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Tuesday, 21 August 2012
Page: 5950


Senator KROGER (VictoriaChief Opposition Whip in the Senate) (16:33): I am really pleased that we have had a number of school groups listening from the public galleries today, and one group has just moved on, because they heard and witnessed firsthand the absolute hypocrisy of those on the other side. I will first of all turn to the comments that Senator Wright made earlier on. It was like watching the trailer for a new Alice in Wonderlandproduction because what she actually said, and the kids upstairs in the public gallery actually heard, was that 'a child's education outcome is a 100 per cent product of advantage'. Her words were that any child's education outcome was purely down to advantage and not, to quote her words again, 'inherited ability'.

I do not know about you, Senator Mason, and I have not read as many books as you have—I have not studied and taught from as many learned books as you have—but I have certainly read enough to know that there are many in history who have had and have demonstrated an inherited ability. Let us start with Albert Einstein, whom we all know about. To suggest that people like him did not develop their ability through anything other than advantage is just extraordinary. Let us think of an even more immediate person, the Australian pianist David Helfgott—as if you could suggest that it was because of advantage that he developed the skills he did rather than because of inherited ability. It really was extraordinary Alice in Wonderland stuff.

The concern we have with the Gonski review is not the fact that we need to look at ways in which we can strengthen the education system in Australia—no-one on this side of the chamber has ever suggested that. I have to pay tribute to Senator Thorp because it is about the quality and choice in education. We must do everything we can to strengthen choice in education so that parents have an opportunity to ensure that they can give their children the best chance in life, the best shot at life, and the way to do that is through education, by giving them a hand up rather than a handout through life.

The big issue with the Gonski review is that, as we saw in the over 3,000 schools that get funding under the proposal he has put, there are insufficient funds unless funds are taken out from somewhere else and put into those schools that need greater investment. We know that this is just not going to happen, because we have billions of dollars here that, according to the Gonski review, need to be invested in education. We have billions of dollars that have to be invested NDIS and we have billions of dollars that need to go into border protection and propping up the policies of the government in that regard. So we know that this is an absolute furphy. It just is not going to materialise. This is something that the Gillard Labor government will never, ever have to implement.

Why is that? Because there is no way that they will be able to deliver on this before a federal election.

I am also reminded of the words that Senator Carr used in question time in response to a question today. It was Senator Kim Carr—I will qualify it—the fighter from the left, who used the term 'class warfare' not once, not twice but three times in a response to a question today. Why is that? Because we know that the old guard from the left in the Labor government that sit on that side of the chamber are still driving this. They have not got over the fact that Australia and the world have moved on since the fifties. They have not; they are still trying to perpetuate class warfare. We have seen this in recent months with Treasurer Wayne Swan trying to demonise those who are wealth creators in this country, who provide tens of thousands of jobs for hard-working Australians. They are trying to demonise the wealth creators as the evil bogeymen of this world.

This is what we are concerned about here. Whenever a Labor government start discussing funding for schools, their innate socialist approach to education rises to the fore and we know that it is all about stripping funding from independent or Catholic schools and propping up other government schools. We are not about stripping money from government schools; we want to make sure that all schools are properly funded to provide choice for parents.

In closing, there is a school in Croydon. It is a school for disabled kids. It provides education for more than 100 kids—it is something like 110 kids. Under the Gonski review proposal that school would lose its funding—it is a government school—to the tune of $2,884,667. So this school that is absolutely critical in Croydon, in the electorate of Deakin, would lose more than $2.8 million. They would be $2.8 million worse off. It is a secondary school that caters for students who have experienced difficulty for various reasons, who cannot find an education other than— (Time expired)