OPINION: Education, digital economy key to future

THIS is an exciting time for Newcastle, with great opportunities for our future.

Newcastle is my home town and has always been a priority for me and it’s always been a priority for Labor governments.

I’ve always been guided by three core values: equality, social justice and democracy – the same values that have shaped Labor policies that are integral to Newcastle’s future.

Our Better Schools plan ensures fair and equitable funding for every child in every school.

It shouldn’t matter if you go to school in Woodberry, Mayfield or The Junction, all our kids deserve the best start in life and the necessary resources to succeed.

A young girl I met at Woodberry Public School was struggling with literacy skills.

Before starting a specialised program she had a vocabulary of five words. After one week with a one-on-one literacy coach, her vocabulary had rapidly escalated to 36 words – a truly remarkable result by anyone’s measure.

That’s the human value of Labor’s investment and plan for education.

Newcastle’s future depends on having access to high-speed broadband – Labor’s National Broadband Network is connecting every home and business in Newcastle for free.

One hundred per cent of the Newcastle electorate will see the construction of the NBN start within 12 months.

This project is about being globally competitive in the digital economy. We already have a young start-up company, operating from a shop-top on Hunter Street, that develops educational software and exports to the United States.

Another Labor priority for Newcastle is the introduction of DisabilityCare Australia, launched by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in Charlestown recently. This policy alone will deliver life-changing benefits to 10,000 people with disability and their families and carers across the Hunter.

DisabilityCare Australia is going to help people like the young man who goes to my old school, Lambton High, and shares my passion for politics. He has cerebral palsy and wants to go to uni to study political science. I have no doubt he is capable of completing a degree, but he is going to need support.

DisabilityCare Australia will make this happen.

Finally, having a secure job is important for everyone and this is another key policy area for Labor.

I’m a strong advocate for the current bid to establish an industry innovation precinct in Newcastle as part of Labor’s $1 billion plan for Aussie jobs.

This will help build on our already outstanding work in the clean energy and clean technology sectors and is being led by the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources, in partnership with the University of Newcastle, CSIRO and many other public and private sector partners.

Having an industry innovation precinct located here in Newcastle will secure the high-paid, skilled jobs that Newcastle deserves.

This is a Labor vision for Newcastle’s future, and one that I am committed to delivering; a Newcastle with a world-class education system and secure well-paid jobs, so our kids can live, work and raise their own families in our great city.

Sharon Claydon is the federal Labor candidate for Newcastle.