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Tuesday, 4 June 2013
Page: 5209

Ms SMYTH (La Trobe) (15:58): I am pleased to be able to make a few remarks to and inquiries of the minister this afternoon, particularly in relation to the National Plan for School Improvement and related budget measures. At the beginning of my comments and my questions this afternoon, may I say it is a great pleasure to see opposition members in the chamber. We waited for a considerable period, I recall, in last year's consideration in detail but, alas, failed to see opposition members attend. It is excellent to see them here this afternoon, and I look forward to hearing their questions on this important matter of education and the National Plan for School Improvement. These are matters which I know will be to be considerable benefit of schools in my electorate. Needless to say, that is not on my say-so: it is on the say-so of the schools themselves.

I have had the opportunity to visit so very many of my schools during the last three years, across La Trobe and across all sectors, and in recent months I have had cause to hear from those schools—indeed, as recently as last week in this place, when principals of schools within my electorate and right across the region came to the parliament and heard from the education minister and the shadow minister about what essentially is being offered in relation to school education in the context of the current budget and the forthcoming election. I heard from local schools in my area that they saw there was a great deal of benefit to be derived by them and their respective schools from the proposals put forward by us in the National Plan for School Improvement. So I certainly commend the minister for his mammoth endeavours in this regard over quite a long period of time, building on the review which we commissioned and building on the very significant investments which have been to the benefit of all schools around the country. That is as a result of the determination of this government, from day one of its term, to improve the lot of schoolchildren across all sectors and, accordingly, lift educational standards in the long term and improve the education and employment prospects of students.

I will refer to a few of the schools in my electorate that have been the beneficiaries of programs such as the national partnership on literacy and numeracy. I can advise members that St Michael's School in Berwick, Boronia Heights College in Boronia, Emerald Secondary College in Emerald, Kambrya College in Berwick, Upwey South Primary School and Belgrave Heights Christian School have all been beneficiaries under the national plan for literacy and numeracy. Schools like Kambrya College have made it very clear to me that they benefited greatly, and their students benefited greatly, and they were incredibly grateful for the Commonwealth investment there.

Regrettably, so many of these things the Commonwealth commits to and make significant strides in are vetoed by state governments. It has been true of the Baillieu government and it is true now of the Napthine government. It is the same old story. We put in significant amounts of funding and resources, we do the detailed work and then state governments scrap or cut things like the EMA in Victoria, the School Start Bonus, VET and VCAL funding, and funding for TAFE colleges—all things that are to the very great detriment of schools and to the very great detriment of students and their career paths in education.

I was out at another school in my electorate not terribly long ago, Selby Primary School. It has an excellent principal who has relatively recently joined the school and he is doing extraordinary things. I would be confident that he and his school community would make brilliant use of the additional resources that would flow from the National Plan for School Improvement. It disturbs me greatly that there has been such resistance from the Victorian government to even the prospect of engaging on the National Plan for School Improvement, and I dearly wish that they would follow the lead of some of their colleagues a little bit further north—in New South Wales—in having an open mind about this.

With that in mind, Minister Garrett, I would specifically like to ask you as someone who has been engaged in very detailed negotiations around the country on these issues what you would expect to happen to Victorian schools, such as those in my electorate, if the Napthine government continued to resist the National Plan for School Improvement?