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Tuesday, 2 February 2016
Page: 69

Mr HUTCHINSON (Lyons) (16:02): Thank you, Deputy Speaker; I appreciate that. I do not pretend to be an educationalist, but, having been a student over many years, and now the father of two boys—one who is going into year 11 this year, who started his school year on Monday, and a younger son going into year 8—I have a particular interest in this area.

If I think back to my own experience, I think of course of those great teachers who I had during my education, whether it was in high school or in primary school. I can still remember the name of, for example, Mrs Plaisted, who was my grade 1 teacher at East Launceston Primary School—she was a fantastic educationalist—as I can remember those people who taught me at college.

It goes to the very point that the Labor Party is missing in this debate: that we have been putting more money into this sector—into education. And that is right and it is proper. In fact, over the last four years, funding for education under this government has increased by nearly 30 per cent to the states—remembering that the Commonwealth funds about a third of schools in this country; it is the responsibility of the states. But what has not changed are the outcomes. If they are not changing, we must go back to first principles and look at what we are doing that is not right. There has been more money than ever before going into education. They claim that money has been cut. It was never there. You cannot cut something if it was not there. Over the forward estimates, we matched—in fact, we increased—what were the commitments of those opposite when they were in government.

I have been in this place a short time, but the ability of the Labor Party to rewrite history has been a staggering revelation to me since I have come to this place. There never was a magic pudding. There never was a commitment beyond the forward estimates from those opposite. I note now, though, after the 'year of ideas', that there is a plan by those opposite to fund education. How they are going to fund that was highlighted today in the Australian Financial Review by Economics Correspondent Jacob Greber. He says:

Leading budget experts say Labor's plan to use higher tobacco taxes to pay for fast-growing social programs is misguided and potentially unsustainable.

The Labor opposition expects to raise $47.7 billion over 10 years …

And he calls into question the veracity of those numbers. I would also ask: who is going to pay for it? Well, it will be the poorest. It will be the most vulnerable people in our communities who will be paying the tobacco tax; not to mention that tobacco—though we know the evils of tobacco well and truly—is a legal substance.

Yet, by the policy that has been outlined by the Leader of the Opposition, we will be driving more people to look at illegal alternatives. And I think there will be no taxation raised from that. So I think that the numbers that have been highlighted in the Financial Review as being very, very dodgy are probably even more dodgy, because we are driving people into illegal substances, that have who-knows-what in them, that will have no ability to fund the health services, undoubtedly, that smoking makes us pay.

With respect to the plain paper packaging that was so lauded by those opposite: it has made it easier for those criminals, those people who are involved in supplying these, sometimes under duress—and this is the fact. These are problems with public policy.

Labor's approach to education seems to be one of command and control. They want more control in Canberra, taking it away from school principals, who know best, from parents having an input into their children's education—that parental engagement—and, of course, from having a robust curriculum that is relevant and appropriate for the needs of a modern Australia.

Over 12 months ago I was very pleased to announce that a primary school in my electorate, the Evandale Primary School, just outside of Launceston, was the only school in Tasmania that had participated in the Early Learning Languages Australia application. I know that the prep and grade 1 students at Evandale Primary School benefited enormously from the additional money that is going into STEM funding, as was highlighted by the previous speaker from our side. (Time expired)