HON COLIN TINCKNELL (South West) [10.08 am] — without notice: I move —
That this house —
(a) recognises that the $64 million savings proposed through education cuts delivered by the McGowan government in the 2018 state budget were unnecessary and have had highly foreseeable consequences, which is particularly evident in the case of the privatisation of the Landsdale Farm School operation;
(b) calls on the government to acknowledge that this was an unnecessary budget measure and that the consequences of the cuts outweighed any benefits realised under budget repair; and
(c) further calls on the McGowan government to recognise and acknowledge that public education, health, and law and order should be the core business of government and therefore immune from budget repair measures.
Comments and speeches from various members
HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [11.00 am]: I rise to make some comments about this very broad-ranging motion from One Nation—a little bit of budget repair, a little bit of revisiting previous cuts, and a little bit of talking about health, law and order, and education in general. I have to say from the outset that I really wish One Nation members would be a little less confused about which side of the fence they sit on. On the one hand, they like to stand up and purport to speak for the everyday battler, but on the other hand, it seems to me that they are very firmly in support of big business at the expense of the battler. One of the things that comes to mind is their flagrant refusal to support the gold levy, which, if it had gone through, would have provided the sort of money we are talking about to ensure that we did not have the sort of cuts we have seen.
Several members interjected.
Hon ALISON XAMON: Madam President, I am just talking to you.
Hon Robin Scott interjected.
Hon ALISON XAMON: Shush, shush, you!
The PRESIDENT: Members, I remind you that I get to tell people to be quiet. I have to say that it gets really difficult for the member who is on their feet. It forces them to raise their voice, which is unfair, when they have a whole lot of other loud voices around them. Sometimes Hon Alison Xamon, who has a much softer voice than most, can be hard to hear. We want to hear her, so let her have her say, and if you want the call, you can have it in due course.
Hon ALISON XAMON: Thank you, Madam President. I appreciate your protection to enable me to speak in this place. It is disappointing when I am shouted down in such a manner.
I wish One Nation members would figure out what they stand for. Are they here to just read in speeches on behalf of the Chamber of Minerals and Energy, or are they actually representing Aussie battlers? In any event, I will pick up on some of the points in this motion, because it is worthy of further discussion.
I was one of the people who were disappointed by the cuts that went through, after Parliament had risen, back in December 2017. Some of those cuts have continued to have quite a detrimental impact. I am particularly concerned about the impact of the loss of Aboriginal staff in the district offices. The feedback that my office is getting is that that is still having quite a negative impact, particularly on attendance rates for Aboriginal students. Those sorts of cuts have had an ongoing, problematic impact.
Hon Donna Faragher and I share an ongoing concern about what has happened with the Herdsman Lake Wildlife Centre. It is a genuine issue, because the centre is doing everything in its power to make up for the loss of funds. It is trying to get charitable status from the federal government. These things are taking a very long time, and have been impacted by the fact that an election has been held. The centre is generally struggling to stay open. The amount of money it needs to effect that is really tiny, far less even than what Landsdale is looking for. The centre needs to be able to keep its teacher. It is false economy on the part of the government not to revisit that decision and ensure that the centre gets back its funding. It is a very important service that all schools have been able to benefit from. It has suffered quite a disastrous impact.
Hon Donna Faragher has already spoken about the impact on a number of community kindergartens, and there is also the issue with Landsdale. In relation to the matter of the individual staff member, along with everyone else, I have received the correspondence about that. I prefer not to talk about private industrial matters within this chamber, particularly without having undertaken due diligence ahead of time. I think that is an inappropriate use of the house’s time. But I do recognise the ongoing concerns about access to Landsdale, and we need to keep an eye on that.
A range of changes have occurred in the education budget. Some additional money has gone back into education— I welcome, for example, some of the money for students with a disability that went into the last budget—but some quite problematic decisions have also been made, particularly on infrastructure. I am concerned about the decision that was made to just abandon the western suburbs school strategy. I do not think that was a sensible approach, and I remain very concerned about the future of the City Beach high school site. Any suggestion by this government to sell that site must be vehemently resisted. As has already been pointed out by Hon Peter Collier, we are looking at the new Bob Hawke College being already full by the time it opens. The pressure being brought to bear on those western suburbs schools is enormous. I am really concerned that the government does not look to what it sees as a short-term easy financial fix that will create long-term disasters for our capacity to meet our future public education obligations in that catchment area.
I will pick up on at least one other issue in my remaining time. I note that the third paragraph of the motion refers to the need for public education, health and law and order to be the core business of government. Of course, the Greens support that. The Greens have always supported that, which is also why we are happy to look at supporting everyday Australians over industry, for example. However, I will say something about the mental health component of health. I know that members will be surprised to hear this. In our efforts to ensure that we have balanced budgets or even a surplus, we end up making false economies. One of the greatest false economies of this government has been the decision to deviate from and not invest in the 10-year mental health and alcohol and other drugs services plan. We know that we need to keep up with demand, but we have not done that. We also know that we need to look at additional investment, because we need to assist people at the earliest stages of mental health and alcohol and other drug problems, before they become huge issues, before they become acute and before they become truly expensive for government. This is an example of this government missing the point of early intervention and prevention services, and it has missed an extraordinarily important opportunity to save money in the long term.
I also want to talk a bit about the money that goes into law and order. It is interesting that when people talk about law and order being the core business of government, they often talk about it in terms of needing to have more money invested in prisons. I want to point out how ridiculous that is. Once we look at putting more money into prisons as being the solution for law and order, we have failed. It means that we have absolutely lost the early opportunities to intervene in the lives of people who are struggling and going off the rails. We need to look at social reinvestment so that we prevent people from committing offences in the first place, falling through the cracks and ending up homeless, and ensure that people do not end up in prison. Prison needs to be the place where very few people end up, and then only because they have been so comprehensively failed, or for those people who are just criminals, not that the Corruption and Crime Commission will necessarily be picking up any of them, because it is not necessarily focused on dealing with organised crime. Nevertheless, we need to look at issues of early intervention and prevention for vulnerable people on the edges. One of the ways we can do that is to make sure that we get the money from those parts of our community, for example, large businesses, that are best able to pay for that. That is how we reinvest back into our community. That is what we do. Of course education, health, mental health and early intervention around offending behaviours should be the core business of government, as should housing and a whole range of other areas.
I want to put some perspective around this. We can talk about the sorts of things happening in education, but that is a really broad discussion. I am looking forward to a motion that can address the broader issues around what will happen in education reform in the future.
Comments and speeches from various members
Motion lapsed, pursuant to standing orders.