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Monday, 2 May 2016
Page: 4110


Mr HUTCHINSON (Lyons) (12:25): I thank the member for Lalor for bringing forward this motion. But I would ask her and I would ask her colleagues to deal in facts. If we could just go back a little bit: when it came to government, it was this government that put back the $1.2 billion that the now Leader of the Opposition had taken out of the funding package, the funding envelope, as it was in '13-'14, for the subsequent four years, I believe, in Queensland and also South Australia.

We are seeing, though, from those opposite, unfunded and unaffordable promises. What is most disappointing is the posturing that continues after the cat has been belled around these cuts to education and health—this posturing on pie-in-the-sky funding. It was Colin Barnett last week, or the week before last, at COAG, who belled the cat. He was the only person, as he said, in the COAG meeting when Prime Minister Gillard—remember Prime Minister Gillard?

Opposition members interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: Order! The member for Lyons has the call.

Mr HUTCHINSON: It was described by the Premier of Western Australia as 'panicked and disjointed'. Nobody sitting in that room at the time actually believed that these were funded commitments. They were unfunded promises by those opposite. The reality of the situation, of course, is that we have record amounts of funding going into education.

The other point that I would make is that the Commonwealth's responsibility for funding schools amounts to 15 per cent or thereabouts of the total funding that goes to schools; 85 per cent of the responsibility lies with the states. I just feel that those opposite there are looking at the trees—albeit the seedlings, I might add—and not the forest. Over the last 10 years, the Commonwealth's contribution to funding education has increased by 66 per cent. The states' contribution, on the other hand, has increased by seven per cent.

In Australia, it is very interesting. We have seen enrolments in Australian schools increase by 18 per cent between 1987-88 and 2011-12 and Australia's funding increase by 100 per cent, and yet our international rankings on reading, literacy, mathematics and science have fallen between eight and 10 places in comparative jurisdictions. This is like the definition of madness.

Ms Ryan interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The member for Lalor will cease interjecting.

Mr HUTCHINSON: It is like keeping on banging your head against a brick wall. It is not delivering. Of course the quantum of funding is important, but what is more important is what you do with that funding. That is the critical point here.

We have focused, since coming to government, on a couple of key themes—particularly around the major driver. Not only is funding at absolutely record levels and not only has the Commonwealth's contribution increased substantially, but we know—and the data shows—that if students are the focus of our deliberations on education then teacher quality is by far the single biggest driver of educational outcomes for our young people.

As well, we have focused very much on improving parental engagement, because we know that, in those preschool years and in the early years of school, that time spent by mums and dads in reading to their children, in engaging with them and developing a culture of valuing education as something that can keep being a dividend for them through their lives, is a good thing.

The other point that has been shown in other jurisdictions, not least of all Western Australia, is the ability for principals to have greater autonomy away from a centralised structure within the department. It has been demonstrated in Western Australia. It is the only state in Australia where you are seeing an increase in students going into the public system as opposed to the independent system. It speaks volumes.