House debates

Thursday, 18 June 2020

Matters of Public Importance

Tertiary Education

3:48 pm

Photo of Graham PerrettGraham Perrett (Moreton, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Education and Training) Share this | Hansard source

Just to remind those opposite, the MPI is actually about funding for TAFE and universities. I wanted to go to the core of this because I think the Labor Party has always understood that education is the great transformational policy. It's not something that we take for granted with privilege. The Labor Party has always seen, right back in the 1890s, education as the great opportunity for working people to transform their lives and achieve higher salaries, higher wages and greater opportunities in life.

The member for Grayndler and the member for Sydney, who instigated this MPI, have always spoken very passionately about how education has changed their lives, and you could say the same for my life. I'm also the first in my family to finish university. I've got brothers and sisters who are electricians and butchers. They went down the trade road. But, luckily, I was able to go to university and become a teacher and then a lawyer.

Let's have a look at the Prime Minister. I think the Prime Minister, coming from a life of privilege in Bronte—he's a child actor who took his role acting so seriously, in fact, that when he had to play the tradie's apprentice to Scott Cam he really took on that role seriously. In fact, he was so passionate about his role of appealing to tradies that he was even prepared to switch rugby league teams!

As anyone knows, if you're so committed to your character acting that you can switch rugby league teams, that says something about you and your ability to act. There's no doubting this Prime Minister's ability to act. When he switched from the Roosters, the Easts, to Cronulla, he then said, 'I'm going to play a role so convincingly that I'll put on a cap and pretend that I follow the Cronulla Sharks.' That was the commitment he had.

We see what they do. We know that they've cut $2.2 billion from universities and we know that there are 140,000 fewer apprentices and trainees since they came into office. What they do is cut money from trades and universities and cut opportunities for Australians. And, obviously, if your whole life has been as a political staffer and then working in advertising, through an inside route, you know you can't do that. Australians do not like the idea that the government is going to cut money from universities and take opportunities away from apprentices. So what do you do? You reach for the marketing handbook and appoint Scott Cam, and give him $345,000 as a careers ambassador. I should say that Scott Cam is very well respected, and all power to him in terms of the work that he is doing in careers, but it indicates what the Prime Minister is about. He does a flashy news conference, standing beside Scott Cam, as the member for Sydney said, where he pretends to be Scott Cam's apprentice, but it's just a veneer. It's camouflage—'Cam-ouflage'. He lays it across the top as if to say: 'This is what we're doing. We care about careers. We care about skills.' But don't look at what he says; look at what he does. You see it in aged care, you see it in education and you see it in so many areas where they overpromise and completely underdeliver. That's the problem with this government.

They say that the most powerful element in advertising is the truth, and I think Australians are starting to work out that this Prime Minister and so many in his cabinet are all about saying one thing but actually delivering something else. For seven years, they've said, 'We're going to match Gonski.' I remember the ads in the 2013 election. We saw the billboards and the flyers saying, 'We're going to match skills based education.' Then comes a little legerdemain, sleight of hand and suddenly needs based education is out the door. Funding goes down, and there are a completely different set of arrangements. They pretend to care about students, but, instead, they're going to deny more and more Australians an opportunity. There are 140,000 fewer apprentices and trainees, and we see unemployment over 11 per cent, underemployment at 20.2 per cent and 835,000 Australians missing out. It is a disaster.

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