Education

 

This is as true of Australia today as it was of 19th century England. We have a mandate to revolutionise education in this country, and tonight I want to commend the government's first steps. Our first steps, after all, are the most important. This is where the education revolution begins. Learning starts early. Research indicates that 50 per cent of our educational capacity is determined before we even start school. Eighty per cent of Australian four-year-olds currently go to preschool. In Blaxland it is only 60 per cent. This is where the government's commitment to universal preschool for all four-year-olds will reap the greatest dividends, and I commend the government for the funds they have allocated towards this task in the budget. I also want to thank the Parliamentary Secretary for Early Childhood Education and Childcare for her commitment to this area. She has accepted my invitation to meet with local childcare providers in my electorate next month to discuss issues of concern to them and to understand their needs.

At the other end of the education spectrum the principle is the same: a focus on equity and need. I am glad to see that legislation has now passed through this place to abolish full-fee paying places at university. Entrance to university should be based on merit, not net worth. I do not believe that you should be able to buy a degree at the expense of another student who does not have the money to pay up-front. At every election since 1998 we have promised the Australian people that we would end this inequity and, now that we are in government, I am glad to see that we are keeping our promise.

In between the crayons and the glue and the caps and the gowns are our schools. In the last few weeks the Deputy Prime Minister has made a number of important speeches about the need to get over the old public-private school debate and to fund schools based on need. There are a lot of public schools and a lot of private schools in my electorate. Few of them are wealthy. There are a lot of priority or disadvantaged schools there and they will welcome a new funding model based on need. I am looking forward to welcoming the Deputy Prime Minister to my electorate next month to see the potential benefits of this approach. We saw the first evidence of what this will mean last week with the rollout of the National Secondary School Computer Fund. The first computers are going to Australia's most needy schools-schools with a computer-to-student ratio of 1:8 or worse. This is the way I believe limited government resources should be allocated-based on need. For a place like Blaxland, overlooked and ignored by the previous government, it means we will be one of the major beneficiaries.

Thirteen high schools in my electorate have qualified for funding in round 1. They will receive more than 2,000 computers, which is more than $2 million-more than almost any other electorate in Australia. The schools include Bass High School, which will get 190 computers; Birrong Boys High School, 132; Birrong Girls High School, 210; Cabramatta High School, 180; Canley Vale High School-my old school-242; Chester Hill High School, 309; Punchbowl Boys High School, 85; PAL College, 38; La Salle Catholic College, 186; Patrician Brothers College, 322; Al Amanah Islamic College, 64; Bankstown Grammar School, 137; and Malek Fahd Islamic School, 165. I think this is a good example of the difference a Labor government makes-delivering for people based on need, not on how marginal the seat is that they live in.

Next month I will be holding the first of a regular series of roundtable meetings with the 52 principals, public and private, in my electorate. All of them are committed to our local community. In fact, some of them helped me with my local 2020 summit by facilitating workshops. I am looking forward to working together with my local principals to talk about their challenges and to see how I can help. I am sure we will be able to come up with a lot of good ideas that I can bring back to Canberra.

I commend the government's first steps towards an education revolution, one based on equity and need at preschool, school and university; one that recognises that we live in a knowledge economy and that the challenges of today and tomorrow require a highly skilled digital literate workforce; one that makes sure every child has the same opportunity to succeed, which will help ensure we all succeed; and one that makes good the promises we have made, whether that is the promise we made a decade ago to abolish full fee paying places at university or the promise we made last year to provide universal preschool. It reflects our belief that upon the education of the people of this country the fate of this country depends.'