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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9326


Mr CHEESEMAN (Corangamite) (20:23): On 27 November 2010, the Liberals in Victoria won a very close election by the smallest of margins. They came to office on the promise that they would do nothing—that everything would continue on and that there would be no job cuts in key areas such as education, health and the like. Since then, we have seen nothing but broken promises. We have seen jobs lost from the Victorian Public Service, we have seen jobs lost from the TAFE sector and, importantly and very disappointingly, we have seen resources pulled away from families and schools to deliver the key education commitments that I would have thought would have been bipartisan.

From the start of this year parents received the news that the new school start bonus would be cut by the Baillieu government. Not only were schools informed of this but also they were informed, as I understand it, that they would be responsible to communicate it to parents. This effectively means that the Baillieu government was itself too gutless to write to parents to inform them that the government did not see the importance of the school start bonus. It is a gutless act not to inform parents directly and instead to require principals to inform students.

In contrast to the approach adopted by the Liberal Party and in particular by the Baillieu government, federal Labor does understand how hard it can be to start kids in school, and as a consequence of that fact we have put in place the schoolkids bonus to help support kids and families in their education needs. Through this bonus we have structured a very generous arrangement whereby the money in question will be paid at the commencement of term 1, when parents realise—often suddenly—that their kids have grown since the conclusion of term 4 and that they require new uniforms and also that new books need to be bought for their kids before the commencement of the school year. Labor recognises that in Victoria and across Australia we have a semester system—we have the first semester and we have the second semester. With this in mind we have structured the second payment to be made at the commencement of term 3 to support kids and their families in their need to buy winter uniforms and textbooks for the commencement of that term.

Labor also recognises that secondary school students often have greater education requirements than their primary school brothers and sisters. That is why we have provided a two-tiered system of some $410 for primary-age students and some $820 for secondary students. Anyone who has kids knows that secondary students require more investment in books and other such things. There are some 9,000 families across the broader Geelong region who will benefit from the schoolkids bonus. I know that all of those families very much support and recognise the role that governments can play—particularly honest governments which get on with doing what they say they are going to do, unlike the Baillieu government, whose primary election commitment at the 2010 state election poll was that it was going to do nothing. There was nothing to fear and nothing to be worried about in electing a Liberal state government—'we're not like Jeff Kennett; we're going to take a meat axe to the public service, to schools and to the health care system.' But since then—(Time expired)

Debate adjourned.