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representatives vote 2020-02-24#1

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on 2020-03-06 12:46:11


  • Bills — Student Identifiers Amendment (Higher Education) Bill 2019; Second Reading
  • Student Identifiers Amendment (Higher Education) Bill 2019 - Second Reading - Criticise education policies


  • <p class="speaker">Tanya Plibersek</p>
  • <p>I rise to speak on the Student Identifiers Amendment (Higher Education) Bill 2019 and to move an amendment. I move:</p>
  • <p class="italic">That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:</p>
  • The majority voted against an [amendment]( to the usual [second reading motion](, which means it failed. The usual second reading motion is "that the bill be read for a second time", which is parliamentary jargon for agreeing with the main idea of the bill. The amendment was introduced by Sydney MP [Tanya Plibersek]( (Labor).
  • ### Motion text
  • > *That all words after "That" be omitted with a view to substituting the following words:*
  • >
  • > *"whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House notes that the Government has damaged the quality of Australia's world-class education system by:*
  • >
  • > *(1) cutting billions from universities by effectively capping undergraduate places;*
  • >
  • > *(2) slashing research funding; and*
  • >
  • > *(3) failing to develop a long-term education policy for the nation".*
  • <p class="italic">"whilst not declining to give the bill a second reading, the House notes that the Government has damaged the quality of Australia's world-class education system by:</p>
  • <p class="italic">(1) cutting billions from universities by effectively capping undergraduate places;</p>
  • <p class="italic">(2) slashing research funding; and</p>
  • <p class="italic">(3) failing to develop a long-term education policy for the nation".</p>
  • <p>Labor will support this bill and the extension of unique student identifiers from vocational education and training to higher education students. There are currently two student identifiers in tertiary education: the student identifier for the vocational education and training sector and the Commonwealth Higher Education Student Support Number in the higher education sector. This bill consolidates these two schemes into a single identifier by decommissioning the Commonwealth Higher Education Student Support Number. This will create a single record of a student's tertiary education journey, following individuals as they move between different institutions in different sectors.</p>
  • <p>This makes a lot of sense at a time when a lot of students are studying at university when they finish school and then later upgrading qualifications through a TAFE course or the other way around. It makes a lot of sense to have one student identifier in the tertiary sector. It's a useful change as far as it goes, reflecting the policy's original purpose, which the Gillard government developed almost a decade ago and introduced into parliament in 2013. All the way back in 2009 we had a COAG communique which stated:</p>
  • <p class="italic">Improving data collections for all education sectors is of critical importance to Australia. A national student identifier could track students as they progress through education and training and would further support a seamless schooling, VET and higher education experience for students.</p>
  • <p>So of course we support the principle. We started down this track when we were last in government.</p>
  • <p>What's very disappointing is that it has taken until the government's third term to introduce this legislation connecting the higher education and vocational education schemes. We still don't really have a system that would also include student records across their schooling. We're no closer, really, to harmonising student records that would cover both schooling and postschool education. We've seen seven years of procrastination in this area; seven years of indifference and neglect.</p>
  • <p>The government has been urged on a number of occasions to make this change. The government's own reviews have urged it to accelerate the consolidation of student identification across schooling, higher education and vocational education and training. This was recommended in March 2018 in the Gonski review, which found:</p>
  • <p class="italic">The absence of a national, persistent USI is a barrier to creating national education data sets that would assist in developing a comprehensive understanding of the impact of policy or partnership efforts. Without the USI, the numerous existing data sets are disconnected and analysis of these can only provide limited insight.</p>
  • <p>It's disappointing that this bill is only a partial remedy for this issue.</p>
  • <p>Labor are very supportive of fulfilling the potential, the capacity, that extending the USI from vocational education to higher education would provide us with. We'll better understand how people progress through their post-secondary school education, including the different pathways&#8212;if you follow a vocational education pathway or a higher education pathway&#8212;and the intersection and interoperation of these two sectors. We need to make sure that, as a national unique student identifier is extended to school students, the system really is fully integrated so that we can make the most of all of those different datasets. Of course, we do that in a way that protects student privacy, but it is an incredibly valuable resource to see what kinds of interventions genuinely make a difference for students.</p>
  • <p>In recent years we have been suffering from very poor outcomes. All of our international testing results are going backwards. We're very concerned about the fact that, in literacy, numeracy and science&#8212;a range of different areas&#8212;our school students' results are plummeting in the international rankings. Having a unique student identifier that follows a student throughout their schooling into post-schooling education and tells us what interventions that student has had and what difference it's made in their educational outcomes is a very rich data source indeed. To make the most of this very rich data source, of course, we have to make sure that we have funding set aside for research in education. At the time of the last election, Labor was proposing a well-funded institute that would engage in exactly this sort of educational research so that we could take what is best practice in classrooms and make it common practice across our education system. The government have said they are up for more research in schooling, but they haven't actually provided any extra funding for this type of research. When you look at the benefit of medical research to the health of our community, you can picture the potential benefit we can have for our students with a methodical, widespread approach to taking the best research and implementing it in our classrooms.</p>
  • <p>We know the importance of evidence based policy. Our $280 million commitment at the 2019 election to establish a national evidence institute, with a mission of evaluating what works and what doesn't work in our schools, would have meant the commissioning of new research. It would have given educators an opportunity to stay up to date with the most recent research and know how to apply it in their classrooms. It would have saved money, because, of course, we spend a lot of money on things that don't work in our classrooms. It would have lifted standards and it would have helped schools that are already doing excellent work to share that success with others.</p>
  • <p>We believe that to give students the best education we need to put an end to the decades of ideological debate about what's best in the classroom and in fact base our interventions purely on the science, purely on the evidence of what's working in our schools. This bill does enable a better look at vocational education and university results. It does help with the aim that Labor has of education policy based on credible research with proper data collection through a national unique student identifier scheme that would improve outcomes for all students. It does help with that, but in a very small way. It does fall short, dramatically short, of that goal. But we're never going to stand in the way of small improvements when we see them, so we'll support the bill.</p>
  • <p>The other criticism it's important to make while we're talking about this legislation is that it's good as far as it goes, but it doesn't even begin to stem the tide of damage done by the very substantial cuts to both vocational education and higher education in this country. It doesn't solve the deeper problems that are facing TAFE and our universities. And it really doesn't in any way even begin to acknowledge the most fundamental connection between investing in education and economic growth.</p>
  • <p>The backdrop to the discussion that we're having about education policy at the moment is the dismal state of the Australian economy. If you look at all of our key economic indicators, they are all going the wrong way. Wages are stagnant. Productivity is static. Business investment's down. Household debt keeps going up. Labour market productivity is going backwards for the first time ever since we've been collecting these statistics. Economic growth is at its slowest level since the global financial crisis. This is not a picture of a thriving economy. It is not a picture of a country that's putting its best resources, its people, to their best use. If we're being blunt about the situation, we're in a period of stagnation and decline, we're in a period of malaise, driven by the lack of a plan from those opposite for jobs and growth.</p>
  • <p>We've got an era of low growth, low productivity and low investment which has been absolutely disastrous for our nation. It's squeezing people financially. You don't have to go far to find people who will tell you how anxious they are about the fact that their wages aren't going up and that their households budgets are under pressure. We've got almost two million Australians now who are out of work or looking for more hours of work&#8212;millions of Australians living with the reality of unemployment or underemployment who haven't had a decent pay rise in years, and thousands who've actually suffered flat-out wage theft in recent times.</p>
  • <p>In the face of this, we know that investment in education can change our national economy and it can make a huge difference to people's own lives, to their own family budgets. We know that a university degree or a vocational education qualification can expand the opportunities that an individual has, expand their employability and help erase the barriers of class and inequality that have trapped people in poverty in some communities around Australia. We know very clearly that investment in education is a driver of economic growth in countries around the world. World Bank analysis shows that the social return&#8212;not the private return but the return for our whole community&#8212;of an extra year of schooling sits at around 10 per cent, and it is even higher for women.</p>
  • <p>In Australia, research by Deloitte Access Economics placed the value of our universities to our productive capacity at $140 billion&#8212;that is, Australia's GDP is $140 billion a year higher because of the improved productivity of the 28 per cent of our workforce that have a university qualification. Of course, it's not just about the dollars-and-cents return that we make as a nation and we receive as a nation when we invest in education. All of the evidence shows us that that return is real, it's reliable, it's predictable and it's waiting for us to grasp. The Deloitte Access Economics report estimated that Australia would require an extra 3.8 million university graduates by 2025. We need those graduates in science, engineering, medicine, nursing, the humanities and law, just as we need people trained in the vocational educational sector. We've got shortages in both and we shouldn't for a moment believe that this is about one sector versus another sector. Australia needs a strong and excellent university sector and a strong and excellent vocational training sector.</p>
  • <p>The minister himself has acknowledged that productivity improvements in the post-secondary school sector can increase economic growth by $2.7 billion a year. So that's even before we take note of the huge difference that university campuses make in our regional communities, how they provide jobs, attract investment and train regional workers. And, in many cases, of course, that regional workforce, trained in a regional university, goes on to live and work in a regional community. When we've had shortages of medical workforce in the past in regional areas, the evidence is always that we are most likely to improve that situation by training young people from regional areas in regional universities. If they stay in the regions to do their higher education, they're much more likely to stay there and go on to work in a regional community.</p>
  • <p>We've also seen in recent times these vast benefits ignored, and universities in particular are seen as great places to make cuts in order to try and balance the budget. It's a government that's cut $2.2 billion from the higher education system, $328 million from university research and re-capped university places, which means that probably 200,000 Australians will miss out on a university place&#8212;200,000 people who would otherwise have qualified for a university place will miss out.</p>
  • <p>It's also this government that has cut more than $3 billion from TAFE and training. That's never been our approach. We want to make sure, as a Labor Party, that a university education or a TAFE education is available and accessible to every Australian who's prepared to work hard, study hard and go to university or TAFE. We opened up the university system by uncapping places, giving an extra 190,000 students an opportunity to go to university. That decision was driven by our commitment to those individuals to give them the best opportunities in life, but also by our sure knowledge that a modern developed economy requires these graduates. And it's worked.</p>
  • <p>Under Labor universities' policy, financially disadvantaged student enrolments increased by 66 per cent; Indigenous undergraduate student enrolments increased by 105 per cent; enrolments of undergraduate students with a disability grew by 123 per cent; and enrolment of students from regional and remote areas increased by 53 per cent. These are the kinds of aspirations that should be driving decision-making in higher education.</p>
  • <p>We've seen similarly in TAFE the obverse, I suppose&#8212;massive cuts to TAFE and vocational education have seen growing skills shortages right across Australia. We've got, as I said earlier, almost two million Australians unemployed or underemployed yet three-quarters of Australian businesses will tell you that they can't find the skilled staff they need.</p>
  • <p>Education is our greatest force for equity and it can also be our most effective tool for economic progress as a nation. Education helps create jobs, boosts wages and gives a better quality of life for all Australians. Education underpins economic growth and improved productivity that is desperately needed in our economy today. Education is not just social policy. It doesn't just help individuals. Education is economic policy&#8212;a bedrock for economic development in this country. We need to make sure the government stops viewing our education system as simply a target for cuts and recognises it as the engine for growth that it is.</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Llew O&#39;Brien</p>
  • <p>Is the amendment seconded?</p>
  • <p class="speaker">Terri Butler</p>
  • <p>I second the amendment and reserve my right to speak.</p>
  • <p class='motion-notice motion-notice-truncated'>Long debate text truncated.</p>