Parliamentary speeches

Gonski funding and schools

May 22, 2017

I am so pleased to join in what has been passing for a debate on this important motion put forward by my friend the member for Hindmarsh. I am proud to stand with all my Labor colleagues to give every child in every Australian school every chance of fulfilling their potential in school and in education, because that is what the original Gonski vision was all about. That is a vision that has been fundamentally undermined and now betrayed by this government. This motion highlights the essential choice when it comes not just to schools funding but to Australia's future.

On the Labor side of the parliament, we stand for the future and for investing in our kids and giving them every chance in life. We understand that every child starts school with different advantages and disadvantages, and we need a schools funding mix that accounts for that. That is what the national plan for schools improvement was; that is precisely what this sham is not. There is so much noise from members opposite because they are not interested in this debate. They are fundamentally not interested in our future. We have seen them short-change early years education. They continue to apply bandaids when they need to invest in the best start in life. When it comes to schools funding, they are absent. They have no understanding, no empathy and no vision. The choice is very clear—

—Government members interjecting

Shouting will not get you anywhere, Member for Goldstein, and I am disappointed that the member for McMillan has been joining in on this. If we pull out the figures, the story becomes clear. Let us talk about the real marker, which is the years 5 and 6 Gonski funding. That is real needs-based funding, not Tony Abbott's $30 billion cut. That cannot be the baseline for a future that is fair. It is no vision for our kids and it is no vision for Australia.

The other thing that I am very disappointed that members opposite are not focusing on in this motion is what is really at the core of the Gonski vision. They try to use David Gonski as some sort of human shield, but they cannot get away from two facts. One was that the core of the report that he was one of the authors of was the reaching of a common student resourcing standard; the other was the Commonwealth paying its share to get there so that every child in every school in every sector received an appropriate standard of school education. That is the vision that has been walked away from.

Underpinning that was our appreciation of vital role of teaching. We understand that teachers are the most important influence in schooling outcomes. By providing resourcing to deliver those other supports that even out the imbalances that the lottery of life delivers to too many of our kids, we were delivering the opportunity for teachers to teach. That is what is being lost.

When I think about my role as a local member and my role as our shadow assistant minister for schools, I think about teachers. I think about the lengths that they go to—too often out of their own pockets—to make sure that kids who have not been looked after in the lottery of life get every opportunity to go to school. That might be about paying for books and uniforms or organising breakfast clubs. As a representative and as a member of the future Shorten Labor government, all I want is to ensure that teachers get to teach.

Government members interjecting

Members opposite find this funny, but I really do not find it funny. What we saw in question time today underlines the height of their arrogance and hypocrisy, because we saw the government use disability as a weapon. I ask members opposite who backed in their duplicitous Prime Minister on this in question time to look hard at the bill that we will be debating tomorrow and look how it short-changes students with disability. There is no material before us that safeguards any assurance that the disability loading will be implemented. There is no evidence before us that this government takes students with disability seriously.

In fact, it is clear that under this government every Australian does not count when it comes to school. The government stands condemned for that. It stands condemned for walking away from its unity ticket on schools funding and it stands condemned for not recognising the hard work that our teachers do, and the imperative of us recognising and supporting their work. If they were serious about education they were would do justice to this motion and they would look again at the bill that is before this House.