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Wednesday, 3 February 2016
Page: 301


Senator BULLOCK (Western Australia) (15:31): Like Senators Dastyari and Bilyk before me, I rise to speak on the motion to take note of answers, such as they were, to questions regarding education. Western Australia is a resources state. For years, the resources industry has underpinned our state's prosperity, with high wages, the nation's lowest unemployment rate and, at least under the great Labor Treasurer Eric Ripper, prior to the 2008 election, an economy in which prudent efforts were made by the state government to ensure that the benefits of the mining boom were shared across the population while maintaining the state's AAA credit rating.

The resources industry is, of course, cyclical. The situation in Western Australia is very different today as a result of a combination of the collapse of commodity prices and the profligate spending of the current government, which has seen the state lose its AAA credit rating and which has seen average wages fall, house prices slump and unemployment rise to 6.3 per cent—well above the national average of 5.8 per cent. Each week seems to bring worse news with respect to the state's economy, courtesy of the mismanagement and misdirected priorities of the current state government. The question must be asked: what are the long-term measures which need to be undertaken to broaden the state's economy, to insulate us from the commodity cycle and to underpin the future prosperity of our great state?

Only Labor can be relied upon to have the long-term vision for a prosperity in which we can all share, and that vision is founded on an education system fit to equip our children with the skills needed to face the challenges of the future. Labor has always been the party of education. Education is the key to opportunity. It provides the tools necessary for individuals to achieve their potential.

Last week Labor leader Bill Shorten ensured his place in the pantheon of great Labor leaders with respect to his vision for education, with the announcement of his detailed 'Your Child. Our Future' plan for education. It is an ambitious plan, with a commitment to the expenditure of an additional $4½ billion over the 2018 and 2019 school years and a total provision of over $37 billion over a decade. It is a plan which has been fully costed by the Parliamentary Budget Office. But, notwithstanding the enormous investment which it constitutes in the future of our children, in the future of our economy and in the future of our nation, it is an investment which falls comfortably within the detailed savings measures which have already been announced by Labor in the areas of multinational tax avoidance, inequitable superannuation tax concessions, progressive tobacco taxes and the scrapping of the Emissions Reduction Fund. It is a policy which is therefore not only visionary and not only necessary in terms of securing our future but economically feasible and responsible. It is a policy which people understand only a Labor government can be relied upon to deliver.

Senator Williams: Are you serious, Joe?

Senator BULLOCK: I am serious. The Shorten Labor plan for improving educational outcomes is comprehensive. It comprises a number of elements: a focus on every child's needs, which will address the particular disadvantage of any student, whether it be disability, remoteness, poverty or limited English, with tailored support; an emphasis on improving literacy and numeracy, with one-on-one support, early intervention and remedial and extension classes, with early intervention available to every child who needs it so that they do not fall behind and stay behind; working with universities and the profession to ensure the best quality teachers with access to the greatest professional support, technological support and professional development, with a particular emphasis on science, technology, engineering and maths so as to best equip our children for the jobs of the future—this is consistent with Labor's already announced commitment to supporting STEM teachers; more and better targeted resources to give schools flexibility to choose programs which will deliver the best results for their students, with the opportunity for more meaningful engagement with parents; and, finally, more support for students with special learning needs.

Labor has a long-term vision for Australia's future, a fundamental element of which is a commitment to education, backed up by a funding package that you can believe in, and Labor remains committed to the full implementation of Gonski reforms. The government, by contrast, has broken all of its education commitments, has abandoned Gonski and has, as its only policy, cuts to education at all levels. (Time expired)

Question agreed to.