ALP National Conference – Opening the doors of opportunity





On election night the Prime Minister talked about opening the doors of opportunity.

That’s what Labor Governments do.

It’s what unions do.

And it’s what education does.

It changes lives. 

It opens doors that would otherwise stay closed.

It’s why it’s the title of this Chapter.

We’ve got great teachers and great educators in this country, but we need more.

And we have got a good education system, but it can be a lot better and a lot fairer.

Think about this.

If you are a child from a poor family, from the regions, or if you are an indigenous Australian today:

  • you are less likely to go to pre-school
  • you are more likely to fall behind at primary school
  • and you are less likely to finish high school

Now think about this.

Six years ago, 83 percent of students in public schools finished year 12.  Last year it was 76 percent.

And this is happening at a time when we need more young people to finish school and go on to TAFE or uni, not less.

Rich, Poor.  City, Bush. Black, White.

Almost one in two people in their 30s today has a uni degree. 

But not everywhere. Not where I grew up.  Not in the outer suburbs of our big cities. Not in the regions. Not in poor families.  Only 15 percent of people from poor families have a university degree today.

And it’s even lower if you are Indigenous. 

If you’re a young Indigenous bloke today, you’re more likely to go to jail than university. 

These are the kids who are missing out.

And this is what we have got to fix.

Not just for them, but for all of us.

Because if you finish school your children are more likely to finish school, earn more money, pay more tax, live better lives.

And because if our education system is fairer our economy will be stronger.

Because more people with more skills means business will be more productive.

That’s what the work we are doing is all about.

And it’s what underpins this Chapter:

That access to early education should be universal.

That our teachers and educators are properly valued and supported.

That all schools are put on a path to full and fair funding.

That we don’t just close this funding gap but we also close this education gap.

That we make sure this funding is tied to the sorts of reforms that will help a kid from Cabramatta or Cairns or Karratha who falls behind, to catch up, to keep up and finish school.

That we strengthen and expand access to apprenticeships and traineeships.

That we open the doors of our universities to more young people from poor backgrounds, from the regions, more young people with a disability, more Indigenous Australians.

These are the things we all believe in.

It’s what makes us Labor.

And it’s what drives us in government.

The power of education and training to change lives.

And the power of government to make sure it reaches into every corner of the country and every home.

To build a country where your chances in life don’t depend on who your parents are, where you live or the colour of your skin.

To open the doors of opportunity wider to more Australians.

I commend the Chapter to you.