Wednesday, 4 March 2020
Australian Education Amendment (Direct Measure of Income) Bill 2020; Second Reading
I rise in support of the Australian Education Amendment (Direct Measure of Income) Bill 2020. If there's one thing that we learnt from the disastrous years of the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd government, it is that just throwing money at a problem is never the way to solve it. The solution to every problem, according to members opposite, is to spend more, with no thought about where it's going, and then, when that doesn't work and you run out of cash, you spend even more. That's why Labor presided over a budget deficit that peaked at $54½ billion and it's why, nearly a decade later, they went to the last election proposing an additional $387 billion in new taxes. Those opposite have learned nothing from that defeat, as that remains their policy today.
The coalition, however, understand that solving a complex problem requires a sophisticated, practical response. In the first instance, we look to reform, not to raiding ordinary Australians' bank accounts. Second, if we do find that more money really is needed to solve the problem, then we deliver that investment. But, when we do so, we introduce a third vital element, so often missed by members opposite when they sit on these government benches. We make sure investment is delivered equitably and delivered to the places where it will make the greatest difference in solving the problems. When it comes to the problems facing education in this country, we've applied this practical approach, and the bill before the House is a central contribution.
It is certain that we need to make improvements to the Australian education system; change is needed. The latest report of the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, published in December last year, showed that, since 2000, Australian students' performance in reading, maths and science has been in relative decline. Though on a par with similar countries—New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom and Japan—our students' performance has been slipping compared with important near-neighbours like China, Singapore and Korea. These declines have been consistent across governments on both sides of politics, with some of the largest declines coming during the Rudd-Gillard-Rudd years.
As the Minister for Education has said, the time has come for us to change direction. But the government understands that simply throwing money at the problem is not enough. Funding to education has been increasing every year, yet performance has not increased. Clearly, as the coalition have always said, we need more than just money; we need reform as well as investment and we need our investment delivered to the right places. This government has been getting on with the job of delivering all three. First, in partnership with the states and territories—(Quorum formed) As I was saying before I was so rudely interrupted, first, in partnership with the states and territories, we're rolling out a generation-defining reform in how—