Senator BILYK —It was interesting that Senator Fierravanti-Wells asked that their side stop yelling.
Senator Fierravanti-Wells —I think you know what I meant.
Senator BILYK —It was a nice interlude that acknowledged that their side were getting a little worked up—
Senator Fierravanti-Wells —Next time you make a mistake, I’m sure we’ll point it out to you, Sunshine.
Senator BILYK —a little tetchy and a little overexcited about things.
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT —Senators on my left, stop shouting across the chamber.
Senator BILYK —I rest my case.
Senator Fierravanti-Wells —Senator Bilyk will never make a mistake in this place. She’s so perfect.
Senator BILYK —I take what Senator Fierravanti-Wells said. It is a compliment. I thank her for that compliment. Is Senator Barnett standing up for a reason? Is he going to object, like in question time? No; he is leaving. He probably does not want to hear what I am going to say. I have asked him if he actually supports the NBN in Tasmania for the Tasmanian people.
Senator Polley —Will Hodgman does.
Senator BILYK —Will Hodgman does. Thank you, Senator Polley, for that interjection. I have called on Will Hodgman, the Leader of the Opposition in Tassie, to challenge Tony Abbott, but to date I do not think he has. Tony Abbott is going to come in and take money out of the NBN. All Tasmanians will suffer. I am wondering what the Tasmanian senators on that side of the chamber really think about that. Are they just following Tony Abbott, like little sheep all in a row, doing what he says? After all, we know who rules the Liberal Party. It is Tony Abbott and Senator Abetz. The people of Tasmania want to be very frightened that Will Hodgman does not have the moral fortitude to stand up to them and support the NBN project in Tasmania for Tasmanians.
Let me get back on track. The opposition had 12 long years in government to make some improvements, but what did they do? Nothing. All they did was rip money out of education and health. They come in here and try to rewrite history. They have this alternative history. It is like a child’s fairytale. They try to rewrite history.
Senator Jacinta Collins —They try to rewrite Hansard.
Senator BILYK —That is right; they try to rewrite Hansard. Thank you, Senator Collins, for that interjection as well. They rewrite the history. They were so wonderful in their 12 years that the people of Australia voted them out. They were pretty good, weren’t they? As I said, Tony Abbott wants to rip money out of the NBN, which is one of the best things to happen to Tasmania in a long time—
Senator Polley —And the nation.
Senator BILYK —and the nation. Thank you, Senator Polley, for that interjection. We still have not heard from Will Hodgman. He has got till Friday night, as Saturday is election day in Tassie and South Australia. Will he have the moral fortitude and the courage to stand up to Tony Abbott? I do not think so. The people of Tasmania should be very bothered by that.
Those on the other side of the chamber are unreliable. They voted not to invest in schools and education. They voted not to invest in the infrastructure that was so greatly needed through the global financial crisis. The stimulus package that we introduced helped save Australia from the worst parts of the global financial crisis. We on this side are working for a modern Australia and a modern economy. I ask those on the other side: what would Australia be like today if we had not intervened and if we had not had Building the Education Revolution, for example? They have no vision and they are out of touch. They just knock things for the sake of knocking things; they oppose things for opposition’s sake. They oppose everything that comes along.
They had their 12 years. Let us be reasonable about this. They had 12 years and they could have done a whole lot of work in the education area. They could have given some money to some of the schools that needed new facilities. But no, they would rather hoard it and not spend it on education. Nationwide our children have been missing out on all these benefits that the Rudd government is now introducing.
What do those opposite want to do? They want to introduce a big new tax. Of course they do not want to call it a tax; they want to call it a levy, because that is a little bit different. The big new tax on business will have an impact on Australian families, and anybody so naive that they do not think it is going to happen is, once again, living in the little alternative fantasy world that those on the other side insist on living in.
Let us talk about the historic and fundamental change to the future of Australian education. The My School website, for example, has opened up transparency and consistency in reporting of schools. Previously this did not happen. The Rudd government is delivering on the changes that will help build a better future for our children and for our nation. Let us have a look at the My School website. It will help us distribute around $2.5 billion in funding through the national partnerships. The My School website has allowed people to go onsite and compare their school with like schools so that they can see how well their school is performing. There have been comments to Julia Gillard, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education, in regard to the fact that really positive outcomes have already started happening because of the My School website. Some parents had been concerned about how their school was performing and they have now been able to verify their concerns and take action.
The Rudd government has committed a total of $1.5 billion to assess the low socioeconomic status schools. We have committed $540 million for literacy and numeracy and we have committed $550 million for improving teacher quality. Around 2,500 schools will benefit directly from these programs. The website data has identified 110 schools which would have missed out on this funding, schools that would not previously have picked up this funding. Julia Gillard, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Education, has done a fantastic job in the short time that we have been here—compared to the length of time the opposition were in government and did nothing. She has come in and made fantastic progress in reforming the education system, as I said, so that our children can get a decent education and our children’s children can get a decent education, and that is one of the most critical things, I believe, for our children to achieve.
At the beginning of March she also released the final consultation documents for Australia’s first national curriculum. This will allow students to move around Australia knowing that they are studying at the same levels as students in other states. In our society today where people are moving fairly frequently, not just within their own areas but also interstate, I think it is an absolutely wonderful program. This is a significant milestone for Australian education.
Opposition senators interjecting—
Senator BILYK —The draft curriculum has been developed by education and curriculum experts. It has been shaped by the advice of teachers and principals and it will be one of the first in the world to be delivered online, making it dynamic and accessible. It has got a back-to-basics approach which I think is really important. It focuses on maths, English, science and history and provides a contemporary view of the world and the skills we need to find our way in the world.
Opposition senators interjecting—
Senator BILYK —I do hear a lot of interjections from the other side but, having worked in the childcare industry for 12 years, I tell you that it does not matter to me how much noise they continue to make. I have worked in rooms with 25 to 30 screaming three-year-olds, and the behaviour on that side of the chamber is worse—I will acknowledge that—than a lot of the three-year-olds.
Opposition senators interjecting—
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Moore)—Order! Senator Bilyk, it has become too loud.
Senator BILYK —Thank you, Madam Acting Deputy President. With regard to the national curriculum, as I said, it provides a contemporary view of the world and the skills we need to find our way in it, and for our children that has to be fantastic. Over 150 schools around the country will be trialling this curriculum. After years of neglect under the previous government, the Rudd government is modernising the education system. That is the stark difference between them and us. They did nothing. They took money out of the education system, they took money out of the health system, and here are we trying to revolutionise both the education and the health systems.
We are putting computers in schools and building new school facilities and improving education outcomes for all students. Again I have to ask those opposite: why don’t you want students to have the new computers? Why don’t you want students to have new schools? Why don’t you want students to be able to enjoy the new facilities and the new buildings and the new outdoor areas?
Senator Polley —And the teachers—
Senator BILYK —Thank you, Senator Polley, that is a great interjection—and the teachers! And the community as well, because these school halls are for the whole of the community to use. Not that long ago I had the pleasure of attending Kingston Primary School’s new hall for a community activity, and it was absolutely wonderful and everybody there was really pleased with it.
With regard to the absolutely bizarre comment from the opposition that somehow schools do not want these facilities, can I say that schools have to sign off on these facilities. Read the guidelines. The schools have to actually sign off. Nobody is forcing the schools to take these buildings. Why would you not want to improve education outcomes for all students? Why are the opposition so anti-education? I challenge them to tell me. I note there is a Tasmanian senator on the other side. I challenge them to tell me which schools they would not give the money to. Which schools in Tasmania do they not want to have those improvements? Which schools should we take the money from? Tell me which schools you would like us to take the money from.
Building the Education Revolution has not been mismanaged. Those on the other side come in here with their broad accusations but they have no proof. They come in here and cite articles from the Australian. I think that is the work of their tactics committee. Every day they sit down in their office first thing in the morning, read the Australian, see what is in there and say, ‘We’ll have a question on that in question time or we’ll take that up at some other time.’ And off they go, citing the Australian like it is some wonderful—
Senator Colbeck —You don’t have to talk about the Australian.
Senator BILYK —I will take that interjection. It is not only the Australian; there are other forms of media that they quote. I did hear Senator Barnett talk about radio 2GB or 2GE or something. I am happy to stand corrected on what the actual radio station was. But everything that is said in the media, on the radio or in the newspaper, is gospel to them. It is just true.
Senator Polley —And email. Don’t forget email.
Senator BILYK —That is exactly right, Senator Polley. We cannot forget emails because emails are very important pieces of information. In fact, to receive an email you need a computer, and to be able to work a computer you need to learn how. Here are we, offering computers to students in schools, and those on that side knock them back, saying: ‘No, no, no. We don’t agree with that. We don’t think that should happen.’ You cannot trust those on the other side. The base hypocrisy of them when they come in here! They are happy to be there at the opening of extensions to schools or whatever. They are happy to come along and get in the photo shoots. I know of opposition members in the other place who have taken the credit for getting the funding. They have actually put it into newsletters. You cannot trust the Liberal Party.
The Rudd government will deliver; the Rudd government is delivering. The opposition had 12 years, as I said, and did nothing. They just cannot live with the fact that they are in opposition and we are in government. They cannot deal with it, so they want to rewrite everything and have their own alternative history. It would make really great reading if it was not so farcical. The government’s economic stimulus plan has worked. The Australian economy has worked well over the last 12 months. In fact, I wonder where we would be if the government had not taken that action. The Rudd government acted decisively and very, very quickly.
Those opposite, particularly in the Senate, are like Senate vandals. They just want to sabotage everything. They want to sabotage the economic and fiscal strategy that the Rudd government put up, which was designed to save Australia from the worst part of the global financial crisis. We have done that. We have kept Australians in jobs. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been given to people because of Building the Education Revolution. Those on the other side are a risk to our economy because they are so negative. They are just going to block everything. They just want to bring in new big, fat taxes. Mr Abbott wants to bring in a big, fat tax, and that is only the beginning. I think it took him 34 days to change his mind on that. They have a relentlessly negative approach. As I said, they are in opposition and they just oppose for opposition’s sake. Let us talk about Mr Abbott and his big, fat tax.
Senator Polley —Do we have to?
Senator BILYK —I do not particularly want to, but we have to be fair about this. Mr Abbott has never held an economic portfolio.
Senator Bernardi —Have you?
Senator BILYK —No, but I am not the Leader of the Opposition. I have never laid claim to doing the things he has. Even Peter Costello would not have Tony Abbott as his deputy because he knew that Tony Abbott did not take economics seriously. Tony Abbott opposed and voted against the stimulus package during the economic downturn and he said he would stop the school building program which is supporting tens of thousands of jobs and tradies and small business people. And here are we, helping every school in Australia.
Let us look at what those in opposition in Tasmania think about education. We all know how important education is. It transforms lives. Maybe that is the fear of those on the other side. Maybe they do not want an educated Australia. Maybe they are a little bit paranoid that people might learn things. They seem to have an anti-education program going on. Let me see what is happening in Tasmania. Mr Hodgman there was talking the other day about levies in schools. Let us think about what they are doing there. Under a Bartlett Labor government in Tasmania, 40 per cent of families do not pay school levies. But Mr Hodgman has made great claims about what will happen with levies. Less than 50 per cent of families stand to receive immediate benefit from the Liberal promise and the rest will have to either pay more or see kids and their schools go without. That is how much the Liberal Party in Tasmania—
Senator Polley —They will have to check with Senator Abetz.
Senator BILYK —Yes, they will have to check with Senator Abetz, because I am sure he is pushing for a leadership challenge. Will Hodgman cannot guarantee, and is not guaranteeing, that levies will be abolished. I can see Eric moving across to the other place, cruising his way in.
Opposition senators interjecting—
The ACTING DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Ryan)—Order! Senator Bilyk, continue. I was referring to the interjections, not to you.
Senator BILYK —Thank you so much, Mr Acting Deputy President. I did say to the previous chair that it is fine; I worked with children around the three-year age group for a number of years. Although those opposite are worse, I am quite happy to just ignore them. But thank you for that.
Under a Will Hodgman government in Tasmania—should the worst scenario happen—there will be no more money for education. The department will be told to find the money, or they will have to recoup it from parents in high schools. It will mean moving away from literacy and numeracy programs. It will mean fewer books in schools. It will mean fewer pens and fewer school trips for students in Tasmania. As a Tasmanian senator, that is of great concern to me.