Education funding - Matters of Public Importance
16 September 2015
Ms RYAN (Euroa) — It gives me great pleasure to rise today to contribute to the debate on the matter of public importance (MPI), which was proposed by the member for Monbulk. I note that after speaking on his MPI he chose to leave the chamber, which I consider a great shame. I would have thought that if he truly cares about education, he would stay to hear the contributions from both sides of the house.
It gives me pleasure to rise to correct Labor's blatant disregard for any kind of factual accuracy in the MPI that has been proposed today. It is interesting to note that 10 months into this government's term this reference is all about the coalition and our record. Those opposite cannot find a single, solitary achievement of their own to outline to Victorians. On this side of the house we are happy to talk about our record — I will talk about it until the cows come home — because we are proud of what we have achieved. There is more than a whiff of desperation in this government's blatant attempt in the last few days to simply re-announce funding. Packaging it up and putting a bow on it does not build more schools or improve education for young people. While I congratulate those on the opposite side of the house for picking 'the education state' as their slogan, slogans do not make it real either.
Labor claims there was a lack of capital investment under the previous coalition government. Let us deal with the facts. Last year we invested $9.2 billion in education in this state, which is $1 billion more than when Labor was last in government. It was record funding for government schools and record funding for training. Over our four years in government we invested $1.1 billion in capital funding and a further $109 million in maintenance funding. On the other hand, this year's budget papers show a distinct lack of investment, particularly in country Victoria. This is a Melbourne-centric government, and it has form on this.
Honourable members interjecting.
Ms RYAN — Those opposite laugh, but they have form on this. Let us not forget their record. I am more than happy to discuss their record. Under John Brumby Victoria's government schools were receiving the lowest funding per student of any state or territory in Australia. It was lower than the Northern Territory and lower than those across the water in Tasmania — that economic basket case. It was lower than in any state or territory in Australia. When we came to government there was a school maintenance backlog of $420 million. There are plenty of people on the other side of the house who were members of the Brumby government. There are only two or three of them who are sitting here today, which is no great surprise.
Schools right around regional Victoria are not buying what this government is selling. Why? Because under the Liberal-Nationals government, their rebuilding and repair needs were being met for the first time in a decade. Take Wangaratta High School and Yarrawonga College P–12, for which the hardworking member for Ovens Valley secured $4.5 million and $7.6 million respectively. In Bairnsdale, the member for Gippsland East fought for and secured $10 million for the first stage of Bairnsdale Secondary College. The coalition was poised to deliver the $12.5 million needed to finish the job, but Labor would not agree to fund it, which I find strange given that in 2010 it committed to stage 1 of the school. Labor members recognised the dire need of students in East Gippsland but four years later, when it no longer suited them, they were not interested.
Before the election there was not even a candidate for that school to talk to. She did not visit the electorate until two days before polling day. That is typical of the disdain for regional Victoria shown by those opposite. The school community in Bairnsdale is not asking for very much. All it wants is a meeting with the minister, but he will not visit. When we were in government we got on with the job of fixing the mess that Labor had left us. In Gippsland South the coalition invested $27 million funding for Leongatha Secondary College, Mirboo North Secondary College, Korumburra Secondary College and Sale Specialist School. I know the member for Gippsland South has been a fierce advocate in securing additional funding for Sale Specialist School, which is one of the few schools in country Victoria that those opposite invested in.
In my own electorate of Euroa I was pleased that the minister, after a great deal of urging, finally decided to visit Benalla P–12 College and Seymour College. However, both schools have been disappointed that the minister refused to provide any assurance that the government will match the coalition's pledge to rebuild those very important schools. There are over 100 schools across the state, many in regional Victoria, which Labor has made no commitments to fund.
It is a sad reflection of those opposite that they repeat the mantra of 'the education state' while they are sacking Victoria's workplace learning coordinators. These coordinators are directly responsible for facilitating the workplace learning of students. Many of those placements are a compulsory part of the vocational education and training (VET) and Victorian certificate of applied learning (VCAL) programs. In recent days I have spoken to staff at schools in the electorate of Hawthorn, and they have told me that they will most likely scale back their VCAL and VET offerings because they are unable to offer their students support to participate in them. VCAL and VET coordinators work with local learning and employment networks, secondary schools, vocational education and training providers, and the community education sector.
Honourable members interjecting.
Ms RYAN — There seems to be puzzlement on the faces of those opposite. They are obviously not aware that the minister has refused to provide additional funding for these positions.
Those coordinators work with local employers to coordinate work placements, structured workplace learning and work experience. The coalition recognised how vital these positions are. When the federal government axed these positions, we took them up because we understand that these people are helping build employment pathways for our young people.
This program has a very simple objective, and that is to help young people get jobs. It is about helping industry get the workforce that it needs to grow and prosper, and it is about making sure that the needs of industry are aligned with the delivery and provision of VCAL and VET. It is designed to help a number of young Aboriginal people in this state undertake workplace learning placements. An independent impact evaluation of this program found that it resulted in increased work placements for students, more participation from employers and more engagement from schools. I do not need a review to tell me this program worked. It is common sense, and in my own area it has had wonderful outcomes.
Savannah Collard, a student at Assumption College in Kilmore, who just several weeks ago was nominated for a school-based training award, was feted by the Minister for Training and Skills as one of the exemplary students in this state. Guess how she got her work placement at Seymour Health? Like hundreds of other kids in my area, she got that placement through the local workplace learning coordinator — the same workplace learning coordinator that this government is sacking. Government members claim they care about youth unemployment, yet they are ditching the very people who are responsible in this state for helping young people find jobs. It is the worst example of hypocrisy.
I will conclude on vocational education and training, which I note has not been included in this matter of public importance but which is a very important part of the education system. I can understand why government members do not want to talk about VET; it is a huge embarrassment for them. They are not investing one additional dollar into training places and not one extra student will be trained this year under the vocational education and training system. Let us wait and see what happens when the half-yearly training data comes out. I note it has now been 78 days since the end of the financial year and that training data still has not been released.
Those opposite have attempted to mislead Victorians about the coalition's achievements. They have come in here trying to rehash budget announcements. They think they can talk their way out of their failure to deliver for country schools and country students. This government has not made vital investments in regional Victoria. It refuses even to have a conversation with many of our schools. At a time when youth unemployment is increasing, it is sacking the very people responsible — —
The ACTING SPEAKER (Ms Ryall) — Order! The member's time has expired.