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Wednesday, 9 September 2009
Page: 9058

Mr PYNE (2:29 PM) —My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Minister for Education and Minister for Social Inclusion. I refer the minister to her answer yesterday about the one-student Evesham State School, which received a $250,000 grant under the Primary Schools for the 21st Century program. I further refer the minister to comments by the acting principal, who is also the sole teacher, in today’s media suggesting that the school did not even apply for the grant in the first place. How many other schools have been given grants under this program that they have not even applied for?

Ms GILLARD (Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion) —I thank the shadow minister for his question because it enables me to explain something about the Building the Education Revolution program that he obviously does not understand. The Building the Education Revolution program has three components: Primary Schools for the 21st Century, the National School Pride Program and the Science and Language Learning Centres for 21st Century Secondary Schools. The science and languages centres funding was applied for by schools in a competitive funding round. Funding for the other two programs—Primary Schools for the 21st Century and the National School Pride Program—was not applied for by schools; there was not an application process. The shadow minister may want to go back to the very first announcement of this program, and when he does he will find that when we announced the program we said we would work with education authorities to disburse the funds.

That seems to be resulting in some great hilarity amongst opposition members, but that is exactly the process that is used when the Commonwealth disburses recurrent funding to schools. When the Commonwealth disburses recurrent funding we disburse it through education authorities. So exactly the same process that was used to disburse funds to schools each and every year when the Howard government was in office is being used. That is, we deal with education authorities. We deal with the Catholic education authority to disburse money to Catholic schools, we deal with the independent education authority to disburse money to independent schools and we deal with state and territory government departments to disburse money to state and territory run schools.

I do not know if the opposition’s political case here is that the Catholic education authority cannot be trusted or the independent schools authorities cannot be trusted. I do not know what their political case is, but that is the way it works and that is the way it is working. We work with the education authorities to manage the program. The education authorities then consult and work with local schools on their needs and material comes through those education authorities to our Building the Education Revolution coordinator and, of course, the public servants who work with our Building the Education Revolution coordinator, as is a proper process.

On the question of the Evesham State School, the situation here—and I would have thought anybody just bringing some common sense to bear would quickly understand this—is that this has for many years been a very small school. Obviously other state schools are geographically quite far away. There was an unexpected drop in enrolments to one student this year. Clearly, that requires some decisions to be made about the future of the school. I am advised by the Queensland education department that the local community believes that factors like drought have impacted the number of families in the region and the number of children in the school. Those things are obviously worked through and consulted about at local levels, and that is happening now. On the $250,000 amount that the shadow minister refers to, of course that will not be used for a facility at the school whilst these discussions about the school’s future are in progress.

Mr Pyne —I seek leave to table the Queensland list of the Primary Schools for the 21st Century round 3 who received grants they had not applied for.

Leave not granted.