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Thursday, 13 August 2009
Page: 7852

Mr FARMER (3:33 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Education, and I refer the minister to her answer yesterday in relation to the National partnership agreement for low SES school communities in which she blamed everyone from Verity Firth to the opposition and even the Australian Bureau of Statistics for the fact that schools in Macquarie Fields and Claymore are missing out on support. Given that she is the minister responsible for the $1.5 billion in expenditure, why will she not take responsibility for her own failure to stop the needy communities from missing out?

Ms GILLARD (Deputy Prime Minister) —I thank the member for his question. I reassure him that I, and this side of the House, take responsibility for lifting the educational standards of every child and I, and this side of the House, take responsibility for combating educational disadvantage. And why do we need to do that? Because under more than a decade of the Howard government no-one ever sat at a desk and thought about what they could do about educational disadvantage. The proof of that is that, on the day we were elected and sworn in as a front bench and as Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, if any of us had called on that day for a list of the thousand most disadvantaged schools in this country it could not have been produced. The Howard government did not care enough to even ask the question.

In view of that—

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Under standing order 104, the minister was asked about taking responsibility, not the blame game.

The SPEAKER —On the point of order, again there was a long preamble. The Deputy Prime Minister has the call.

Ms GILLARD —Faced with this track record of neglect, we stepped up to the plate to take responsibility for making a difference. And how are we making that difference? A new national partnership for disadvantaged schools is part of it. As the member who asked the question would have known if he had listened to my answer yesterday which he sought to misrepresent in this place, the list published about New South Wales is a list for consultation using ABS data—that is true—because what was available was ABS data. What we are doing with our transparency reforms, which are opposed by the Liberals in New South Wales—maybe you should speak to the Leader of the Opposition in New South Wales about that—is to build the information we actually need to make sure that educational resources and efforts can be brought to bear, particularly in those schools that need them the most, where students are not getting an education that will serve them well for the rest of their lives and where the kids come from school bearing the disadvantages of a poor background. We are building that.

But we were not going to stand by and see another generation of Australian children failed during their education in the way the Howard government failed. We were not going to stand by and say, ‘Those kids, who only get one chance at school, can wait for us to build the transparency measures.’ We were going to act immediately, and that is why we are acting on the ABS data available to us. Apart from the partnership for disadvantaged schools, we are already moving so that there will be better teachers in disadvantaged schools, better rewarded for being there—that reform is coming to New South Wales; literacy and numeracy money expended where it is needed the most to make a difference to children getting the building blocks of education; a national curriculum of quality right around the country; and early childhood reforms that make sure kids, particularly kids from disadvantaged backgrounds, come to school ready to learn. This is allied with our reforms in vocational education and training and in universities to make a difference for all but most particularly for the most disadvantaged.

In the face of that, all we hear from the Liberal Party is whinging and moaning, and the only thing their shadow minister has ever done is put one speech from outside this parliament on his website this year—one speech as shadow minister for education published this year. If you want to be in the education debate, what you have to do is think about ideas that will make a difference, publish them and stand by them. That is what we are doing; that is called ‘taking responsibility’. What you are doing is laziness and arrogance, and it shows. No-one is interested in a repeat of the failed Howard years. We are there making a difference with our education revolution, and caring about educational disadvantage in this country is revolutionary.