Earlier this year, my eldest daughter started school. Like all parents, my wife and I want to give our kids the best education they can possibly get. Education is the foundation to a fulfilling and rewarding life.
Living in a wealthy nation with high living standards, Australian parents deserve a government that is committed to a quality education system, to making a greater investment in our kids' education and to investing in needs based funding, better quality teaching, better resources for schools, more information for parents, a quality national curriculum and, importantly, supporting parents to meet the costs of sending kids to school.
Unfortunately, the standards of numeracy and literacy in our schools, compared to other nations over the last decade, have been slipping.
While Labor was in government, we determined that that was not good enough and that something needed to be done to arrest the decline in our kids' standards when it comes to education.
To do this, Labor asked a panel of experts chaired by David Gonski to consult widely with the community and develop a plan to arrest the decline in our schools. That is what they did. They developed a new model for funding our schools that was based on the needs of students, removing disadvantage and boosting standards.
Unfortunately, when the Abbott government came to office, it completely sabotaged the Gonski school reforms by not ensuring that states are required to put additional funding into the system and not requiring states to invest in a needs based model.
In my community, the cost-of-living pressures are enormous. Labor developed a scheme to assist parents in meeting the cost of sending their kids to school—the schoolkids bonus. The payment is $410 each year for primary school students and $820 each year for secondary school students.
This payment supports 4,850 families in the electorate of Kingsford Smith. It supports 8,550 students in my community, ensuring that they are supported and have the best chance at a quality education. It helps to meet the costs of sending kids to school. It is targeted at the most disadvantaged students so that they receive the support. Only families receiving family tax benefit A and B benefit from this targeted payment.
Recently, the Abbott government decided to cut the schoolkids bonus. This will make it tougher for families in my community to meet the cost of sending their kids to school. It will remove vital support for education in Kingsford Smith and throughout the country.
Over the past six weeks, I have been visiting schools in my community, talking to parents about the importance of the schoolkids bonus.
The parents have said to me that the schoolkids bonus is a big help in meeting those important costs of sending kids to school, such as for uniforms, books, shoes and the like.
But the schoolkids bonus is more than that. It is a demonstration of Labor's commitment to education. It is the basis of the necessities for a good education.
Many in my community are outraged by the fact that the Abbott government is getting rid of the schoolkids bonus. So far, 360 members of my community have signed a petition opposing the removal of the schoolkids bonus from families.
The schoolkids bonus is funded by the minerals resource rent tax. That is a tax on the wealthiest foreign-owned mining companies, asking them to pay a fair share for the profits they derive.
Last year, a company like BHP earned a $10.8 billion profit. For that, they pay a small amount of tax to fund the schoolkids bonus.
The Abbott government is giving a tax break to the wealthiest mining companies in the world and asking the families of the poorest school kids in the country to take a hit, while it removes the schoolkids bonus.
In anyone's language, that is unfair. That is not investing in education. I call on the Abbott government, on behalf of my community, not to remove the schookids bonus.