I rise to make a second contribution on the Victorian Auditor-General’s report entitled Additional School Costs for Families, which was tabled in the Parliament in the last sitting week. As I said in my statement in the last sitting week, the report indicates the enormous cuts the previous government made to Victoria’s education system. These cuts left the system dramatically under-resourced, and indeed the effects of that under-resourcing have been felt by students and staff across the state. Before my time expired in the last sitting week I cited the example of Bellarine Secondary College, which went into deficit to cover the cuts the Napthine government made, in this instance, to its Victorian certificate of applied learning (VCAL) funding.
Under the previous government funding for capital works was cut — it was actually halved. We had a situation where students could not go into a number of buildings across the state because essentially they were in a dangerous condition. The report tells us that under the previous government Victoria invested less funding per student than any other state or territory in this country, and along with this, the government also cut, as we know, the Reading Recovery program, literacy and numeracy and technological tutors, and of course the government slashed funding for VCAL. We had a situation where school administrators were reeling from the fact that they had a number of priorities to meet within their schools and all they got from the former government was a wrecking ball. The former government did not support the initiatives the administrators wanted to implement in their schools.
As a result of the report, the Minister for Education has been very proactive. He has started with a full independent review of parent payment policies, and that is incredibly important. We will fix the damage and neglect inflicted upon Victoria’s education system by the previous government, and we are very serious about investing in education and the future of our children. We are not in the business of slashing and cutting education funding and then trying to tell Victorians that record amounts are being invested, which is what the previous government did, and we are not in the business of leaving families who are in need of assistance on their own so their children miss out.
That is why the Labor government will invest $150 million into a Camps, Sports and Excursions Fund to cover increasing costs and ease pressure on family budgets. We will also partner with State Schools Relief to provide uniforms and eyeglasses to children who need them and whose parents cannot afford them. We will provide 25 000 free breakfasts per day through our plan to establish breakfast clubs at disadvantaged schools across the state. These initiatives are on top of the increased capital works funding we have announced, because we believe that each and every Victorian child deserves a first-class education and first-class facilities.
The Auditor-General’s report, along with Productivity Commission reports released recently, reveals a widening gap between how much funding Victorian students receive compared to the rest of the country. A Productivity Commission report revealed that in 2013, under the Napthine government, Victoria spent just $9.36 per hour on vocational training. This is the lowest of any state or territory, and it is down from $11.36 in 2011. Labor has already taken steps to restore Victoria’s education system from the neglect it suffered under the four years of the previous government, and we will continue to do so.
I commend the report to the house, and I welcome the minister’s request for a full and extensive independent review of parent payment policies.