Written on the 28 November 2013Hon. D. M. DAVIS (Minister for Health) -- I move:
(b) identify the nature and scale of relative inclusion (exclusion) and participation of Victorians with a disability in the economic, social and civil dimensions of society;
(c) understand the impact of Victorian government services and initiatives aimed at improving inclusion and participation;(d) identify examples of good practice on inclusion and participation driven by local government and the community sector;
(e) assess how the Disability Act 2006 has impacted on the social inclusion of people with a disability with respect to Victorian government services; and
(f) recommend ways to increase social inclusion, including the roles of and collaboration between local, state and federal governments, the community sector, individuals with a disability and their carers.
(2) To the Rural and Regional Committee -- for inquiry, consideration and report no later than 4 September 2014 on the opportunities for increasing exports of goods and services from regional Victoria, and the committee is asked to do this through an examination of:
(a) the identification and volume of Victorian agricultural, resource, manufacturing and service industry exports to overseas markets originating in regional Victoria;
(b) regional Victoria's competitive advantages in meeting the demands of world markets;(c) innovative approaches to exporting and lessons to be shared from successful exporters;
(d) impediments and barriers creating difficulties for regional exporters; and(e) the current and future roles of government in supporting regional businesses in their export endeavours.
(3) To the Education and Training Committee -- for inquiry, consideration and report no later than 4 September 2014 on the approaches to homework in Victorian schools, focusing on the impact on student learning, including:(a) evidence supporting the value of homework:
(i) benefits to individual students' learning;(ii) contribution to discipline and other life skills; and
(iii) engagement of parents in student learning;(b) current approaches to homework, including application of, and access to, technology outside of the classroom/school:
(i) as a tool to reinforce learning;
(ii) differences across primary and secondary school and the sectors;(iii) approaches in Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse background communities;
(iv) individual versus team homework;(v) conceptual versus applied;
(vi) relevance to curriculum;(vii) integration into how teachers help students learn;
(viii) assessment;(ix) reporting and feedback methods; and
(x) best practice models;(c) future of homework in Victorian schools:
(i) balance between reinforcing and extending what has been learnt in the classroom with time to undertake extracurricular activities and to spend time with family;(ii) differentiated approaches for primary and secondary schools;
(iii) the nature, and time dedicated to, homework to facilitate best student learning in different communities; and
(iv) application of, and access to, technology to assist learning.
In fact that did not prove to be the case. The committee had the resources and the legal support. The resources were provided by the government to the Parliament for that committee's activities. The committee went forward and did the work with, as I have said, good grace and genuineness and in a way that has led to its making a foundational report. It played a significant part in eliciting the steps that led to the royal commission at a national level and the New South Wales inquiry. I compliment the New South Wales government on its preparedness to look at a number of these difficult matters.
Ms Crozier, who is the chair of the committee, and I were talking earlier in the day with a number of other members. When remembering that inquiry -- and I will put this on the record very briefly -- it is important to remember that it is not just one institution that is involved here; it is a series of institutions that have been pointed to by evidence and material gathered by the committee through an exhaustive process with parliamentary privilege. It is important to see how a committee can reflect community values and community concerns and in a good and genuine way take on board facts and evidence and make a set of decisions and a set of recommendations that will stand the Parliament, the government and the community in good stead into the future.
I am, in a sense, beginning with this preamble to indicate the good work that parliamentary committees can do.From time to time we see the Parliament brought into disrepute for a range of reasons, but the inquiry that has been completed by the Family and Community Development Committee stands in stark contrast to those occasions. It stands as an example of the Parliament doing its best. In many respects joint parliamentary committees, and indeed Legislative Council committees, have the capacity to make, in a sensible way and with proper protections and support, a set of decisions on the basis of evidence that is tendered under oath. Parliamentary committees can cross-examine witnesses and be informed and learn about a particular area as they go about their work.
I note that the Environment and Planning Legislation Committee's report on its inquiry into the regulatory impact statement process was tabled today. I commend that committee on its work.
As I said to somebody earlier in the day, it is a drier and more complex sort of reference but is one that nonetheless will provide important guidance to government on how to reform and improve the regulatory impact statement process.
Referring to these inquiries directly, with the disability act in place and the decisions about the national disability insurance scheme having been made by governments around the country, it is timely to look at a number of these key points. Inclusion and participation are important concepts, and ensuring that disabilities are not a point of exclusion is a significant step for our community. Under this reference the Family and Community Development Committee will be asked to look at the central steps and at what can be done to put the state and the community in a better position to understand best practice on inclusion and participation driven by local government and the community sector, and to recommend ways to increase social inclusion, including in the roles and collaboration between various governments and community sectors.It is an important reference. I will let the committee chair say something, but I think that committee is now well placed to undertake such a reference.
The Rural and Regional Committee will be able to look at the challenge of exports. Victoria is doing very well with its exports, particularly its exports of food -- wheat, dairy products and other key exports. Food exports make a significant contribution to the state's economy. In 2012-13 they were valued at $7.6 billion, accounting for 26 per cent of Australia's total food exports. Importantly, the food sector is also a significant source of jobs, directly employing 145 000 people, the majority based in rural and regional Victoria.
We face significant challenges. Victoria is not a state that has the immediate access to massive mineral resources that some other states have. It is unable to generate the massive royalty flows that Western Australia, Queensland or, to a lesser extent, New South Wales have been able to generate. This state needs to work hard, and we need to make sure that our investments and our focus on our industries are correct.That is where this important reference can better position the state for the future, inspiring bipartisan or cross-party support in the Parliament and in the community for directions and ways forward. We face challenges, but there are also massive opportunities, and Victoria under the Baillieu and Napthine governments has been prepared to seize those opportunities and push forward. The rapidly growing middle class in Asia is a segment that we can focus on in seeking to do better with our exports, whether they be dairy, red meat, grains, horticulture or wine. There is a long list of products.
These build on Victoria's strengths.The increased international competition we face and the high Australian dollar are certainly factors, and we need to couple our productivity growth with dealing with the challenges, but this is about building markets. Victoria's food sector can also capture opportunities presented by Asia's middle class as it grows and becomes wealthier, but there are many other rural exports and regional exports that put us in a very strong position, as I said, whether they be horticulture, wine or red meat. These are key exports. The committee is well positioned to investigate volume and innovative approaches in exporting, to learn lessons from successful exporters and to advise the government in those areas in the future.
The Education and Training Committee has been asked to look at homework. On one level this is a hoary old chestnut.
I have young children and I understand the challenges parents face in regard to homework. On the weekend at a local event by chance I had a conversation with a parent who was explaining how they had instituted a homework regime. Knowing this motion was coming before the house, my ears pricked up. I think all parents will respond to this and appreciate the challenge of balancing children's sporting activities, cultural pursuits and home life with ensuring that they are able to augment and strengthen their activities at school through doing homework, which puts students in a better position individually and more broadly puts our community in a better position. The challenge is for teachers to work with our students in this way.
This is a very detailed motion, and I do not need to speak to each of the points, but I think there will be very little resistance in the community to looking at this matter in a systematic way.This is a motion for an inquiry that elicit understandings and bipartisan or cross-party positions on these matters as we go forward. Many of these areas are best dealt with in this way, because if you can develop durable positions that have all-party support, the implementation and the longevity of programs will be much greater. We will refine what can be done and do it in a way that will deliver for families and communities into the future.
With those few words I commend these three important references to the house. I know a number of the committee chairs want to make brief contributions to this debate, but I would certainly welcome the support of all parties in the chamber for these references.Mr LEANE (Eastern Metropolitan) -- The opposition does not intend to oppose Mr Davis's motion to refer these matters to these three committees.
We are happy to see the committees do their work in the same fashion as we have previously seen them do it in relation to a number of committee references. We do not see any need to pre-empt any conclusions that may come out of these references, and we look forward to the reports coming to this chamber in the future.Mrs KRONBERG (Eastern Metropolitan) -- I take great pleasure in rising to support the motion moved by Mr Davis to refer certain matters to specified joint investigatory committees under section 33 of the Parliamentary Committees Act 2003. The motion includes a well set out referral to the Family and Community Development Committee with an emphasis on social inclusion for Victorians with disability. The second referral is to the Rural and Regional Committee for inquiry, consideration and report by no later than 4 September on opportunities for increasing exports of goods and services from regional Victoria.
My contribution -- --Mr Leane -- Acting President, I draw your attention to the state of the house.
Quorum formed.Mrs KRONBERG -- In my capacity as chair of the Education and Training Committee I will emphasise during my contribution the third reference in the motion, which refers a matter to the Education and Training Committee:
The next element is current approaches to homework, including application of and access to technology outside of the classroom/school as a tool to reinforce learning; differences across primary and secondary school and the sectors; approaches in Indigenous and culturally and linguistically diverse background communities; individual versus team homework; conceptual versus applied; relevance to curriculum; integration into how teachers help students learn; assessment; reporting and feedback methods; and best practice models.The third major element of this reference is the future of homework in Victorian schools -- the balance between reinforcing and extending what has been learnt in the classroom with time to undertake extracurricular activities and to spend time with family; differentiated approaches for primary and secondary schools; the nature and time dedicated to homework to facilitate best student learning in different communities; and application of and access to technology to assist learning. These are really profound things for the committee to consider.
It is important to note that this term of reference has been moved in the Parliament during this sitting week. It was not able to be dealt with in the last sitting week. The timing of the motion puts significant pressure on the committee for the simple reason that advice needs to go out in public forums in a timely fashion to likely stakeholders, such as primary and secondary schools; teachers and their professional associations; parents associations; academic institutions, particularly teacher education tertiary institutions; and to the students themselves for the questions to be considered in this particular reference.By the time the request for submissions goes out there will not be a lot of time left before the close of the school and academic years. I was very pleased to hear the comment from Mr Leane earlier that the opposition will support this series of references, because they are really important. Homework is something that is essential in Victorian schools.
There have been lots of studies into the efficacy of homework in improving student learning outcomes and on both sides, both negative and positive. The inquiry will look at the effectiveness of homework and the form that homework should take.I commend this motion to the house. Hopefully the Education and Training Committee will be able to deal with its reference in a very prompt fashion as soon as the motion passes through this house.
Ms PENNICUIK (Southern Metropolitan) -- On behalf of the Greens, I say that we will support the committee references moved by Mr David Davis in his motion 672. The first part is to refer to the Family and Community Development Committee the issue of social inclusion and Victorians with a disability and for the committee to report by August next year. There are six aspects with regard to that in Mr Davis's motion.
I have consulted with my colleague Ms Hartland, who takes a very keen interest in and is our spokesperson on this issue, and she advises that the reference is straightforward. I would say that it represents a quite comprehensive coverage of the issue.
I take the opportunity to say that I agree with the Leader of the Government that the work done by the Family and Community Development Committee in its most recent inquiry has impressed all Victorians. The members of the committee had a very difficult task ahead of them with their last reference. They carried out that task excellently on behalf of the Victorian community and in particular on behalf of the people who had been damaged by the actions committed against them over many years and often very many years ago.I have confidence in the ability of this committee to take on what I think is going to be a reference that will again raise issues that are difficult for many Victorians and that many Victorians with disabilities and their families have had to deal with in their lives. Therefore it is timely, particularly in terms of looking at the Disability Act 2006, which is now seven years old, to see how that is working or not working for the benefit of people with a disability in Victoria.
With regard to the second reference in the motion to the Rural and Regional Committee, it is very broad in scope and not very specific in terms of the five key aspects that the motion asks the committee to look at. In terms of looking at the impediments and barriers, one thing that comes to mind is the issue of freight transport, in particular the lack of progress by either government in moving freight off the roads and onto rail. That is a particular issue for regional and rural areas, so I hope the committee will look at that issue.The third reference requires the Education and Training Committee to look at approaches to homework in Victorian schools, focusing on the impact on student learning. The motion covers three main areas with a large number of subpoints. It is worth saying that the issue of whether homework is beneficial to students or the degree to which it might or might not be beneficial to students is a longstanding debate, and there are people who do not believe that homework is of much benefit to students. Certainly there are schools around the world that have no-homework policies. In fact just recently I read that the new French president has moved that homework be abolished in French schools.
He cited the reason that it is unfair for students whose parents are not involved in assisting them with homework or taking much interest and that it was a disadvantage to them compared to the students whose parents are actively involved.There are also the issues arising in primary and lower secondary schools about whether homework is beneficial for students; whether it is a burden on students; whether it actually assists them in learning or does not assist; whether it takes them away -- as Mrs Kronberg, the Leader of the Government and others have said -- from other activities such as sporting activities, and particularly for young children takes them away from general play. It is a longstanding debate and much has been written and said about it. It will be very interesting to see what the committee comes up with in that regard.
I do not want to come down on one side or the other, although I lean toward less homework for younger students and more opportunities for them to be involved in other things, but particularly so that young students are not too tired at the end of the day to take part in other activities including just being with friends and family.With those few words, the Greens support these references to the relevant joint committees.
Mr DRUM (Northern Victoria) -- I too join with the Leader of the Government, Mr David Davis, in support of his motion 672 relating to referrals to three of the parliamentary committees of their next investigatory inquiries. The Family and Community Development Committee is to inquire into, consider and report by August 2014 on the issue of social inclusion for those Victorians with a disability. It is timely that we look at what is defined as social inclusion.That debate has been raging since Parliament examined the disability legislation in about 2003-04 and rewrote the act, but there is the whole concept of closing down institutions, putting people in community residential units, working out what would be the correct number of residents and whether we can take people out of, say, Kew Cottages, and simply assimilate them into the community. Parents, guardians and carers have been very concerned about making sure that policy exactly reflects the various capabilities of people with disabilities and does not place them in situations where they are clearly unable to be assimilated.
The whole concept of social inclusion is critical when it comes to creating the best and most productive lifestyles for our Victorians with disabilities. It is great that we take people who may suffer from disabilities which are not profound, as we do now, and try to train and educate them, and continue to do so way beyond the normal education years. We are putting in place a lot of work to ensure that they maximise their potential.
Both sides of Parliament and both sides of politics are working on trying to maximise the input for people with disabilities. This inquiry by the Family and Community Development Committee into social inclusion for people with a disability will be very timely.
Looking at ways to try to increase social inclusion, the various roles and collaboration between local, state and federal governments is absolutely critical because with this particular issue we find that quite often the joint funding models do not work and do not give everybody the services they require. We are all looking forward to the introduction of the national disability insurance scheme when we hope many people with disabilities will be able to access, as of right, the services they need, as that certainly is not the case at the moment.The second part of the motion relates to a referral to the Rural and Regional Committee, of which I am a member and a former chair. It looks to be an outstanding reference because we all know how important it is for Victoria to build upon its exports in goods and services. We understand that in 2012-13 the total amount of exports from Victoria amounted to over $7.5 billion, which is over a quarter of the total amount of exports of food from Australia. We also understand that there is a growing middle class in Asia and the statistics show that we are looking at a number in the billions by 2030.
We will have in the vicinity of 3 billion people in the consumer class in Asia within about 17 years. At the moment that figure is around 200 million to 300 million people. We have the opportunity to be the beneficiaries of this huge, burgeoning market for our goods and services, including food and fibre.It is an area in which all of Victoria now realises how prophetic the previous Premier, Ted Baillieu, the member for Hawthorn in the Assembly, was in organising the super trade missions to India, China and the United Arab Emirates. This work has since been continued by Premier Napthine. A range of ministers -- including the Minister for Agriculture and Food Security; Louise Asher; and Richard Dalla-Riva, as the former Minister for Manufacturing, Exports and Trade -- have led delegations from Victorian businesses to these overseas markets.
I know from recent conversations with the Minister for Agriculture and Food Security that millions of dollars in contracts with overseas companies have come about as a direct result of the trade missions facilitated by the coalition government. It is something we should all learn from. At some stage or another Labor will again be on the government benches; I hope it is a long time in the future. However, we hope when it happens Labor's efforts in bringing Victorian businesses face to face with overseas markets will be a hell of lot better than during its last attempt at government. In this area the current government, under Premier Baillieu and Premier Napthine and the various trade ministers, has shown not just the Labor Party in Victoria but everybody else in Australia a clean set of heels. The delegations to overseas markets are giving the export numbers of this state an enormous boost.The Rural and Regional Committee will look into this area in terms of resources, manufacturing, food and fibre, the competitive advantages this state has over some of the others and what innovative approaches can be implemented to get even more successful exporters into the field. The committee will also look at the impediments and barriers that are currently acting as a handbrake on our businesses and export dollars from those overseas markets.
It will be a very interesting inquiry. I look forward to being part of the inquiry. It will be a great opportunity to come up with recommendations to help the government to further enhance its reputation for having first-class relationships with our overseas markets and doing everything it possibly can during times of a high Australian dollar, high labour costs and cheap imports competing against businesses in this country and in this state.In this background of extremely tough trade indicators it is great that this government and its various ministers can hold their hands up and say they are doing everything they possibly can to influence markets, create new markets and bring burgeoning businesses in Victoria to the next stage and the next level.
In relation to the third inquiry, into homework, Ms Pennicuik mentioned that how much homework our children should do, the type of homework they should do and the various benefits of homework to individual students is an age-old debate. It is a contentious issue. People fall on both sides of this argument and have for many years. In terms of an initial rule of thumb, Ms Pennicuik mentioned the French President saying he was not keen to see some students disadvantaged because their parents were not engaged in their children's learning and homework. If that has been put forward as a valid argument -- --Ms Pennicuik -- I wasn't putting it as a valid argument.
Mr DRUM -- No, I am just saying that if the French President is going to put that forward as a valid argument, I would love to argue against it.Hon. G. K. Rich-Phillips -- I suspect he will not make a submission.
Mr DRUM -- He may not make a submission in the first round, Mr Rich-Phillips; however, you never know.As a society we have to wind the clock back and encourage parents to take a greater interest in their children's education. We should not take the easy way out and ban all homework because we do not want to discriminate against the few children who are being left behind. I know it is contentious. It is an issue that desperately needs this inquiry. It would be great if one of the recommendations could be in relation to ways to further encourage parental participation in homework.
The Education and Training Committee is well situated to find a better balance that will lead to better educational outcomes.
This motion is timely. These inquiries will potentially be the last that these committees will complete in this term of Parliament, and I am looking forward to playing a role on the Rural and Regional Committee with the member for Rodney in the other place, Paul Weller, as chair. I look forward to seeing the recommendations from each of the three committees as a result of these references.
Hon. P. R. HALL (Minister for Higher Education and Skills) -- I join colleagues in the chamber in supporting the references being referred to the three committees identified in the motion moved by Mr Davis. It would come as no surprise that I have a particular interest in the terms of reference given to the Parliament's Education and Training Committee for inquiry into a whole range of aspects of homework. As other speakers have said homework has been surrounded by controversy and inconsistency at the school level and also at family and parental levels.Homework guidelines were issued by the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development back in the year 2000, and there has been very little alteration to those guidelines since the then Minister for Education, Mary Delahunty, established them. It is worth mentioning a few aspects of them because I am sure they will become an important focus for the committee's work.
The guidelines assign responsibility to school councils to determine homework policy for use at each school but also give further guidance to school councils as to what they need to be aware of when setting a homework policy for their schools. For example, they suggest that for prep to year 4 homework should be not seen as a chore. It should enable the extension of classwork by practising skills or gathering extra information or materials. It should mainly consist of daily reading to, with and by parents, a carer or older siblings and should generally not exceed 30 minutes a day or be set on weekends or during vacations. Those of us who have had children should perhaps reflect on whether our children were working within the parameters suggested by the department.
For years 5 to 9 the guidelines suggest that homework should include daily independent reading, it should be coordinated across subjects in secondary schools to avoid unreasonable workloads for students, it may extend classwork, projects and assignments, essays and research, and generally range from 30 to 45 minutes a day in year 5 and 45 to 90 minutes a day in year 9. These guidelines suggest a framework for school councils to use in setting their school policy. When discussing years 10 to 12 the guidelines suggest that homework will generally increase and require from 1 to 3 hours per weeknight with up to 6 hours on weekends during peak Victorian certificate of education periods.
I will not dare to pre-empt what the committee might consider in regard to these guidelines because the point of the terms of reference is that the committee receive input into what the community thinks is appropriate in terms of homework, but as others have suggested in contributing to this debate it has been a somewhat vexed question over a period of time.I too noticed that it was only a little over 12 months ago that President Francois Hollande of France abolished homework in French schools, which created vigorous debate all around the world as to whether that view was appropriate in other communities and cultures. Indeed it prompted the publishing of a book called Reforming Homework: Practices, Learning and Policy, by Richard Walker and Mike Horsley, who work out of Sydney University. I simply mention that as a possible reference that the committee might want to have a look at. I have not read it myself, but I am sure it would be a useful document for the committee to consider.
When the current guidelines were established in 2000 Parents Victoria made a submission, dated September 2000, to the department titled Reporting and Homework in Victorian Government Schools. Having flicked through the document, I know some comments made by Parents Victoria would be relevant to the committee's work.
Our committees consult widely and embark upon a program of consultation right across the state. The work undertaken is generally good, positive work, and we see good outcomes from it. I was a member of the Education and Training Committee in the last Parliament, and the work we undertook involved a great deal of consultation and invitations to people to make submissions to inquiries. I believe homework is an area on which many people have a view, and the work of the committee will be long and very interesting.
Ms Pennicuik -- Will they be able to solve it?Hon. P. R. HALL -- I think the important thing is that the responsibilities and wishes of parents and school communities towards homework will be of paramount interest to those concerned with this inquiry. As I said, the guidelines go back to suggesting that school councils should set homework policy for their particular schools.
I think that is appropriate, but I do not want to pre-empt any recommendations the Education and Training Committee might make to Parliament. However, I wish committee members well in their endeavours and support the motion before the house.
Ms CROZIER (Southern Metropolitan) -- I am pleased to speak to the motion that has been moved by the Leader of the Government. Three very important references are outlined in this motion.
The first is to the Family and Community Development Committee, which I presently chair, for inquiry, consider and report no later than 6 August 2014 on social inclusion and Victorians with a disability. The committee is asked to inquire into a number of areas that have been previously outlined by the minister. The motion also makes references to the Rural and Regional Committee to inquire into a number of areas relevant to that committee and to the Education and Training Committee to investigate other areas.The reference to the Family and Community Development Committee is another very important reference. In the last sitting week I tabled the report of the child abuse inquiry and thanked members for their support and comments in relation to the work of the committee. It was a significant inquiry, as members are aware. We dealt with some very difficult and challenging issues. Likewise, this reference requires inquiry into difficult and challenging areas concerning some of our most vulnerable community members.
I put on the record that the Minister for Disability Services and Reform, Ms Wooldridge, along with the Parliamentary Secretary for Families and Community Services, Mrs Coote, have done an extraordinary job in relation to the consultation they have undertaken throughout Victoria.
The act requires that a disability action plan be prepared every four years.
These are complex matters.As I said, the minister has undertaken a significant amount of work on this, and I commend her for her work particularly in relation to the NDIS. We know there are a number of issues in relation to social inclusion, and that is what this reference looks at, particularly in Victorian government services. I note that the disability plan has a whole-of-government and interdepartmental committee on disability looking at four key areas. This reference will enable us to see if those issues are being looked at adequately, and I am sure the committee will undertake the work as has been requested.
In relation to the reference to the Rural and Regional Committee, the recently announced food and fibre results have broken historical records. That goes to show just how important our export markets are to this government. We have had record exports to various parts of the world. I particularly commend the government on its trade missions -- the delegations it has taken to Asia and the Middle East.Those results will go towards ongoing export opportunities for our rural and regional industries.
The final reference, which is to the Education and Training Committee, looks at approaches to homework. As we have heard from various speakers, this can be a vexed debate. I was interested in Ms Pennicuik's comments, and other members have taken up the issue of what France is doing. The French President has his views; I suppose that should not be so surprising, given that his is a somewhat socialist government. In relation to Mr Hall's comments, as he is a former teacher, he will know importance of the benefits of homework. I would have to say that the benefits far outweigh the negatives when it comes to homework and improving student outcomes.These are three very important references that have been given to the committees.
They will all undertake their inquiries in a timely fashion, as they have been requested to do, and will report back to government according to the normal process. I commend the motion to the house.Motion agreed to.