Big gun Plibersek to head Labor’s highest priority portfolio
Jul 26, 2016 | News | by The Learning Press staff
Tanya Plibersek will join Kate Ellis in a high-profile shadow education partnership dubbed the “dream team” by Labor leader Bill Shorten.
The move signals Labor’s intention to continue pressing its education agenda post-election - an issue on which it polled strongly during the recent campaign and which the party believes could help oust the Coalition in three years’ time.
Mr Shorten identified education as “one of the sharpest differences” between Labor and the Coalition when unveiling the shadow ministry this week, describing it as “the first-order economic and social priority for Labor in the 45th parliament”.
Ms Plibersek is the most notable mover in a wide-ranging reshuffle which sees her previous role of foreign affairs spokeswoman pass to Penny Wong.
Kate Ellis retains shadow ministry responsibility for early childhood and picks up responsibility for TAFE and the scandal-plagued vocational education and training sector.
But she relinquishes the plum role of shadow education minister to Plibersek.
The shadow education portfolio will also incorporate higher education, which previously came under a separate ministry headed by Kim Carr.
Senator Carr, a veteran of the Labour right, becomes shadow minister for innovation, industry, science and research.
Ms Plibersek, who is entitled to select her own portfolio as deputy opposition leader, said education had “always been a passion”.
“No matter who you are, where you grow up…a great education is the ticket to anything you want to achieve - it's a golden ticket,” she said.
Mr Shorten argued giving Labor’s deputy leader the education portfolio was about “putting a great policy thinker on the political frontline".
"There are few issues as critical to our nation's future prosperity as education, which is why I am giving it such a priority," he said.
Higher education representative body Universities Australia welcomed Ms Plibersek’s appointment, chief executive Belinda Robinson saying: "We are in full agreement with her on the critical importance of education in economic and social terms.
“We strongly support her view that Australia cannot be an innovation nation unless it is also an education nation.”