House of Representatives
Wednesday 30 November 2016
Before the 2013 election, the Liberals talked about their unity ticket with Labor on school funding. They went to great lengths to endorse our policy and pledged to match our funding commitments. In government, they have done nothing but cut funding for our schools. Everything this government say about schools must be taken in the context of their $30 billion worth of cuts to schools and their failure to commit to the full Gonski funding. Those opposite are willing to stand here and play politics with the futures of students in my electorate and across the country. Parents, teachers and students deserve better than being used as a political football by this government. The Liberals have tried every trick in the book to distract attention away from their devastating cuts to schools, with every dollar the Liberals cut from schools robbing a child of the opportunity to reach their full potential. Instead of hiding behind the usual Liberal Party blame game, the minister should stand in this place and be honest with families on the Central Coast and across the country about the realities of their unfair policiesthat the Liberals are cutting, on average, $3 million from individual schools.
Schools on the coast cannot afford these cuts. Local parents know that cutting $3 million from every school on the coast would be devastating. It would take teachers from classrooms, books from library shelves, software from computers, and dedicated extra support services from students who need it most. The impact of these cuts is very real. The funding would be enough to employ 192 extra teachers every year for the next decade in the Dobell electorate alone. For our students, these cuts will lock in inequality and uncertainty. In the electorate of Dobell around 62 per cent of people of working age did not complete high school. For a young person on the Central Coast who finds themselves without the support they need to finish school, what does the future hold, with a stubbornly high youth unemployment rate sitting just under 17 per cent? We, as local members, have a responsibility to reduce disadvantage, not make it worse; to invest in education, not cut funding; and to support all students towards a better future, not leave them behind.
Just last week this message was driven home to me at my old primary school, St Cecilia's Primary School, in Wyong. The principal, Yvette Owens, told me that I was always welcome at her school, because as a principal, an educator and a mother, she believes girls need to know that women from their school, their suburb, their region can do anything. I was lucky. I had great teachers and great support. My mum is a primary school teacher and my dad taught engineering at TAFE. Great teachers make a difference.
Mr Helyard, my year 12 chemistry teacher inspired me and furthered my love of chemistry. He entering me and fellow students into the NSW Schools Titration Competition. While many people in this place may not be familiar with this competitionit is a set of acid-base titrations to determine the unknown concentration of a weak acidwe need make sure that girls are given every opportunity to be involved in STEM subjects and exposed to a world that for too long was not open to them.
Only through proper education funding can we ensure that schools have properly equipped laboratories to allow as many students as possible to be involved in the sciences and have experienced teachers to nurture intellectual curiosity. Whether it is the Grattan report or the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study report, one thing is clear: the government needs to do better. Australia is lagging behind other nations, with government funding for schools lower than the OECD average. Our children cannot do better if we don't given them a chance. Australia's results will improve only if the federal government properly funds our schools. If the Liberals continue to rip money out of schools, every child in every school will be robbed of the opportunity to reach their full potential.
We need to be removing the obstacles and barriersthe social determinants of educationthat make it difficult for students to get a quality education. The modest amount of extra funding that had started to flow in the first year of Labor's plan to fund our schools properly was starting to work. With needs based funding students get more individual attentiontalented students get the opportunities to make the most of their gifts, and students who may need more help get the support they need to catch up. There should be a focus on every child's needs and more individual attention for students. We need experienced and passionate teachers in every school.