In a statement, the Government said there was “no evidence to support the $500,000 figure”.
It said it had been created by “taking the existing $350,000 maintenance budget of the college and $160,000 from a 2012 building condition report”.
The statement said independent reports — some of which were done under the Barnett government — show between $7.2 million and $11.2 million was required.