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Thursday, 1 March 2012
Page: 2515


Ms SMYTH (La Trobe) (14:10): My question is to the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister update the House on how the government is supporting jobs today while helping Australians get the jobs of tomorrow? Why is it important that we get things done on the reforms that we need for the future?

Mr Pyne interjecting

The SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sturt has not been sent out of the chamber for a while.

Mr Pyne: Too long, Mr Speaker!

The SPEAKER: The honourable member is indicating he would like to leave. However, I call the Prime Minister.

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:10): I thank the member for her question. The most important thing we can do for working families is to make sure that anyone who goes to work comes home that night or at the end of their work, which is why it was a very great privilege for me to meet today with the families of truck drivers, the families of people who know what it is like to lose someone in a road accident—not just someone who works in the truck-driving industry but the people who have been killed in accidents because of lack of safety by big trucks on our road. There would not be too many Australians who do not know what it feels like to be on a major highway and be concerned about their safety as a big truck comes in the vicinity of their car.

We can do better than that. We know that so much of that conduct that we see on our roads is driven by the structure of the industry—the inability of drivers to get safe rates and an incentive system that encourages them to drive faster and longer, beyond the limits of human endurance and beyond the limits of fatigue. That is something that, for those drivers, we need to understand under the current industry system, but it is something we can change. We can change it by having safe rates in the truck-driving industry, and we intend to do so. We have brought legislation to the parliament to achieve just that.

Working families want to see their loved ones come home. Another great desire of working families is that their children have a better opportunity in life than they did. Most working families aspire more than anything else to see their children enjoy a level of success in their lives beyond what they themselves were able to achieve. That is why we are so passionate about investing in education—it is so important to the future of our economy. We cannot make the happy assumption we will be the high-skilled, high-wage economy in our region. Unless we invest in education, others will win the education race and, as a result, win the economic race too.

We are investing in education, and it is making a real difference. So I am very pleased and proud to report to the House today the fact that student numbers in universities have increased by 27 per cent since we came to office. That is over 150,000 more students going to university as a result of our special incentives. Many of them come from poorer households and are the first in their family to step inside a university.

Many of us of my generation know our lives were transformed by getting access to higher education and that we would not have done so if it had not been for the Whitlam reforms. I am very pleased to be able to report to the House today there is another generation getting access to the opportunity because of the reforms of this Labor government.