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Wednesday, 12 September 2012
Page: 10413

Mr BROADBENT (McMillan) (16:54): I think the debate has gone right off the rails and is being used for base political purposes. It does not enhance the ambience of this place and certainly does not enhance the reputation of the member for Chifley—although I would never doubt the passion of the member for Cunningham for what she puts forward. So I just want to bring a bit of truth into the debate; that is all.

I just want to tell this parliament and the people that are listening to this debate the truth about what is happening, particularly in Victoria in regard to TAFE, because it has been raised by ministers and it was raised by the Prime Minister. If I am allowed to say so, the Victorian government, rather than cutting TAFE, have capped the expenditure on TAFE. They had to do it because the Labor government under Brumby and Bracks left them in the most disgraceful fiscal position since Joan Kirner left the last Labor government in exactly the same position. The Victorian government are actually spending an extra $250 million per year over the next four years on training. They are investing that in TAFE and other training facilities that will, in this case, have courses that do something amazing: they lead to jobs! They have changed the policy so that the courses that they are funding lead people into jobs.

Mr Tehan: How dare they!

Mr BROADBENT: How dare they do that! A job! The most interesting part, Mr Deputy Speaker, is that your own minister suggested to one of our ministers that it was a good idea to fund appropriate programs to put people into jobs.

If you want to know a premier of a state who has been left in a diabolical position, I name Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, which have all been left in most difficult fiscal positions in their budgets. They come in and they have to make a change. And you want to talk about those premiers today. Why don't you talk about the people that put them in the position where the state governments have to react in such a way? If you want your pet projects up, if you want your hospitals funded properly, if you want the new roads that need to be done right across this nation, and if they are the responsibility of the states, do not allow Labor governments to destroy the financial positions of those states until they hand them over to a Liberal-National coalition to fix the problem, to introduce programs into TAFE colleges right across Victoria that will supply—what?—jobs: jobs for people. They supply more apprenticeships for apprentices, although the downturn that is creeping across the nation is affecting the opportunities for those apprentices.

You know, I reckon every member of parliament in this place is feeling that. I reckon every member of parliament in this place is getting a bit of a message about what is going on out in their communities. We are all a bit tentative at the moment because our builders' phones have stopped ringing; our electricians' phones have stopped ringing—

Mr Ewen Jones: Get a plumber.

Mr BROADBENT: Well, you can get a plumber down our way at the moment. You can get a lot of plumbers at the moment, and that is a huge change.

I am just making the point: if you are going to talk about education and you are going to talk about it seriously, why is it that the first thing that every government does, when it talks about an education crusade or these things, is start attacking teachers? It is the first thing it does. It says, 'Oh, blame the teachers!' I can tell you that the members that are sitting here in this room—and they come from right across Australia at the moment—know very, very, very good teachers. They know teachers that teach with a vision and with a heart and a passion for the people that they serve within their schools and their communities.

Mr Ewen Jones: I'm married to one.

Mr BROADBENT: You are married to one? I did not know that, Ewen. What the Prime Minister did not know was this: school improvement plans in Victoria have been in place for—what?—a decade and a half. We have had school improvement plans, which the Prime Minister talked about. These are tied to principal and teacher performance plans, which is what the Prime Minister was talking about, and to the whole school and individual professional development programs. Those are what the Prime Minister is talking about in her crusade. For teacher registration with the Victorian Institute of Teaching, it is compulsory. This body mandates professional development of teachers as a condition of registration.

As for delivering a common curriculum attached to standards, providing individual learning plans, reporting to parents, and adhering to standardised testing in literacy and numeracy in years 3, 5 and 7, we are already doing it. Student teachers are already spending 15 weeks in training in schools. We are already doing it. So a lot of the Prime Minister's discussions were pure rhetoric.

What we forget—and every member of parliament knows this because they come across it every time they go to a school—is that our teachers and principals spend an inordinate amount of time dealing with behavioural, social and parenting issues, which detract from teaching time, of course. And why? Why do schools provide breakfast programs? Have you heard of breakfast programs? Why do schools provide breakfast programs? Because they have to, because the kids have come to school without any food. Teachers plead for more assistance from psychologists and speech therapists, and more assistance for disability programs and to deal with attendance issues, because if you are not at school you cannot learn. So the headwinds facing Labor in its response to Gonski are considerable.

I know the member for Gippsland would like to get on. I will get off and let him come forth, but first I just want to say one thing: we are all passionate about teachers and education. We run a crusade every day in our electorates for the betterment of our children and the betterment of our schools and the opportunities that we want to give the next generation. But you cannot have rhetoric and talk and not back it up with some money on the table for students to make a success of their lives.