Federal Parliament - Employment and Workplace Relations

13 June 2023



I want to thank all of those who made a contribution this evening. You thought that the decade of waste was over. We've just had three shadow ministers squander an opportunity to actually participate in a consideration in detail debate. After all their bellowing about the minister not being here, neither the member for Bradfield nor the member for Moncrieff bothered to stay. I find it incredibly disrespectful that they spent the majority of their time belittling my position as the Minister for Early Childhood Education.

But I will go directly to points raised in the debate. The member for Bradfield mentioned Labor's track record in education, and rightly so, because Labor is the party of education. We have a very proud track record in education. In terms of the question raised about HELP debts, it is quite an act of hubris on the part of those opposite to come in here and talk about HELP debts when, under their leadership, Australian students paid more and had to pay their HELP debts earlier.

They also mentioned school funding. I'm pleased to inform the Federation Chamber that school funding has actually been increasing. For every student in government schools, it has been going up by seven per cent over the last year.

I want to go to the point that the member for Moncrieff made when she talked about our package on professional development, a question that was also asked by my colleague here, the member for Lyons. She said, 'This package offers opportunity.' She's right! I agree with her! The sector agrees with her! Educators agree with her! Teachers agree with her! If the member for Moncrieff were actually to talk to educators, teachers or anyone in the sector, she would know that. She would know that our professional development package, our package of professional development and paid practicum, is something that has been widely welcomed by the sector as a direct response to the workforce issues that we are very cognisant of.

To summarise the debate this evening, the Albanese Labor government is committed to a fair and equitable education system that benefits every single Australian, from birth through to school and right through to university. My colleague the Minister for Education has demonstrated that. I have demonstrated that in the portfolio of early childhood education and care, and our Prime Minister demonstrates that when he talks about an Australia where every person, no matter who they are, has an opportunity to get an education to tap into that transformative power of education. We have been in office for just over a year now, and in just over a year we have managed to do so much more for education than those of opposite did in 10 years. They want to come in here and ask us why we haven't done the school funding in 12 months—my apologies to the member opposite, the member for Kooyong. They had a decade in office to do it, and they didn't. They want to ask us what we are doing about rural and regional access to early childhood education and care. We have invested half a billion dollars in the CCC Fund, supporting 900 early childhood education and care services in rural and regional areas. We have made early childhood education and care more affordable for 1.2 million Australians, including 265,000 in rural and regional areas.

But they had a decade to fix these issues. They had a decade to build an education system that works now and into the future for every single Australian child, that takes every individual from zero right through to their university or post-school years, and they did nothing. They didn't do a single thing about it. We have demonstrated that in just over 12 months we have put education in the middle of our agenda because we know that a good education system is absolutely necessary for a fairer, a smarter and a more equitable country. We have laid the foundations for the future, and we will continue to do that through this term in government and through future terms in government because only Labor governments ever have a vision—a vision for education and a vision for opportunity for all Australians.