Wednesday, 19 September 2007
Matters of Public Importance
Absolutely. I thank the member for Macquarie. ‘Don’t vote Labor’ is how they can secure their choice in education. What should I tell them? Do I tell them that the Leader of the Opposition will not stand in the way of the Australian Education Union? We know that. He has form; he will not stand up to them. What did the New South Wales Teachers Federation say? In their media release in March 2007, the New South Wales Teachers Federation said that they will continue to campaign for a redistribution of funds from private schools to public schools. Well, I think the people of Australia deserve a detailed explanation from the Leader of the Opposition—in far more detail than he was able to give today in respect of the tax thresholds, I might say—on how he proposes to deal with his union masters and to manipulate this redistribution from private schools to public schools. We want to hear that from the Leader of the Opposition—not more airy-fairy words, hot air and rhetoric. We want to know how the Leader of the Opposition will respond to his union masters.
The Leader of the Opposition cannot hide from this question any longer. We know he is weak. We know he will not stand up to the unions. The unions—the policy mandarins of the Australian Labor Party—are saying that there will be a redistribution of funds from private schools to public schools. It is a disgrace that the Leader of the Opposition pretends that he is serious about education and that he will look after all Australians, when we all know that his union masters will not allow him to do that. They are going to walk all over him. They will show him who is boss if he ever gets onto the Treasury benches. The education unions will be the de facto ministers for education in Australia. I think that would be a retrograde step. I would be meeting with my school communities and having to answer their questions, should the Labor Party ever gain government in this country, as to why their school’s funding has been cut, why their school is on a hit list and why they now have to pay fees of double the magnitude. The real tragedy in this is that the very strong growth we have seen in the private schools sector has been primarily in the low-fee independent schools sector. They are the families who can least afford to pay increased fees brought about by the de facto puppet masters of education policy under a future Labor government, the education unions.
This government has spent ever-increasing amounts of money on education. Today was not a good day for the Leader of the Opposition to make a foray into the field of education. The report Financial reporting information for higher education providers was released earlier today, and it showed a record revenue for universities—$15.5 billion in 2006. That is an 11 per cent increase from 2005, supported by an increase in coalition funding of 10.4 per cent. Mr Deputy Speaker, this is hardly the sort of increase in education funding that you would expect from a government that did not support education. We have seen more higher education places. We have seen the level of unmet demand in our universities fall from some 70,625 places in 1994—under Labor, the party that claims to support education—to only 14,200 unmet places in 2006. That is a massive decrease.
As with all matters of public importance that the Australian Labor Party introduce in this House, they have proven themselves to be hypocrites. They do not have the policy rigour to claim the high ground on education. They do not support education; they support education unions. We know the Leader of the Opposition is weak. We know he will not stand up to the unions. We know he is a patsy and he is a doormat, and his policies will result in a poorer education outcome for Australian students and for people who seek trade training. It will be a very poor result for Australia. It will affect Australia’s productivity. We do not want the unions running the education system. We do not want the Leader of the Opposition and his second rate opposition.