Bill's Speeches

SPEECH - PUBLIC EDUCATION DAY - CANBERRA - THURSDAY, 25 MAY 2017

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Good morning everybody and it's great to be here to talk about the future of schools and future of our kids.

I am sorry I couldn't attend the breakfast this morning - we were at the commemoration at the British High Commission for the dreadful murders in Manchester. 

But as a demonstration of Labor's commitment to proper school funding, not only did you hear from Tanya Plibersek this morning, but our team has given you Tanya Plibersek as our education spokesperson, that is how serious we are. 

I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the lands on which we meet, I pay my respects to elders past and present. 

I thought that after the last election that maybe we had won the argument on education. 

I thought maybe we could, at last, put the debate about the future of the funding of schools aside. That the government would get the message, that school funding should not be a political football, it should just be a political priority. 

But there is very much a clear choice emerging in Australia. 

And the choice is simple:

Do you want to properly fund the early years of a child's learning? 

Do you want to properly fund our schools?

Do you want to properly fund universities?

 

Do you want to properly fund TAFE? 

 

Or the other choice is you cut schools funding.

 

You cut schools funding by $22 billion over the next 10 years 

 

That you cut funding to universities.

 

That you increase the price of going to university and make people reapy their HECS fees to go to university.

 

And of course, there are cuts to vocational training. 

 

So there are very clear choices. 

 

But it is nowhere more clear this battle for the future, than for school funding.

 

I want to tell you today we should reject pretend fairness - it is never a substitute for real fairness. 

 

And the test of whether or not you are fair is if you decide that you want to fund schools, or cut them by $22 billion over 10 years.  When I say that number, it is almost an eye-watering number and people say: "What does that mean?" 


What it means, on average for every school, is that this government, with this pretend Prime Minister with his pretend fairness and his pretend education policy, he will deliver  $2.4 million less on average to every school in Australia. 

 

What that means is 22,000 less teaching staff, support staff in our schools. 

 

And that means Australia falls behind the pace. 

 

See, when I think about schools funding, I think at one level that every child, regardless of their post code or the circumstances of their parents, deserves access to the best education. 


But I also think Australians deserve the best possible school system. 

 

A debate about schools funding is not just about the money. It's about what  direction this nation goes in. 

 

It's actually a discussion and a debate about what is the value that we put on education? 

 

We are living through an unprecedented time in history. We're fortunate in our region with the rise of China and India, South-East Asia.

 

We have never lived in a time like this – and no other nation is taking education for granted. 

 

They don't see it as a matter somewhere less important than tax cuts for millionaires or corporate tax cuts or spending more money on negative gearing tax concessions. 

 

We must win this argument about schools funding because it is the message we send our kids about the value of their education and their future. 

 

Our children and their parents and teachers who you represent, they expect leadership from Canberra.

They pay their taxes - they expect some of the taxes to be reinvested in their children's education. 

 

And what message do we send the future generation of Australians when we say we are happy to be middle of the pack in schools funding? 

 

When did this nation sign up to be second best? 

 

We cannot rely on the good fortune of minerals or commodity prices to fuel our future. 

 

We have to be clever enough to make our own luck. 

 

And making your own luck must surely start with investment in education, skills, training. 

 

Developing the habits of the mind - teaching young kids to fall in love with learning and passions and love which they will carry with them.

 

I don't want Australia to fall behind the pace. 

 

I want Australia to have the best school system. 

 

When we decide not to properly fund our schools, we send a message to our kids that the adults, the leaders, don't value education. And that is the wrong message that we send. 

 

I want to say something to teachers here: once upon a upon a time teaching was viewed as a great way out of the working class. Teachers were respected in our community. 

 

But somewhere along the line, we started to put up school buildings in a rush, we started to downgrade the pay of teachers. 

 

Somewhere along the line the status of teaching, not with the teachers themselves but with the way that society valued our teachers, we fell off the pace a bit. 

 

That sends the wrong message - teachers should be valued in our community. Teachers should be better paid in our community. 

 

Teachers should have the respect because of the important role they play in the future of our country. 

 

It is wrong, and I know the AEU knows it is wrong, but it is wrong that you can't remain in a classroom teaching kids and expect to ever earn $100,000.

Why is that we say we expect our kids to be taught the best they can and yet we don't treat our teachers the best we can?

 

If I had a dollar for every time in a social conversation people said, "If they only taught it in the schools", it’s probably just ahead of “they should get internet providers to fix that”.

 

This argument that somehow teachers, if they just taught it in the schools it would all be better.

 

I, for one, think we ask a lot of our teachers already. We don't pay them properly, I don't think that we sufficiently respect the status of teaching.

 

But what I also think about teaching is that you can't be the parents to every kid. 

 

You can't fix up all of the issues but what you can expect is that a government in Canberra, a leadership in Canberra, will at least reinforce your efforts. 

 

You are the people to whom we entrust our children when they first move beyond the family. 

 

Teachers are not allowed to have bad days. You may well have them, but the kids are like brilliant little sensory units, they can detect if the teacher is off-form and not happy.

 

It must be very hard to have to be up every day - the Government don't even bother most days, look at them in Question Time. 

 

It is not easy to be emotionally resilient where your kids depend on you, but you do it every day. 

 

What amazes me is we now have a government in Canberra who are so up themselves they they actually think they know better than the people in the classroom.

 

This government, every time we say, "What about the cuts to the school", they get out the calculator.

 

Oh my lord, Birmingham and co - they get out this calculator and say it is getting X or Y dollars. 

 

But he is so dishonest because what they look at is when they say there is more, they are looking at Tony Abbott's cuts.

 

Having cut school funding by tens of billions of dollars, they look at the very bottom that they have taken school funding to and because they have not cut as much, because they haven't cut here, they just cut here, they want a medal, a prize, they want the applause of people.

 

As a former Prime Minister once said, they are a bit like the arsonist turning up to the fire and offering to help put it out - that was a Tony Abbott quote. Like a stopped clock, correct twice a day. 

 

But in all seriousness, this debate about schools is about priorities.

 

The priorities of the Labor Party and the Coalition. 

 

It is about the priorities of a nation. 

 

I think that it is correct and proper that we actually choose to fund our schools properly, rather than hand-out corporate tax cuts. 

 

I think it is right that we end the Hunger Games between various sections of the educational community and instead focus on needs-based funding. 

 

Mr Turnbull says he has discovered needs-based funding - the problem is, he doesn't understand what it means. 

 

He doesn't understand the inter-relation between the government and non-government sector.

 

He doesn't understand the inter-relationship between the Federal Government and state governments. 

 

We want to get to get every school to 95 per cent of what the experts said is the right resource standard. 

 

Under his plans, it just won't happen. 

 

We want to make sure teaching is valued. 


One argument we intend to defeat in the next 18 months or when the election is held, is this conservative, hockey-stick waving, elite-private school argument that money doesn't make a difference in education. 

 

If money didn't make a difference in education, then why did some of the parents of some of the government members send them to the schools they did? 

 

I don't dispute those choices because it's up to those parents.

 

But what I don't like is that the people who have a lot of money, people who have a lot of privilege, people who have a lot of power, why is it that they so bitterly resent educational opportunity being spread to all in the nation? 

 

We will win this argument, but we need you. 

 

This is a government who thinks that if they use the word "fair" repetitively and if they use the words" needs-based" that somehow that is sufficient.

 

But these are the people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing. 

 

For me, my team, we understand that this nation needs to make its own luck, value its teachers and value the resources we put in the schools. 

 

The kids of Australia take their cues on the priorities from the adults in Australia. 

 

When we put them in good quality buildings, they say, "Gee, people value what is happening here". 

 

When we respect our teachers and they have a restoration to their honoured status in our community, then people say, "These teachers are important". 

 

And when we properly fund our schools, we don't fix every challenge for every child in doing that, you can't be everyone's parents - of course we need a robust curriculum, we need to make sure that teaching training is of a quality that keeps pace with changing knowledge. 

 

But an integral, irreplaceable cornerstone of the education system is proper funding. 

 

We need you, we need you to talk to your schools, to your school communities. 

We need you to talk to parents. 

 

This is not just another argument on the nightly news. 

 

This is not just another "he said-she said, when will they just get on and get things done" argument in the parliament. 

 

This is a debate about the value of education in this country. 

 

I believe that we should be ambitious for our schools. 

 

We should be ambitious for our teachers. 

 

We should be ambitious for our funding. 

 

We should be ambitious for our kids. 

 

We need to make our own luck rather than just rely upon what we always have done, what is in the ground, we now need to have another debate which puts education, teachers, parents and kids, right at the top of the tree. 

 

We are going to have this argument, we need you to help us win this argument.

 

We can win this argument. 

 

If the government want a fight on education and who is fair dinkum - excellent, excellent, excellent. 

 

Because we know more than just the labels, we believe that education is the X-factor which will make this nation a very lucky nation and thank you to all of you and your members. 

 

Thank you very much.


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