Education and Training Reform Amendment (Victorian Institute of Teaching) Bill 2015
Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — I would like to thank the shadow minister for his contribution and that trip down memory lane about the history of the Victorian Institute of Teaching (VIT). But when I talk history, I always remember good manners also. I think it would have been helpful had those opposite informed the government that they might like to propose some amendments and at least extend the common courtesy, I would call it, of allowing us to see the amendments before they were proposed. But given the form of the opposition and the shadow minister, why did I expect anything more, because we know that opposition members are very fond of being less than helpful and very fond also, if I am talking history, of rewriting their period in government, especially around education. We actually do know that, because they certainly do not want to talk about their record on education.
We have before us this bill, which is a very important bill, and I notice that the shadow minister has left the house. He obviously does not want to hear why this bill is so important and indeed why it is necessary to reject the amendments he has provided to the house. As we know, this bill has two parts. The bill seeks to ensure that the VIT has sufficient power to protect children by immediately suspending the registration of a teacher against whom serious allegations have been made pending further investigation of the allegations and also to provide certainty for registered teacher and early childhood teacher representation on the council of the VIT. If the shadow minister were in the house, I would report to him that his amendments effectively do not take into consideration the fact that the VIT actually registers early childhood educators. It is very important that early educators are represented on the VIT board. For me, that is a no-brainer. It is representative democracy at work, and I think that the opposition, instead of putting up these what I consider to be ill-thought-out amendments, should take into consideration the value that early childhood teacher representation will make to the VIT.
I know that those opposite are very fond of rewriting history. I have heard all sorts of versions of what happened when they were in power, but you know: stats, rats! What is that saying about percentages? I notice that the shadow minister has been very keen to bring out percentages about union representation in other jurisdictions. We know in fact that union members, teacher representatives and professional educators — let us not get it out of proportion here — on the board are going to be from the Australian Education Union and other unions and are in fact professional educators.
I know that those opposite are not fond of supporting unions, but you really should get behind your teaching profession is my advice. In other jurisdictions this is exactly what happens. They do have teacher union representation on their registration boards. And as I said, going back to the statistics that the shadow minister has presented to the house, they could be a bit dodgy actually. We would be talking about boards in other jurisdictions being bigger than what we have here. In fact if he did his sums correctly, he would know that in New South Wales there are over 23 representatives on the board, and his percentage numbers may be a little out of skew. So back to school to the maths room, I think, for the shadow minister.
This is a very important bill. I was going to say that one of the reasons why it is so important is not just because we are dealing with some very important issues around the VIT — and I know the shadow minister was saying that he has been contacted by principals in his electorate, as indeed I suspect some of us have — but I would like to say, and I am sure my fellow MPs are going to emphasise this when they speak, that these amendments do not prevent principal representation on the council. So just let us get that clear. In fact that is why you will hear, I am sure, from my fellow MPs endorsements from principals. I know the penny might not have dropped over on the opposite side of the chamber, but actually some principals are members of the Australian Education Union and have been for a very long time — in fact, 2000 of them. I bet that is an accurate figure in this case. I bet that is right on the ball.
These principals are very supportive of the VIT model that we have before us. I know the minister who was in the house has spent time considering who should be on this board. He will continue to talk to principals associations. You might like to wake up those opposite, although there are only three of them in the house, that the minister will have a residual discretion to recommend for appointment a member of the Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals, the Victorian Principals Association and the Australian Principals Federation, if he decides there is a need to do so. I expect that he will continue to get representations on this point on behalf of the principals’ groups, and I am sure that he will use his discretion and his wisdom to make sure that their views are taken into account when he gets to make an appointment.
I would like, though, because it is very close to my electorate, to make a point about the Berwick Secondary College matter. I think when we send our kids off to school every day, we expect them to be well educated, but we also expect them to be in a very safe environment, that they are not exposed to any degree of risk or harm and that in fact they are in a secure, supported and encouraging environment, because that is the environment you need to have if you are going to teach and it is the environment that a child needs to learn. When you go back over this case and read about it in the papers, it is truly ghastly, I have got to say.
I heard some reservation from those opposite — although I think they are fully behind us nevertheless — about what degree of indiscretion may be acceptable to deregister a teacher, but I think in all these circumstances it is very important, and I know from speaking to the teachers, especially the principal at Berwick Secondary College, that this was a very stressful time for the school. The fact that they did not know what was going to happen to this teacher once he left the school, that he may in fact turn up somewhere else in some other jurisdiction, was really quite unnerving for them.
I have got to say that all the talk in the community was about where this teacher actually was and what they were up to, so it is the fact that we have taken a very strong, deliberate, decisive way of dealing with this matter by saying straight out that the VIT will have the power to intervene in this matter. I think the government should be commended for this, rather than getting a little bit wishy-washy about it or saying, ‘Maybe, maybe not’. In fact all members of this chamber who know that a safe and secure learning environment is the entitlement of every child who is in a Victorian school irrespective of their jurisdiction should be supporting this bill and not being a little bit pregnant about it.
The time is coming for me to finish. I would just like to say that as Victorian Labor government members we have made it our no. 1 priority to fix and improve the education system of the state. These are administrative matters in many respects, but they are important. They are part of the package that we are putting together to make sure that every child, every teacher, every parent, in every classroom, in every school, gets the best possible education. I know that everyone on this side of the chamber — the Labor Party side of the chamber — is behind the minister in making sure that Victoria becomes the education state.