The Greens have failed in a bid to abolish a $1.2 billion federal government “slush fund” for Catholic and independent schools.

The party argues that the fund is a “big pile of cash” paid to private schools in return for silence during the election campaign.

The Morrison government created the $1.2 billion choice and affordability fund for Catholic and independent schools last year as part of $4.6 billion funding injection for private schools.

“This is public money that should be going to grossly underfunded public schools, not private schools,” Greens senator Mehreen Faruqi told parliament.

The biggest of the minor parties put forth a disallowance motion to block the funds, but failed to win support from the coalition, Labor and cross bench.

Senator Faruqi said public schools have the greatest needs.

She used a public school north of Alice Springs as an example, detailing its issues with asbestos, exposed wiring and a cage to protect student from wildlife during lunchtime.

“This is not some scene from a dystopian novel, it's the standard this government thinks is acceptable for public school students in the 21st century while they throw money at private schools,” the Greens senator said.

Meanwhile, she said, private schools are building Olympic swimming pools, indoor sports centres and auditoriums with adjustable orchestra pits.