Schools Reforms



I spoke in parliament yesterday about the government's school reforms.
Schools Assistance Amendment Bill 2011
22 August 2011


We all come to this place to make a difference, to leave a mark and hope that by being here we have made a contribution to a better future—a better future for our children, communities, constituents and this country. That is why I am speaking in support of Schools Assistance Amendment Bill 2011. This bill is part of the passion and purpose this government has to provide a better future for our nation through providing our children with quality education for the next century, an education that prepares children for a life where they have the skills to adapt to the jobs of tomorrow and the building blocks of lifelong learning.

Consider, for example, the job of a mechanic. As one OECD official put it, 'in 1930 all the coded information for a General Motors car could be captured in 230 pages. Now a single car involves some 15,000 pages of coded knowledge which workers need to access, manage, integrate and evaluate.' As electric cars replace petrol ones and self-drive cars replace the ones we have today, the job of a mechanic is going to steadily change. That is why we need to provide learning opportunities and lifelong skills in an education system that gives all Australian children the same grounding to embark on a future that we can only imagine from its edges. The Australian curriculum is a big step towards such an educational system. (Quorum formed)

When I visit schools in my electorate of Fraser I am always inspired by the passion the children have for the future and by their enthusiasm, energy, imagination and ideas. I would like to pay tribute to the dedication and passion of the teachers who nurture and support the aspirations and goals of the students. Our schools are the places that teach creativity, instil a love of learning and impart critical skills such as literacy and numeracy that form the foundations of our future productivity and prosperity.

Under the Australian national curriculum all Australian children will be studying the same curriculum in the four key subjects of English, mathematics, science and history—key areas that will provide children with the confidence and skills they need for a great education. Developments for a national curriculum in geography, languages and the arts are also underway. As part of the curriculum reforms parents and teachers will be able to go to the Australian curriculum website and view what teachers are expected to teach and the quality of learning expected of students in the four learning areas.

In the ACT the government and non-government schools already commenced the implementation of the curriculum this year. I am pleased to say that schools in my electorate are among the first in the country to start teaching the Australian curriculum. Most other states and territories are using this year to prepare and trial the curriculum before commencing its implementation next year. Teachers are using the time to familiarise themselves with the curriculum and to prepare their teaching programs. In Western Australia schools are trialling the curriculum with a view to commencing implementation once final adjustments are made. In both Queensland and Tasmania the schools in the government, independent and Catholic sectors will introduce the English mathematics and science curricula next year, with history to start in 2013. By amending the Schools Assistance Act 2008 the implementation of the national curriculum will be able to be undertaken by states and territories in a manner that enables government and non-government schools to coordinate this according to an agreed time frame.

Under the National Education Agreement the states and territories have agreed to use resources for the professional support of teachers linked to the curriculum. We are providing support through the national digital resource collection managed by Education Services Australia. Schools and teachers will have access to over 5,000 resources aligned with the Australian curriculum with more to follow. The Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership is to deliver professional development through its Leading Curriculum Change professional learning flagship program which aims to build the capacity of teachers to enhance implementation of the curriculum. The government also has a major schools reform agenda, a digital strategy for teachers and school leaders, an improving teacher quality national partnership, a national partnership agreement on literacy and numeracy and a major national partnership for school reform in up to 1,500 low-socioeconomic status schools across the country. The last of these is a reform that I am particularly familiar with having been seconded to the Australian Treasury in 2008-09 to work in part on this national partnership. I would like to use this opportunity to pay tribute to the dedicated Treasury officials in the Social Policy Division. These and the Australian curricula form part of the record investment of $66 billion in education over four years, investment that every parent, every teacher and every member of the school community will have seen on the ground as they visited Australian schools.

We on this side of the House take education seriously. We know that a great education is critical to raising productivity and living standards and that by boosting the quality and quantity of education we can increase innovation in the economy, provide the skills and do the jobs of the future. We are committed to this reform agenda which is based on Labor values: fairness, quality, accountability and transparency. But we have to compare this to the actions of those opposite. They want to cut $3 billion from our education system and that still does not help them with their $70 billion budget black hole. They do not have an alternative plan for education and they want to cut trade training centres. They want to reduce funding for improving teacher quality. They want to scrap online tools for parents. They are against My School 2.0, which provides an unprecedented level of transparency and information to Australia's parents.

Without a vision for education, you do not have a vision for the nation's future. Standing in the way of the Digital Education Revolution denies thousands of children access to new technology, to the tools of the future. Without the Smarter Schools program disadvantaged students miss out on support to improve their attendance and boost their learning once they arrive at school. Without a Reward for School Improvement program we will not see schools in disadvantaged communities get the recognition and rewards from continuing to improve their school and their education.

Mr Tudge: Mr Deputy Speaker, I have a point of order on relevance. This bill concerns the national curriculum not coalition policies on a variety of other areas.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Hon. Peter Slipper ): I call the honourable member for Fraser.

Dr LEIGH: What about the online diagnostic tool for parents and teachers? Under the coalition the schools would not benefit from the additional information and resources parents and teachers are now able to access. It is clear the coalition do not and will not stick up for students or schools. They are bereft of ideas, of passion and seemingly bereft of the desire to provide the best possible start to life for all the young Australians through education.

It is exactly this kind of hard work of education reform that we on this side of the House got into politics to achieve. Education is the best antipoverty vaccine that we have and provides the foundations on which Australians can build the life of their choosing. Education means that a child from Ilfracombe can become the first female member of the Queensland bar and our first female Governor-General. The Schools Assistance Amendment Bill brings Catholic independent schools in line with government schools so that all schools will have the same curriculum and the same curriculum implementation timetable. It provides certainty to non-government schools and treats all schools the same. The proposed amendment allows for a more certain legal framework for the non-government sector to implement the Australian curriculum and allow future editions and revisions of the curriculum to be made more efficiently each time it is updated.

The government recognises and respects the role of the non-government schools as part of the great education system of partners in our children's and our nation's future. I have had the privilege of visiting many of these non-government schools and government schools in my own electorate and I have seen with my own eyes the education reforms that are happening there and the great contribution that the Gillard government's school agenda is making. The Australian curriculum will deliver a national standard to all Australian children in English, mathematics, science and history, and making sure that we successfully implement it is absolutely critical.

At the start of the speech I talked about the need for our education system to prepare children for a life where they have the skills to adapt to the jobs of tomorrow and where they have the building blocks of lifelong learning. The amendment to the Schools Assistance Act 2008 is an important step towards providing greater certainty and alignment for all schools in the implementation of a national curriculum in key learning areas. The quality of our education system is our future. Studies have shown that countries with higher maths and science scores grow faster, innovate more, and have stronger economies.

This government takes educational opportunity seriously and we take reform seriously. We want every young Australian to have the chance to fulfil their potential and to be able to meet the demands of a labour market that will change as much in the next 50 years as it has over the last 50 years. I commend the bill to the House.
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Polio Eradication



I moved a motion in Parliament yesterday on eradicating polio.
Polio Eradication, 22 August 2011

As an economics professor at the Australian National University, one of the people I admired most was Bob Gregory, one of Australia's most creative minds. As well as being a great thinker, Bob is also one of the last people in Australia to contract polio. In an interview with William Coleman he talks about what happened in 1953, when he contracted polio at age 14. Bob said:

"One day in April I was training for football on a Tuesday and I began to feel stiff and I had to go home. The next day I had to leave school and go to bed. The doctor came and said to Mum, 'He's either got the flu or polio.' Polio was a very bad thing: people died or might be paralysed for life. It attacked lots of children. By Friday my leg wasn't better, so I went to hospital. I felt fine (apart from flu symptoms) and I was optimistic. In bed you don't know you can't walk. It was only after 14 days when they got me out of bed that I discovered that I could not walk. Then I spent nine months in bed. They strap you to an iron frame, your feet are in plaster casts and then your parents take you out of the frame twice a day and exercise you for half an hour. So my father, before and after a hard day's work, had to exercise me. He could move my affected foot but I could not. It remained still. Some days I would say, 'Ooh, I think I can move a toe or I think I can feel something' but I couldn't really. It must have been heartbreaking for them."

Polio vaccination in Australia started a few years after Bob contracted the disease. But given that he contracted it, he was pretty lucky; he only walks today with a leg brace. Many polio victims require walking sticks or a wheelchair to get around. The motion I move today calls for one of the most significant public health opportunities of our time—the eradication of polio. Over the past quarter century the total number of polio cases worldwide has been reduced by 99 per cent, from 350,000 in 1988 to just 1,349 cases in 2010. Most regions of the world are free of the disease thanks to major immunisation efforts. I particularly commend the efforts of successive Australian governments, working with multilateral non-government organisations, such as Rotary International and other national governments, in wiping out polio in the Pacific.

In 2011 there are just four countries where polio remains endemic: Afghanistan, Nigeria, India and Pakistan. Three of these are Commonwealth nations. All Commonwealth countries, including Australia, have a stake in the elimination of the disease, and the opportunity to end suffering has never been greater. A study published in The Lancet in 2007 showed that the cost of eradicating polio once and for all is billions of dollars less than the cost of merely keeping infection levels where they are now. The world has, of course, seen that infectious disease can be eradicated through targeted immunisation programs. Smallpox was responsible for an estimated 300 million to 500 million deaths during the 20th century. The late Australian microbiologist Professor Frank Fenner and his team were instrumental in eradicating smallpox in its last African strongholds in the late 1970s. Professor Fenner described announcing the eradication of smallpox to the UN's World Health Assembly in 1988 as the proudest moment of his long career. By eradicating smallpox we no longer have to vaccinate young children, and as someone who myself received the smallpox vaccine as a young boy, when we were travelling to Indonesia, I can attest that it was a pretty painful vaccination to receive.

In all of human history, only one other infectious disease has ever been completely eradicated. The UN announced the eradication of cattle disease Rinderpest in June this year. Again, we stand on the cusp of a great breakthrough. Endemic polio has been contained to the smallest geographical area in the history of the world. Polio surveillance is at an unprecedented high. In 2009 alone, more than 361 million children were immunised in 40 countries as part of the global polio eradication initiative. Yet the initiative currently faces a funding shortfall of US$590 million for the full implementation of its 2010-12 polio eradication and strategic plan. Failure to meet the financial requirements of eradication is a failure to protect future generations from the debilitating effects of polio paralysis. I call upon the government to support efforts to deliver a polio-free world and to advocate for the inclusion of a strong statement, urging Commonwealth countries to strengthen immunisation systems, including for polio, in the finally communique of the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. In closing, let me just pay my thanks to Huw Pohlner, an intern in my office this week, who provided me with invaluable assistance in preparing these remarks.

And here's the motion:
That this House:

(1) commends the efforts of successive Australian governments, working with multilateral, non-government organisations such as Rotary International and other national governments, in wiping out polio in the Pacific and reducing the total number of polio cases worldwide by 99 per cent since 1988;

(2) notes that polio remains endemic in four countries—Afghanistan, Nigeria, India and Pakistan—three of which are Commonwealth nations;

(3) recognises that in 2010, there were only 1290 cases of polio worldwide, down from 350 000 cases in 1988, indicating the unprecedented opportunity the world has to eradicate polio once and for all;

(4) notes that the Global Polio Eradication Initiative currently faces a funding shortfall of US$665 million for the full implementation of its 2010-12 Polio Eradication Strategic Plan; and

(5) calls upon the Government to support efforts to deliver a polio-free world and to advocate for the inclusion of a strong statement urging Commonwealth countries to strengthen immunisation systems, including for polio, in the Final Communique of the 2011 Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting.
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Disability Volunteers



I gave half a dozen speeches yesterday, amounting to about an hour on my feet. Here's one recognising disability volunteers.
Disabilility Volunteers, 22 August 2011

Today I rise to pay tribute to community sector workers in my electorate who are working with individuals who have a disability. I attended two community events recently that brought home to me the valuable work that this sector is doing. On 2 August I attended a DisabiliTEA event in Holt, hosted by the Sharing Places organisation.

I acknowledge the participants in the program: Carl Blakers, Veronica Sadkowski, Mirella Sadkowski, Rebecca Johns, Stephen Perry, Sean Henderson, Tracey Green, Caroline Frey, Kerry Scott and Tiffany Stevenson. The Sharing Places staff: Susan Healy, Kylie Stokes, Kaz Kaczmarek, Alicia Gaudie, Spozmai Nozhat, Donggook Kang, Lynnette Thompson, Fiona Lukacs, Abbie Costa. And other attendees supporting the work of Sharing Places: Ken Baker, Emily Weeks, Justyn McDonald, Dee McGrath, Felicity Cotterill, Helen Walker and Julie Grehan. All of these attendees were there to support the proposal for a National Disability Insurance Scheme. They recognise the valuable contribution that a National Disability Insurance Scheme will do for people with disability in Australia.The next day, on 3 August—by coincidence my birthday—I attended the opening ceremony of Ross Walker Lodge in the St Margaret’s Church Hall. The Ross Walker Lodge will support six people in the ACT with intellectual disabilities, and I would like to pay tribute to Harvey Smith, John Goss, Gordon Ramsay, Audrey Walker, the widow of Ross Walker, and the many ACT MLAs who were in attendance, particularly Joy Burch, the Minister for Community Services.

Ross Walker, after whom the lodge is named, was born at about the same time as my paternal grandfather, Keith Leigh. They both entered the Methodist ministry in the post-war era and both were committed to a service in the community that involved focusing on the most disadvantaged, bringing the gospel but also bringing social change to the community. The Ross Walker Lodge fits proudly in that tradition, which is of great pride to many of us on this side of the House. The Ross Walker Lodge will be an important part of the work in the community that the Uniting Church does, and I am sure that many volunteers will continue to assist with that. I pay tribute to all of those involved in these two important disability events.
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An Apple a Day Keeps the Trade War at Bay

My AFR op-ed today looks at the benefits that Australia gains from playing by global trade rules.
Apple Ruling Makes Sense, Australian Financial Review, 23 August 2011

In 1995, Japan accepted imported rice for the first time. A nation whose politicians had sometimes claimed that foreign rice was unfit for Japanese consumption yielded - thanks to a World Trade Organization deal. Within a few years, Australian rice exports to Japan were worth over $200 million.

Yet today, the Liberal and National parties are calling for Australia to thumb its nose at the WTO’s finding that our apple quarantine system was not based on solid science. Rather than allowing New Zealand apple imports, the Coalition would prefer to see Australia start a trade war.

To see how we got here, it’s worth briefly recapping the development of the world’s trade rules. In the first few decades after World War II, global trade agreements focused on reducing the tariffs that had spiked upwards during the interwar period. As quotas were scrapped and tariffs fell, trade negotiators turned their attention to more subtle forms of protectionism. They realised that if formal trade barriers were removed, there was a risk that non-trade measures might be used to the same effect.

In fact, just about every trade barrier can be rewritten as a quarantine rule or a consumer protection law. Suppose Californian wine producers are complaining about competition from French Bordeaux. Left unchecked, US authorities could simply raise health concerns about Phylloxera, and ban French wines on quarantine grounds. Or imagine that British carmakers are struggling to compete with Malaysian hatchbacks. Without any international guidelines, there would be nothing to stop the UK from banning Malaysian small cars for reasons of safety.

To prevent competition laws and environmental rules from being used as backdoor protectionism, the WTO has two new treaties that require health, consumer and environmental regulations to be scientifically based. National regulations cannot discriminate against particular countries, and must not impede trade any more than necessary.

If a WTO member thinks that another country is breaking the global trade rules, it can take a case to the dispute panel. Australia has complained to the WTO on seven occasions (against the European Union, Hungary, India, Korea, and the United States). We’ve won five of these cases, including decisions in favour of our beef exporters to Korea and our lamb exporters to the US.

On the flipside, we’ve had ten cases brought against us (by Canada, the EU, New Zealand, the Philippines, Switzerland, and the US). We’ve lost three of these cases, including the New Zealand apples decision (the other two losses related to imports of salmon and automotive leather).

Once a country loses a case, it usually complies pretty quickly. That’s because WTO rules allow the victor to impose retaliatory tariffs. When the WTO found in 2003 that the United States had illegally imposed a tariff on steel, it authorised the European Union to impose $2 billion tariffs on any products it chose. The EU announced a set of tariffs – from oranges in Florida to vehicles in Michigan – that targeted the battleground states for the following year’s presidential election. President Bush swiftly capitulated.

Being part of a rules-based trading system means that you can’t just comply when you like the decision. Just as we hand over the Ashes to England when the umpire rules in their favour, so the international trading system is based on respect for the science and the decision-making panel.

It may feel good for the Coalition to rail against the WTO, but to many observers, it is a worrying signal that protectionism is resurgent in the Liberal and National parties. Under Trade Ministers such as Tim Fischer and Mark Vaile, there was at least some indication that the Coalition was committed to open markets.

But these days, populism seems to have supplanted sound economic judgment. Earlier this year, the Coalition called for an inquiry into foreign investment in agriculture. When Tony Abbott can’t find an economist to back his policies, he attacks the economics profession. At this rate, it won’t be long before the Liberal and National parties are harking fondly back to the days of John ‘Blackjack’ McEwen and ‘protectionism all round’.

Opposing open markets might draw a cheer from the mob, but it misses the fact that Australia’s success has been built on good economic management. If we are to continue to raise living standards, we need to keep engaging in economic reforms like pricing carbon, investing in skills, and shifting to a profit-based minerals tax. No nation ever prospered by turning its back on the world economy.

Andrew Leigh is the federal member for Fraser.
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Talking Climate Change

Over recent months, I've enjoyed engaging with local voters about the issue of climate change. I've held two community forums* specifically on the issue of climate change. My regular mobile offices bring the conversation to you - whether you're in Dickson or Belconnen, Civic or Charnwood. This week, I sent a postcard out to all the whole electorate asking for people's views, and am enjoying reading through the first batch of responses. Today, I was out with my team doorknocking the suburbs of Gungahlin, discussing the issue face-to-face with local residents.

Overall, the message has been positive. In a soundbite era, my sense is that many people are looking for a style of politics that allows us to get past fear-mongering and slogans, dismiss the common myths about carbon pricing, and talk about the optimistic low-carbon future that is the goal of the package.

If you've got views on climate change and putting a price on carbon pollution, I'd love to hear from you. Give me a call (6247 4396), drop me an email (andrew.leigh.mp at aph.gov.au), or come along to one of my community events. For example, on Saturday 27 August, I'll be holding my third community forum that's specifically focused on climate change. The venue is Majura Hall, Rosevear St, Dickson, and it'll run from 10-11.30am.

I look forward to continuing the conversation.

Update: Here's a video wrapping up the forum.

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Canberrans Feel the Result of Abbott's Fear Campaign

A convoy of trucks is due to arrive in Canberra over the next few days, and to choke traffic on major roads like Northbourne Avenue. Everyone has the right to peaceful protest, but it's pretty clear that Tony Abbott's mobile scare campaign over recent months has whipped up plenty of fear. Greg Combet has been running a series of releases titled 'Abbott absurdities on climate change', which include:
Claim: “Pensioners who can’t afford to turn on their heater or in summer their air-conditioner are going to be very, very badly impacted by the carbon tax.” (Tony Abbott, Super Radio Network, 27 July 2011).

Fact: The Government will provide pensioners with assistance that at least offsets their average price impacts from a carbon price. Pensioners will receive the equivalent of a 1.7 per cent increase in the maximum rate of the pension: an extra $338 a year for singles and $255 a year for each member of a couple.

Claim: “There will be 45,000 jobs lost in energy-intensive industries. There will be 126,000 jobs lost mainly in regional Australia.” (Tony Abbott, Hansard, 21 June 2011).

Fact: Modelling by Treasury and other sources has consistently shown the economy will continue to grow strongly under a carbon price, with new jobs being created in low pollution sectors more than high pollution sectors.

Claim: “A carbon tax ultimately means death to the coal industry.” (Tony Abbott, 9 June 2011, Peabody Energy’s Metropolitan Mine, Helensburgh, NSW).

Fact: Treasury modelling of the CPRS showed the Australian coal mining industry’s output would grow by 66 per cent from 2008 to 2050 with a carbon price.

Claim: “One of the things that people haven’t quite twigged to is that carbon dioxide is invisible, it’s weightless and it’s odourless, how are we going to police these emissions?” (Tony Abbott, 2SM, 7 July 2011)

Fact: Australian corporations have been reporting their emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases since July 2008 under the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting Act 2007. When Mr Abbott’s colleague Malcolm Turnbull introduced this legislation to Parliament he said: “The bill I am introducing today lays the foundation for Australia’s emissions trading scheme. Robust data reported under this bill will form the basis of emissions liabilities under emissions trading ...”

Claim: “Look, there are many economists who prefer our plan to the Government’s plan.” (Tony Abbott, Doorstop Interview, 6 July 2011).

Fact: Mr Abbott was asked which economists prefer his Direct Action policy to a market mechanism like a carbon price. He was unable to name one.

So if Canberrans find themselves stuck in traffic on Monday morning, they should think of Tony Abbott's fear-mongering. After months of misleading statements from the Liberal Party, we shouldn't be surprised when people mistakenly think that pricing carbon will hurt Australia.

For anyone looking for the facts on climate change, and why putting a price on carbon pollution is the most efficient solution, it's worth checking out the Clean Energy Future website.
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Cadel Evans



I spoke in parliament yesterday about Cadel Evans' victory in the Tour de France.
Cadel Evans
18 August 2011


I rise to speak of a truly Australian story, of a man whose courage, strength and pure determination embodies the Australian spirit. Through Cadel Evans and his spectacular win in the Tour de France, the world's toughest endurance race, all Australians can be truly proud. Cadel Lee Evans was born in Katherine in the Northern Territory, and he spent the first four years of his life in the tiny Arnhem Land Aboriginal community of Barunga, 80 kilometres outside Katherine. When the locals saw him pedalling around town on his BMX, none of them probably foresaw his triumphant rise to the top of the cycling world and his elevation to the pantheon of Australia's great sporting heroes. Evans has lived all across this great land, from the dusty outback to the urban metropolis of Melbourne. He is an everyman, someone whom all Australians can aspire to be.

Evans describes himself as having been 'completely unsuitable for almost all Australian school sports' while at school, but, despite his small stature and lack of speed, he persevered with cycling. He was originally a rising star of the mountain-biking world, having competed at the junior world championships and finished second. Assisted by his coach, Aldo Sassi, Evans then switched to road racing and continued to excel.

When I was in high school I competed in some triathlons, but it is my brother, Tim Leigh, who is the avid cyclist of the family. He has followed Cadel Evans's journey from the beginning. He is the kind of person from whose bleary eyes you can always tell when the Tour de France is on. I know Tim celebrates the fact that an Australian has finally won his favourite race, the Tour de France, as does Josh Orchard, a sports fan who interned in my office this week and assisted with this speech. I use this chance to pay tribute to the many local cyclists in my electorate who have been inspired by Cadel Evans's win, including Dan Ashcroft, Damien Hickman and Tony Shields, and to the work locally of Pedal Power ACT, an organisation which is campaigning for better bike paths for all Canberra cyclists.

Cadel Evans first tasted success in the tour of Austria in 2001 and again in 2004 as well as in a Commonwealth Games time trial victory in 2002. He followed this up with impressive performances in other road races, including our very own Tour Down Under in the Adelaide Hills. I think that pretty much everyone expected he would go on to compete for cycling's greatest and most challenging prize, the Tour de France.

In 2006, Evans rode his first tour. While noted by many cycling enthusiasts as Australia's greatest hope, his first tour did not garner the media attention now showered upon him. His strong performance ensured that his 2007 campaign was watched by millions of Australians willing him along the road. We experienced the highs and lows of the day's stages and the eventual heartbreak that Evans must have felt after racing for over 90 hours to fall just 23 seconds short of Alberto Contador. After a disappointing race in 2008, Evans regrouped for the next year. However, in 2009, Evans again fell painfully short of the grand prize, finishing second in a strong performance. In 2010, Evans suffered a hairline fracture in his elbow and had to halt his campaign.

This year millions of Australians tuned in to the characteristically excellent tour coverage provided by SBS. We watched Evans battle through the tour as he constantly chased down breakaways, especially on the 19th stage in the French Alps, where Evans launched a stunning fightback after mechanical problems caused him to fall more than two minutes behind. We cheered and we cried when Evans demolished the penultimate stage—a time trial—and took the lead, and we cheered and cried even more as he cycled into Paris. We watched as the man pulled on that yellow jersey and took his place on the podium. For the first time, an Australian had won the Tour de France.

At 34, Cadel Evans is the oldest tour winner in the post-war era. In his acceptance speech, Evans dedicated his win to his late mentor, Aldo Sassi, who died of cancer in 2010 and was the very man who had helped convert Evans to road racing. Evans is a champion of sport, not only because of his success but also because of his perseverance and determination. Even when he has fallen behind, he has refused to give up. In a sport sometimes tainted by doping, Evans refused to accept anything less than a clean win in the greatest tour of them all. He defied age and he defied expectations. He embodies the Australian spirit: a spirit to win, to play fair and to be a proud yet gracious winner.
http://www.youtube.com/embed/J3RVoDKOEiw?hl=en&fs=1
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Belco Bowl



I spoke in parliament yesterday about the opening of the revamped Belco Bowl.
Belconnen Skate Park
18 August 2011


On 6 August, I was delighted to join my friend Chris Bourke MLA in opening the revamped Belconnen Skate Park, known as the Belco Bowl, a BMX and skate park that was partly funded by federal money under the stimulus program. It is located on the edge of Lake Ginninderra, which could remind skateboarders that their sport started when Californian surfers looked out on flat waves and decided they had to invent another sport. The original Belco Bowl was opened in 1990, just 14 years after the invention of the ollie. I am told that this revamp makes the Belco Bowl the largest skate park in the Southern Hemisphere.

At its best, skateboarding is a sport that does not care about your age, race, sex or religion—just what tricks you can do. The new facility combines some seriously steep walls with areas for first-timers, and I hope that more experienced skaters will use the chance to teach newbies some new tricks. Most Canberrans may not be up to doing kickflips, wheelies and pivots, but I know my two young sons watched with big eyes as they saw the skateboarders and BMX riders using the new facility.

I would like to use this chance to acknowledge the work of the ACT and federal governments, the skating community, particularly Luke Brown, the designers, particularly Julia Coddington, and the builders, who have made the revamped Belco Bowl a reality.
http://www.youtube.com/embed/dk-jFM-E74c?hl=en&fs=1
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Overseas Students

I spoke in parliament yesterday about overseas students studying in Australia.
Education Services for Overseas Students (Registration Charges) Amendment Bill 2011, Education Services for Overseas Students Amendment (Registration Charges Consequentials) Bill 2011
Second Reading - House of Reps Hansard - 18 August 2011


The opportunity to study overseas is a unique one. I was fortunate myself to have the opportunity to study in the United States as an international postgraduate student. For me it was an invaluable experience. I learned about new subjects and to look at my own country with the perspective of an outsider. To adapt the cliché, Australia and the United States really are two countries separated by a common language. Cross-cultural relationships can have their advantages too, and my own international study experience gave me the life-changing opportunity to meet my wife, Gweneth.

It is important for Australia that we encourage international students to come here to study. International students are a vital part of our universities, and increasingly they are becoming an integral part of Australia's social and civic fabric. In my former career as an economics professor at the ANU, I had the privilege of guiding and supervising international students in their postgraduate studies, both masters students and PhD students. Drawing on the experience of students born overseas is something that I have continued through an internship program in my parliamentary office today. Only recently, Ruth Tay, an ANU economics student on a scholarship from the Singaporean government, worked with me analysing mental health policy and immigration policy. Those experiences and Ruth’s background opened my eyes to new perspectives on the issues. And I am sure Ruth will take back some of those ideas to her work in Singapore.

Teaching international postgraduate students, as an ANU economics professor, gave me the privilege of spending time with people from a wide range of backgrounds, cultures and perspectives. I learned a great deal from them, as I hope they did from me. Some examples were Cathy Gong, a Chinese student who completed her PhD in 2008 and has gone on to publish important work on education, intergenerational disadvantage and unemployment, working with NATSEM at the University of Canberra. Cathy and I, working Xin Meng, have even written a paper on intergenerational mobility in China.

Dinuk Jayasuriya, born in Sri Lanka, completed his PhD in 2010 and his first position was with the World Bank. He now works with the monitoring and evaluation operations for the World Bank's private sector arm in the Pacific. Dinuk’s research looked into issues such as microcredit and behavioural economics. Daniel Suryadarma, an Indonesian PhD student who works on poverty and the economics of education, is now a research fellow at the Australian National University. Students such as these have given a great deal to their fellow students and to the institutions in which they study. I expect they will all, over the course of their careers, make substantial contributions to the developing countries in which they were born. The contribution that these students make informs the issues that we are grappling with in this place.

The Gillard government is committed to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the international education sector. We want to protect Australia's reputation as a provider of international education that continues to attract and retain overseas students. My electorate of Fraser has a particularly large community of international students. There are 4,280 international students at the Australian National University and 2,481 at the University of Canberra. On top of this, the electorate of Fraser boasts campuses of the Canberra Institute of Technology, the Australian Catholic University and UNSW@ADFA. These students make a valuable contribution to local businesses, the local economy and academic research. They provide a kaleidoscope of cultural variety that we in the Fraser electorate enjoy.

In recent times there has been a slowing of growth in the sector that is related to the strong Australian dollar. Dutch Disease affects international education, as it affects tourism and manufacturing. But the fast and decisive action that this government took during the global financial crisis and our recognition of the Dutch Disease issues that can arise from a high Australian dollar have been important.

It is true—there is no getting away from it—that Australia is no longer as cheap an international education option as it once was, and that means that our higher education providers must compete on quality. Our sector is of high quality and we need to guarantee that it continues that way. We are placing higher fees and stricter requirements on new entrants into the international education market, and rewarding low-risk providers that have a proven track record of delivering quality education for international students. This bill ensures that our international education sector maintains its high reputation.

International education is an increasingly important part of the Australian economy. It is Australia's third-largest export. The number of international students studying here almost tripled from 2003 to 2010. The sector is now worth tens of billions of dollars to the Australian economy. I have already mentioned the factors that have influenced the sector in recent years. There are a number of challenges today—the stronger Australian dollar, the global downturn and increased competition in the global education market—but we have seen international enrolments in the Australian higher education sector continue to show modest growth.

The government is very focused on strengthening the regulation and consumer protection framework for international education. The sector is as diverse as the students in it. When we talk about the international education sector many people think of the private providers established to deliver training specific to the international market, but we sometimes forget that schools, TAFEs and public universities are also included in that sector. The range of education courses offered to international students includes everything from a year 12 certificate to a PhD. International students contribute enormously to the learning experience of local students in the classroom and outside the classroom. The diverse backgrounds that come into a lecture theatre make it such a rich experience.

Problems arise in the international student market when we start allowing high-risk providers into the market with little regulation or allow them to continue to operate when we know that they have a history of not meeting their regulatory requirements. It is in no-one's interest in this sector to have a market dominated by high-risk providers. Students are not offered certainty about the ongoing existence of their provider. Parents are not offered certainty about the investment that they have made in their child's education. We all know that the decision to invest in a child's education is a stressful one for parents. How much more so when your child is studying in a foreign country? High-risk providers mean that teachers and support staff do not have certainty about their wages, entitlements or job security.

The Australian education sector risks getting a poor international reputation if we allow high-risk players. It gets the reputation of not being a sector where we can provide students with a high-quality degree. Australia as a whole loses out. We place at risk our diversity and multiculturalism if we allow high-risk providers. So it is important that we ensure the sector is of high quality and that the messages that get out through word of mouth about higher education in Australia are uniformly good ones. We do not want to make it too easy for risky entrants to set up, because that can harm every provider. We are taking this important action to ensure that high-risk providers are faced with an additional requirement to enter the market. We do not want to promote and subsidise education providers if they are putting at risk the whole overseas student sector. In this process we want to recognise that we need innovation. We need to encourage providers to put in place new products and innovative products, but we want to distinguish between that and high-risk providers.

We want to ensure that we have new diversity in the market—much as we have seen, say, from the University of Melbourne's shift to a different style of undergraduate teaching—but we also want to ensure that that innovation does not threaten the sustainability of the sector.

The Baird review into the ESOS legal framework recommended that the government take a risk management approach to the sector, and the government agreed. By linking the risk level to the fee structure, the Gillard government is adopting a model favoured by insurance companies all over the world: the greater the risk, the greater the fee. The fee paid by a provider will be based on four indicators of risk. The first part is a flat fee—a charge that all providers pay to cover the administrative costs. The second tier is a size fee that covers the costs of ongoing regulatory activity based on the size of the task. It is a combination of a charge per student enrolment and a charge per registered course for each provider. Third, there is a compliance history fee imposed in circumstances where the minister has in the past 12 months taken action against a provider under section 83 of the ESOS Act for breaching the act, the national code or a condition on the registration. Fourth, there is an entry to the market fee. Evidence suggests that providers with a shorter history of registration present a greater risk and therefore a greater regulatory and supervisory burden. New providers will be charged a fixed fee for each of the first three years of registration.

There have already been several measures adopted by the Gillard government to promote and enhance risk management in the international education sector. These include introducing review systems and periods, enabling conditions to be placed on a registration when the provider is first registered, and strengthening the ability to take compliance and enforcement action.

The Gillard government is interested in providing rewards and incentives for higher education providers who demonstrate their ability to continue to provide high-quality, low-risk education opportunities for overseas students. Government-funded schools, TAFE colleges and public universities that accept international students will pay the lower fee structure in recognition of the lower risk that they present in this sector. These low-risk providers will pay the flat fee and the student enrolment component of the size fee. These low-risk providers will be exempt from the course component of the size fee as they are already subject to rigorous quality control processes through other government requirements for local students and courses.

Overall, there will be a reduction in the level of the annual registration charge paid by the sector as a whole. This is because the low-risk providers comprise a significant share of the market. The revised charging structure will result in a more sustainable international education sector through better protection of international students and an ongoing commitment to continual quality improvement. Providers representing a greater risk to the market, such as new entrants and those with a history of non-compliance, may pay more under the new arrangements. We make no apology for this. We want to create an international education system that provides incentives for providers to improve their performance and to continue to deliver great quality education.

The reforms that we are talking about today are a small part of a wider suite of reforms to the international education sector. This legislation addresses the annual registration charge component of risk management. It is the second package of reforms, and will be complemented by the third package later this year.

During my time as an academic, one of the first things I learned was that collaboration is essential to research. Sometimes the other experts in your field are from countries that are not your own. Sometimes the best person to assist you and guide you through your postgraduate studies is an expert on the other side of the world. Here in Australia we want to ensure that we are offering attractive options for international and domestic students—the best researchers, the best facilities, the best quality of outcome for any type of qualification.

I am enormously proud of the Australian higher education sector, and particularly those institutions in my electorate of Fraser, and I want to make sure all Australians feel that sense of pride. We want to make sure that the best people to guide others through their postgraduate research, to lecture the undergraduates or to offer hands-on vocational training are located here in Australia. We want to make Australia the best option for students who are looking to study overseas. I commend the bills to the House.
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ABC News 24 Capital Hill 11 August 2011



Andrew Leigh and Kelly O'Dwyer discuss political issues on ABC News 24's Capital Hill program, hosted by Lyndal Curtishttp://www.youtube.com/embed/cJpcLvwetlw?hl=en&fs=1
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