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Thursday, 5 February 2009
Page: 589


Ms RISHWORTH (2:58 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Minister for Social Inclusion. Will the Deputy Prime Minister update the House on the government’s $14.7 billion Building the Education Revolution plan for children and their families?


Ms GILLARD (Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion) —I thank the member for Kingston for her question. I note that her electorate has 64 schools—51 primary schools, six combined schools and seven secondary schools. I note that she is someone who supports the schools in her electorate. She supports the schools in her electorate by supporting the government’s $14.7 billion plan, an historic investment in schools right around the country.

This plan has been supported today by the leaders of each state and territory in this nation, including the Liberal leader of Western Australia. Despite the Liberal Party being opposed to this plan and opposed to any assistance for our schools, the Liberal leader of Western Australia has said today that he endorses this plan and that he will be working with the Rudd Labor government to deliver it. And no wonder, because endorsements for this plan are flooding in from around the nation. I refer to one endorsement from a school principal at Milton North primary school—a school principal in the federal electorate of Barker. He has written in to say that he was so ecstatic when he heard the news, he burst into tears. He said:

We are ecstatic about this opportunity not only for the students and staff but also for the wider community.

He goes on to say:

There are many flow-on effects for the community from a project like this. There will be work for our tradespeople, creating an atmosphere of optimism about the future. A facility like this in a country town will also offer opportunities for other organisations in the town.


Mr Secker interjecting


Ms GILLARD —The school is Milton North primary school. The school motto is ‘Be the best you can’, and a facility like this will help them to be the best they can. The member for Barker of course runs out to check on the schools in his electorate that he does not support. But in this simple statement, the truth of this program is unveiled: it is an investment in the future of Australia’s children and their education, but it is also an investment today in the jobs of their parents. The Leader of the Opposition is very fond of saying—

Opposition members interjecting—


Ms GILLARD —If I have mispronounced the name of the school, if I should have said it differently, then I apologise to the member for Barker. I am happy to make the email available to him or to have it supplied during question time, and then he can ring the principal and explain why he does not support the program. In this simple email, the principal is making the point that the Leader of the Opposition fails to understand—


Mr Secker —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on relevance. There is no such school in my electorate.


The SPEAKER —The member for Barker will resume his seat. The Deputy Prime Minister is answering the question.


Ms GILLARD —As I have said, I am happy to supply the email to the member. I presume he concedes that there are schools in his electorate, and I presume he concedes that he has voted against assistance for those schools, and I presume he concedes that this is a program—

Opposition members interjecting—


The SPEAKER —The Deputy Prime Minister will resume her seat. The member for Barker will resume his seat. The Deputy Prime Minister has not concluded her answer.


Mr Robert interjecting


The SPEAKER —The member for Fadden will be helped out—out of the chamber. I can assure the House that I have plenty of patience, given the events of the last 24 hours, and if you want to sit here in suspended animation I am happy to do that, but I would like to get out of the place, so I think it would be best if we sit here quietly and listen to conclusions of answers.


Ms GILLARD —I am a bit bemused that people in this parliament who voted against a historic opportunity to invest in Australian schools and voted against jobs for Australians involved in those construction projects would be carrying on the way that they are.

Opposition members interjecting—


The SPEAKER —Order!


Ms GILLARD —Could I make this point to members of the Liberal Party who are catcalling in their contempt for Australian students and the jobs of their parents: the Leader of the Opposition is wont to wander around saying, ‘We should be looking into the eyes of children and talking to them about the future.’ I say to the Leader of the Opposition that, firstly, international studies show that world-class facilities make a difference to the quality of education. In that regard, I refer him to the study of the UK Department for Education and Skills, Building better performance, a report which indicates that school outcomes and the quality of school facilities are related. So if we want Australian kids to get a world-class education today so they can have a fair chance of getting the high-skills, high-wage jobs of tomorrow, then we need to be investing in our education system. And that is precisely what this program does.

I also say to the Leader of the Opposition that, when he is talking about looking into the eyes of those children, there is nothing more important to the future of those children than their parents having a job. This program is about supporting and sustaining employment in this country with a historic $14.7 billion program. I ask the Leader of the Opposition, given that he has voted against this investment in schools and given that he has voted against the jobs that it would support, what his solution is. We know the Leader of the Opposition has no solution, but I was interested to see today that the member for Higgins—who is obviously taking every appearance he gets offered this week—made an appearance on ABC Radio and verified that the Liberal Party stands behind Work Choices. Now we do know what their solution is—


Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Clearly the Deputy Prime Minister was asked a question about the schools package and the spending package. She was not asked about Work Choices. She is now talking abut Work Choices—


The SPEAKER —The Deputy Prime Minister knows that she must be relevant to the question, and I suggest that she brings her answer to a conclusion.


Ms GILLARD —Thank you, Mr Speaker. This historic investment is about responding to the global financial crisis, investing in world-class education and supporting jobs. Of course, the only Liberal Party solution is the member for Higgins’ solution: Work Choices—make it easier to sack people and cut their pay. That is what the Liberal Party stands for. The member for Higgins has made it perfectly clear.


Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I ask the Deputy Prime Minister to table the so-called email from which she was quoting earlier in her answer to see if it is actually genuine or not.


The SPEAKER —Was the Deputy Prime Minister quoting from a document?


Ms Gillard —Yes, I was, Mr Speaker.


The SPEAKER —Was the document confidential?


Ms Gillard —Mr Speaker, the document has two sections. I will get the email and I am happy to table it.


Mr Secker —Mr Speaker, I seek leave to table a list of schools in the electorate of Barker provided by the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations. It shows there is no such school as Milton North.


The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Barker will resume his seat. Is leave granted?


Mr Albanese —Mr Speaker, there is no need because we know where we are supporting infrastructure in all those schools and they are opposing it.


The SPEAKER —Does the member for Moncrieff have a point of order?


Mr Ciobo —It is actually a point of clarification and to seek direction from you, Mr Speaker. I was just seeking your direction. I know that the leader of government business in the House repeatedly makes the point about spurious points of order, so I made it very clear—


Mr Albanese —So you are taking one?


Mr Ciobo —No. I actually made it very clear from the outset that it was a point of clarification, and I would ask for your clarification on that, Mr Speaker.


Mr Albanese —What’s the point of order—clarification?


The SPEAKER —Order! I have not in the past asked people to come to the dispatch box to indicate whether they are objecting to leave being granted or the granting of leave. That has been a practice from time to time in this place. So the clarification, if it was required, is that that was all that happened and it was by way of taking a denial of leave.