Thursday, 4 April 2019
Matters of Public Importance
As we see the scare campaign for 2019 barely igniting, this is a Labor Party that has scurried around the known horizon of social policy, unable, like a political arsonist, to ignite any kind of scare campaign on health. Nothing is lighting with hospitals. They had this crack at schools but nothing's burning. Then of course we heard it was a referendum on wages. We were going to have a referendum in 2019 on wages, with a Labor government promising to increase everyone's wages and life would be easier, when anyone who has studied—what?—five minutes of school economics knows that if you could raise wages and improve living standards it would have been done decades ago. There are consequences to artificially raising wages. It causes inflation, and then the wage increases rapidly disappear again. But when you're designing policy intentionally for people who can't tell the difference between truth and lie, you're going to have more and more of these scare campaigns.
Let's be honest. It's been a decade and no Labor opposition has ever come to government without a scare campaign. They've tried one at every frontier on social policy. They enter what is a likely election campaign with absolutely no momentum at all on any scare campaign, which is why each one of the speakers today has jumped up with a different topic, hoping they would get lucky, hoping they would strike that lucky seam where a few agnostic, apathetic or disinterested voters will say, 'Ooh, cuts. Cuts to something I'm worried about. I'd better vote Labor.' Do you know what? Australians are increasingly waking up to this. They are increasingly waking up to the fact that the best evidence of commitment to education is funding in the forward estimates. We learnt from Prime Minister Julia Gillard that you simply move your funding promises out beyond the four-year forward estimates and you can talk about billions of dollars but never budget for it and never provide for it, and when you slip into opposition weeks later you can say, 'We promised way more than they ever delivered.' It's like a fool catching up with you, offering to double your salary and then vanishing, and then you go and beat up your boss and say, 'Thanks for halving my wage.' This is a Labor government that never follows up with these magnificent numbers. It's a government on the Labor side that mentions these massive figures only weeks before it loses government and then trades on it throughout opposition.
We've had it on health and hospitals and schools and now we have it in early education. It is exactly and precisely the same circumstance. We've had a measly $200 million committed to three-year-old preschool, but everyone in the early education sector knows you can't deliver three-year-old preschool for less than a billion dollars. Where is the other $800 million? They'll try and strongarm the states, and when they don't get that money the promise will vanish. It's all about being elected and then worrying about the unfulfilled promises once, and if, you're elected.
The Minister for Education today can proudly commit to $310 billion, to annual increases of over six per cent for state schools and over five per cent for the independent sector each and every year through to 2016. The best evidence for what this Labor government will do is what their kooky cousins in Queensland Labor do with schools. There is only party cutting education in Queensland. It's the state Labor government cutting classrooms from Ormiston State School. How do you educate a child when you take away their classroom? How do you deliver STEM and advanced subjects when you're taking away classrooms at the same time? The only party doing that is Queensland Labor. When Queensland Labor had to build classrooms, back under Anna Bligh, they went to wealthy corporations and did dirty deals—that's right. It's not a comfortable narrative. Anna Bligh said, 'How much would it cost the private sector to build me seven schools, two of them high schools?' It should have been $340 million off the bottom line. Instead we got a $1.08 billion deal with corporations. Two-thirds of that money is interest to be paid over the next 25 years to wealthy corporations, direct from Labor policy. That's money that should be spent on children, money that should be spent on the curriculum. But—alas!—we cannot, in this great place, debate education policy so long as there is one side of politics, called the Labor Party, utterly fixated on the quantum, utterly oblivious and blinded, with a massive scotoma, unable to talk about quality in education because they're fixated on the fictitious numbers that they invent just weeks before they lose government.
This nation deserves better than a Labor government that can't deliver on quality schools. It has, in the coalition, secured the future—back in black, back on track and delivering for Australian parents and their children.