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Tuesday, 18 June 2013
Page: 6070

Education Funding

Ms SAFFIN (Page) (14:24): My question is to the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth. Minister, will you please update the House on how the National Plan for School Improvement is being implemented in partnership with state governments, particularly that in New South Wales? Minister, can you also inform the House about the ongoing response to this implementation?

Mr GARRETT (Kingsford SmithMinister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth) (14:24): I thank the member for her question. She is a great advocate for improved educational opportunities for the people in her region. The fact is that better schools mean a better future for Australia. If we look at a young person who is highly skilled, they can earn up to 2½ times as much over their lifetime as someone who does not have high skills, and someone who finishes school in year 11 is likely to earn about 10 per cent more over their lifetime, so it makes a big difference in a school how well a young person is educated. As the Prime Minister has already referred to in the parliament, the New South Wales government has delivered its budget and it has made the necessary investment in our plan for school improvement.

I just want to go back to what Premier O'Farrell said when they signed up, because he said it provides 'additional resources, fairer distribution to deliver higher standards and better outcomes in schools across New South Wales'. Today Minister Piccoli is saying quite clearly that New South Wales got a fantastic deal, a $5 billion deal—we contributed $1.7 billion—and they have followed it up by saying, 'We will always cooperate with the federal government to produce better outcomes for our students.' And we absolutely agree, because this is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to put our students above politics and to secure our future. That is why we voted in the House for the Australian Education Bill and that is why we are asking other states to get on board with this National Plan for School Improvement.

Now I am asked about responses and there is confusion among those opposite in terms of responses. I heard the member for Riverina lamenting the fact that in the top 50 schools in the region there is only one regional school and that is a private school and that is alarming, to say the least. Yes, it is alarming and the reason for that is that, under the new National Plan for School Improvement, regional schools would see specific loadings because they are regional schools. That may have passed by the member's notice at this point in time. Then we have got the shadow minister, the member for Sturt—he has never been interested; he never looked at the plan—dismiss the Gonski review in 20 minutes and describe our goal to have Australia's schools in the top five performing nations in education as a 'mad plan' and then he sort of said that, well, Gonski is 'conski'. Last night, I notice, the shadow minister said in the House:

With those few words, I point out that the coalition will not oppose this bill. … We cannot support it and we cannot oppose it …

There you go: 'we cannot support it but we cannot oppose it'. Well, what can they do about education in our nation when we are on the cusp of the most important reform to deliver a needs based funding system to make sure that every school in Australia is a great school?