I thank Prime Minister Scott Morrison for appointing me as Australia’s Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment and the Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate.
Having previously worked across Australia’s wine, tourism and hospitality industries I look forward to again supporting the hardworking Australians whose efforts in trade and tourism underpin so much of our national prosperity.
Australia’s openness to the world is an essential ingredient in the jobs of millions of Australians, which have been made stronger through the achievements of our Liberal National Government.
I acknowledge the outstanding achievements of Steven Ciobo who, together with Malcolm Turnbull, oversaw record tourist numbers, enhanced our trade access with countries such as Singapore and Peru, kicked off the Australia-European Union Free Trade Agreement negotiations as well as most notably securing the Trans-Pacific Partnership against the expectations of many. I congratulate Steven on his appointment as Minister for Defence Industry.
I would also like to congratulate Dan Tehan on his appointment as the new Minister for Education.
It has been an honour to serve as Minister for Education and Training in Malcolm Turnbull’s Government, and to have been the longest serving education minister since Brendan Nelson.
We have achieved great reforms over the last three years.
The biggest improvements to child care support in 40 years are making it easier for nearly one million Australian families to work an extra day or extra shift without child care costs acting as a barrier, while extended funding for preschool has provided an opportunity to ensure future partnerships with the states tackle poor attendance rates among those students with the most to gain from preschool.
Our reforms to school funding will ensure that, for the first time ever, schools will receive federal funding according to the needs of their students, regardless of which state they are in or what type of non-government school their parents choose for them to attend.
I am confident that these reforms will provide enduring fairness that will only be enhanced by impending improvements.
Critically, we recognised that what is done with schools funding is even more important than how much is spent. Effective use of the additional $24.5 billion we committed will be guided by the recommendations of David Gonski’s landmark report, Through Growth to Achievement, which I am pleased were broadly welcomed by both Liberal and Labor states and territories.
I am especially proud to have championed the importance of foundational literacy skills and to have seen a phonics skills check adopted as bipartisan policy in my home state. I hope others will follow suit.
Together with Assistant Minister Karen Andrews we abolished Labor’s flawed VET FEE-HELP scheme, replacing it with better targeted student loans and established the Skilling Australians Fund to deliver 300,000 more apprenticeships. The P-TECH program is also helping to make industry pathways available to more secondary school students.
Our reforms to student loans will help to ensure Australia’s globally generous loans scheme remains sustainable into the future, guaranteeing higher education opportunities for future generations without the risk of upfront fees. Our improved admissions and transparency reforms, along with performance principles, will help both students and higher education providers to focus on the importance of employment outcomes. International student numbers have also continued to go from strength to strength under the International Education Strategy we released.
As part of Malcolm Turnbull’s National Science and Innovation Agenda we delivered an increased focus on learning maths and science, supporting initiatives from coding to teacher training. We have made collaboration between researchers and industry easier while also this year delivering a $1.9 billion investment boost for critical national research infrastructure.
I would also like thank all of the staff from the Department of Education and Training, led by Secretary Dr Michele Bruniges AO, for their support.
It has been my pleasure to engage with so many wonderful students, educators and stakeholders. I thank them for the way in which they have helped me and look forward to highlighting their many strengths to the rest of the world in my new role.