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Election 2007: Minister criticises the ALP 'education revolution' plan; discusses Coalition education policy.

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Thur sday 15 November 2007

Election 2007: Minister criticises the ALP 'education revolution' plan; discusses Coalition education policy


TONY EASTLEY: As we heard there, the Labor Party has tried to differentiate itself from the Coalition by portraying itself as economically frugal and by claiming it's implementing an education revolution. 


But that is hotly disputed by the Federal Minister for Education, Julie Bishop. 


Julie Bishop, isn't it the case that Labor has led the debate on education right from the start of the year? 


JULIE BISHOP: No, it hasn't. What Kevin Rudd has done is raised expectations through the roof all year, promising he'd come up with innovative and original thinking, but when the time came to deliver, he failed. He's clearly vacated the field of new idea and there was nothing remotely revolutionary in anything he had to say.  


TONY EASTLEY: Well, he would disagree with that of course and the headline writers would probably disagree because he's been, you know, his laptop computer handout has been getting a lot of play and isn't the digital classroom the way of the future, as he says? 


JULIE BISHOP: Well, of course having access to computers is important, that's why the State Government, with Commonwealth support, have funded banks of computers in government and private schools.  


Now I visit schools across Australia, I'm yet to see a school that is not well served with computers.  


In fact, as early as 2003, the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) said Australia had universal access to computers by students. In fact we were the third highest country in the OECD in terms of ratio of computers per student.  


So of course technology is important, but students already have personal accounts, they log onto computers that are all networked in schools. But you know the important point about this? There was nothing in Labor's plan for teachers, and teachers are the single most important factor in a child's educational outcome after parents.  


Nothing to promote excellence for teachers, nothing on raising standards. 


TONY EASTLEY: Now your policies, the Coalition policies, have been roundly criticised by some private school principals, branding your policies short term. 


JULIE BISOP: Well, I don't understand that at all. The $6 billion that the Prime Minister announced for a tax rebate for all students every year is for education expenses that have been incurred by parents, and that's a wide range of expenses including the charges and levies imposed by State Governments in public schools, fees in the Catholic and independent sector, uniform, books, laptops; all of the costs that are incurred in sending a child to school.  


So I think it is providing the kind of support that parents need and recognising the kind of investment that parents make in their child's education. 


TONY EASTLEY: Well, I think the criticism was that it was just too wide and it wasn't means tested and that the money would be better spent on infrastructure in schools. 


JULIE BISHOP: The Australian Government has already provided substantial funding for infrastructure. We've doubled the federal investment in just government schools since we came to office, so there's been a significant increase in funding for schools. We had a $1.2 billion program, it's called Investing in Our Schools, and that allowed school communities to make decisions about what they thought were priorities.  


I noticed that Kevin Rudd's decided that he has to make the decision as to what is a priority for schools. 


TONY EASTLEY: The Federal Minister for Education, Julie Bishop, thanks for joining us this morning on AM. 


JULIE BISHOP: My pleasure.