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Monday, 10 November 2008
Page: 10292

Mrs MOYLAN (4:09 PM) —by leave—Prior to question time I was giving some insight into the coalition’s record on education, because it has come under considerable criticism. The coalition invested significantly in education both in the public sector and the private sector. I was listening with interest to the member for Blair because I agree with his comments that we should not be talking about one system against another and pitting one educational institution against another. What we should be about is making sure that parents are supported to send their children to school and that children and young people are supported to achieve the best that they can.

When we were in government, we increased the funding after we had paid off Labor’s massive debt in 2004. And thank goodness we did, because it is that surplus that will now sustain us over this period of financial turmoil. There is no doubt. It is on the record that the coalition government invested a considerable amount of money in education. For the record, between 1996 and 2007 the coalition investment in all schools increased by 172 per cent. In real terms, the coalition also increased assistance to families by more than $6 billion. One of the most important and welcome initiatives implemented by the coalition was the Investing in Our Schools Program. This was very much welcomed by many schools in the Pearce electorate and many of them are disappointed that it will not continue. It was attractive because it gave the school communities an opportunity to decide what the priorities were for expenditure in their school and to apply for the funding.

It also picked up many of the deficiencies in the state system. Many of the government schools in my electorate were funded under this program for very basic infrastructure which had been neglected for years by the state Labor government. For example, Ellenbrook Primary School badly needed music and drama facilities. This was not a priority for the state Labor government, who had primary responsibility for funding school facilities. It was the federal coalition government that funded this facility worth $122,100. Even basic things like floor coverings and an assembly area had to be funded under the coalition’s Investing in Our Schools Program at the outer metropolitan school of Gidgegannup. I could go on. There is a very long list here. Darlington Primary School funded an outdoor learning area and the Quinns Rocks Primary School funded library resources. These were the kinds of things that ought to have been funded by the state government but were not funded, and if it had not been for the federal coalition government’s Investing in Our Schools Program they would not be funded today.

As I said, I have a very substantial list of government schools in my electorate that had basic projects funded through this particular program. Importantly, it was the school community who decided what the priorities were for the development of their school facilities. Little country schools and large government suburban schools—some in lower income areas—all shared in tens of thousands of dollars of funding for projects they chose through this coalition government program, and it was a sad day when the government rejected it. There has been constant criticism about the coalition’s so-called neglect of government schools, but in my electorate many more government schools received funding through Investing in Our Schools than did private schools. We may not have had a revolution, but the coalition delivered that urgently needed funding to schools and supported parents to invest in their children’s future by giving them more opportunities and choices in education. We gave real support to parents by giving them a say in how they invested in their children’s education. The coalition want to give the youth of Australia the best opportunity to fulfil their potential and to reach their aspirations, and we want to encourage them to be the best that they can be.

Before closing, I pay tribute to the many teachers, the school principals and the school communities—particularly the P&F organisations—throughout the electorate of Pearce. I try to get around and visit as many schools as possible and, for the most part, I see very dedicated people within these school communities working hard to ensure that the best education is delivered to the children in their care.

While any funding for education should be supported, and we certainly support this funding, the fact is that this particular program that we are debating today through the Tax Laws Amendment (Education Refund) Bill 2008 is just a token gesture. It is a way for the Rudd government to cover up the gap in the ‘computer for every student’ policy, which it did not really properly think through. It ignores the fees that families pay to schools and the contributions they have to make for their students’ education; it ignores the cost of uniforms; it ignores the extra tuition that many children need in core subjects and the additional classes they take to develop their ability; it ignores the realities of buying a computer, such as the real cost and the unlikelihood of buying a new computer every year; it does not cover all families and children; and it certainly does not cover early childhood education, which was one of the areas that the proposal under our government did cover. So it is a great pity that there is not greater flexibility in the provisions of this bill.