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Tuesday, 11 September 2012
Page: 10182


Ms OWENS (Parramatta) (14:30): My question is to the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth. Will the minister outline why we need to invest in a national plan to improve all of our schools?

Mr GARRETT (Kingsford SmithMinister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth) (14:31): I thank the member for Parramatta for her question. For students to reach their full capacity and for the nation to have sustainable prosperity, investing in education is absolutely crucial. I think I heard President Obama say that education is a gateway to the future for students and for the nation. It certainly is that, and that is why we have announced a national plan for school improvement. But improving schools requires funding—funding to train the teachers, funding to buy the books and materials and funding to employ specialists to give extra time to students who need it—and that is why this government is spending almost double what was spent by the Howard government previously. This is investment that is making a difference, particularly to students who are struggling at school.

Critically, under our school improvement plan, every school's funding will continue to rise. There will be no cuts; no schools will have their funding frozen. This is important because, at this point in time, wherever we look across the state landscape, all we see are cuts—whether it is cuts to TAFE or cuts to education—and, when we look across the chamber to the comrades of the coalition governments in power in the states on the opposition benches, all we see here is cuts as well. The fact is that the coalition have promised to cut $2.8 billion—cuts that would affect education in Australia across both the government and the non-government school sectors. We are very concerned about the impact of cuts to education that are proposed by the Leader of the Opposition. Even though we did see some crocodile tears cast in the shadow party room today about what is in our DNA and what is not in our DNA, the fact is that, when the shadow Treasurer applauds the Queensland Premier for his 'incredible courage' and when the opposition leader clearly knows and converses with the Premier in New South Wales about his plans for the state, we understand clearly that cuts lie at the heart of the agenda of the opposition on education.

Making $2.8 billion in cuts to education will affect students right around Australia at a time when what we really want is a national improvement plan for schooling. I have to say that, as I see those cuts in place, I want to make it perfectly clear—

Opposition members: What cuts?

Mr GARRETT: The cuts that you have on the record at this very moment. I want to make it perfectly clear: we have invested and will continue to invest over time to make our schools amongst the best in the world, but we will not invest where state governments take out that investment in the expectation that we will make up the difference. We are on the record as having a national plan for school improvement, which means supporting schools; all they want to do is cut.

Ms OWENS (Parramatta) (14:34): Madam Deputy Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. Minister, what would be the impact of cutting funding to schools and education systems, particularly for my home state of New South Wales?

Mr Morrison interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): The Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth has the call and will be heard in silence, the member for Cook.

Mr GARRETT (Kingsford SmithMinister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth) (14:34): I thank the member for Parramatta for that question. Incidentally, in the member's electorate she has some 43 buildings—$100 million of investment in new education infrastructure. She has some 9,700 computers in place. She has eight schools in Parramatta benefiting under the smarter schools partnership. Each member in this House—and Labor members know this—has been the beneficiary of the investments that this government has made in education and will continue to make in education over time.

I am asked about the impact of cutting funding to school systems, particularly in New South Wales. It is disturbing to hear these reports that there are potentially $1.7 billion worth of cuts going into education in New South Wales, including cuts to government schools and to TAFEs. At a time when we have on the table a plan for national school improvement—a commitment to invest in education, because that is what the Gonski panel told us—if we want to deal with the needs that students face in schools in New South Wales and around Australia then we need a national plan for school improvement, and we are committed to doing that.

The member for Parramatta and members on this side can have confidence that this government will continue to invest in education. But, as far as the coalition goes, in the state of New South Wales and Australia wide, all they seem to be interested in doing is cutting. (Time expired)