Senate debates

Wednesday, 21 June 2017


Australian Education Amendment Bill 2017; Second Reading

9:50 am

Photo of Nick McKimNick McKim (Tasmania, Australian Greens) Share this | Hansard source

Thank you, Madam Deputy President. I will not be shouted down by Senator Collins here because I am going to place on the record what happened. There were 27 separate deals across sectors and across jurisdictions. They were negotiated bilaterally and no-one got to find out what any of the negotiations were with any of the other sectors in the education system in Australia or with any other of the states and territories. What we ended up with I think would be accurate to describe as a mishmash of different agreements where some sectors won and some did not travel so well, and where some states and territories had outcomes that they were happy with and some states and territories had outcomes they were not happy with.

Of course, during this process and ultimately before that process had finished, Labor called a federal election. I will remember the day they called that federal election because there were still negotiations ongoing and at least some states and territories ultimately did not finally and formally conclude their negotiations. That is what Labor left us with. History shows that the government changed and the Liberal government came into power.

That was a long time ago. I have to say that the current government—the Liberal-National government—in this country have been derelict in their responsibilities on education since then. This has dragged out in terms of the government arriving at a position for far too long. Now, typically, when they have arrived at a position they want to bring this bill on for debate here today to put pressure on this Senate to pass it. Ultimately, I want to say that the government's tactic of bringing this bill on today to commence the debate is a tactic clearly designed to place pressure on this chamber.

I also want to say that the government has been derelict in its duties in regard to the way that it has negotiated with the Australian Education Union—or, should I say, failed utterly not only to negotiate but even to respectfully communicate with the Australian Education Union. When I was minister in Tasmania, I had a face-to-face meeting with the president of the Tasmanian branch of the AEU once a month. I would sit down face to face with them, and we would talk about a range of issues that existed from both sides of the table. I am very confident to say that I had a very good relationship with the AEU in Tasmania, because of course the Greens view education principally as a public good. We also believe that federal funding into Australia's school system, whatever the sector, needs to be done on the basis of need and equity to ensure that all Australian children have the opportunity to fulfil their best educational opportunities.

Before I leave the subject of the Labor Party—and this was raised by Senator Collins herself in her speech where she swallowed the grenade and denied that we were seeing a return of the DLP in this place—I have sat for two question times in here this week, and Labor has asked question after question after question on behalf of the Catholic education system in this country and not one question on public schools from the Labor Party.


No comments