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Monday, 23 May 2005
Page: 37

Mr HENRY (3:00 PM) —My question is addressed to the Minister for Education, Science and Training. Would the minister update the House on the government’s plan to directly assist school parent groups and principals with capital work projects at their schools?

Dr NELSON (Minister for Education, Science and Training) —I thank the member for Hasluck for his question. It is well known that state governments own, operate, administer and primarily fund state schools and that the Commonwealth government assists the state governments in doing that. The federal government—the Howard government—had already committed $1½ billion for capital works in schools over the next four years. In addition to that, the Prime Minister announced during the election campaign that an additional $1 billion will be invested directly in Australian schools, with $700 million of it to go directly to government state schools.

As the member for Hasluck knows only too well, the Gosnells Primary School, which is in his electorate and is celebrating its centenary year, has toilets that are only marginally younger. For 20 years the Gosnells Primary School has been second on the list with the Western Australian Department of Education and Training—second on the list for 20 years—to have a toilet upgrade. The member for Forde will know that the Loganlea State School is desperately trying to get some shadecloth for the school. The member for Hume knows that the Bowral Primary School desperately needs some heating and sewerage work as well as a whole range of major projects which parents strongly support and will now receive.

This government will provide capital works funding directly to Australian public state schools. Parent organisations and principals have to sign off on the projects. Up to $150,000 will be provided directly to the schools for projects that the parents believe are critically important in those schools. I noticed yesterday, in the Sun-Herald, that parent groups in the state of New South Wales have welcomed this funding. The article was headed ‘Federal money to save our schools’ and said:

Sharryn Brownlee, president of the NSW Federation of Parents and Citizens Associations, said parents, frustrated by the long wait for funds from the State Government, were taking advantage of the Coalition’s program.

She described it as a lifeline.

One thing I would say to the states is that I am deeply disturbed by what Queensland members have told me: that the Queensland government, through its political operatives in the education department, is telling school principals in that state that, if they cooperate with this initiative of money going directly into parents’ projects in schools, it will be ‘a career-ending move’. That is the kind of crippling, ideological bureaucracy that parents have had a gutful of putting up with. This government is determined to break through the educationally constipated bureaucracy at a state level.

Mr Howard —Mr Speaker, I ask that further questions be placed on the Notice Paper.