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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9099


Dr LEIGH (Fraser) (14:11): Madam Deputy Speaker, I ask briefly for your indulgence. In 1968, Peter Norman made a bold stand for racial equality, which will be honoured in a motion in the House tonight. His sister Elaine, her husband, Michael, and his 91-year-old mother, Thelma, are with us in the gallery today and I want to acknowledge them being here with us.

My question is to the Prime Minister. Will the Prime Minister inform the House of the government's plans to improve all our nation's schools?

Ms GILLARD (LalorPrime Minister) (14:11): I thank the member for Fraser for his question. Today I had the opportunity to speak to the Association of Independent Schools and I very much welcomed it. I also had the opportunity to attend in front of Parliament House to meet with public school advocates, principals from public schools and the Australian Education Union. So I have had a morning where I have had an opportunity to speak to great principals from independent schools and from public schools. I have spoken to them about the determination I share with them to improve every school in this country because we want to see a better education for every child in this country.

The government's reform agenda for Australian schools is about every child in every school. We have an opportunity now, after the work of the independent review panel on funding, to look at the question of funding for the first time in 40 years, but, as I made very clear when I spoke today to independent school principals and to public school principals, we intend to drive a school improvement agenda because we want every child in every school to have a better education and a better opportunity in life and that is what our economy will require for the future. It is what fairness demands of us.

I was very disturbed, in fact I would say angered, by the approach that the Leader of the Opposition has taken to this very important question. He, too, went to address the Independent Schools National Education Forum, and what he told them is that public schools have too much money. Just in case anybody missed the sound bite, he repeated it twice. The Leader of the Opposition thinks public schools have too much money. And, in case anybody thinks it is one of his periodic stumbles, these were prepared and scripted remarks—that public schools have too much money.

The opposition are very fond of throwing around allegations about hit lists. Today it has been revealed that every public school in this country is on an opposition hit list and is slated for a reduction in funding. Every public school in this country is on their hit list and is due for a funding reduction. We should not be surprised when the member for Sturt says he will take one in seven teachers out of classrooms and is quite happy to see increases in class sizes.

That is the difference between both sides of politics. We will give every child and every school a better future. On the other side there is the politics of division, and cutbacks for Australian public schools, bigger class sizes and fewer teachers, and no-one over there cares.

Opposition members interjecting

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): The member for Goldstein!