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Monday, 20 August 2012
Page: 9101


Mr CHEESEMAN (Corangamite) (14:19): My question is to the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth. It follows on from the question posed to the Prime Minister earlier. What approach will the government take and what principles will guide the government's plans to improve Australian schools?

Mr GARRETT (Kingsford SmithMinister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth) (14:19): I thank the member for Corangamite for his question. Central to this government's values and principles about education is recognising that all Australian students need to get support in the schools they are in, regardless of where they live and regardless of how much money their parents earn. A student can only live a fulfilling life if their education is good, and the country can only have a sustainable productive economy if our education is good for our students.

This is smack bang in the middle of what we as a government believe in. Because of the pace of reform you can see that commitment. We have seen more reform in education nationally than we have ever seen in our lifetime, whether it is the national curriculum, national professional standards for teachers, the MySchool website or the investment in modernised facilities in every single school. This is all about investing in the future, and it is absolutely central to this Labor government's vision for Australia.

The next step for us is to continue that journey. The findings of the Gonski panel that have been talked about are challenging for us because they show that between 2000 and 2009 our best students fell behind those in neighbouring countries. They also find that there is a persistent gap, sometimes called the equity gap, between our top and bottom student achievers. We are leaving too many young Australians behind.

We are committed to delivering a national plan for school improvement that will benefit each and every school. It will focus on teacher quality, on funding and on the needs of students in those schools. We do that on the basis of a record level of investment and the big reforms underway already.

I am asked about the principles of education funding. They are our principles. But when I look to the other side of the House all I can see is the persistent, hard-wired negativity of the Leader of the Opposition and the shadow minister—$2.8 billion worth of cuts on board. But not only that; there is no willingness at all to engage in this reform. The shadow minister dismissed the Gonski review within half an hour of its release, and then, when it comes to Gonski, I could not help but notice that there are other members on the opposition side who do not seem to have been listening to the Leader of the Opposition, and particularly his speech today.

Here we have the member for Bowman—and here is a photograph: 'Andrew Laming gives a Gonski'. At least someone on that side of the House recognises the deficiencies in the approach of the Leader of the Opposition and the delinquency of the member for Sturt in the cavalier, negative approach that they have taken to school funding.

We understand that we need reform and investment. We are committed to national school improvement, and we will get on with this job now and in the future.

Mr CHEESEMAN (Corangamite) (14:23): I have a supplementary question. The minister has talked about improving schools across the country. What will this mean for schools and students in my electorate?

Mr GARRETT (Kingsford SmithMinister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth) (14:23): I thank the member for the supplementary question. By the way, I seek leave to table this photo of Mr Laming giving a Gonski.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): The minister does not need to seek leave. He can just table the document.

Mr GARRETT: In respect of the question that the member has asked me, he—like other members in this House—knows what investment this Labor government has provided to his electorate. He has got $103 million of projects that have benefited about 72 of his schools. He has got 9,000 families benefiting from the schoolkids bonus. He has in his electorate schools like Rokewood Primary School, Colac Secondary College, Trinity college and St Brendan's Primary School—all part of the national partnerships. These are the very national partnerships that that Leader of the Opposition, who was speaking after the Prime Minister this morning, actually thinks have received too much money. We should pause and think about that for a moment.

We understand the link between students' fulfilment of their capacity, and economic prosperity and education. We understand that targeted investment in the things that work and, in the case of the member for Corangamite, in teacher quality in his schools, in better resources for students and in making sure that schools have a national improvement plan that is integrated into what they are doing—all of these things—will make a difference. We know that is the case, but in order to do them you have to have a conviction about education. That conviction exists on this side of the parliament. It is right at the heart of the Labor government's agenda for improving Australia's future. (Time expired)