Thursday, 18 October 2018
Bruce Electorate: Education
In my first speech to this parliament I recounted my slightly crazy-brave effort of doorknocking somewhere in the order of 12,000 houses over 18 months, including during the last campaign. The question which I continued to put to people day after day was, 'What's most important to you?' Overwhelmingly, the answer in my electorate was 'education', whether it was young people, families, grandparents worried about their grandkids, or migrants. It's a particular concern for migrants, and I have the highest percentage of migrants of any electorate in the parliament. They come to this country with a laser-like focus on education, seeing it as being the key for their kids having a better life. It's also important to Australia. The OECD and others have said that the two single most important things we can do for our future wealth and prosperity are education and infrastructure. If we look around Asia, our competitors, partners and collaborators are busy investing in education, while this government's cutting wherever it can.
Since we last met, since the last session, Labor's announced some bold new policies, which should be lauded, applauded and recorded. If given the privilege of forming government, these will benefit all Australians. I put the emphasis on 'all Australians' because Labor knows that education is the key enabler of opportunity. It is the key enabler for a young person to fulfil their potential in life and the key to making sure that wherever you're born and whatever postcode you're raised in this does not determine your future. So I particularly call out and praise our commitment to universal preschool for three- and four-year-olds. This commitment would see a new national preschool and kindergarten program guaranteeing 700,000 kids a year access to subsidised preschool. It's the biggest ever investment committed to early childhood development. For the first time, every three-year-old in this country will be able to access 15 hours of subsidised early childhood development a week. This is giving kids the best start in life. It's universal access.
I know those opposite hate universal services. They fought for decades against Medicare, they fought in the seventies against the national disability scheme, they're fighting universal superannuation and they're fighting this. But it's based on evidence. Most importantly, I believe public policy should be based on evidence—climate change, anyone? The evidence here is overwhelming when you look at the Scandinavian countries and other countries that are moving ahead of us: better school results, better school retainment, better opportunities in year 12 and better overall life chances. The evidence says that for every dollar invested you get at least a $2 economic return through investing in early childhood development and early childhood education. But, of course, that investment alone is not enough. We need a workforce to support this great new commitment.
We've committed to scrapping up-front fees for 10,000 TAFE places for early childhood development educators, because demand is growing. At another time we'll also talk about our commitment to $14 billion over 10 years for public schools to make sure that every public school reaches 100 per cent of its fair funding level, and about working with the states and territories to achieve this. At the moment, because of Prime Minister Scott Morrison's cuts, almost nine in 10 public schools will never get to the fair funding level.