With the Australian people having rebuffed Labor’s higher taxing, higher spending and higher deficit plans, the test for Labor’s new education team is whether they can instead support evidence based reforms to improve student results, instead of resorting to the same old 'more money equals better outcomes' Labor approach of the past.
We must focus on the evidence, work within sustainable budgets and provide more than cheap slogans or scare campaigns.
The Coalition took to the election strong, clear policies in early education and child care, schools and post-school choices for students, which I look forward to working with the Opposition and the crossbench to deliver.
Labor’s change of personality must bring about a change of approach in child care, schools, vocational education and higher education.
Labor's early education and child care policies would have benefited millionaires over low and middle income earners, pouring $3 billion into the current, broken system. Instead, I invite Labor to work with us on early implementation of our reforms to make child care simpler, more flexible and more affordable, especially for those families who need it the most.
On schools, Labor's has been a one trick pony, seeing everything as being about spending more. I hope the new Shadow Minister will acknowledge that funding is at record levels, will keep growing under the Coalition and will be distributed according to need. Instead of a continued fixation on funding, Labor need to show more policy depth by backing our quality focussed schools reform plan to lift the literacy and numeracy levels of Australian children, boost the study of science and maths, and better rewarding our most accomplished teachers.
Labor must learn from their mistakes with VET FEE-HELP. As has been revealed today, Labor was told of the risk of rorters taking advantage of the system, but failed to act and instead opened up the scheme even further. Instead of backing the government's plan to reform the whole VET FEE-HELP system, Labor's sole solution was a poorly thought through cap on prices that would see many TAFE and VET students face thousands of dollars in new up-front fees, making it harder for genuine students to get the skills they need for work.
At the same time as it expanded VET FEE-HELP, Labor started cutting more than $1 billion from apprenticeships, leading to the largest drop in apprenticeship commencements – 25 per cent – on record. Australian businesses are still feeling the impacts of those cuts today. But under the Coalition, trade apprenticeships have stabilised and commencements are starting to grow again.
In higher education, Labor have been largely missing in action during recent significant debates about how to better inspire innovation and excellence in our universities while maintaining equity of access and achieving budget sustainability. While the Coalition released a detailed position paper prior to the election, the best Labor offered was to reintroduce a previously failed policy to waive fees for STEM degrees – a plan so discredited it was both introduced and axed by Labor when last in Government – and to create a whole new level of bureaucracy via new, ill-defined institutions that were randomly announced during the election. Again, I hope the new shadow ministers will engage in the substantive debates facing higher education rather than simply burying their heads in the sand.
The Coalition has clear plans for improving opportunities for students through quality education from the high chair to higher ed and I hope that Labor’s new shadow education team will work with us to deliver improved education outcomes for all Australians.