Mr HUSIC (Chifley—Government Whip) (14:19): My question is to the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth. Public, Catholic and independent schools in the Chifley electorate are deeply concerned about the New South Wales government’s education funding cuts. Minister, are you able to explain what these cuts mean for my schools and for our schooling systems across the state, and how is the government addressing this?
Mr Pyne: Madam Deputy Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Ministers can certainly be asked questions about their portfolio responsibilities, but the question he has been asked about, to do with the New South Wales government, bears no responsibility to the minister’s portfolio and therefore the question is most certainly out of order, I respectfully put to you.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The question was in order. The minister has the call.
Mr GARRETT (Kingsford Smith—Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth) (14:20): I thank the member the Chifley for his question. The fact is that Labor has consistently invested in schools around Australia. That is what Labor does. We have consistently done it in New South Wales—half a billion dollars for the low socioeconomic schools national partnership and $100 million on literacy and numeracy and on teacher quality. I could go on. Federally, we have almost doubled what the Howard government spent on education.
We know we have to do more to lift our education performance, focusing on teacher quality, looking at giving more power to principals in schools and giving schools the support they need to lift their results. That is why the Prime Minister has been clear that if there is agreement to a national plan for school improvement then we would be willing to invest more. In fact, we saw OECD head Andreas Schleicher endorse our approach just today on that. On this side of the chamber we know that Labor in government will always invest in schools. It is what we do. It reflects a profound view that we need to do the best we as a nation can on education so that every child has a chance, so that as a country we continue to grow and so that as a country we continue to be prosperous.
But when Liberal governments come to power they put schools and teachers straight up onto the chopping block. I can understand why schools across New South Wales, including in the member for Chifley’s electorate and my electorate, are worried about these proposed cuts to education.
Before an election the coalition will say things that they want to say and they think people want to hear, and let me tell you what they are: that ‘teachers will be the best paid in the country’, that ‘we will invest in schools’, that ‘fees will not rise’. But after the election it is a different story. When the Liberal Party and the Liberal government in New South Wales wanted to make a saving it was education that was bowled up first—$1.7 billion worth.
Opposition members interjecting—
Mr GARRETT: Against the hubbub, I am asked the question: what does this mean? Well, I will tell you what it means: cuts that will push up fees in non-government schools in New South Wales, cuts that will reduce support to government schools in New South Wales, cuts that will slash jobs for TAFE teachers and increase fees for students. It is worthwhile reflecting for those opposite that the biggest cuts we have seen to education in New South Wales were when the last Liberal government was in power and Terry Metherell united the entire education community and the state against him. I wonder if the member for North Sydney remembers that.
The fact is that we will always invest in education on this side of the House. This is absolutely core to what Labor governments do. But we now know, from what we see in New South Wales and from what the Leader of the Opposition has promised by way of $2.8 billion of cuts in education, that that would happen here too if they were ever to come to power. (Time expired)
Mr HUSIC (Chifley—Government Whip) (14:23): Madam Deputy Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. How is the federal government planning to keep investing in schools in the Chifley electorate and across the country?
Mr GARRETT (Kingsford Smith—Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth) (14:24): I thank the member for that supplementary question, because it allows me to point out that in Chifley the support that the Gillard Labor government has provided to schools in the member’s electorate is significant: $137 million in 163 projects, benefiting 66 schools. That is BER funding. We have three trades training centres—trades training centres, incidentally, that are on the chopping block with the cuts that the Leader of the Opposition wants to bring forward. We have $14.7 million invested there, and 8,600 computers are being delivered to kids in the member’s electorate as a consequence of the investment commitment to education that this government has.
I can understand why the member asks this question, because that is a proud record compared to what those opposite have on offer. In recent weeks we have seen some insights into the value that the opposition places on education: the member for Sturt saying that they would sack one in seven teachers, the Leader of the Opposition saying it would be an injustice if funding for public schools were to continue, and this morning on radio the shadow Treasurer refusing to rule out similar cuts to those underway in New South Wales, Queensland and Victoria. He absolutely refused to—three times, in fact.
Mr Pyne: Madam Deputy Speaker, on a point of order. I simply ask how it can be directly relevant for the minister to be making things up that I have never said.
The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Ms AE Burke ): The minister will conclude his answer.
Mr GARRETT: When the shadow Treasurer was asked the question about waste he referred to education investment. I say no more. (Time expired)