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Thursday, 17 June 2010
Page: 5801

Mr HAYES (4:35 PM) —I would like to start off by talking about this government’s commitment to Australian schools and in particular our commitment to the education of our children. It should be no surprise to anyone in this place that I, along with many others, have a deep interest in the education of our kids. It is about giving them a future, and that is very important for kids growing up in my area of south-west Sydney. In the lead-up to the last election, we made it very clear that a Labor government would stand for an education revolution, and that is what we embarked upon—a substantial and sustained increase in the quantity of the investment in our education system and in the quality of our education system to deliver a future for our children. They need an education system that they can benefit from and that will take them forward.

I would like to focus my comments today on the $2.1 billion National Secondary School Computer Fund, which is a key component of the Digital Education Revolution and which is, crucially, delivering a computer to every secondary school student in years nine to 12. Through the Digital Education Revolution initiative we have already delivered a quarter of a million computers to our schools. In my electorate alone, there were 2,800 computers delivered to 27 schools. That is thousands of kids who might typically not have access to computers generally and certainly not at home. Through this program they now have the opportunity to learn with the tools that they need, and that will equip them for their future in a modern and competitive workforce.

Like other members in this place, I take great pride in visiting schools. Recently I was at Sarah Redford High School and the All Saints Catholic Senior College at Casula. The principal of All Saints, Mr Ray Wooby, explained that having computers is developing the innovation now coming about in computer based learning. It is enhancing students’ uptake and use of computers as qualitative instruments in improving their education attainments. The students—whether it was put on for me or not—were very engaged and extremely excited.

Principals are telling me that the provision of these computers is doing much to address the digital inequity gap that exists between those students who have access to computers and those who do not. It is a simple fact that, if students are able to take computers home, not only will they have a chance to complete their homework and other tasks with the computer but they will be using instruments of modern technology which will equip them for the future.

Rather shockingly, there is a threat to this program. Believe it or not, there are people who actually oppose it. Those people are sitting on the other side of the House. They will slash the programs for computers for our kids. I call upon each of those opposition members, particularly those who operate in the south-west of Sydney, to explain to people why they are happy to see our kids miss out on the important tools that they need to get jobs in the modern competitive workplace of tomorrow. How can they expect our kids to get a 21st century education if they are not going to give the kids the tools necessary? They are happy to have those schools that can provide those tools to kids from wealthy backgrounds—that is fine—but those schools that cannot provide computers are the ones who are going to miss out. That is what the school principals keep referring to as the ‘digital inequity’. The Liberal Party wants to force us back to where kids will only have computers if they can afford them. But they miss out the fundamental issue: this is not only about kids having access to computers but about education being based around this modern technology as well.

It should be known that, of the 21,000 computers that now will not be funded because of the opposition, 1,000 are intended for schools in need in Werriwa. It is about time the coalition got up and explained, not simply in a throwaway line in a reply to a budget reply but in an articulate way, why they are happy to see these young kids who want a future being deprived of the tools they need to be able to get there. I am proud to be a member of a government that has taken the vital steps towards creating a first-class education system in this country and delivering the education revolution. (Time expired)