Investing in education is crucial to driving productivity growth and to building a modern and prosperous economy for the future. This Budget delivers on the Rudd Labor Government's election commitments and is a part of delivering the Education Revolution.
The Rudd Labor Government wants Australia's education system to be among the best in the world, so that we have an innovative, skilled and well‑trained workforce. But over the past decade, instead of recognising and emphasising the importance of education to Australia's future, the previous government allowed support to decline. OECD figures presented in Education at a Glance: 2007 show that public spending on education in Australia is below the OECD average.
The Budget provides $19.3 billion to deliver the Government's commitments over the next four years. It is a vital first step in creating a world‑class education system that supports all Australians to learn, from early childhood education to schooling, from skills and training to our universities.
Education has the potential not only to drive productivity but also to empower individuals and help overcome disadvantage. The Education Revolution is for all Australians, including those who have been excluded from the full benefits of education in the past. The Education Revolution is central to the Rudd Labor Government's social inclusion agenda and to its aspiration to close the gap for Indigenous Australians.
With new leadership and a new national consensus on the importance of education to the nation's productivity it is time for a fresh approach — for national consistency and new partnerships — underpinned by strong ongoing investment, not just in this Budget, but in the years to come.
The 2008 meetings of the Council of Australian Governments (COAG), the Ministerial Council on Education, Employment, Training and Youth Affairs and the Ministerial Council for Vocational and Technical Education have all marked the start of a new era of collaboration between Commonwealth, state and territory education and training ministers.
This cooperative national approach will make a difference to the lives of students, parents and working families by providing early and better opportunities for all children, better quality teaching and training, higher workforce participation and a higher skilled and more flexible workforce.
In the area of early childhood education, a national Office of Early Childhood Education and Child Care has been established in the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations to implement an exciting new agenda to deliver universal access to high‑quality early childhood education for all children in the year before school and to ease the pressure on working families struggling to pay for or access child care. The Prime Minister has also made an historic commitment that in five years all Indigenous four year olds in remote Indigenous communities will have access to a quality early childhood education program.
Australian schools will be better equipped to face the future. The Digital Education Revolution is being rolled out in secondary schools in collaboration with state and territory governments. The Rudd Government's $1.2 billion investment over five years provides an opportunity to transform the way teachers teach and students learn, and to equip our students for the future.
In addition, in this Budget the Rudd Labor Government commences delivering our $2.5 billion investment in trades training centres in secondary schools and on our promise to make trades training available and attractive to secondary students.
In the next financial year, the Rudd Government will spend $457 million on school capital works. Over the next four years we will spend more than $1.7 billion on maintenance and infrastructure in our schools.
The Rudd Government will also ensure that all students are supported to get the basics right by investing $577.4 million over four years to support a National Action Plan on Literacy and Numeracy. Assistance will be targeted to students who need it the most and $56.4 million will be delivered over four years for literacy and numeracy programs and individual learning plans for Indigenous students.
This Budget also delivers new investments to enable students to study the languages of our region, in which our economic future lies, and a quality national curriculum.
Australian working families will benefit from the more than $1 billion a year allocated for a new Education Tax Refund to help families meet primary and secondary schooling costs.
Australia's youth have been given a new voice through the national Office for Youth and the Australian Youth Forum.
Delivering a more highly‑skilled workforce is a key element of driving productivity. The Rudd Labor Government is committed to delivering 450 000 new training places over the next four years, and has already fast-tracked 20 000 places, making these available to those who greatly need support — those outside of the workforce. The 2008‑09 Budget extends this commitment to provide 630 000 new training places over five years (including 85 000 apprenticeship places).
Our reform of employment services, also announced in this Budget, supports our training programs by providing additional incentives to Job Network providers to support the most disadvantaged job seekers to move into education, training and work.
Skills Australia has been established to play a central role in analysing current and emerging skills needs across industry sectors, to inform the Government on current and future demand for skills and training.
A review of the current higher education system and its long‑term future is already under way. It will build on approximately $1.5 billion in new initiatives delivered in this Budget, which address immediate priorities for the sector, including ensuring access to higher education is merit‑based and reducing skills shortages in critical areas. An additional $500 million of Better Universities Renewal Funding is being provided in 2007‑08 for a major program of campus renewal in our higher education institutions. This will support improved facilities for teaching, research and student amenities. The projects will be decided by each institution in light of its own mission and some broad priorities set by the Government.
On top of this immediate injection of funding, the Rudd Labor Government will transform Australia's higher education and vocational education and training (VET) institutions over the next decade with a new $11 billion Education Investment Fund. This fund will support capital expenditure and renewal and refurbishment in universities and vocational institutions as well as in research facilities and major research institutions. This fund will include $5 billion from the 2007‑08 and 2008‑09 Budgets and $6 billion from the Higher Education Endowment Fund (HEEF).
This Budget delivers on election promises and begins the long‑term investment in education and training necessary to support productivity and economic growth into the future.
The Education Revolution 2008‑09 Budget package demonstrates the very real commitment of the Rudd Labor Government to building our future prosperity by ensuring that all Australians have access to world‑class education and training.
Deputy Prime Minister
Minister for Education
Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations
Minister for Social Inclusion
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