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Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Page: 6090

Mr LINDSAY (3:11 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Education. I refer the minister to reports that Queensland state government appointed project managers on the schools stimulus debacle will be paid more than $500,000 for six months work. Why will the minister not do the right thing and refer the waste and mismanagement of this program to the Auditor-General?

Ms GILLARD (Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion) —I note the member’s question and note his reference to the Auditor-General. He may be interested in his spare time to study these reports from the Auditor-General about the regional rorts program in the last parliament. He may, when he studies those reports about the regional rorts of the Liberal and National parties when in government, want to offer some apologies for them—or maybe the leader of the party will do it on his behalf.

Mr Turnbull —Mr Speaker, a point of order on relevance: the question is about the government’s schools program; it has got nothing to do with any other matters looked at by the Auditor-General.

The SPEAKER —Order! The Deputy Prime Minister will respond to the question.

Ms GILLARD —Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. In responding to the member’s question, I can make it absolutely clear to him—as it is absolutely clear to school authorities, be they state or territory government school authorities or block grant authorities in the Catholic or independent sector—that we have limits in the Building the Education Revolution program as to expenditure on administration and project costs. What is made clear by the guidelines is that when project management is being undertaken by an arm of a state or territory government the Commonwealth will provide 1.5 per cent above BER project costs to administer proper implementation. We have also said under the guidelines—and they are there on the website for the member to see—that four per cent has been identified as an industry standard for project management for the purposes of the Building the Education Revolution program. They are the guidelines of the program, and of course the guidelines of the program will be enforced as necessary.

I say to the member opposite that the central issue here is whether he supports expenditure on his local schools. He voted against it. His local school communities would be endorsing this program. His principals and teachers would be delighted about its possibilities.

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order as to relevance. The central point of the question was about waste and mismanagement, not about any other issue.

The SPEAKER —The Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat. The Deputy Prime Minister is responding to the question.

Ms GILLARD —Thank you, Mr Speaker. The central point that the shadow minister needs to address is to be very honest with all members of the Australian community. If he had his way, not one dollar of this program would be being spent—not one school building, not one library.

Mr Ian Macfarlane —That’s rubbish.

Ms GILLARD —That’s rubbish! The Liberal Party can now nominate what expenditure it agrees to in Building the Education Revolution. If it is less than $14.7 billion, it can table the list of schools that would miss out under its program. It could do that. The shadow minister and the leader could explain why they voted holus-bolus against this program instead of seeking to amend it to the Liberal authorised figure. If the shadow minister over there is the custodian of an alternative plan, in the interests of transparency in politics he should table it, including, very importantly, the list of schools which would miss out. I am sure the member who has asked this question would want to know, under Liberal Party policy, which schools in his electorate would miss out so that he could walk through those gates and say honestly, ‘The policy of my political party is that you should get nothing.’ Well, actually, the policy of his political party at the moment is that he should be walking through every school gate and saying, ‘The policy of my political party is you get nothing.’

This is a huge program, with $14.7 billion being rolled out to build the infrastructure of tomorrow under the biggest school modernisation program in the nation’s history. It is being delivered urgently for a good purpose—that is, to support jobs today. It is being used for that purpose, and we have said that, when you are rolling out something this big and this quickly for a good reason, it is inevitable that from time to time there will be questions, comments, concerns and criticisms. As we hear those questions, comments, concerns and criticisms we deal with them. The basic proposition here is: do you support schools or don’t you? We say yes; you say no. That is the fundamental divide.