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Tuesday, 2 February 2016
Page: 71


Mr CHRISTENSEN (DawsonThe Nationals Deputy Whip) (16:12): I agree with a lot of what the member for Lalor has just said. I think we all want to empower teachers, have better teacher quality, have teachers actually engaging with students rather than just running off lesson plans, and ensuring that young children who come from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are raised up in prosperity. They are all things that everyone in this House can agree with. The issue is one of how we get there. Unfortunately, the knee-jerk reaction from the Labor Party is always just to throw more money at it—and a lot more money at it. What they do not do is budget where the money is coming from. We have heard that it is going to come from $40-a-packet cigarettes, but I do not know that that is ever going to go down with the electorate, and that we are somehow going to reap a whole heap of money from companies like Google and Apple, even though there is absolutely no plan as to how we are going to get that funding. So it is pie-in-the-sky stuff that is going to be unfunded and is going to require us going further and further into debt.

If you want to see a great example of how the Labor Party last threw money at the education sector, without any significant outcome in terms of learning, have a look at the Building the Education Revolution plan. It was basically about schools having money thrown at them to build school halls and tuckshops, which in some cases they did not need, at the expense of other things they did need. It turned out that these were very high-cost projects which were a massive waste of public money, and that was found out through reports by the Auditor-General and numerous reports about the epic fail of the program.

I went to one school in my electorate, where I was shown by the principal the new BER stage they had gotten built, and then they showed me a building right beside it, which was about three times as big as the BER one. The difference was that they had built it themselves with their own raised money, but, as soon as the BER government one came along, the one that they built through the BER was actually double the cost of the one that they had funded themselves. It just showed how throwing money at a problem does not fix it; in fact, it created more problems because the cost of the construction of those buildings went up. I can go through the figures in Queensland. Labor's own task force found that, in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, state schools overpaid for buildings by more than 25 per cent on average compared to Catholic schools.

Ms Butler: Not in Queensland.

Mr CHRISTENSEN: It was in Queensland. BER projects in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria overpaid for buildings by more than 25 per cent on average compared to Catholic schools and by 55 per cent compared to independent schools. The Australian, reporting on the subject back in 2011, reported:

The third and final report into the BER, conducted by former investment banker Brad Orgill, has found Victorian and NSW have not delivered value for money for public schools under the program with public schools charged an average of up to 60 per cent more for school buildings, despite no differences in quality.

I could go on and on about this waste of taxpayers' money that the Labor Party has engaged in when it comes to the education sector. Another article from The Australian, from August 2013, notes:

… in the 935 days between becoming prime minister on December 3, 2007, and Julia Gillard's coup of June 24, 2010, Rudd left Australians with at least $153 billion in unfunded fiscal burdens while wasting $100bn of the community's resources.

Let's move onto Labor's plan. It has already been panned by experts. Megan O'Connell, policy program director from the Mitchell Institute at Victoria University, one of our premier education policy institutes, wrote just the other day:

The plan has sound aims of creating a high-quality, high-equity education system. However, by treading the safe path, Labor's plan will not produce the learners we need for our future prosperity.

We know that the old Labor pattern of just throwing money at it has not worked in the past because, as education expenditure has increased, our academic results have fallen. We can see that because, from 1987-88 to 2011-12, Commonwealth and state and territory spending on education increased by 100 per cent but student enrolment only grew by 18 per cent and student outcomes declined. (Time expired)