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Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Page: 6081


Mr PYNE (2:34 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Education. I refer the minister to the guidelines for the schools stimulus debacle, specifically:

The Commonwealth reserves the right to refuse funding to a state or territory that releases information publicly about BER projects prior to the Commonwealth’s approval of projects.

That has been interpreted by many school principals and governing council chairs across Australia as meaning that their school will lose funding if they make public comment about their serious concerns with the schools stimulus debacle. Will the minister amend the guidelines and guarantee that no school principal or governing council member will suffer repercussions as a result of its representatives criticising the government?


Ms GILLARD (Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion) —I can answer the member’s question very simply: no, we will not be amending the guidelines. We will be awaiting an apology from the Liberal Party for the standover tactics that used to be used in relation to Investing in Our Schools recognition ceremonies—


Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, on a point of order: I take great exception to being accused of standover tactics. I ask that those words be withdrawn as they are offensive.


The SPEAKER —As I have said from time to time, whilst there are many robust things that are said, that has been the nature of this place for many years.


Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on a different matter. Under standing order 90 the imputation of improper motives is specifically ruled out by the standing orders. I put it to you that being accused of mafia style standover tactics, particularly given the situation in Melbourne yesterday, is offensive and I demand that it be withdrawn.


The SPEAKER —There is no point of order. The Deputy Prime Minister will respond to the question.


Ms GILLARD —Mr Speaker, if it would assist the House, I withdraw. And I freely acknowledge the member for Sturt—


Mr Pyne interjecting


The SPEAKER —Order! The Deputy Prime Minister will resume her seat. Yet again we have commentary from the Manager of Opposition Business about rulings. I am not sure why he thinks that he has this ability to continue quarrels with the chair.


Mr Hockey —Because you might change your view!


The SPEAKER —No, I doubt it. I will happily, regrettably, defend his ability to raise proper points of order. But, once they are dealt with, I expect him to sit there in relative silence—because I have learnt that there will be no way I can get him to sit there in silence. The question has been asked. We are 31 seconds into the response.


Ms GILLARD —Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. As I indicated, I do withdraw—and, of course, it is more squeak than standover when it comes to the member for Sturt.

On the question of Building the Education Revolution, I think a very important point has been raised by the member for Sturt—that is, the point about the guidelines. Our guidelines ensure that schools right around the country, all schools, will benefit from Building the Education Revolution. Yesterday evening I was with the member for Sturt in the Main Committee, where the member for Sturt interestingly talked about the ‘targeting’ of Building the Education Revolution. He said:

There are schools that already have very substantial infrastructure, have everything that a school could really want for its pupils—


Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order under standing order 104. I asked about gagging, not about targeting of spending.


The SPEAKER —Order! There is no point of order. There are other avenues, as the Manager of Opposition Business knows, for him to address that concern, but it is not a point of order.


Ms GILLARD —My point simply goes to the question of guidelines. I will ask the member for Sturt to clarify at some time, for the House and for the Australian people, exactly which schools he thinks should miss out under Building the Education Revolution. I am very interested that the only education policy of the opposition is that they would seek better targeting of a program they do not support. Their education policy is, apparently, that they would better target nothing! That is what they would do in government. They would engage in better targeting of nothing, because they voted against Building the Education Revolution.

On the question raised by the member for Sturt, when he wants to come and apologise for things like Liberal staff members employed by state members of parliament being invited to address Investing in Our Schools recognition ceremonies above local Labor members, then we will be all ears.