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Wednesday, 12 September 2012
Page: 6735

Education


Senator THISTLETHWAITE (New South Wales) (14:06): My question is to the minister representing the Prime Minister and the Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, Senator Evans. Can the minister advise the Senate how the Gillard government's record investments in education and skills, and strong jobs growth, are good for the Australian economy?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:06): I thank the senator for his question, because it is at the core of the priorities of this government. Despite the global financial crisis, this government has seen the creation of 800,000 new jobs and has invested at record levels in education and skills—in all levels of education, be it preschool, primary school, high school, vocational education or tertiary. That commitment and that investment have been at the heart of our attempt to drive a modern economy to make sure that we have the skills and education of our people so that they can take advantage of the economic opportunities that become available to Australia and obviously drive innovation.

But that investment has been undermined by announcements by state governments in recent days that seek to reduce Australia's overall commitment to education and skills by slashing their funding to education and skills development in the Australian economy. Not only that, but they are sacking thousands and thousands of educators—thousands of people who are actually contributing to the development of skills in this country. We know that the Liberal and National parties have been briefed on these things and their spokespeople have supported the measures that have been taken. Yesterday New South Wales took $1.7 billion out of schools, public and private. Eight hundred TAFE jobs will be gone, and there will be a 10 per cent increase in TAFE fees. How is that going to improve education? How is that going to improve job opportunities for young people? In Queensland 14,000 people lost their jobs and there are plans to halve the number of TAFEs. In Victoria $300 million is being taken out of the TAFE system. How can we skill our people with that sort of attack on education and skills development going on in this country? (Time expired)


Senator THISTLETHWAITE (New South Wales) (14:09): Mr President, my first supplementary question is: can the minister advise the Senate on how recent budget cuts from coalition state governments put at risk the benefits of the Gillard government's investments?

Opposition senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Wait a minute, Senator Evans. When there is silence we will proceed.



Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:09): Whilst we are investing at record levels, trying to meet the skills demands of the economy and provide record education opportunities for our young people, these state governments are destroying that investment by taking money out at the other end, by sacking educators, by closing campuses and by slashing the educational opportunities available to young people, particularly those in rural and regional education.

Opposition senators interjecting

Senator CHRIS EVANS: The hypocrisy of you, Senator—day in, day out, saying: 'Don't lift mining taxes. You'll destroy jobs.' Yet where are you when the coal industry suffers under these attacks?

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Senator Evans, just resume your seat. Order! I remind senators on both sides that interjections across the chamber are disorderly. Minister, continue.

Senator CHRIS EVANS: Month after month they have come in here and said, 'A price on carbon will destroy jobs.' Well, tell me. It is nothing like Campbell Newman. All the lobbying says jobs will grow, but Campbell Newman is going to sack 14,000 people. So there are no questions about climate change, no questions about jobs and no questions about taxes on mining companies today, because the hypocrisy— (Time expired)

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! When there is silence we will proceed.






Senator THISTLETHWAITE (New South Wales) (14:11): Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. I further ask the minister: is he aware of any further risks to the Gillard government's record investments in education and skills?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:11): These cuts by Liberal-National state governments reflect the same agenda that the Liberal Party took to the last federal election, which represented the Howard government's record: failure to invest in higher education and failure to invest in vocational education. We know where their black hole will be funded from: out of education. When the Gonski report was released their leader, Mr Abbott, said: 'Public don't need any more money. We don't support this, because public schools don't need any more money to support a lift in educational standards.' We are seeing the VET system in this country ruined by state governments, and where are the National Party? When there are campus closures in rural and regional Australia and kids denied educational opportunities, we hear nothing from them. In fact, the Victorian and New South Wales ministers are Nats, and they are closing campuses and reducing opportunities for kids in rural areas. This Liberal-National agenda is— (Time expired)