Tony Abbott has foreshadowed a nationwide crackdown on truancy, with the Prime Minister declaring he will especially not tolerate indigenous children failing to attend school.
Under measures to be considered by the Federal and State governments, flying squads of truancy officers could be dispatched into communities that were known to have trouble with school attendance.
The PM said the Commonwealth may also withhold welfare payments from parents who repeatedly fail to send their children to school.
"We are absolutely agreed that it is essential that every Australian child goes to school," Mr Abbott said at a joint news conference with premiers and chief ministers after his first Council of Australian Governments meeting in Canberra yesterday.
"Not just occasionally, not just when its suits the child or the child's parents, but every day.
"Every child must be in school unless there is a very serious reason for that child not being there.
"We all know that for far too long, too many excuses are made for indigenous kids in particular not being at school. This must stop." Mr Abbott said a good education was critical to tackling disadvantage.
COAG leaders yesterday agreed to establish minimum school attendance benchmarks and publish twice-yearly school attendance data for indigenous and non-indigenous students.
Premiers also agreed to support a "no-excuses" campaign and conduct on-the-spot audits of attendance. Mr Abbott said truancy officers might be the best way forward but in some places a community-based scheme would be appropriate.
"One of the initiatives of the former government which the coalition supported, we've already got forms of income management where families don't consistently send their children to school," he said.
Northern Territory Chief Minister Adam Giles said getting kids to school was key to establishing a future workforce.
"There is no doubt in the Northern Territory that our school attendance and enrolment figures are appalling," he said.
"In the development of northern Australia, we need to make sure we have a solid workforce for the future and, on current projections, we don't have that."