House debates

Monday, 2 May 2016

Private Members' Business

School Funding

12:40 pm

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to speak on the motion by the member the Lalor, noting the staggering different visions for the future of education in Australia, with significant implications for the 50 or so schools in Moreton or close by.

I was a school teacher for 11 years before becoming a lawyer. I note the 27 years service of the member for Lalor, who went on to be a principal before coming to parliament. I taught children in both regional Queensland and inner city areas at Catholic and public schools. I have two children at school now: one at a state school and one at a Catholic school. I have got a firsthand appreciation of the importance of education for every child. It was with every child in mind that the banker, Gonski, set out the reforms that needed to be undertaken in education so that every young Australian would receive a top quality education. It was not because Gonski was a bleeding heart teacher—with respect to the member for Lalor—but because he saw the economic advantages of so doing, so you can imagine my disappointment last week when I read a report titled Australian schoolingthe price of failure and reward for success commissioned by the Australian Education Union.

I am sorry I am not at Labour Day today, where I would be able to discuss this with my former union colleagues. Sadly, we are here in parliament. The Australian Education Union is an organisation standing up for Australian teachers, fighting for them and the resources they need to give our children the launch pad into life—a launch pad that our future prosperity obviously requires. This report highlights the inequitable learning outcomes being achieved by Australian students. In comparison to other countries, we have a much longer tail of weaker performing students. 'The price of failure' is part of the name of the report. What a fitting title for a report highlighting the shortcomings and narrow-mindedness of the Abbott-Turnbull governments when it comes to education funding!

Despite their pre-election promises, under this government we have seen the biggest cut ever to Australian schools, ripping $30 billion from a sector that actually needs it now more than ever. In Moreton, this Liberal-National government has cut $175 million from local schools. For the more than 32,000 students in Moreton—both public and independent—every single student will be worse off under Prime Minister Turnbull. Additionally, the failure of the government commit to the Gonski school funding model for years 5 and 6 will seek to entrench inequality in our school system, even though I have personally seen at the schools in my electorate that the Gonski funding is achieving outcomes.

In the report I referred to earlier, year 9 NAPLAN results indicate children of unemployed parents are 10 times more likely not to meet minimum numeracy and reading standards. This is not normal or inevitable. Without a needs based funding system, resources are denied to the members of society who need it most, and we need our smartest students to be given every opportunity. The Turnbull government is locking in mediocre outcomes, systemic inequality and an uncertain future for our children, and that is un-Australian. Only Labor will treat education as an investment and not as an expense. Labor's 'Your Child. Our Future'plan will ensure the Gonski reforms are implemented in full and inject an additional $37.3 billion into education over the decade.

A world-leading and visionary education system is required to create our future nurses, our teachers, our doctors, our engineers, our social workers and so on. Yesterday, Prime Minister Turnbull confirmed that he would not match Labor's fully costed, fully funded commitment to Australian schools. In 2018 and 2019, under a Turnbull government, Australian schools would be $3.5 billion worse off. That means fewer resources for the children who need them most. This pathetic promise from Prime Minister Turnbull yesterday is a drop in the bucket compared to the $30 billion in cuts made by the Liberals.

Labor's 'Your Child. Our Future'plan will ensure that every student in every school has the resources needed to achieve their absolute best. It will ensure that schools have a strong focus on individual student needs, greater individual attention, better trained teachers, better equipped classrooms and more targeted resources, and more support for students with special learning needs. This is particularly important in a decentralised state like Queensland. Labor's positive plan for education aims to bring Australia into the top five countries in the world in reading, maths and science. Obviously, we will be saying more about our commitment to the STEM subjects later.

The benefits extend beyond education. Investing and knowledge provides Australia's economy with the vital human capital it needs to remain innovative and capable of tackling the challenges of the future. It is much better than a $28 million advertising campaign. The OECD calculated that the Australian economy will forgo a GDP boost of 2.8 per cent unless all children finish high school with the foundational skills for the global economy by 2030. The jury is in; there is nothing left to debate. A return to the Gonski funding model for Australian schools is essential for Australia's children, for our human capital, for our economy and to ensure our future prosperity.


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