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- Start of Business
QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE
(McClelland, Robert, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Haase, Barry, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Rudd, Kevin, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Barresi, Phillip, MP, Costello, Peter, MP)
(Rudd, Kevin, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Neville, Paul, MP, Vaile, Mark, MP)
(Albanese, Anthony, MP, Vaile, Mark, MP)
(Jensen, Dennis, MP, Costello, Peter, MP)
(Tanner, Lindsay, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Broadbent, Russell, MP, Truss, Warren, MP)
(Katter, Bob, MP, Turnbull, Malcolm, MP)
(Hartsuyker, Luke, MP, Turnbull, Malcolm, MP)
(Swan, Wayne, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Johnson, Michael, MP, Hockey, Joe, MP)
(Smith, Stephen, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Baker, Mark, MP, Abbott, Tony, MP)
(Rudd, Kevin, MP, Howard, John, MP)
Australian Defence Force Personnel
(Gash, Joanna, MP, Nelson, Dr Brendan, MP)
(Rudd, Kevin, MP, Howard, John, MP)
(Bartlett, Kerry, MP, Bishop, Julie, MP)
- QUESTIONS WITHOUT NOTICE: ADDITIONAL ANSWERS
- QUESTIONS TO THE SPEAKER
- PERSONAL EXPLANATIONS
- MATTERS OF PUBLIC IMPORTANCE
TAX LAWS AMENDMENT (SIMPLIFIED SUPERANNUATION) BILL 2006
SUPERANNUATION (EXCESS CONCESSIONAL CONTRIBUTIONS TAX) BILL 2006
SUPERANNUATION (EXCESS NON-CONCESSIONAL CONTRIBUTIONS TAX) BILL 2006
SUPERANNUATION (EXCESS UNTAXED ROLL-OVER AMOUNTS TAX) BILL 2006
SUPERANNUATION (DEPARTING AUSTRALIA SUPERANNUATION PAYMENTS TAX) BILL 2006
SUPERANNUATION (SELF MANAGED SUPERANNUATION FUNDS) SUPERVISORY LEVY AMENDMENT BILL 2006
SUPERANNUATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (SIMPLIFICATION) BILL 2007
INCOME TAX AMENDMENT BILL 2007
INCOME TAX (FORMER COMPLYING SUPERANNUATION FUNDS) AMENDMENT BILL 2007
INCOME TAX (FORMER NON-RESIDENT SUPERANNUATION FUNDS) AMENDMENT BILL 2007
INCOME TAX RATES AMENDMENT (SUPERANNUATION) BILL 2007
- SUPERANNUATION (EXCESS CONCESSIONAL CONTRIBUTIONS TAX) BILL 2006
- SUPERANNUATION (EXCESS NON-CONCESSIONAL CONTRIBUTIONS TAX) BILL 2006
- SUPERANNUATION (EXCESS UNTAXED ROLL-OVER AMOUNTS TAX) BILL 2006
- SUPERANNUATION (DEPARTING AUSTRALIA SUPERANNUATION PAYMENTS TAX) BILL 2006
- SUPERANNUATION (SELF MANAGED SUPERANNUATION FUNDS) SUPERVISORY LEVY AMENDMENT BILL 2006
- SUPERANNUATION LEGISLATION AMENDMENT (SIMPLIFICATION) BILL 2007
- INCOME TAX AMENDMENT BILL 2007
- INCOME TAX (FORMER COMPLYING SUPERANNUATION FUNDS) AMENDMENT BILL 2007
- INCOME TAX (FORMER NON-RESIDENT SUPERANNUATION FUNDS) AMENDMENT BILL 2007
- INCOME TAX RATES AMENDMENT (SUPERANNUATION) BILL 2007
- NATIVE TITLE AMENDMENT BILL 2006
- QUESTIONS IN WRITING
Tuesday, 13 February 2007
Ms BIRD (4:53 PM) —It is a significant matter of public importance that we are debating today. I want to address some of the questions and issues raised by the Minister for Education, Science and Training in this MPI. In particular, all of the inherent inconsistencies of the Howard government’s arguments on these issues have been displayed today by the minister.
For a start, she tells us that we have had 16 years of progressive growth and that the government are providing more university places than Labor did when in government. The contradiction that you hear in the argument is that the government are very happy to claim that we have had 16 years of economic growth and yet are incapable of recognising that they have not been in government for 16 years. The minister talked about the significant productivity growth in the late nineties, which is well documented and well acknowledged by many experts in the field—in particular, the former Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia—as actually being driven by the reforms that Labor put in place during the years of the Hawke-Keating government. The minister, in expounding on those times, said that the competition reforms were a really important part of the boost to the next round of productivity and economic growth. She just failed to mention that those reforms were put in place by Labor governments.
So what we are facing here, and this is why we feel this is an important debate, is the fact that the minister has not comprehended that it is not good enough to say everything is rolling along okay. It is not good enough to say, ‘Oh, but we’re meeting the long-term average.’ It is not good enough to say that problems with places at universities and funding to schools are all the state governments’ fault. The reality is that there is a clear link between national economic wellbeing, which is a direct responsibility of the federal government, and what you do with your education, training, investment in innovation and commercialisation of innovation—all those things are critically important to the overall economic wellbeing of a nation. That is why federal governments get involved in those areas and, indeed, always have.
We on this side of the House often get a bit frustrated when government ministers want to take pot shots and claim that Labor was only ever interested in university education and never took a serious view of the role of trades training. As a former TAFE teacher, I find that an extraordinarily offensive misrepresentation, but that is part of the game in this House, I suppose. For the minister to say that we are obsessed with university education but they have better university place numbers is just an absolute example of point-scoring as opposed to dealing with the actual issue.
What we face at this point in time is a golden opportunity. We have tremendous revenue coming into the government as a result of the boom in the minerals sector. The question is: what do you do with that? What we are trying to say to government members is that you use it to invest for the next round of growth. You do not sit there and say, ‘It’s all okay; we’re meeting some long-term national average in productivity growth.’ You should be saying, ‘If they achieved 3.6 per cent in the late nineties, why can’t we achieve it? How could we achieve it? Let’s get on with doing that.’ If you do not do that, this sort of boom will be squandered.
When times are good, we spend. We all do it with our family budget; probably at this time of year we are all saying, ‘I’ve squandered the boom over Christmas and now I have to start rebuilding.’ But we know it is a simple principle that, when you are faced with an unprecedented opportunity of income generation, you do not simply sit on that, boast about your budget surplus for years, wait till the election comes and then throw all of that—like a drunken sailor, I think the term was—out into the election campaign to fundamentally curry favour with the electorate. That is the pattern we have seen this government take during recent years and that is why we think this is such a matter of public importance.
The shadow Treasurer outlined some of the statistics that have been alarm bells, that have said to us that this is something that we are going to have to seriously address. The minister failed to address at any point the issue that, even if we take Australia as an isolated example, there are problems with our investment in education.
The government touts things like the Australian technical colleges. If the $20 million in my electorate, which is currently funding 38 students, had been put into pre-apprenticeship courses at TAFE, had been put into supporting the joint schools-TAFE programs that allow kids to do TAFE courses, we probably could have put 1,000 or 2,000 kids through training. I am very surprised the new Minister for Vocational and Further Education, who I think has a few more brain cells than the previous one, did not jump in and redirect this program. It is not going to deliver outcomes in the time frame that we need and is an absolutely inefficient use of money for achieving those outcomes.
Those are the sorts of things the government puts up as its response. What we are saying is: get really serious about the fact that people need their skills upgraded. There is a classic example in my electorate. There is a tremendous Catholic school there. They have built a new school, built for the 21st century. No classrooms and boxes and whistles like the old schools built for the industrial age; this is a new generation high school. The kids are all supplied with laptops. They work in labs and work groups. The environment that they have created reflects the modern work experience. They have specifically got all the best literature and applied it in this model to give these kids a real-life experience in their learning that will reflect the work world they go out into.
The Prime Minister wants to recreate classrooms that he went to. He wants to take us back to a 1950s model of schooling. I was an English teacher; I value Shakespeare, but I tell you what: having two sons, I think it is far more important that they understand what advertising can do, that they do understand what the modern media does in purveying its message to the community. Those are important and valuable skills that are useful in a 21st century workplace. And if that escapes the Prime Minister, that is a real problem for our future. We cannot build a 21st century workforce education system for our kids on the 1950s model that the Prime Minister wants to hark back to all the time.
These are critically important issues for us. We see good examples out there, but it is a real struggle for the public schools in my electorate to achieve the sorts of things they are able to do at this local Catholic high school. That is not good enough. The Catholic high school has got a tremendous model. Greg Whitby is driving that, and I know he is doing the same in south-western Sydney. He is a truly innovative educator and thinker about what we need to do for the future. I just want our schools in the public system to match that. I want my kids to come out of that school system equipped for the world they will live in, not equipped to relive the Prime Minister’s life. That is the way we are going at the present time with the focus of our education program.
This MPI is really important because you cannot isolate Australia, you cannot isolate our experience. We well know that China and India, the big developing powerhouses, are doing exactly what we are not doing: they are investing massively in their education and training systems. You talk to your universities that have a large number of overseas students and they will tell you they are worried about their income, because they know that those countries those students are coming from are developing their own systems rapidly and they will not need to come to us in the future. They are out there, they are doing it and they are doing it seriously. They are not sitting on their behinds saying: ‘It’s not a big deal. It’s the long-term average; we’re not actually much below that.’ That is not good enough if we are going to compete against them in the future.
We have to get as serious as they are about putting in significant investment. We are so perfectly positioned at this point in time, with those gold bars raining on us as the shadow Treasurer said, to take that money and build a future for our kids—not build a future simply for the next election and continue on that wasteful cycle that we cannot afford as a nation. This MPI is simply saying enough is enough; get on with the job at hand. (Time expired)