Ms GRALEY (Narre Warren South) — I am going to talk about education, and I think it is about time the member for Ovens Valley thought about returning to school himself, because his speech was unbelievably inaccurate and really did him a disservice.
I will talk about education and grieve for the damage the previous Liberal-Nationals government did to the education system in Victoria. If we want to talk about cheating, ripping off and scamming, let us do so, because the coalition certainly cheated students, ripped off schools and scammed teachers. In real terms that means it let many education opportunities for Victorian students go by. As members opposite have continued their attacks on ambulance workers here today, they attacked the profession of teachers holus-bolus.
I also grieve and bring to the attention of the chamber that the opposition’s federal counterparts in Canberra seem to be continuing in their nasty little footsteps of cutting funding to education and playing politics with the future of education for students. If the member for Ovens Valley wants to see the money, then I would like to see the federal government’s money in education. I would like it to show us the money where Gonski and numerous other education projects are concerned. I can assure everyone in this house that this side of the chamber, the Andrews Labor government, is committed to ensuring that no matter what a child’s background, postcode, age or ability, everyone has the right to learn. That is why we mean what we say: we are fully committed to making Victoria the education state and to giving every one of our kids the best possible start in the best possible schools with talented teachers in every classroom.
I know that those opposite, members of the Liberal-Nationals coalition, are fond of rewriting history. I have sat here since the election victory, which they are now saying is somehow not real and did not happen. It was very real, because the reason they lost the election was that they failed in so many respects, particularly in the field of education, and now they are trying to rewrite history. So that nobody is confused, let me put on the record the failure of the Liberal Party in government. It cut capital budgets by half. There was a 500 per cent increase in portables being ripped out of school communities and moved to growth corridors because — and this is one of the most telling facts of the failure of the previous government — there will not be one new school opened for the thousands of Victorians in the outer suburbs who have established new homes there and who want their kids to go to a good school. Not one new school will be opened in 2016, and that is a damning fact and a damning legacy.
But there is more. The previous government cut the education maintenance allowance (EMA). I looked at what was being said in past newspapers and I noticed in the Berwick News that Susan Magee from the Casey North Community Information and Support Service, in talking about the EMA, feared the changes would mean disadvantaged and vulnerable families would suffer. She said the payments were crucial in assisting low-income families with the crippling costs of school uniforms, books and associated fees. That is what the previous government took — the books, the uniforms and the fee payments out of parents’ purses — and made them struggle even more to give their kids the best education opportunities.
The previous government restricted the travel conveyance allowance. There were kids in my electorate who could not get on a bus to go to school because they could not afford to. It axed Free Fruit Friday. As I said before, it took the apples from the mouths of babes. It failed to build schools in the outer suburbs — in my case, Casey Central East primary school. That was replicated many times over in the outer suburbs. It cut funding to the Victorian certificate of applied learning (VCAL) — $1.2 billion worth of cuts to TAFE.
I looked at more newspapers and found these headlines: ‘Creeping school cuts’ from St Francis Xavier Catholic College in Berwick; ‘Cash cuts hit schools’, Hampton Park Secondary College; ‘Still in need of help’, Narre Community Learning Centre; ‘Students in battle for VCAL funds’, Narre Warren South P–12 College; ‘Give us back the money’, Cranbourne Secondary College; ‘Students left in limbo’, Alkira Secondary College; ‘Drop-out fears’ from 15 principals; ‘Riled over VCAL cutback’, Kambrya College; ‘School bombshell — union pleads with government to resume building plans’; and there is more.
The history of the Baillieu and Napthine governments in education is truly deplorable. There is more, compliments of the ‘fixer’, the former federal minister for education Christopher Pyne. How quickly did Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull move him on? He failed to provide the money to fully fund the Gonski agreement. That is a sign of how inept he was and how far out of control members opposite were in the education field. Even when the federal government gave them money to pass on to schools that were working very hard to achieve excellent results and improvements in their literacy and numeracy, the national partnership funding was not passed on.
Schools like Kambrya College and Fountain Gate Primary School are still waiting for Christopher Pyne’s money to come from the former state Minister for Education’s office into their budgets. Hundreds of thousands are disadvantaged because federal and state governments of the same complexion — the Liberal-Nationals coalition — could not work together for the benefit of schools in Victoria.
Do members think this is going away? I do not think so. We have a new federal Minister for Education and Training, Mr Birmingham. He will have a very hard job repairing the damage that the ‘fixer’ wreaked on post-secondary education in particular. I see that Mr Birmingham already has trouble with his own caucus colleagues. Over the weekend I picked up the Australian edition of the Guardian and saw the big headline ‘Scott Morrison encourages states to let private sector run schools and hospitals’. With 2 minutes in the job as federal treasurer and 3 minutes in the job as federal education minister, they are already back to their old tricks of trying to privatise things and make user-pays principles apply to public schools.
I saw this headline: ‘States put on notice over health, education savings’. There will be a meeting where they all get together and talk about how they can save money. Another headline states: ‘Morrison tells states: fix health and education’. A good start in fixing health and public education would be to provide the money required under the Gonski agreement. We are still waiting to see where that money has gone. I concur with Michael Danby, the federal member for Melbourne Ports, who said:
It’s very hard for people to find efficiencies within that massive cutback …
They are asking us to do more with less and to pass on cuts to education and then asking parents, schools and religious institutions to pay for things that, quite simply, they cannot afford. I suggest that those opposite, if they are hanging out with their friends who occupy the government benches in Canberra, have a chat to them about how they can assist Victorian families, students and teachers to deliver on the Gonski agreement in the out years.
Ms Ryall interjected.
Ms GRALEY — The member for Ringwood likes to interject. She is good at telling people how to run their own businesses.
Ms Ryall — Been there, done that.
Ms GRALEY — Yes, so have I, and I still do. The fact is that many of us do, and, as the member for Essendon pointed out, we run them successfully.
I have set the scene, and what a contrast it is to have a Labor government occupying the seats of power and being responsible for delivering a quality education for Victorian students. I will put on the record a number of the steps already taken to repair the damage done to the education system by the previous regime. We have expanded and fast-tracked the $291 million public-private partnerships program, which will be the biggest one ever in Victoria. We have schools to build, and we will do that, bigger and better than ever. Not only have we funded our Gonski commitment for the term of this government; we have filled the $850 million black hole left by the previous government. As I said before, I call on the new prime minister, who says Victoria is a great place to be, to bring his moneybags to Victoria and fund the next stages of Gonski.
Before the school holidays every principal in the state received extra money to run their schools. I remind those opposite that under the coalition over half of the state’s 1500 government schools did not receive any equity funding. I have had a look at the list of the schools we are providing with extra money. They include Wodonga South Primary School, which got zero but under us will get $200 000. Wheelers Hill Secondary College got zero, now $140 000; Vermont Secondary College got zero, now $105 000; Stawell Secondary College got zero, now over $173 000; Mount Waverley Secondary College got zero, now over $112 000; Leongatha Primary School got zero, now over $123 000; Kew High School, represented by the member for Kew, a writer for the Herald Sun, has gone from zero to $82 000; and Berwick Secondary College has gone from zero to $271 000. I know that at Berwick Secondary College they are happy to be getting that extra money, because they told me so.
I also put on the record, as I mentioned at the outset, the serious damage inflicted on schools by the previous government, sometimes in little ways but with significant consequences. We have re-established a fund to make sure that all kids can go on camps and excursions. We have given assistance for school uniforms and glasses. The feedback in my electorate is that breakfast clubs will be established in some of the most disadvantaged schools. If government can do anything, it should make sure that every kid enters a classroom with a full tummy so they can learn. My colleagues tell me that many schools are contacting them and applying to be part of the breakfast club program.
When Mr Morrison, the federal Treasurer, or some in the business community or other community organisations criticise schools, you often hear the refrain that schools are not set up to cope with the modern age or that they do not listen to what business needs for its workforce. I am proud that this government has committed to a fantastic program, and I am fortunate that one of the new tech schools will open in my area in Casey. I have been to a number of community engagement forums and business boot camps, and businesses of all varieties, from high-tech manufacturing to health and community services, are telling us exactly what they want kids to learn at school and the experiences they want them to have so they are well kitted up, resilient, prepared and creative problem solvers. These are the sorts of skills they want kids to have, and the new tech schools will be tremendous places where kids will get an amazing opportunity to experience things that are not normally available to them in a formal classroom. These are great steps being taken by this government.
Elliot Eisner is quoted in The Education State — Schools Consultation Paper as having said:
The major aim of schooling is to enable students to become the architects of their own education so that they can invent themselves during the course of their lives.
On this side of the chamber we are totally committed to making sure that every child in Victoria gets an excellent, equitable and fair education, that they get the best expertise from their teachers and that we have highly skilled professions. No matter where you live, what background you come from or what your age or experience, we are committed to making sure that the success you deserve will be available to you.