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Wednesday, 10 February 2010
Page: 1002


Mr PYNE (2:58 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Education. I refer the minister to the massive $1.7 billion blow-out in Labor’s school halls program and the $1.2 billion blow-out—or a massive 120 per cent—in the so-called computers in schools program. Minister, doesn’t this blow-out in government spending just put more upward pressure on interest rates?


Mr Andrews interjecting


Ms GILLARD (Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion) —Mr Work Choices is still alive and well on the opposition front bench.


The SPEAKER —The Deputy Prime Minister will respond to the question and ignore the interjections. The member for Menzies will sit there quietly.


Ms GILLARD —This is a government that believes in delivering an education revolution. We believe in that because when we came to government the education system of this nation had been neglected for 12 long years, and schools in particular were crying out for reform. There are various members of the opposition who should be hanging their heads in shame at that track record.


Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The question was very specific. The minister was not invited to talk generally about her programs in education; she was asked whether the blow-outs in her programs added to upward pressure on interest rates. She should answer that question and, if she cannot, she should sit down.


The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Sturt will resume his seat. The Deputy Prime Minister will respond to the question.


Ms GILLARD —In overcoming the shameful neglect of Australian education by the members of the Liberal Party, we have been investing in education. Let me make it absolutely clear: I make no apology whatsoever for engaging in the biggest school modernisation program the nation has ever seen. I make no apology whatsoever for getting into the hands of Australian children hundreds of thousands of computers so they can have access to the learning tools of the 21st century. For the edification of the member for Sturt, each of these figures is accounted for in the budget. Our education spending is in the budget for all to see.

Of course, there is a risk to this education spending. The risk to this education spending is the Leader of the Opposition, Senator Joyce and the member for Sturt—all of whom are on the record as saying they want to cut billions of dollars out of our stimulus program. If you are going to cut billions of dollars out of our stimulus program, you are going to cut billions of dollars out of schools. When I asked for just a modicum of honesty from the supposedly straight-talking Leader of the Opposition, when I asked him to table a list of the schools that would bear the cuts, I got absolute silence. This carry-on from the member for Sturt will be viewed as the hypocrisy it is until the Leader of the Opposition steps up to the dispatch box with a list of schools and says, ‘These are the cuts that I stand by.’

I would say the following thing to the member for Sturt: if he is so concerned—


Mrs Bronwyn Bishop —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I refer you to page 551 of the House of Representatives Practice and note that, whilst the minister is not obliged to answer a question, it does indicate—and I would ask you to direct her—that, if she is unable to answer the question asked, she can take it on notice and give an answer in writing.


The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Mackellar has made her point of order.


Mrs Bronwyn Bishop —And perhaps she can tell us if she is going to sue her hairdresser this week.

Honourable members interjecting—


The SPEAKER —Order! I gather from the reaction in the room that I was lucky that I did not hear whatever was said. The Deputy Prime Minister will relate her material to the question.


Ms GILLARD —The Liberal Party were just proving yet again how devoid of content they are. In conclusion, I say to the member for Sturt: if he truly had any interest in the question of budgeting, why didn’t he stop the Leader of the Opposition making a completely unfunded announcement about his climate change con job? Hypocrisy is written all over their faces—


Mr Hockey interjecting


Ms GILLARD —and the fake hearty laughs from the shadow Treasurer, a man who certainly is a shadow of what he used to be, proves my point.