Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett
Education and Training
Victor P Taffa
Western Australia Premier Colin Barnett has addressed State Parliament and has outlined the achievements of the first 17 months in office. In a series of extracts from the complete speech to the House Premier Barnett highlighted key policy commitments that have been delivered or on the way to delivery.
I rise today to provide the House with an outline of the Liberal National Government’s policy and legislative priorities for the forthcoming year. In doing so, I will take the opportunity to highlight some of what this Government has achieved in its first 17 months in office.
As Members are well aware, the first year of government coincided with the global financial crisis. As a result, the Government’s priority has been to protect the State’s finances against the impact of the economic downturn, and make decisions that build confidence, attract investment, create jobs and set up the Western Australian economy for the long term.
While the Government will continue to hold a disciplined fiscal line and drive economic growth this year, it will increasingly focus on social and environmental policy. This has already begun with significant initiatives to improve community safety, transform mental health services, give greater independence to some of our public schools, improve water quality in the Swan and Canning Rivers, and start work on a new children’s hospital.
Mr. Speaker, as Members are well aware, 2009 ended on a devastating note for Toodyay, after fire destroyed 38 homes on December 29. Before I begin outlining the Government’s agenda, I would like to take the opportunity to thank the volunteers and the many people from State Government agencies who performed so admirably in responding to the fire, both immediately and in the aftermath. It was a remarkable effort and we are all thankful that, despite the loss of homes and treasured possessions, no lives were lost.
Mr. Speaker, the former Labor Government squandered many opportunities to share the benefits of the boom of the previous decade. It is a travesty that the spoils of that economic providence were enjoyed by too few West Australians and that too many were left behind.
The Liberal National Government recognises it has a great responsibility to ensure the opportunities in front of us are not wasted. As Premier, I am determined that not only do we make decisions to ensure sustained growth, but that the benefits of a strong economy are shared with all West Australians.
Education and Training
The responsibility for educating our young people is perhaps the most important role for State Governments, which provide around 90 % of the funding for public schools. The Liberal National Government is committed to improving our schools and educational standards across the State. We demonstrated this by settling the long-running teachers’ pay dispute with an immediate and much deserved 6 % pay rise for teachers in the first weeks of coming to office.
Last year, the Liberal National Government made an historic leap forward in public education with the announcement that the 2010 school year would begin with a number of government schools having independent status. More than 100 schools applied to become an Independent Public School. This response demonstrates that school communities are eager to be more involved in decision-making at the local level.
Thirty-four schools started term one this year with more autonomy and more power to make decisions that best suit the needs of their students and local communities. This year, more schools will be given the chance to apply to become Independent Public Schools for the start of the 2011 school year.
The Liberal National Government is supporting schools to create positive learning environments for students. $46 Million has been allocated to improve student behaviour, including providing all schools with access to chaplains and school psychologists. Work on six new behaviour centres in regional towns and cities is underway and the centres are on track to open this year.
A skilled workforce is essential to underpinning the State’s economic growth. The Government last year established a stand-alone Department of Training and Workforce Development to improve training, apprenticeship and re-training opportunities for Western Australians. By 2012, there will be more than 47,000 people in training and apprenticeships, which are 10,000 more than the highest point under the previous Government.
Part of the transformation of the training system also involves re-branding and re-focusing TAFE colleges as specialist training centres in areas of particular importance to Western Australia’s economy, such as tourism.
Mr. Speaker, I believe the record of the Liberal National Government to date shows it is not afraid to make hard decisions in the interests of all West Australians.
We have a responsibility to all members of our community. While the Government is committed to helping people help themselves, we recognise that not everyone has the same capacity to lead better or more prosperous lives on their own. That is why the Liberal National Government will focus on empowering those who have been neglected, hurt or marginalised to live with dignity, confidence and security. Social justice will be a hallmark of the Liberal National Government.
The Government’s commitment to considered reform will build stronger communities throughout the State. This will be achieved through both policy and legislation.
I look forward to a year of robust and informed debate in the Parliament this year. It is incumbent upon all Members to take seriously the responsibility of framing laws that shape the way we live in Western Australia.
Mr. Speaker, I wish all Members well for the 2010 Parliamentary year.