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Private Members Motion on Free School Breakfast and Lunch

Private Members Motion

21 April, 2021

Mr Speaker, the motion reads:

That this House:

  1. Acknowledges:
    1. Foodbank’s 2018 “Rumbling Tummies” report shows that 20% of children start the school day without eating breakfast, and 15% of kids arrive at school without lunch, while Bankwest’s Curtin Economic Centre’s 2020 “The Early Years: Investing in our Future” report shows that in 2020, 18.5% of Queensland children were living in poverty - the highest rate in the country, an increase from 15.2% in 2009/10, making it the only state where child poverty has increased over the last 10 years.
    2.  At under $5.35 per meal per student (based on the cost of school lunch in Finland including staff salaries, foodstuffs, equipment and fittings, transportation and food bought externally, plus 10% to account for more expensive average grocery prices), with a 30% uptake rate (based on the 21% rate at a Victorian free school breakfasts program at 500 schools, adjusted to account for higher rates of child poverty), a universal free school breakfast and lunch program in every Queensland State School would cost approximately $374 million per year.
  2. Calls on the Government to:
    1. Deliver a free healthy breakfast and lunch program to run at every state school in Queensland, available to every state school student; and
    2. Work with Foodbank Australia to expand and better resource the charity’s existing free breakfast program in Queensland state schools where it is already operating.

Mr Speaker, I move the motion standing in my name.

I move this motion today because free school breakfasts and lunches across our state would be transformative for thousands of Queensland families, and school kids. Not only could we ensure that thousands of Queensland children at state schools start their school day with a nutritious meal, we would alleviate financial pressure on Queensland families.

Rates and impacts of child poverty

In 2020, 18.5% of Queensland children were experiencing poverty, which has increased by over 3% in the last decade. We have 16,000 children waiting for social housing. We’re facing a once-in-a generation recession and we still have high rates of unemployment. Families are struggling, and with the shocking cuts to JobSeeker by the Federal government, we should expect rates of food insecurity to only get worse over the coming months. 

Food Bank reported that one in five children across the country go to school hungry. Food insecurity can have lifelong impacts on children, including outcomes at school, and health outcomes throughout their lives. Parents also reported avoiding social events for their kids, or keeping their kids home from school to avoid embarrassment or shame. 

Now I imagine the Minister might respond to this motion by watering it down so much that all it does is highlight the inadequate program that we currently have here in Queensland. Foodbank are doing an absolutely incredible job with the funding they have. But right now they only have enough funding to provide 1,000 breakfast per week. With other incredible organisations also pitching in what they can.

The Minister would know that there’s around 500,000 kids at state schools in Qld. Around 1 in 5 of those kids currently go to school hungry. Amending this motion to nothing more than the status quo could mean that up to an estimated 90,000 Queensland kids will continue to go without breakfast every single day. 

A universal program in every state school would cost just $374 Million dollars, a small investment to ensure that every Queensland kid gets the best start. For comparison, the government announced yesterday they’ll be investing $1 billion in upgrading the Gabba. $150 million is being spent to build a 32-bed youth detention centre at Wacol. 

In a wealthy state like Queensland, we can afford to ensure every child at a state school has a nutritious breakfast and lunch. We would make huge savings over a child's life, with better outcomes at school, better health outcomes, and a lower likelihood of crime.

SRS Underfunding in Queensland 

The failure to offer free school meals sits alongside the government's failure to fully fund state schools.The Queensland Government is providing just 69.26% of the School Resourcing Standard, with no plan to properly and fully fund state schools in Queensland. From the Bilateral agreement, the Queensland Government has said “Queensland has a limited revenue raising capacity” when it comes to school funding. 

And yet they’ll freeze royalties for coal companies. They’ll subsidise gas companies. They’ll keep capping the charges on developers at woefully inadequate rates. The governments unwillingness to take on their big corporate backers means that Queensland kids miss out.

And in a wealthy state like Queensland, this shouldn’t be the case. If the Queensland Government made property developers, big banks and mining billionaires pay just a little bit more, they could easily afford to fully fund our schools, and give every state school kid a healthy school breakfast and lunch.

The government has a choice: to commit to delivering a program that will ensure every Queensland kid gets the best chance in life, or to continue to let their mining billionaire mates get off scot-free and further punish kids who are already struggling.

From Queensland Labor’s own policy platform, “Labor believes that children who have access to appropriate, nutritious food are more likely to achieve better educational outcomes than those who do not."

Labor has been in government for around 27 for the last 32 years here in Queensland. That’s nearly 27 budgets in which they could have introduced free school meals for Queensland kids. That’s nearly 27 budgets in which they could have meaningfully addressed child poverty in this state.

Mr Speaker, I urge the government to act now, to not water down this motion to the pitiful status quo.

So that when the government hands down their 28th budget, they don’t let down Queensland kids yet again.

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