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Monday, 28 May 2007
Page: 57

Mr SLIPPER (4:06 PM) —I must say that I was quite amazed when I read the motion moved by the honourable member for Hindmarsh. I would like to recommend to him a reading of the Australian Constitution, which makes it fairly clear that education, particularly primary and secondary school level but also generally, is a responsibility of the states of Australia. Notwithstanding that, the Australian government are proud to have invested so much in education at all levels during our 11 years in office, to help to make sure that young people, who are Australia’s future, do have the opportunity to get one foot on the rung of the employment ladder. The Australian government are well aware that education is an absolutely vital means of achieving success, not only that of the individual but also that of the nation as a whole.

I do not know whether the honourable member for Hindmarsh was actually joking when he moved this motion seeking to condemn the government for what he saw as ‘the failure of the government to invest in education and skills for Australia’s future’, because let us look at what this government has done by way of education initiatives. For example, there is the Higher Education Endowment Fund, with its revolutionary purpose of self-generating funds for expansion of facilities at our universities. That is in addition to the moneys being spent on Australian technical colleges and on primary and secondary schooling. It is pretty clear that this government—having repaid $92 billion of Labor debt and not having to pay the $8½ billion that the former government was paying—has been able to invest in desirable social objectives such as improved education funding and other areas which, under the Australian Constitution, have not historically been the responsibility of the Australian government.

In five minutes it is impossible to cover the incredibly substantial program that the coalition government have in relation to education, so I will just have to cherry-pick a few items and mention them. When you look at what we have done since 1996 and what we are continuing to do, looking at the announcements in the most recent budget, one can see that the honourable member for Hindmarsh is probably playing party politics, which is understandable, given his marginal seat and given the election just a few months away. The reality is that there has not been any other government in Australia’s history that has given the investment in education at all levels that this government has.

Mr Henry interjecting

Mr SLIPPER —The member for Hasluck is perfectly correct. There seems to be so much buck-passing with regard to the states—and we see here the member for Hindmarsh suggesting that the Australian government should fund this, should fund that and should fund something else. I must say that the more I hear about buck-passing the more attracted I am to the concept of the Australian government taking over the area of education in this country. That way we would be able to have a national curriculum. That would mean that, in a situation where people are increasingly mobile, moving from one part of the country to the other—

Mr Adams —You want health and education?

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. IR Causley)—The member for Lyons!

Mr SLIPPER —particularly, my friend, from your area of Tasmania to the Sunshine Coast—

Mr Adams —You want health and education. You are a centralist.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —The member for Lyons is risking his health!

Mr SLIPPER —Kids lose time because of the different educational curricula at different institutions. If we were able to have this national standard, a standardised curriculum, obviously students would be much better off.

But I said I was going to mention just a few initiatives. We have the $3 billion invested in vocational education and training, including a $1,000 payment to first- and second-year apprentices who are under 30 years of age, to assist in addressing the demand for more trades men and women. There is a $500 training voucher to assist apprentices to finish their course. There is assistance for those studying diploma and advanced diploma courses. These announcements followed the launch of some 25 technical colleges, many of which have now been established and are up and running and doing very well.

One valid point that the member for Hindmarsh did make was that there are many people who do not want to go to university and Australia’s desperate need has been in the area of trade training. This government has got the runs on the board and is continuing to get the runs on the board with that, and we have a plan for the future. We are positively achieving improved outcomes in those particular areas. We have a proud record of spending right across the education sphere—primary, secondary and tertiary, both university and non-university sectors. I think the motion moved by the member for Hindmarsh is unconvincing. He has come into the chamber and suggested that the government ought to be criticised when, in reality, we should be praised. (Time expired)