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Monday, 25 June 2018
Page: 6280

Mr HILL (Bruce) (13:03): I congratulate the member for Chifley on his lovely haircut! It's a pleasure to be here in the Federation Chamber, the place where good speeches go to die! I'm pleased to get up and support most of this motion from the member for Dunkley—clauses (1), (2) and (4). In doing so, I send my warmest congratulations to the six teams that will be representing Australia in the International Olympiads for science, maths and technology—the very brightest of our high school students from across the nation. It is, indeed, as the motion says, an outstanding achievement. It's taken significant effort and intense competition to be selected to represent your country internationally.

In speaking to this motion, I confess that I am a complete science nerd. I've had a lifelong fascination with science. I read science fiction as a kid. I used to love the experiments at school, whether they went right or wrong, and the process of nutting out problems and mathematics and so on. I actually did a science degree, majoring in chemistry, at Monash University a thousand years ago. I think it's really important, though, that the parliament here and there does take a moment to congratulate those bright young Australians who are interested in science.

Science, the arts and sport are not mutually exclusive. You can be good at all three or one or two and so on. But I did feel at times, growing up as a kid, that sport was all that mattered. It was all about sport. My primary school read me wrong in grade 6 when I sat down on the oval and said: 'That's it. I am no longer playing cricket. The ball is scary. I can't catch it. Throw it at me if you will, and I'll get my mum to sue you for grievous bodily harm.' So they suspended me and made me do maths, thinking this was a punishment. So I had a fantastic few days and eventually they gave up and I went back to the classroom.

But I think it's an outstanding thing that we recognise the best and the brightest in this way, and I particularly congratulate warmly two year 12 students from Caulfield Grammar in Wheelers Hill in my electorate: Jerry Mao, who in previous years has won bronze, silver and gold at Olympiads in informatics, and also this year Shanni Chen, who's representing Australia in the International Biology Olympiad. I met them last Monday here in Canberra at the presentation in Parliament House, along with their school principal and their parents, and they were just so proud to be representing their country.

I take issue with part (3) of the motion though. I think the member for Chifley is very generous to acknowledge the government's self-congratulatory prattle in spending $4.1 million over four years. I do note that the member for Dunkley was so committed to this motion he couldn't speak for even four of his five minutes, and then he left. And there are no government speakers on this motion. Not one person in the whole government thought it was worth coming into this chamber for five minutes and congratulating those young Australians who are representing their country in science and maths. Shame on you. Shame on the member for Dunkley for wandering off on his own motion.

While we're thinking about recognising worthy achievements, shame on the government for cutting the Australian Student Prize. From 1991, under the Hawke government, to 2014, under Prime Minister Abbott, 500 annual prizes recognised 500 outstanding high school students across the nation for their academic achievements. They used to get $2,000. When the Abbott government came into office, they said, 'We're going to cut that to $1,000.' Fair enough—it's not about the money; it is about the recognition from your country at a national level that what you have done academically matters. The minister for education said it was about budget repair. Well, 500 times $2,000 is $1 million. If you divide $1 million into the deficit that this government has run up, it doesn't even show up on the calculator.

In my remaining time, I would like to read into the Hansard a couple of quotable quotes. In 2013-14 we had government members running in here to congratulate the students in their electorate. I quote the member for Pearce:

Through this award, the coalition government is supporting Olivia in her efforts … because the government is committed to giving Australian students the best possible education …

The member for Pearce said they were recognising students and high achievers. My personal favourite is the hypocritical member for Higgins:

I am firmly of the belief that the recognition of the pursuit of excellence is vital, as it illustrates the importance of endeavour and the transformative power of education and inspires all of us to achieve the very best in our chosen pursuits in life.

And this is my favourite bit:

I remember the impact that it had on me when I was a student and I received my Australian Student Prize.

She is a member of the very same government that that year voted to cut these prizes forever from other Australian students.

In closing, if the government is serious about recognising Australian students' achievements, how about bringing back the Australian Student Prize? You don't even have to give them cash; you can just recognise the achievements of young Australians.