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Thursday, 9 February 2017
Page: 556

Mr LEESER (Berowra) (15:47): I thought that the big issue in education was education quality. When we are being beaten as a nation by Kazakhstan and Slovenia, I would have thought that we need to focus on what we can do to improve performance. If we were being beaten at the cricket by Swaziland and Lesotho, we would not be asking how much funding we were giving to the AIS or to Cricket Australia, we would be asking what we were doing to improve batting performance. Yet what we have heard from my friends opposite is the usual: throw money at the problem, like Jackson Pollock throwing paint at a canvas, just messing things up left, right and centre. We heard so little from members opposite about improving performance. We heard so little from members opposite about improving teaching and school leadership. We heard nothing about developing knowledge and skills. We heard nothing about better evidence and transparency. We heard nothing about parental engagement.

My friend the member for Moreton made a very good point when he said that education is the great enabler. But the truth of what Labor did with the Gonski funding is that they did not actually make it the great enabler funding. Do not trust me on this; trust Labor's own expert that they appointed to the Gonski panel, Ken Boston. He said of Labor's deal, which was implemented by the Leader of the Opposition when he was education minister:

Now, this was not what the Gonski review recommended. It was not sector-blind, needs-based funding. It continued to discriminate between government and non-government schools.

Indeed, under Labor's implemented Gonski funding program some of the arrangements for schools will not attract their theoretical needs-based funding entitlement for more than 100 years. That is hardly needs-based funding and that is hardly an improvement in the quality of our education system at all. That is what we have heard from the Labor Party.

In fact, what we have heard from those opposite today have been a series of scares and class envy. The first great scare we heard from them was that there were these massive cuts to education. The truth is that there are no cuts. School funding under the coalition over the 2014-17 period has been at record levels. Recurrent funding is going from $16 billion in 2016 to $20 billion in 2020. Between 2016 and 2020, total government funding for government schools is growing at 33½ per cent faster than non-government schools. This is one of Labor's great lies.

We also heard from the Deputy Leader of the Opposition the usual class war and class envy stuff about tax cuts for businesses. Can I say that this demonstrates how little Labor knows about dealing with business. Labor would like to say that any business that has a turnover—not a profit—of more than $2 million is a big business. I have to say that we on this side of the House who know something about business—

An opposition member interjecting

Mr LEESER: I am addressing a question and a point made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this debate—a debate that she raised and an issue that she chose to bring up. Let me say that there is a big difference between turnover and profit. That is what we know. We do not understand why Labor wants to put the small business families who sends their kids to schools in more difficulty, not being able to invest more money in their own school choices, by not giving them a tax cut. People who run small businesses want their kids to go to schools and they want them to have good schools, but they want the performance of those schools to be better quality.

That is where the focus of this government's education policy has been. That is why in our focus we have looked at developing a diagnostic test for year 1 students to ensure that if there are literacy and numeracy problems early on we can address them and do something about them. That is the time to actually engage kids who are having really great difficulties in literacy and numeracy. We have put together initiatives to get and ensure that we maintain the best teachers in the classroom. We are reforming literacy and numeracy through improvements in STEM teaching. We know that the best jobs in the future will be jobs that require students to have stronger STEM knowledge.

Increased funding, as we know, does not mean increased performance. We have had increased funding in the education space for decades and yet the performance is slipping. That is why we need to ensure that the focus is on quality. A quality focused education policy will get us the outcomes we need to improve our performance against other countries. The Leader of the Opposition's corruption of the Gonski process demonstrates he is not fit to run the country. This notion is typical of Labor's approach to public policy. Labor is to public policy what Bernie Madoff is to financial management.