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Wednesday, 13 March 2013
Page: 1903

Mr SIMPKINS (Cowan) (13:39): It is great to have this opportunity to speak on the Australian Education Bill 2012. Like so many of us here in this chamber and in the galleries, I have a personal interest in good education. I have two daughters, aged 14 and 10, and I want them to do better than I did in school. In some subjects, I am sure that will not be too much of a challenge! But it is important that we focus on what is real and outcomes that are going to be effective. As the member for Mayo just said, when we come to this place and debate something as grand-sounding as the Australian Education Bill, within the context of the Gonski report, it leads a lot of people in this country to believe that this is the outcome—the panacea—at the end of that report. The reality, again as the member for Mayo said, is that it is far from that. It is nine pages—or 11 if you throw in the table of contents—just a handful of pages really, which are full of motherhood statements that are not going to end up delivering anything for the children and the next generations of this country.

The reason why this is the case is that the government see a problem in the future. They see a day of reckoning when the Australian people will next have the opportunity to pass judgement upon those that sit in this chamber and upon the government. To try to counter a judgement that they think is going to be harsh and negative towards them, we are starting to see these sorts of things—the motherhood statements that are part of this bill. We are going to see a little bit more fighting it out with the states, and a return to the days of the blame game. The Rudd government—or the first Rudd government; there might be another one yet in the next couple of months; who knows?—talked about ending the blame game and being the adults in the room and stuff like that. But now we are going back to the Prime Minister and the government looking for more opportunities to try to blame the states, particularly now that the people in so many states have rejected Labor. It gives the government the opportunity to try and shift a little blame, throw a little smoke, throw a little mud out there, to try to demonstrate that it is not them on that side of this chamber but someone else who is to blame, someone else who is letting them down. That might be the case in South Australia, but we saw in the election last weekend in Western Australia that the Liberal and National parties were returned strongly there, with a great vote of confidence from the electors. I will go into the reasons why that state government was returned and the good things that it is doing in education.

If you wander around the hallways of this place, you will see on the office windows of most members from the other side a nice big green sign with the words 'I give a Gonski' on it. Being the fairly worldly person that I am, having spent 15 years in the Army, I have heard that phrase used before with the word 'Gonski' replaced by another word. I have never found that a particularly edifying word, and I have never found that expression to be a particularly great way to carry an argument. If you look for the source of it—and someone has to admit responsibility for such coarseness and such pointlessness—where does it come from? The Australian Education Union. There is a little bit of posturing with some of the ads on TV and these sorts of posters. They like to imply that they actually care about the children of this country. But, as we have found in various places around the country, they are fundamentally concerned with themselves, in the way that so many unions are—'Let's make sure that there's a career stream at the top of the Education Union'—and the fact that they can muddy the waters a little bit—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. BC Scott ): Order! It being 1:45 pm, the debate is interrupted in accordance with standing order 43. The member for Cowan will have leave to continue his remarks at a later hour.