Senate debates

Wednesday, 21 June 2017


Australian Education Amendment Bill 2017; Second Reading

11:36 am

Photo of Malcolm RobertsMalcolm Roberts (Queensland, Pauline Hanson's One Nation Party) Share this | Hansard source

As a servant to the people of Queensland and Australia, I rise to speak to the Australian Education Amendment Bill 2017. This bill seeks to make a range of changes to the Gillard-era Australian Education Act 2013 to implement the government's so-called Gonski 2.0 education changes. These include a range of funding changes that seek both to increase education funding overall and to reapportion funding between and within the public and private school systems.

Pauline Hanson's One Nation will be supporting the government's amended legislation; however, the key issues that need to be highlighted are accountability and choice. At Pauline Hanson's One Nation, we continue to listen widely. We appreciate very much the input from New South Wales Labor senator Deb O'Neill, whose passion and commitment to education is certain. We also appreciate the commitment and the passion with which Senator Chris Back, the Liberal senator from Western Australia, spoke to us this morning. Both are clearly knowledgeable and passionate about education; that came through with both of them. We listened to Senator David Leyonhjelm and Senator Cory Bernardi, and we will be considering their amendments for increasing the rigour and accountability of this bill as it is implemented. We listen, most importantly, to constituents, and we live ourselves in local communities with diverse state, Catholic and private schools. These vary from New South Wales with Senator Burston, to Queensland with Senator Hanson and me, to Western Australia with Senator Georgiou.

In my early years as a child in India, I went to a school for expats run by Italian nuns using the acclaimed Montessori philosophy. I then went to state schools in New South Wales and then to a boarding school in Queensland. So I have sampled the private school sector and the independent school sector and I have also sampled state schools. My wife and I have two children who are now adults. Our kids went to a private primary school, based on the needs of the child, using the Montessori philosophy with parents paramount in the running of that school, albeit through an elected board appointing a principal. So there is yet another model. Then my children went to a state high school that had a history of respect for children. My understanding is that it was the only Queensland state high school with no uniform. What we want is for our kids to think for themselves and to discover as they wish. They have different interests, not just because one is a boy and one is a girl, but because they have different experiences and spirits when they came into this world, and different interests and passions.

Let me tell you a story. I want comment on the Greens. Before getting to that, I want to comment on one of their funders—the CFMEU. The CFMEU put a robocall around Queensland yesterday. They are saying that our party, Pauline Hanson's One Nation party, is calling for cuts to education spending. That is false. What would we expect from the CFMEU? It is a dishonest statement trying to hurt Pauline Hanson's One Nation party. The CFMEU is above all a political organisation. It is no longer a union that looks after its members. The union bosses are disconnected. It is these people from whom the Greens take their money.

It is not true at all that Pauline Hanson's One Nation wants to cut education spending. We are actually in favour of strong education funding. No money has been taken out in this bill. The CFMEU's puppets, the Greens, say we need equity in education, as they often do. I am going to tell you a little story about two countries pretty soon. We do not want equity—sorry, equality—of opportunity; we want choice—equality of opportunity, because that gives choice. When choice is available it leads to accountability, and it leads to progress. That comes from accountability and choice—when humans are free to exercise our free will, our human spirit, in a way that enables us to take responsibility.

I would like to talk about the basics of education. That is a right of every child, with rigorous, effective education being the foundation for our nation's future economic prosperity and moral, spiritual and social health. There are three topics I would like to raise. First of all, state responsibility. Under our Constitution, the responsibility for education is with the states. That is where it should have been and should have stayed, and that is where it needs to be returned. We operate under competitive federalism—or rather, we used to. Centralisation has led to the politicisation of schools and has led to travesties such as the Safe Schools program, which is initiated federally and spread through some of the states, notably the Victorian Andrews government with its ridiculous Safe Schools policy. This is what centralisation gives us—United Nations driven ratbag propaganda such as Safe Schools, that are nothing more than brainwashing and propaganda exercises levied on the young and impressionable. Safe Schools are not about safe schools; Safe Schools are about violent schools—emotionally violent schools. Safe Schools are about intimidating young boys and girls from the age of four onwards—intimidating and confusing them.

The second thing I would like to talk about is individual choice—not state mandated social engineering, but choice, through vouchers. That leads to accountability.

The third thing I would like to talk about is effective education preparing boys and girls for the real world, so that boys and girls can pursue their dreams, their interests and their passions. We do not need boys especially sitting in school from the age of four or 5 to 18. That is not what many boys want to do. Boys in particular, but also girls, humans in general, learn by doing. Boys in particular learn by doing and by implementing what they learn. I have been to two universities and I am a graduate from two universities, one of them recognised as one of the finest in the world. I do not want every person to go to university—only those who want to go to university.

Let me tell you a story of two countries: East and West Germany. After the Second World War, West Germany was liberated from the American government by Ludwig Erhard, the Treasurer under the Chancellor at the time. East Germans and West Germans worked together in the Second World War and came up with a remarkable industrialisation and a remarkable inventiveness. The East Germans were restricted by socialism after the Second World War. The West Germans were liberated under Ludwig Erhard and free markets.

As a result of that simple difference, the East Germans over 50 years produced the Trabant car, a little papier-mache box with a smelly, dirty, polluting and noisy engine. People had to line up in East Germany to get that car because there were not enough of them available. The East Germans were a basket case. The West Germans, at the same time, produced Mercedes, Porsche, Volkswagen, Audi and Opel. The West Germans produced the world's most aspired to cars.

Today we have a Trabant education system, and it is producing Trabants. The Greens love Trabants. They want Trabant energy, and we can see the cost of energy in this country. They want Trabant science, which is not science at all. They want a Trabant environment, which is hurting our environment. They want, you see, what the East Germans wanted, which was control, yet they cannot see the results of denying the human spirit.

What we want to see, though, is states delivering education and, within that education, states enabling individuals to have their choice of education. We accept a national minimum standard that makes it simple for standards to be accepted around the country, but we want to see the states implement their own curricula because only then will we see a development of curricula from one state to the next with superior curricula rising to the fore and other states copying those.

We need a certain level of qualification before people can be accepted into trades and universities. That is now dwindling. We need to restore that. We need teachers with authority, with responsibility, with a specialty where it suits them and with a real job, not childminding, as it has become in some parts of our country. We need an emphasis on maths, English, science and history, and we need a return to teaching about the Constitution. We must send education back to the states. That will end the waste and duplication, and it will liberate the human spirit to improve education.

Within the state system we need to recognise the complexity involved in delivering education across a diverse continent and across many diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. It is a fact, as Senator Back said to us this morning, that many of the towns in Northern Queensland, the Northern Territory and northern Western Australia do not have a state school. They have no state school at all and rely entirely on the Catholic system. That Catholic system has grown up over many years and become so adapted to suiting the needs of individual communities. It brings values, it brings basics in education and it brings education to the disadvantaged. That must be protected. We understand from Senator Back that the government will be putting a one-year moratorium and a delay on implementing some of the provisions in this legislation thanks to Senator Back and his advocacy. If Catholic schools were to be shut, there would be huge burdens on state systems around this country.

Then Senator Back went on to discuss the system weighted averaging used by Catholic schools in Western Australia, recognising the parents' ability to pay. He compared two schools in the same town, Cathedral Grammar and St Joseph's, with vastly differing fee levels. That is not possible under a government mandated bureaucracy. It is possible under the Catholic system, which shoulders an enormous burden in this country. He explained that system weighted averaging is far superior to the socioeconomic-standing system that the government proposes based on postcodes. He explained that Gonski and another key designer of education both say that the system weighted average is, in fact, far superior. We acknowledge many benefits to what the government is proposing. Thirty per cent of the kids in Catholic schools, according to Senator Back, are not Catholic. They are there by choice, with the exception of schools in northern Australia, where there is no alternative. We must recognise the Catholic system. There are regional and rural towns with no state school system that rely entirely on Catholic schools. Without Catholic schools there would be an enormous increased burden on state schools. Ninety-five per cent of state school capital costs were paid for by parents. That needs to be honoured. The Catholic school system, above all, provides parents with choice.

Vouchers would also provide parents with choice—even wider choice. That would enable many more people to have input into education, into how the schools their kids are attending and being instructed at are run. Then we would have liberation from the Trabant of education. We would have not only diversity of education curricula but diversity of education delivery systems and diversity of educational administrative systems. And, as each one improved, they would be copied by surrounding schools, and we would have an ever-escalating improvement. We would start having the Porsches, the Mercedes, the BMWs of education. We would have a liberation of the human spirit.

The final thing I want to discuss is the need to look at the merits of the German apprenticeship model, which gave us the apprenticeship system—the trade system. As I said, boys—and, indeed, girls—are not built to sit in school all day. Education needs to be for the real world to give people the opportunity to develop the ability to think for themselves. That is real education—not just to pick up the three Rs but the ability to pick up the responsibility for learning, the responsibility for discovery, the responsibility for self-awareness and consciousness, and the responsibility for life. Real education is also about them being able to focus on their interests, not what the state mandates and not what the UN mandates through our central government in this country. We need to stop setting boys up for failure. The German apprenticeship model has proven highly successful.

In America, I was given instruction by a well-known educational expert, Michael Strong. He has had an outstanding career across the country from Alaska through to Hawaii through to the desert states of New Mexico. Michael Strong has developed schools with many different curricula under many different philosophies. He said that in America people talk about sending their kids to university. Only one-third get to university, which means that two-thirds are under the pressure of feeling like they have failed. A university education is not for everyone. We need a country that values education other than at universities. We need a country that sets up boys and girls for trades and careers outside universities. We need to be able to give people a foundation in entrepreneurial activities. That needs a free market. We need to unshackle this country from the clutches of central government—ever-growing central government. We need to stop setting up boys for failure. We need to release the school system for individual initiative. We need to give people choice in schools—not only whether or not they go to a school but what sort of school they go to. We need to really think ahead, but, for now, we are anticipating supporting the government's bill.


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