House debates

Monday, 3 June 2013


Gillard Government

10:03 pm

Photo of Geoff LyonsGeoff Lyons (Bass, Australian Labor Party) Share this | | Hansard source

The Gillard Labor government believes in supporting families and in giving every child the best possible start in life. We understand the cost-of-living pressures on working families. We have eased those pressures through tax cuts and increased family payments. We have provided childcare assistance and the Schoolkids Bonus and introduced Australia's first Paid Parental Leave scheme.

We have also developed a plan for properly resourcing all Australian classrooms, teachers and students for generations to come: the National Plan for School Improvement. Under the national plan, we want to introduce a needs-based funding model based on the Gonski review recommendations. If state and territory governments sign up to the plan, schools across the country will benefit from an extra $14.5 billion in public investment over the next six years.

Under our plan, every state and every sector will see increased funding and more support for students in the classroom. As a bare minimum, we want every school in Australia to receive its current funding level next year, plus indexation of three per cent. Many schools will receive more than this—schools that need additional resources the most. Teachers in my electorate of Bass know how important it is. When I visit schools and talk to teachers and parents, they tell me that public schools need more support. We are prepared to guarantee this and are asking the states and territories to do the same. This means that, in real terms, no school will be worse off. We cannot be any clearer than that.

Obviously, the Leader of the Opposition and I operate in different circles. This is evident from his comments on 20 August last year, when he said, 'The current funding system poses no injustice to public schools.' He said, 'If anything, the injustice is the other way.' I know that teachers in my electorate of Bass work hard. Indeed, I know that because, on a very personal level, my daughter Michelle is a school teacher and my wife works in school administration. Many teachers have emailed me, telephoned me or come to my office to tell me just how important it is that we have properly funded public schools. They want their students to succeed and achieve to their fullest potential. The way that schools are currently funded means that this is not always the case.

The Labor government understands that going to school is absolutely essential but it can be expensive. There are expenses like school uniforms, school shoes, textbooks, camps, excursions, as well as extracurricular activities such as music lessons. This government has helped to lighten the load for 1.3 million families with the Schoolkids Bonus. The first instalment of the Schoolkids Bonus was paid in January this year. Eligible parents will receive the second instalment in July, before term 3 starts. I know this is a big help to families in my electorate, so it baffles me why those opposite want to rip it away.

Labor know that about one million families were missing out on their full entitlements under the old system, the education tax refund. For working families on low incomes it is simply too expensive to pay the school expenses first and then wait months to get the money back. Those opposite have no credible plan to support families. The Liberal Party does not understand why low- and middle-income families deserve extra money to help put their kids through school. The Leader of the Opposition does not think parents can be trusted to spend this money on their kids.

Let me remind the House what the Leader of the Opposition said on 9 May 2012: 'You can go and blow it on the pokies, so it's just another cash handout.' As workplace relations minister, he actually opposed a paid parental leave scheme and said that it should be introduced over his government's dead body. One could ask when he is going to fulfil his commitment to the Australian people! And he wants to tax businesses to pay for his millionaire mums' paid parental leave scheme, meaning that hardworking families will have to pay more at the checkout so that he can give wealthy mums up to $75,000. Australians have a clear choice in September between a government that looks after families or a coalition which has spent the last five years being mindlessly negative to try and deny families a fair go.