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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 6279

Mr HUSIC (Chifley) (12:58): It gives me great pleasure to speak on this, because I think these types of events are absolutely important to showcase young talent in our nation, particularly focusing on endeavours that will be important for the country in the years ahead. We know that technology will have a profound impact on the way we work and live our lives generally. The way that communities will operate will either make them more connected or less. It will either make them much better off or see jobs change in a way that will leave people negatively impacted. The challenge for the country, as it is in most parts of the world and especially in our regional neighbourhood, is to invest in human capital, to lift the skills base of people, particularly our next generation, to be able to manage the types of changes to come. Events like the Olympiad, which has been highlighted helpfully by the member, are important ways we can celebrate the achievements of that next generation.

A lot of us heartily celebrate and recognise the people who have been able to secure a spot in the Olympiad that is fast approaching, particularly in terms of science, maths and technology. We do wish them all the very best. I note that hundreds of schools across the country competed and that nearly 6,000 students were involved. In a competition like this, which is trying to ensure that the best and brightest represent us, you will have a group of people who will be very successful as well as those who wish they had been able to secure better success than they did achieve. In looking at the list, I have no doubt it is a very strong group, but this debate throws up something that we need to think about more. A lot of the schools represented there are schools that pride themselves on these endeavours, but I want to see more public schools, and public schools from our outer regions, do well in this. The reason is that, if they do well, you can expect that the breadth of focus, the talent development and the investment in human capital are not being concentrated within the areas closest to the CBDs of our country but there is a wider effort and a wider endeavour. This is very important.

I take nothing away from the students who have been able to secure this. I think we should be aiming higher and ensuring that our ambitions lift. I am very proud that, in our part of Western Sydney, there are a number of schools that are focused a lot on science, technology, engineering and maths. There are about 30 in the Blacktown area, some of which I have been to visit and am proud to see what they are achieving—in particular, the engagement, the enthusiasm and the preparation of young minds for a sustainable life ahead. I recently had the opportunity, with Tesla, to take one of their vehicles to two schools—Quakers Hill Public School and Plumpton High School. Plumpton High, for example, are focused on the F1 challenge and have had some success, and their students are rightfully proud of their involvement there. At Quakers Hill Public School, their young students are actively involved in STEM studies. Both those schools recently got to see a Tesla car and the technology that is in it and to realise that the things they are learning in the classroom are being practically applied in the leading, cutting-edge technology that they're seeing on our roads and that will see changes in the years ahead.

Doonside Technology High School, another school in Western Sydney, last year had experiments successfully selected and included on the International Space Station. Again, these are young students in Western Sydney who are being tested and challenged in a way that will ensure they are better placed for the years ahead. We need to see more of this. I naturally welcome $4.1 million from the government, but I want to see more invested in our schools, in our TAFEs, in our universities. The depth of feeling on that point is shared across the entire opposition, which believes that, at a point when human capital needs to be invested in due to the profound changes in technology, it is not just wrong that we are cutting funds to schools, TAFEs and universities; it is reprehensible. The investment is needed for the generations that follow. We can and should do better. Events like this tell us why we should.