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Tuesday, 8 May 2018
Page: 2590


Senator BARTLETT (Queensland) (17:53): I move:

That the Senate take note of document no. 18.

This document is a response from the Queensland Teachers' Union to a resolution passed by this chamber back on 20 March. I should say up-front for full disclosure that I'm a member of the Queensland Teachers' Union. I made no contribution to the response from the Queensland Teachers' Union, but their response does not surprise me. The resolution was laughable and ludicrous and yet another case of the absurd teacher bashing and the absurd attacks on our education system that we see from this government, which harm not just teachers but, much more importantly, our students—our young people—and the education system that they go through. We also saw this attitude not very long ago from the member for Bowman, who is also, perhaps not coincidentally, from the state of Queensland. The original resolution that this letter is a response to was from a Queensland senator, making ridiculous attacks on teachers.

I only worked as a high school teacher for a relatively short period of time, but I can tell you it's a much harder job than the one I've got now—much harder. The level of support that we all have in this place to do our job is massively greater than what teachers have, and teachers have to do it hour after hour, day after day, under significant pressure. They are paid a third or less than a third of what we get paid and get ridiculous, stupid attacks continually from our political institutions and our political leaders as part of the work that they do. What we need in this country is to have much greater support for and much greater recognition of the important and very valuable role that teachers already play. Inasmuch as our education system does not deliver what it needs to deliver, that is not the fault of teachers but the fault of governments in both the resource constraints and the politicised garbage that they are forced to endure has been put on them by governments, including this one that saw fit to move the ridiculous notion that this response relates to.

The idea that somehow or other you can teach students without talking about political issues—I'm not talking about party political issues but about human reality—is ridiculous. The year that I spent teaching—2015—was the hundred-year anniversary of Gallipoli and the Anzacs. How can you teach something like that without talking about the politics of the time? How can you teach students about the Iraq war without talking about the politics of the time? How can you teach people—students, anybody—about the Eureka Stockade without talking about the politics of the time? It is ludicrous. The original motion that, very unfortunately, was passed by this chamber sought to impose the political straitjacket of the view of the government of the day on teachers and on students. That is something we should always be speaking out against.

I welcome this response from the Queensland Teachers' Union, and I add my voice not just to this response but to the campaign by the Australian Education Union and teachers around the country to get better funding for schools. As part of all of their campaigning for better funding for schools they do not talk just about better pay for teachers, which, frankly, they should, because teachers are hopelessly underpaid for the incredibly important work that they do. That members of the current government attack teachers for what they do I find abominable. We need to support teachers. It is not just about pay but about recognising the importance of the work. We all know of examples of other countries around the world where teachers are better resourced and, more importantly, better respected. The original motion passed by the Senate cast appalling disrespect towards teachers. It was under the guise of union bashing, but it was teacher bashing. Let me tell you, as a former teacher, that it was teacher bashing. If we really want to get better results in our schools we need to stop this stupid culture of teacher bashing, so I welcome this response.

The DEPUTY PRESIDENT: Senator Bartlett, your time has expired.

Senator Bartlett: I seek leave to continue my remarks later.

Leave granted; debate adjourned.