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Monday, 2 May 2016
Page: 4111


Mr WATTS (Gellibrand) (12:30): I am delighted to second this motion today for the member for Lalor—a champion of education in Melbourne's west and throughout our country.

The parliament meets today in the shadow of a federal election. The Prime Minister is fond of arguing that this election will be a question of trust. Well, I could not agree more. This election will be about trust. It will be about who the Australian people will trust to put them first. Nowhere is this question of trust more acute than on the future of our education system. At the ballot box on July 2, every Australian will have to ask themselves this question of who they trust to build an education system that enables every child to reach their full potential damage no matter who their parents are, no matter where they live, no matter how much money their family has. Who do you trust to build an education system that will sustain Australia's prosperity over the coming decades? Who do you trust with your child's future?

The previous Labor government fundamentally changed the way education is funded in Australia by following the recommendations of the Gonski inquiry and putting needs-based funding at the heart of education funding decisions. In opposition, Bill Shorten's Labor Party has continued this significant legacy through our Your Child, Our Future education plan. It is a fully funded plan of $37.3 billion over the next 10 years, allocated on the basis of need to ensure that every child is able to get the best education possible. This investment will mean a strong focus on every single child's needs, more individual attention for students, better trained teachers, more targeted resources and better equipped classrooms, and more support for students with special learning needs. Needs-based school funding is important for areas like Melbourne west, represented by myself and the member for Lalor, with a large number of kids from non-English-speaking backgrounds or from financially disadvantaged backgrounds. It will benefit every child no matter what background they are from, no matter what suburb or city they live in, no matter whether they go to a public, a private or an independent school.

The contrast with the coalition's record could not be more stark. In opposition, the Liberals promised 'no cuts to health, no cuts to education'. But, after the election, Malcolm Turnbull, the member for Wentworth, decided to dump the Gonski reforms and rip over $80 billion from our schools and hospitals. In opposition, the Liberals produced advertising banners to greet voters at polling booths promising that they would 'match Labor's education funding dollar for dollar', only to slash $30 billion of those dollars from Australian schools in their first budget. Schools in the electorate that I represent lost $160 million in funding as a result of these cuts. These cuts are the equivalent to: sacking one in seven teachers; a cut to the average school of $3.2 million; about $1,000 less support per student per year.

This is the context of the government's announcement yesterday that it would put back $1.2 billion of the $30 billion that it cut from schools funding. A previous prime minister warned governments about the electoral risks of fattening the pig on market day. We see those opposite desperately trying to stuff the pigs before the election coming up on July 2. This is the same government, remember, that, only a few weeks ago, wanted to vacate the field and abandon funding public schools at the federal level. It wanted to abandon public schools but, of course, wanted to continue to fund independent and private schools. There are certain moments in the Australian political debate that cut through the chatter and that cut through right to the consciousness of Australians in their homes and around their dinner tables, and this was one of those moments. The response was not even anger from my constituents; it was absolute bafflement. People could not understand how we could have a Prime Minister that could so flagrantly discuss offhand abandoning the public schools of our nation. It was an extraordinary moment.

So these families well might ask, 'Who do you trust?' Indeed, this question should be on every voter's mind as they enter the ballot box on July 2. The question should be: do you trust Malcolm Turnbull and the Liberals to give your school the funding it needs? Do you trust Malcolm Turnbull to increase the funding of schools like Albion Primary, Altona North Primary, Altona Primary, Ardeer Primary, Corpus Christi Primary, Footscray Primary, Sunshine Heights Primary, Sunshine Harvester Primary? Do you trust Malcolm Turnbull to look out for schools like Footscray City Primary, Glengala Primary, Kingsville Primary, Newport Gardens Primary, Seaholme Primary, Spotswood Primary and the many other schools in our community across Melbourne's west?

Labor's position, and our record both in government and in opposition, is clear. We will put schools first. We will put people first. You can trust a Labor government to deliver for your school. You can trust your Labor MP to deliver for your child.