Education funding

Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — I do not think there would be a woman or a man in the house who would be satisfied with that crescendo! I rise to speak on the matter of public importance (MPI) put forward in the name of the Leader of the Opposition, the member for Mulgrave.

William Ellery Channing was a gifted liberal theologian and teacher known for his passionate public speeches. He beseeched that:

It is a greater work to educate a child, in the true and larger sense of the word, than to rule a state.

Today in Victoria we have, to use words of a senior cabinet minister, a government that is ‘bordering on dysfunctional’ and a government that has ripped hundreds of millions of dollars from the education system. This is a government that is failing to rule the state.

Mr Battin interjected.

Ms GRALEY— Just last week another one of your mates said, ‘We need some
professionalism’.

This government is failing in the great and important work of educating children. Parents, teachers, community leaders and students are very disappointed with this government, and are adamant in asking why this is happening. Why is this government behaving so badly? Why are government members so lacking in concentration? Why is the government so inadequate to its task? Why are government members so incapable of working
hard? Why are government members so incapable of taking advice, and so lacking
in initiative, as was said by a former Premier, Jeff. Kennett?

Whether it is failing to build much-needed local schools, failing to keep the Premier’s promise to Victorian teachers to make them the highest paid in the country, failing to pass on national literacy and numeracy partnership funding, failing to adequately and fairly fund Victorian certificate of applied learning (VCAL), failing to invest in kindergarten
capital programs, failing to provide the education conveyance allowance to outer suburban families, failing to provide the school component of the education maintenance allowance, this government is failing Victoria’s education system and failing our kids.

While good kids have had fruit taken from them and been denied school camps, the spoilt brats and naughty boys over in the Liberal Party are making up stories about their own behaviour. They say, ‘I did not do it’, or ‘It is her fault’. They make up stories and rewrite history.

They say,

‘A promise? What promise? Weasel words!’. What about cuts? They said they are ‘consolidations’. This is a government that fails to be honest, even when caught out about its heavy and discriminatory education cuts.

If you ask any principal who operates a VCAL program whether their budget has been cut, they will provide you with ample evidence of cuts to coordination, to student numbers, to contact hours and cuts that have resulted in significant fee increases. But the Minister for Education stands up in this house — he comes in, the great consolidator — and says
there have been no cuts.

Here is a comment from Nicole Spargo, a student at Narre Warren South P-12 College, which is in my electorate and is one of thebiggest and most successful providers of VCAL in Victoria. She said–

Honourable members interjecting.

Ms GRALEY— Listen up! She said:

When the VCAL cuts happened we lost a lot of our teachers –no cuts to staff? –a lot of students lost interest in school and a lot of them left because it was just too hard to be at school without having the support.

She also said:

We were working so hard for our education and our future and Ted Baillieu just wasn’t working for us.

A big fat F for fail from Nicole, Premier — F for fail!

To use the uncaring and unedifying comments from the Minister for Education, his response was:

We are putting money into the programs that matter, into the students that matter …

As a member of this side of the house I am here to say that students like Nicole matter, and alternative training and education programs like VCAL matter too.

But Nicole is not alone, and this is not an isolated incident. There is another program that does not matter to members of the Baillieu government. I refer to the government’s cruel and callous cuts to TAFE funding. The Baillieu government has ignored the Essential Services Commission’s recommendation that the government acknowledge TAFE’s community service obligation in formal funding and has delivered the most savage funding cuts to TAFE that Victoria has ever seen.

I also ask the minister: does Nadine matter?

Nadine’s night class has been cut. Nadine, a mother of two from Cranbourne North in my electorate, whose husband is currently unemployed, now has to decide whether to continue her TAFE studies or give up her job and her dreams of a better job working to help others. Nadine has this to say:

As a result of Mr Baillieu’s cuts I am facing a significant fee increase, a lack of night classes and the loss of a number of wonderful teachers who provided essential support last year.

I implore Mr Baillieu to make no further cuts to education and TAFE.

What was the Premier’s response to Nadine’s plight when it was raised in this house? He offered no explanation. Nadine who?

I also ask: what about the staff and students at Merinda Park Learning and Community Centre, who have been treated so badly by this government? There have been delays in receiving their service agreement, and other centres are still waiting and suffering. In fact hundreds of students are still being sent away from community centres. They have not been considered for recognition of prior learning approval.

The CEO, Jan Gilchrist, wrote to the Minister for Higher Education and Skills, Peter Hall, and said:

This is a totally abominable situation you have now placed us in and your ministerial area of responsibility, and would hope that you can stand up and be counted and change this inequitable process that has occurred.

And they are not alone. Narre Warren Learning Centre, the largest provider of community education in Victoria, has had its funding cut to educate disadvantaged and disengaged young adults. Do they not matter either, Minister?

The Baillieu government is failing our children, our teachers, our parents and our communities, and it is absolutely not fair. The minister is on the record as saying that not all students matter, not all education programs matter, but that new schools and the rebuilding of schools will be based not on need but on the wish list of Liberal Party members and candidates.

It is a fact that the coalition’s election commitment indicates that four out of every five schools promised upgrades prior to the election are in Liberal or Nationals electorates. We know who matters, and it is not the students and hardworking parents of Narre Warren
South. Students are being penalised and punished for where they live.

This is postcode politics, and I ask the minister when he will stop these savage cuts and start building schools in areas like Narre Warren South.

In my electorate there is a primary school with over 1000 students. Just down the road from it there is a school with just under 1000 students. The government has bought the land, and it has nothing on it. The interface councils suggest that in the next 15 years Victoria will need nearly 70 000 new primary school places and 290 new buildings, but this government has only budgeted for one school! There is no doubt that people in
the outer suburbs do not matter to this government.

On this side of the house we find it very difficult to comprehend how a government could so comprehensively fail the children of this state. We believe the role of good government is to provide education opportunities for everyone.

We believe in the meaning of the larger sense of that word — that if you have a good education, you have a good community. I refer back to Channing, who said:

It is a greater work to educate a child in the true and larger sense of the word, than to rule a state.

It is a very sad fact that this government cannot do either: it cannot rule the state and it cannot provide educational opportunities for everybody. The matter of public importance asks us to condemn the government, and it stands roundly condemned.