Senate debates

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Matters of Public Importance

Education Funding

5:00 pm

Photo of Helen KrogerHelen Kroger (Victoria, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

It is not perfect. It needs to be improved. But how lucky are we in Australia to have the education system that we have today? We are very lucky. To sit here and listen to people trashing it and talking it down does no credit to those who have engaged in such ideological ranting as we have heard here today.

Senator Wright interjecting—

That is the perspective—and I take the interjection from Senator Wright—that is supported by many international reports. I refer to just one of them because I have only three minutes left to speak, and that is the PISA 2012 report. It says, to take a very quick point out of it, that Australia has a high-equity education system. What the report highlights is the importance of quality teaching, principal autonomy and parental engagement in lifting educational outcomes. So, when we hear from people like Senator Lines, on the other side of the chamber, I wonder: what cave has she been living in? She said that the Abbott government never talks about student outcomes—that Christopher Pyne, the member for Sturt, the Minister for Education, never talks about student outcomes. What cave was she living in when he was announcing and talking up his Students First policy? The Abbott government Students First policy is all about focusing on four pillars, and they are: developing quality teaching; promoting school principal autonomy; engaging parents so they are more actively involved in education; and, lastly and most importantly, ensuring that there is a rigorous and relevant curriculum.

In their contributions, Senator McKenzie and Senator Ryan covered a lot of those issues already in terms of the importance of those four pillars. But, with Senator Scullion having just arrived in the chamber, I am reminded of the wonderful op-ed piece he wrote that was in the paper—I think it was in November 2013—on the critical need to get Indigenous children to attend schools. So we hear about inequality in education and that nothing is being done about it, but the minister sitting in front of me is actually going to the heart of the issue in Indigenous communities and ensuring that it is fixed. The Prime Minister's Indigenous Advisory Council has been convened. It is so important that it is now run out of PM&C. Whilst the council's remit is broad, one of the critical aspects of its role is to focus on improving school attendance and educational attainment. Minister Scullion, I commend you for this. You mean this; it is not ideological rhetoric, and I commend you for your efforts and support you in your endeavours.


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