Appropriation Bill (no. 1) 2013-14 Consideration in Detail - Education

My parliamentary colleagues are well aware of my passion for education. In and ever since my maiden speech I have restated the fact that my life is testimony to the truth that education is the great transformer. It has given me choice, opportunity, the chance to pursue dreams and options that I did not dare to dream about. Through education I escaped the cycle of disadvantage and there are millions more like me who have been empowered through education. That is why I believe that world-class, quality schools are vitally important to the future of our country—crucially important.

Listening to those opposite, I reflected on my own experience of being educated in the public school system in Victoria when we had backto-back Liberal governments. I will paint a picture of what it looked like being educated in the public system in Victoria in the seventies and eighties. I remember my days at Donvale High School, where we had to spend a lot of our time in winter ducking buckets that were in the corridors because the roofs were leaking. I remember the facilities we had literally falling down around our ears. I remember the fact that when we had our assemblies we had to sit outside, in great contrast to what I see when I go out to schools now. I also reflect back on the lack of investment that was made in my primary school, Springview Primary School, in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. Again, there were little things: we had to sit outside on the asphalt for a school assembly, and compare them now to what I see when I go to assemblies on a weekly basis at the schools in my electorate. They have these beautiful multipurpose facilities. They have libraries: we had a classroom that was a library in the seventies and eighties, but these have purpose-built libraries as a result of the investment and the confidence that Labor has had in educating and in getting our students up to world-class quality.

I am proud that this budget delivered real, long-term investment in schools because our schools just are not performing as they should. One in 12 Australians is not meeting the minimum standards in reading, writing and maths, while students from less-well-off backgrounds, like me, can be up to three years behind their classmates. Our results in international tests have gone backwards, and other countries are racing ahead of us. I was absolutely delighted that last Thursday the ACT government signed up to the National Plan for School Improvement. I know that this will transform the lives of so many young men and women in my electorate of Canberra.

Under the agreement between the ACT and the federal governments the total public investment in ACT schools will be around $5 billion in the six years over 2014-19. That is around $190 million extra over this period. The agreement also includes commitments from both the Commonwealth and ACT governments to maintain and grow our existing school funding over the next years. It also includes an agreement between the two governments for $26 million to establish a centre for quality teaching and learning at the University of Canberra. The centre will deliver professional skills and applied, practice-led research to support the introduction of the National Plan for School Improvement reforms. Prior to entering parliament I tutored in PR at the University of Canberra, and I know that the UC already produces fine graduates in all areas, including teaching. This centre will ensure that the teachers in Canberra and the region have access to the best possible training and development opportunities, and will make Canberra the region's leader in education.

The National Plan for School Improvement will make Australia a top-five country in maths, reading and science, and top five in equity and quality by 2025. I strongly believe that investing in education is the best thing we can do for the future of the country, and I am particularly proud of the government for introducing these bold, nationbuilding reforms.

However, I am also concerned about the future of these reforms given that the coalition has made no commitment to see them through if elected in September. The coalition has already promised pain and suffering for Canberra with its promise to slash up to 20,000 Public Service jobs, and I worry that it will bring more pain and suffering to Canberra's schools. Could the minister please explain what, if the coalition is elected in September, will happen to the agreement between the ACT and Commonwealth governments on the long-term education commitments in this budget, and to the schoolchildren in my electorate of Canberra?

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