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Wednesday, 17 March 2010
Page: 2116


Senator BERNARDI (4:21 PM) —If ever there has been a matter of public importance whose discussion is clearly justified, it is this one. Labor’s Building the Education Revolution has much in common with the comrade revolutions of yesteryear, because Labor have failed at every turn to implement a change or anything of benefit to schools and communities in a timely and cost-efficient manner that does not waste taxpayer funds. They have talked about the delivery and connection of computers in schools, they have said that they would establish trade training centres, they have said they would improve and increase learning outcomes and they have said that they would create jobs. They have certainly created jobs; they have also created many multimillionaires out of the people tendering for and getting these building contracts who have been able to charge two, three, four or five times more than the market rate, and that has meant that taxpayers have not got value for money.

For more than two years the Australian people have been smothered in the spin, the rhetoric and the empty words of the government, and it is starting to catch up with them. It is about all talk and no action. Where they have taken action and where they have implemented initiatives, they have failed—they have been duds or they have been wasteful. There is no other way we can explain it. Mr Kevin Rudd and his team of yesteryear people are in way over their heads. They cannot justifiably manage the money that the Australian taxpayers have entrusted to them.

If we want examples, we do not have to look far. Every day there is another page on the waste that is associated with this government. Just today, in the Australian there was an article about the Pleasant Hills Public School near Wagga Wagga. It has 15 students. I am sure it is a fine school. They required a few extra works under the Building the Education Revolution: a partition in a classroom, a higher opening between two classrooms and installation of an art sink—all very practical and sensible things. The problem is that the quote for this work and a few other jobs came to in excess of $249,000. In this amount, $77,000 was spent on design documentation, field data and site management. Nearly 25 per cent of the cost of installing an art sink, a partition in a classroom, a sandpit and a few other bits was spent on planning and design documentation. The site works were $60,000-odd, and then there were anomalous costs: preliminary work of $25,000, substructure work, superstructure work and site services. All of these things are much more than the taxpayer should or would be willing to pay if the government were actually responsible. The Pleasant Hills parents and citizens committee told their local MP:

We will be getting all that was requested but we feel that the costs associated with the work is not value for money for the taxpayers’ dollar …

Even the beneficiaries of this realise that taxpayers are being ripped off by this government’s lack of control and ability to implement a reasonable program.

The New South Wales Teachers Federation has written to the Auditor-General to ask for an inquiry into the school building program. The Deputy President, Gary Zadkovich, said a school:

… may receive an $850,000 trucked-in prefabricated classroom or library when it knows a fully furnished brick home would cost half that …

A prefab versus a brick structure—a rip-off for the taxpayers. It is all because of the blind and naked ambition of the government to buy their way back into power regardless of long-term cost.

On a recent radio program it was said that covered outdoor learning areas were costing about $950,000 under the comrade revolution over there, but only a few years ago a slightly smaller covered outdoor learning area cost about seven-tenths of that. It is appalling mismanagement of money. In my state of South Australia, where the hapless and hopeless Rann government has been shown to be much better than this government, I have had numerous reports of electricians who were told, ‘Just quote whatever you like under this Building the Education Revolution. We’ll accept it. This is the way to pay for your holiday home or a new boat to go fishing in.’ This is the rorting that is going on, and people out there are concerned. They are concerned because the government has lost control and they turn to us in the coalition to hold this government to account, but when we do, when we ask the government very pertinent and reasonable questions, what do we get? We get class warfare from Senator Carr in the Senate. I am sure it would be no surprise that Senator Marshall—who I think received one vote for President of the Senate—will probably conduct some other class warfare as well. It is a great shame because the Australian people deserve better. Yes, they do deserve infrastructure spending, but it needs to be prudent. It needs to be reasonable use of taxpayers’ money because anything else is sentencing generations of future Australians to debt that is completely unnecessary.

The teachers federations are up in arms about it; the legitimate, honest and reputable tradesmen are up in arms about it; the parents and friends and committees are up in arms about it. The coalition is very concerned about the waste and what it is going to do to our future. The only people who do not seem concerned about this waste are those on the other side. They are in denial. They are saying, ‘This is all good. It’s much more important to roll these programs out irrespective of the cost.’ Quite frankly, that is not how a reasonably minded person thinks. Anyone who argues against the logic that you should not be paying above the odds and that you should not be throwing too much into an economy at one time because it does not have the ability to cope and it will change and inflate prices really has to be barking mad. It will be interesting to hear the response from the other side and how they defend this enormous waste of money.

In conclusion, last night I had the great fortune to attend a function for the Australian National University Liberal Club. I met a young lady there who recently featured on television. She should be famous as the person who belled the cat on the fraud of the Prime Minister. Ms Angela Samuels was in the audience of Q&A when the Prime Minister thought he would get an easy ride, but he did not. The young people of today realise what a fraud he is and they can see through him. Ms Samuels stood up and asked the Prime Minister about his computer revolution and how he was going to deliver it. The Prime Minister told this young lady porky pies. She shook her head and the Prime Minister admonished her on national television. Ms Samuels, you can stand proud and you can stand tall because you are one of the few people in the public who was prepared to bell the cat on the Prime Minister. He was telling you fibs on Q&A, he has been telling the Australian people fibs and he should be ashamed of how his programs have been implemented.