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Tuesday, 2 February 2016
Page: 68


Ms OWENS (Parramatta) (15:57): A number of important things happened in January while some of us were out of phone and television range. I want to talk about three in particular today. The first was the meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, where a number of world leaders and some of the best thinkers in the world explored the impact of what is known as the fourth industrial revolution—a period of extraordinary change. The main theme of the meeting over that week or so was rising inequality caused by this massive change and the rapid increase in technology—how some would move with it but many would be left behind. It is a major problem around the world and a major problem for this country, because we know that for several years now our school system has not been keeping up with what we need to do to prepare our children to live in the world which is developing around us as we speak.

Two other things happened. When you talk about the future and about innovation, you have to talk about education. Between Christmas and New Year our Prime Minister recommitted to cutting the Gonski funding and committed to reducing funding for education by $30 billion—a $30 billion cut to education. In contrast, towards the end of the month, the Labor opposition recommitted to the Gonski funding in full, reinstating that $30 billion and ensuring that our children are prepared for the future.

The debate that we are having today is quite instructive in terms of what the government's policy is. They said before the election they were committed to Gonski. They said, 'No change—you will get exactly the same amount of funding for your school under Liberal as you would under Labor.' They adopted Labor policy before the last election but they scrapped it immediately after. They recommitted that scrapping again just after Christmas. Today, in this House, after 2½ years in government, we get the minister representing the minister for education saying they will be announcing some education policies soon, and they will be good ones. Two and a half years in government! Children do not wait for you. Children grow older every day. And the skills they learn today are the basis of their life. They do not wait. Two and a half years—when you knew the education system needed improving! They do not wait 2½ years while you sit on your hands. To have a minister representing the minister for education walk into this House and say, after 2½ years, 'We will have good policies soon,' is an absolute disgrace.

Then we had the minister for science get up immediately after and say, 'We know education's important.' Well, of course! Great. Of course it is important—we all know that. Every parent knows that. Every child knows that. They know education is important. Then she said, 'We know we need to address the skills needs of the future.' After 2½ years in government, that is the best she can do—they know they need to do something!

They came to government on a lie: that they were going to match Labor's funding on Gonski. They came to government on a lie. They recommitted to that lie in December, and now, 2½ years into their term, we have the minister representing the minister for education and the minister for science, two incredibly important areas if we are going to build Australia's future—if you want to talk about innovation and jobs for the future, these are two of the most important portfolios—and what do they say? 'We'll get around to it soon. And it'll be good—when we get to it, it'll be good.' This is after 2½ years.

Labor is in opposition, and we have done the work. We did the work before the last election, through an extraordinary consultation process known as Gonski that went for several years of serious community consultation, so that that program is owned by our schools and our parents and our teachers; it is owned by them. And we have, without any doubt, recommitted to funding it in full—to reinstating that $30 billion that this shambolic government has withdrawn from our education system, and to ensuring that our children get the future that they need.

I say this to the people opposite—and I know that many of you have small people, children, in your lives: you cannot sit on your hands for 2½ years when it comes to education. It is not acceptable to say before an election, 'We commit to this great program,' and then to say afterwards, 'Oh, actually, no, we don't, and for 2½ years we're just going to sit on our hands and do nothing.' It is not good enough. The children who were born when you were elected are already 2½ years older. Children who started in grade 1 when you were elected are about to enter grade 3. You cannot wait. Do something! It is not good enough to say you will, after 2½ years— (Time expired)

Mr Hutchinson interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): If the member for Lyons wants the call, perhaps he shouldn't interject before he seeks it! The member for Lyons has the call.