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Tuesday, 26 May 1998
Page: 3681

Mrs BAILEY —I address my question to the Minister for Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs.

Mr Albanese interjecting

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Grayndler!

Mrs BAILEY —Can the minister inform the House what action the government has taken to raise the quality of education? Is the government aware of alternative policies for education?

Mr Martin Ferguson —Why don't you put One Nation last?

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Batman will remain silent.

Mrs BAILEY —Can the minister inform the House of the impact of these policies on schools and the quality of education in Australia?

Dr KEMP (Employment, Education, Training and Youth Affairs;Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for the Public Service) —I thank the member for McEwen for her question, and I know how dedicated she is to improving the quality of education in her electorate. The government knows that, in these uncertain times, the greatest security for young people comes from having a quality education. That is why the government has been at particular pains to ensure that literacy standards in this country are raised and that it has achieved Australia's first national literacy standard and a national literacy plan.

That is why we pursued school based apprenticeships because the previous government neglected the 70 per cent of young people who were not going straight from school to university. That is why we have encouraged schools to consider acting as employment agencies for their school leavers—a hugely popular policy which now has been adopted by over half the high schools in Australia. Of course, this government strongly supports school choice for low income families.

It is quite clear at the present time that all these policies are under threat. They are under threat from the Labor Party. The Labor Party is threatening these policies and these achievements because it wants to put education policy in this country in the hands of the teacher unions. The Leader of the Opposition over the weekend went along to the Australian Education Union conference in Canberra and outlined the Labor Party's policies. But the main policy was this: he was going to set up a review of the entire Australian education system. His policy for education is a committee. It is a review. When will this review be? It will be after the election. So we will not hear any more detail about the Labor Party's education policies.

Why was this so warmly applauded by the members of the Australian Education Union at the weekend conference? It was because they know who is going to be on this committee. They know who is going to be setting the policy directions for the Labor Party when it decides to formulate its education policy.

Even the media could see that this was the platform for an ideologically driven sectional policy by the Labor Party. The Sydney Morning Herald was not fooled by the speech. In an editorial this morning headed `No policy', it concluded by saying:

. . . it is clear that what is driving Labor's policy is a sensitivity to the demands of the various teachers' federations around Australia. What these federations want is not necessarily what education funding in Australia really requires. Mr Beazley has given his game away, in fact, with the promise of a "ground-up review of the entire Australian education system". This review creates a subsidised vehicle for the federations to drive their agendas forward.

What are these agendas? We know that the agendas of the Australian Education Union, the agendas of the Labor Party, are to oppose higher literacy standards. They are to oppose proper reporting to parents. They are to oppose helping school leavers get jobs. They oppose the right of parents to choose their own school. They oppose an apprenticeship system which is not dominated by the trade unions. The result is a set of policies which, once again, would viciously abandon the most disadvantaged students in Australia's schools. They would abandon the policies that this government has put in place to give educational equity to disadvantaged students and help low income parents choose the schools that they believe would be appropriate for their young people.

Parents of Australia should not make a mistake. The education policies that are driving quality in this country are at risk from the policies of the Australian Labor Party because it is a relentlessly sectional party. All it has to say is what the trade unions behind it tell it to say, whether it is to undermine Australian trade, whether it is to undermine literacy standards, whether it is to do away with school choice. There is nothing offered by the party and the weak Leader of the Opposition than the set of policies which are dictated to him by the trade unions. The only security parents in this country have that their children will receive a decent education with high literacy standards, proper reporting and school choice is the policies of this government.