Peter Khalil: I’d like to draw your attention to a report revealing that a staggering $630 million will be cut from Victorian public schools because of the policies of this government. According to the Victorian education department analysis, more than 70 state schools will be short-changed by $1 million over the next two years. In my electorate of Wills, Coburg High School will be as much as $900,000 worse off. Glenroy Secondary College will be up to $600,000 worse off. John Fawkner Secondary College will suffer cuts of up to $400,000. Pascoe Vale Primary School will lose up to $300,000. In fact, there isn’t a single school in my electorate that won’t lose funding because of this coalition government.
These figures are more than just numbers. The loss in funds translates to fewer resources and services, fewer special curriculum programs and fewer extracurricular activities. These cuts will negatively impact the learning environment for our kids and rob them, the future of our nation, of the best start in life. We have all seen the Turnbull government MPs out and about on the hustings trying to spin their education policy as good news for the nation. The Prime Minister and his education minister have been using figures that are deliberately designed to hide what this really is—a $22 billion cut to school funding. I note that even the Liberal government of New South Wales has gone to the extent of warning school principals that the Turnbull government’s figures cannot be trusted. The Prime Minister is merely congratulating himself because he’s cutting less money than the last Prime Minister, the member for Warringah, Tony Abbott. The fact remains that the Liberals are still cutting money from the system.
To borrow a line from the Leader of the Opposition’s budget reply speech—which was an excellent speech, I should add—it’s a bit like an arsonist turning up to help put out the fire that they started and then claiming credit for it. Labor introduced the original Gonski deal because Labor is committed to making sure we have the best schools in the world. We want to make sure that, regardless of whether a child lives in Fawkner or Strathmore or Coburg or Brunswick in my electorate of Wills, or whether they live next door to the Prime Minister’s Point Piper mansion, they will get the same access to a quality education.
Education is the key that opens the door to opportunity. I grew up in a housing commission. I got access to quality education because of Labor government policies. It gave me an opportunity to give something back to this country. It has afforded millions of Australians the opportunity to make a difference to their lives, to their families’ lives and to the wider community. Education is the key to opportunity, and we should be doing everything we can in our government in Australia to provide those opportunities for all Australians. That is essentially what fairness is about. That is essentially what it means to provide equality of opportunity.