Question Time: Education

Mr LIM (Tangney) (14:48): My question is to the Minister for Education. Why do we need to build a better and fairer education system, and what is standing in the way of that?

Mr CLARE (Blaxland—Minister for Education) (14:48): Can I thank my friend the terrific member for Tangney for his question. We want Australians to earn more and keep more of what they earn. That means pay rises and tax cuts. For a brand-new teacher in New South Wales at the moment, they’re now on $85,000 a year—the highest paid teachers in the country. From 1 July, they’ll get a tax cut of more than $1,800.

That’s good news, because our teachers do an important job—the most important job in the country—and that job has got a lot tougher in the last 10 years. In the last 10 years we’ve seen teacher shortages go up, and over the last 10 years we’ve also seen the number of kids finishing high school go down, not everywhere but in our public schools. We’ve seen a drop from 83 per cent down to 76 per cent. It’s no surprise that this has all happened after the Liberal Party ripped the guts out of Gonski funding.

We’ve got a big anniversary coming up, because in seven weeks time it will be 10 years since the Liberal Party ripped more than $20 billion out of public schools in this country. Remember that cigar-chomping budget? Guess who was on the ERC at the time? Old smiley over there, the opposition leader. The health minister talked about—

Mr Perrett interjecting—

The SPEAKER: Order! The member for Moreton is warned.

Mr Fletcher: Mr Speaker—

Dr Chalmers interjecting

The SPEAKER: The Treasurer will cease interjecting, and he is warned as well. People cannot interject when someone is taking a point of order. I don’t know how many times I have to tell you that. Every member is entitled to take a point of order, including—especially—the Manager of Opposition Business, and he has the call.

Mr Fletcher: Mr Speaker, there are standing orders about the respectful way in which parliamentarians are supposed to speak about each other, and this minister has breached that.

Government members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! Members on my right. This is an issue that I’m very exercised about too. The Leader of the House.

Mr Burke: Mr Speaker, this would be the first time ever someone’s taken offence to being accused of smiling.

The SPEAKER: Order! I’ll hear from the manager—

Government members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Members on my right. The manager is right to raise a point of order.

Mr Fletcher: As the Leader of the House would be well aware, standing order 90, amongst other things, states that all imputations of improper motives to a member and all personal reflections on other members shall be considered highly disorderly—as well as a range of other standing orders.

Government members interjecting

The SPEAKER: Order! We don’t need sound effects from those on my right. The member for Swan and the member for Reid can stop interjecting immediately. The minister doesn’t have to withdraw anything, but I’m just going to ask him to temper his language and make sure he’s showing respect to all members of parliament—and that’s to both sides of the House. Everyone has titles. Everyone’s earnt titles to be here. I’m just asking everyone to show each other respect. The Minister for Education has the call.

Honourable members interjecting

Mr CLARE: Ha, ha—now that’s a breach of the standing orders, I suspect.

Mr Dutton interjecting

The SPEAKER: I just asked everyone to show each other respect. So we’re going to put away phones; we’re going to put away comments and just get back to question time. The minister has the call.

Mr CLARE: I’m just trying to turn that frown upside down. I’m just trying to turn that frown upside down.

They didn’t just rip the guts out of hospitals; they ripped the guts out of schools as well, and we’re all paying the price for that now. That’s why what we announced in the Northern Territory a couple of weeks ago is so important—the biggest single investment in public education by the Australian government in the Northern Territory ever—bringing forward the day when we fully fund public schools in the Northern Territory by more than 20 years.

That’s not a blank cheque. That funding will be tied to the sorts of things that are going to help more kids finish high school. That will change the lives of kids in the Northern Territory, because, if they finish school, their kids when they have them will be more likely to finish school too. That’s what a good education does. It ricochets through families and communities, it ricochets through generations, and it helps all of us here, too, because it means we’ll have a stronger economy if more kids finish school—and a better and a fairer country.

But to do this we’ll need to introduce legislation through this parliament to increase the investment in public education. And London to a brick, when we do this, the Liberal Party will vote against it. And if they win the next election then you know exactly what they’ll do—what they did 10 years ago: light up the cigars, rip the money out of public schools and smile while they do it.