House debates

Monday, 3 June 2013

Questions without Notice


2:22 pm

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

My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister. How is the government implementing its plans to invest in our schools and our young people? Why is investing in a smarter Australia critical to us becoming a stronger nation?

Photo of Wayne SwanWayne Swan (Lilley, Australian Labor Party, Treasurer) Share this | | Hansard source

I thank the member for Moreton for this question, because a world-class school system is one of the pillars that modern families rely on to prosper in a globally competitive economy.

The most fundamental thing we can do for our country, both economically and socially, is to invest in the education of our young people. We know this; it went to the very core of our recent budget. What we did was to put in place funding to invest in the Gonski school reforms—the school improvement program—knowing that this is the most fundamental investment we can make.

There is a lot of discussion out there about competitiveness and about productivity, but all the evidence shows that if you lift the quality of your education system you can lift your productivity in your economy. So this is the smartest thing we can do for families and it is the smartest thing we can do for our country.

Some people just see spending on education as a cost to the budget. But spending on education is a vital investment in our future. Of course, that is what the Gonski report showed, and that is what all of the research shows. It does not matter whether you go to the research from the Treasury, from private think tanks, from overseas, from the OECD or from the World Bank: it all says the same thing. And, of course, if you have a broken funding model, that impacts upon quality. What the Gonski report said is that our model is broken. So what we have to do is to put in place an up-to-date funding model that will deliver the resources and that will deliver the quality outcome for our country.

If we look at some of the studies that have been done, there is the PricewaterhouseCoopers report, which has said that our current declining education performance will reduce the size of our economy by $1.5 trillion over the life of a child today. All of the work shows that if you increase retention rates through to year 12, that will increase GDP and add wealth to the economy.

So, from our point of view, a stronger Australia has to come through being a smarter Australia. We also understand that this needs to be done working in cooperation with state governments. That is why the Prime Minister was so delighted to see the Premier of New South Wales sign up to a modern funding model; a funding model that delivers to every child at every school at every postcode, right across the state of New South Wales. What we want to see for Australia is to deliver that to every state: to every child across every postcode in every state of Australia—that is what we need to see if we are going to meet that challenge of the future to invest in our people.

We saw that the education minister in New South Wales made the point that this was a funding model that was too good to refuse. But, unfortunately, we do not have sign-on—particularly from my home state of Queensland, where the Premier of Queensland has been thugged by the Leader of the Opposition in putting his political—(Time expired)