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Tuesday, 3 December 2013
Page: 1422


Mr TUDGE (AstonParliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister) (15:32): There has been a lot of talk about unity tickets in relation to this school funding debate, but the real unity ticket we now know is the unity ticket between Mark Latham and Bill Shorten. Because the last Labor leader to rip funding from schools was none other than Mark Latham. And now Bill Shorten has become the second one, ripping $1.2 billion out of schools.

Mark Latham, to his credit, at least had the courage to be up-front and to say, 'I'm going to cut funding from lots of independent and Catholic schools,' whereas Bill Shorten did it very sneakily. He did not announce it, he did not put out a press release—it was only through the details of the financial outlook pre-election where it was revealed that $1.2 billion of school funding was ripped out of public schools from Western Australia, from Queensland and from the Northern Territory. There is a unity ticket, and it is between Mark Latham and Bill Shorten. And perhaps we can add Jay Weatherill to that, the South Australian Premier, who just yesterday confirmed that $220 million has been ripped out of public schools in South Australia.

This is an extraordinary MPI that has been put forward by the Labor Party. Labor had six years to do so much in education, but they did so little. And yet only after 2½ months of the coalition being in government, they have the audacity to criticise us for supposedly failing to achieve real reform in education. I can tell you, Mr Deputy Speaker, that after just 2½ months we have achieved more than what Labor did in six years. Let me go through just some of the things that we have already done in this 2½ months.

Firstly, we reversed the disastrous decision in relation to capping self-education expenses. Secondly, we found the $1.2 billion which the Labor Party ripped out of school funding and put it back in. Thirdly, we negotiated a real national school reform agenda, something which Labor could not do in their entire six years of office. And, fourthly, we are putting in place the steps which are necessary to implement our election commitments. Four substantial things, real reform that we have put in place in just 2½ months—so much more than what Labor did after six years. And yet they have the audacity to come in here and lecture us about not delivering on school reform.

Let us just go through what Labor did, though, in relation to education. They ripped $3.8 billion out in total, as the Prime Minister mentioned. They ripped a further $1 billion out of the universities. They ripped $1.2 billion out of schools on the eve of the election. They added volumes of red tape to the school funding reforms, which, had they been in power now, would be tying up the education system. And they put in place reforms which have led to the collapse of teacher entry standards for students going into teaching courses. Those are some of the substantial things which they did in their six years of office. And now you can compare that to what we have already achieved in our 2½ months.

What is real education reform? School funding is part of it, but it is not the only thing. We know that because over the last decade we have had a 44 per cent increase in funding in real terms in education in this country but we have actually had a decline in standards. So clearly there is not a direct causal link between funding and outcomes. So what does matter? Yes, funding is necessary but it is not sufficient. What does matter is giving school principals autonomy so that they can make decisions for their own schools. What further matters is teacher quality. Every single piece of research will tell you that teacher quality is what matters and it starts at the education faculties of the universities. Thirdly, what matters is a rigorous curriculum, because the standards are set by the minimum standards of the curriculum. Those are the things that we are going to be concentrating on: teacher quality, school autonomy and a rigorous curriculum. That is real school education reform. (Time expired)