Monday, 3 June 2013
Australian Education Bill 2012; Second Reading
It is always interesting to follow the member for Lyne. I rise to speak on the Australian Education Bill 2012. When I looked at this bill, it was nine pages and 1,400 words and all I found was a series of motherhood statements. In the bill, the Prime Minister suggested there should be three goals for education: (1) for Australian schooling to provide an excellent education for students; (2) for Australian schooling to be highly equitable; and (3) for Australia to be placed in the top five countries in the reading, science, mathematics recognised in international testing by 2015.
They are simply motherhood statements which everyone in this parliament agrees with. But where is the detail? How are these goals meant to be achieved? When we go through the bill, we find that this bill contains no detail whatsoever of how much money will be available. It provides no detail on which level of government will be required to stump up this additional funding. There are no details at all on how the new funding model will operate. There are no details on how much each individual school will receive. There are no details of how this funding will be calculated. And there are no details of what other obligations will be placed upon the sector. In fact, this bill is nothing more than spin, a simple marketing statement full of motherhood statements, meaningless motherhood statements.
This idea of spin is not always seen from this government when it comes to education. As I walk around the corridors of this place I see in many of the windows of our offices these lovely lime green signs that say 'I give a Gonski'. The statement of 'I give a Gonski' seems to resonate throughout the community and is being said over and over again by so many members of this House and by so much of the media. But what does 'I give a Gonski' actually mean? I asked a teacher on the weekend when she came up to me and asked, 'Do you give a Gonski?' I said, 'That is all very nice but what does that mean?' She ummed and ahhed for about five minutes and admitted she had no idea except that it would create more money for schools. We know that the term 'I give a Gonski' is simply marketing. It is a marketing slogan like 'Things go better with Coke' or, as Peter Costello noted, 'Lucky you're with AAMI'. It simply has little substance. But we know it is a very clever marketing scheme. We see T-shirts with 'I give a Gonski', we see hats with 'I give a Gonski', we see stickers and lapel buttons, banners and posters and corflutes all spread around with 'I give a Gonski' but very little detail. At least it is teaching our kids something about marketing, if nothing else.
If we look at 'I give a Gonski', we are told that it will provide more money for schools. In fact, the Gonski report calls for additional funding of $6.5 billion a year for schools. So if we are told that everyone on the other side of the chamber supports 'I give a Gonski', let us look at the budget papers to see how close they have gone to getting this $6.5 billion of new money for schools. When we look at the numbers, yes, we see a little bit of new money for next financial year and 2014, 2015 and 2016, but during those years we also see many cuts to existing programs. There is a $174 million cut from the redirection of the national partnership's low socioeconomic communities program. There was also, in total over that period, a $412 million cut through the redirection of the national partnership empowering local schools. The list goes on. This Labor government, this 'I give a Gonski', will see cuts of $405 million, again through redirection of the national partnership literacy and numeracy funds. It goes on. On the great rewards for teachers, the redirection again of the national partnership over the next four years will see this government cut $665 million from education. Another $203 million cut from education also goes through the redirection of the national partnership's reward for school improvements.
In fact, when we had all this up, over the next three years alone—we must be very clear about this—this government's plans with their so-called 'I give a Gonski' spending will see $889 million cut from school education. And we have members of this House running around the place telling all and sundry about the great investments they are going to make when the truth is that they going to cut $889 million from education over the next three years. This is what they are expecting us to believe, but: 'Don't worry about that. Look on to 2017, 2018 and 2019. That is when the money will flow.' So what the government is asking us to believe is that their idea of giving us more money for education is to cut those hundreds of millions of dollars in the next three years but sometime in years 5 and 6 the money will start flowing.
This government is saying: 'Trust us. Elect us at this next election, and then elect us in the election after that, and then we will deliver this extra money.' Does this government take the public for fools? This is the same government that went to the last election saying: 'Trust us. There will be no carbon tax under the government that we lead.' For the last 12 months we have time after time heard something like 300 promises of: 'Trust us. The budget will be returning to surplus come hell or high water. Trust us.' This is the government that told the member for Denison: 'Trust us. We will deliver your poker machine reforms.' We have heard from this government: 'Trust us. We will not cut back on private health insurance.' And now it is saying: 'Trust us. In five years time we will deliver you more education funding,' and in the meantime it is going to rip out $889 million for education over the next three years. This is an absolute farce.
The other speakers from our side have set out the coalition's approach
We do not want to see one school worse off. That is something those on the other side have not been able to guarantee. But if we are going to improve, if we look at the Gonski reforms, we know they are asking for $6.5 billion in new money. Over four years those Gonski reforms if implemented should deliver $39 billion. Instead of getting that $39 billion extra funding, we are seeing this government cut funds to education.
We know where that $39 billion has gone. It has gone to repay Labor's debt. We know from the budget papers that when this government was elected to office they were receiving, from the combined surpluses that the Howard and Costello government had left them, over $1,000 million in interest repayments. That works out more than $6 million for every electorate. Every member of parliament could have had $6 million every single year to spend on community programs in their own electorates. But that has been cut. The money that was set aside has all been spent. We have run up the debt. So rather than that $39 billion that should have gone into education over the next four years, the Australian population, the Australian taxpayers will be asked to pay $34½ billion simply on the interest on the debt that this Labor government has racked up. Is it any wonder that that $39 billion that David Gonski called to be invested in education is not there and instead we see cut after cut?
What should we be doing in our education system? We need to teach our kids and let them develop an entrepreneurial culture. We need to create a willingness to learn and a want to learn. We need to create an education system where they enjoy going to school. But when it comes to creating an entrepreneurial culture, again, we have seen the exact opposite from this government. We have seen the Treasurer especially guilty of this with his attacks in this parliament on some of our mining entrepreneurs. We should be telling their story in our schools to inspire our kids to go out and to take risks and to do great things. Instead, we have heard attack and demonisation.
I would also like to express my concern about the so-called NAPLAN testing. If we know one thing of socialist and totalitarian governments throughout history, they do like to keep very good records of things. The concern I have about NAPLAN is that it only measures a very small part of a child's education—maths, science and English. But that is not what a full education is about. If we are looking to improve our kids' education we need to look at their education in totality, not just determine how well they went in maths and English and tell them that is the result of the school.
My concern is if that is how we are making our judgement of our schools I am sure many of our headmasters and teachers, instead of teaching creative skills, instead of teaching an entrepreneurial culture, instead of teaching kids about music, art, sport and drama and spending time on developing those things and giving our kids the rounded education that turns them into great citizens and lets them make a great contribution to our society once they leave school, are drilling them to learn for the test. That will only end up in tragic results.
The coalition does not oppose this bill because this bill, as we said, is simply motherhood statements. There are several questions on education which this government has yet to answer following the handing down of the Gonski report. Where will this extra $6.5 billion a year that the government needs come from? What programs will the government cut and what taxes will the government increase to pay for it? We have already seen that there will be large cuts to the education sector over the next three years, before we even include the cuts to higher education. We will be seeing billions taken out of our higher education sector—again a completely backward and detrimental move.
The leaked Gonski modelling shows no fewer than 3,254 schools worse off. How much extra is it going to cost those schools to receive that funding that our Prime Minister has promised? How much funding per student is going to be allocated to children with disabilities? This bill gives us none of the answers. How will the funding for kids with disabilities be portable between government and non-government schools? These are the answers that the community wants. This government has had close to six years to give us those answers, and yet here we are in the dying days of this parliament, with less than two weeks to go, and all this government can come up with is an education bill which is no more than motherhood statements—no detail, no plan, all spin, all marketing. This bill and the way it is presented—the spin and marketing behind it—simply sum up why this government has had its time and it must go.