The member for Lalor greatly appreciates being acknowledged. I stand here today as the member for Lalor to speak about education, something that is very close to my heart, as most people in this chamber understand. I spent many years—27 years—in state schools in the western suburbs of Victoria, so I stand here not as someone who once went to school and had a favourite teacher, but as someone who actually understands education, the transformative nature of education, and what schools need in order to support them in their work to make our schools the best schools internationally.
There is no doubt about the importance of this matter of public importance. There is no doubt, because we have slipped down in those rankings. Those opposite would like to say that we have slipped down in those rankings despite an enormous amount of money being thrown at education. Well, I have some news for you: health care costs more and my house costs more—everything costs more. Giving raw figures in this debate is disingenuous. At least go to a percentage of GDP, folks, if you want to have an argument about economics, because this is an argument about economics. Educating our children to the best of their ability, to extend their capacities, is an economic policy. It is about the future of our economy. It is about ensuring that all our children have access to the economy. That is what we are talking about here. This is not airy-fairy. This is real. It is about the future of this country. It is about our capacity to compete in the international economy. This is about the global economy, and we are slipping behind because other countries are taking this issue seriously.
My predecessor, the former member for Lalor, our former Prime Minister, understood that. She understood it because she represented an electorate where many of the children are from disadvantaged backgrounds, where disadvantage is compounded in our schools by the number of students from a disadvantaged background who appear in a classroom at preps. She understood that. She understood that we needed to make that investment, that we needed to invest to ensure that we were building the best schools and had the best teachers. These are not just teachers who can pick up a program and deliver it, but teachers engaged in their profession who could grow their skills and their knowledge about their subjects and about the way kids learn, and make that a continually improving cycle. That is what this debate is about.
This debate is about returning Australia to the forefront as educational leaders internationally. This debate is about taking what we know works, giving the funding to ensure that every child, in a needs-based, sector-blind model, gets what they need in the classroom. This is about equity for prosperity. This is about ensuring that our system meets the definition of an equitable system, because the equitable systems in the world have the best student outcomes. In that sense this is simple: high equity, high outcomes; low equity, poor outcomes. That is how this works. The people who work in our schools understand that. They know this.
In Victoria they have been working on improving these things since the national partnerships funding came through, many years ago. Last week I stood beside the shadow minister for education, Kate Ellis, the member for Adelaide, and I stood beside Bill Shorten, the Leader of the Opposition, and it was the proudest day of my life as I stood beside a former colleague, Principal Moira Findlay, of Iramoo Primary School, which is one of the most disadvantaged schools in the state of Victoria and in the country. Over the years the school has improved its students' outcomes, because investments were made in the school. They made a concerted effort and brought the whole school community together with an improvement focus, with the money to support it.
They have coaches for their primary school teachers—coaches in literacy and in numeracy, coaches to ensure that every teacher in the school is supported in their professional development, and coaches who help them to monitor every child's standard, and where that child can get to. Then they get busy and make it happen. (Time expired)