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Tuesday, 12 February 2013
Page: 970

Ms HALL (Shortland) (18:09): I am glad, Mr Deputy Speaker, that you have pointed that out to the member for Grey because I was sitting here thinking what an extraordinary contribution to the debate it was that I was listening to. One that was not based on fact. A contribution that really had no relevance to the Australian Education Bill 2012 that we are talking about here but which referred to an adjournment to an amendment that was nothing more than a motherhood statement and platitudes. It was one of the most disappointing contributions to any debate that I have had to sit in this chamber and listen to, particularly when we are talking about something as important as the education and future of young Australians. What it also said to me is that the opposition is unable to adopt a constructive approach to any issue, even an issue as important as education.

One of the most precious gifts we can give our children is a good education, an education that prepares them for life and gives them the opportunity to enjoy all the benefits that a quality education provides: choice and opportunity. It is the key that unlocks the door and guarantees a person a good quality of life and, generally speaking, educational attainment equates to better jobs and higher income. Furthermore, as a nation, Australia needs an educated workforce for a strong economy and also to position itself in the world.

The legislation before us today creates a framework to ensure Australia's schooling system will be in the top five international performers in reading, science and mathematics by 2025. Through this bill students, regardless of their circumstances, are entitled to an excellent education, allowing each student to reach their potential. There are five core reform directions of the national plan, and this is all about implementation of the National Plan for School Improvement. Those five core reform directions are: quality teaching, quality learning, empowered school leadership, transparency and accountability, and meeting students' needs. It is based on and built on collaboration between the states, territories, the non-government sector and the Commonwealth. To listen to the previous speaker, one would think that this was all done in isolation—quite the contrary. This has been developed through enormous consultation and, in addition to the consultation with the groups and bodies I have already mentioned, it has also been done in consultation with parent groups, educational unions and representatives of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders.

This new funding model that will be implemented is based on a benchmark amount that accounts for the costs associated with providing higher quality education, and loadings which address the educational costs associated with the disadvantaged—something the members on the other side of this parliament have never considered in any legislation that they have presented to the parliament. This is an undertaking to all students in all schools that they will have this access to an excellent education, to reach their full potential and to have opportunities and choices in the future. It is needs based and determined to reduce the educational disparity to all students, including those in regional Australia. It is also about achieving a national goal of being placed in the top five nations in the world, as I have already mentioned.

This plan came out of the Gonski review, which was the first review that has been undertaken by any federal government in the last 40 years, something that those on the other side of the parliament shirked and moved away from or refused to undertake when they were in government.

I put to the House that over the past decade Australian students, because of the opposition's failure when they were in government to address this, have declined. Students have fallen from second to seventh in reading and fifth to 13th in maths in the international PISA exams. We on this side of the House do not think that is good enough. We think we should be right up there in the top five in all areas, and that is what we want to work towards.

The National School Improvement Plan will deliver more money and resources to every school in the country. A new skill-funding system will be based on the recommendations of the Gonski review. This is about a framework; this is about implementing the recommendations. It is a new way of funding every school that will guarantee all our schools are getting the money they need to do the job. There will be higher standards for teachers, with at least a term's classroom experience before graduation. Teachers will get extra training in managing disruptive behaviour and dealing with bullying, and there will be more power for principals. There will be better My School information to make sure no school falls behind.

I add that the Howard government did not implement any reforms when it was in power. What the Labor government has done is provide more information to parents. Every school will have a school improvement plan which outlines the steps that the school will take to improve student results, and students who need extra help to improve their results will get it. The school improvement plan will be part of the national drive to ensure we win the educational race in the Asian century, which is very important. There will be extra money for schools. The Gonski review recommended around $6.5 billion in today's figures, and this is the ballpark: this is what we need to negotiate between the states to put in place a fair share from both the Australian government and the states.

I come from New South Wales, and in New South Wales the state government—the O'Farrell government—has demonstrated a lack of commitment to education. Rather than putting money into education it has been ripping money out of education. That impacts on the amount of money contributed by the Commonwealth as well because there is a ratio between the state and federal dollars that are invested. I find that very disappointing. It has had an enormous impact on the schools in my electorate. I have been approached by both the non-government sector, an independent school, Catholic educators and the public system, and they have all expressed their dismay at the lack of commitment to education by the coalition government in New South Wales.

Here in the House tonight we have had demonstrated to us visually that it is not only New South Wales where there is a lack of commitment to education but also here in the federal parliament. Here in the Australian parliament we have heard how the opposition is negative and committed to saying no to reform on education. We have heard weasel words. We know on this side of the House that at the end of the day the people who are going to be affected negatively are the students in our schools—those young children who look to government to ensure that they get a quality education. It also impacts on us as a nation because we need to compete globally, and the only way we can really do that is if we have an educated workforce that is able to go out there in the international market and put Australia in the position it should be.

In my electorate of Shortland there have been a number of improvements since Labor came to power. There are 20,000 students in the electorate in 48 schools now, since the state government amalgamated two of my schools. There were 114 BER projects worth nearly $90,000,000. There are 7,589 students who have received computers under the Digital Education Revolution; I hear every day how that has benefited the students educationally. There are two trade training centres benefiting 11 schools of which four are in the Shortland electorate. The planned Australian technical college on the Central Coast that did not eventuate has been devolved into the local high schools. That, along with the trade training centres, has really benefited students in an area where there is quite a lot of disadvantage. It is providing them with opportunities that they would not have had otherwise, because of the distances they need to travel.

In addition to the programs I have mentioned, there is a trade training centre at Catholic schools within the area. This has also benefited students enormously. Literacy and numeracy national partnerships programs are in St Brendans Catholic School and St Pius in Windale, which has the lowest SES of any school in New South Wales. Other schools that have also benefited enormously from this program are: Gorokan Public School, Gwandalan Public School, Lake Munmorah High School, Mannering Park Public School, Windale Public School, Gateshead Public School, Gateshead West Public School, which has amalgamated with Gateshead, Northlakes High and Northlakes Public.

The school chaplaincy program has benefitted many schools including: Belmont Christian College, Gorokan High School, Northlakes High School, Swansea High School, Budgewoi Public School, Gorokan Public School, Belmont High School, Belmont North Public School, Warners Bay High School, Kahibah Public School and Whitebridge High School. In addition to that program, which is well and truly appreciated by those schools, I give special mention to Floraville Public School, which received nearly $6 million from the government—$5.95 million, to be exact—under the capital program and this funding has been truly appreciated. I must admit the state government did put some money in: not even half a million dollars, $460,000. It is a school that has made a really big commitment to education. I have seen the school grow under the Rudd and Gillard Labor governments.

This government has made a real commitment to education. The BER program was appreciated by the schools in my electorate. It was put to me by principals that it is once-in-a-generation investment in education, along with the computers, the trade training centres and all the other initiatives that have delivered a better quality education. These programs have made education more attainable. Now we have before us this bill that is going to move Australia forward in the 21st century. It will provide all students attending all schools opportunities that they have not had in the past. This is very good legislation, and I implore those on the other side of the House to rethink and support the legislation. (Time expired)