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Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Page: 6168

Mr CHAMPION (8:35 PM) —It always pays to keep an eye on history when you are in this parliament. Today we saw the deliberate attempt by the opposition to undermine the government’s Building the Education Revolution program. In the same way they have tried to undermine the computers in schools program; in the same way they have tried to undermine the trade centres program. This tactic is straight out of the conservative play book of the Republican Right in the United States of America. We know that the Republicans were stuck in a permanent minority status because of their opposition to the popular, depression-breaking New Deal and Great Society programs that were brought in in the 1960s. They decided to embark on a deliberate strategy of misrepresentation to undermine the great support for these programs. They picked one or two small things, they misrepresented them, they blew them out of proportion, they presented them out of context, they generated sensational headlines that did not reflect the reality of these programs, and then they used that process to undermine the integrity of the whole program of government spending, retirement incomes and the like.

This is a fundamentally dishonest strategy. We now see it at work in this parliament under the direction of the member for Sturt. I have seen this first-hand in my state of South Australia with regard to computers in schools. The member for Sturt has a regular spot on 891 ABC Radio in Adelaide where he claimed that the computers in schools program was not working and schools were not getting what they wanted. He went on and on. Eventually people started to call in about the number of computers that were being delivered to their schools.

On the ground it was a completely different story. At Trinity College, in my own electorate, we had computers in classrooms being used by students right at that moment. There were 123 computers at Trinity College North, 65 at Trinity College South, 16 at Gawler River and 19 at Blakeview. All of these campuses are in my electorate. There were hundreds of computers delivered to students, who were using them. It was the same with the Trade Training Centres in Schools Program. The member for Sturt was out there undermining this program, yet on the ground—in this case in the heart of conservative South Australia and the heart of country South Australia—there were schools at Balaclava, Clare, Riverton and Burra putting together a package to have trades training in their schools because of this program.

Today in question time we saw all these conservative MPs—the member for Sturt, the member for Mayo—out to smear the greatest school modernisation program in Australia’s history. They do not have the courage to go to these schools and say, ‘You can’t have the halls; you can’t have the libraries; you can’t have the new classrooms.’ They do not have the courage to do that, so they seek to whine and nitpick at the edges of this great program in order to undermine public support. It is a deceptive tactic. It is a deliberate desire to undermine and to run this guerrilla war to prevent new school infrastructure being developed. They will not go up to Clare Primary School and say, ‘You can’t have $2 million to construct a new library.’ They will not go to St Joseph’s in Clare and say, ‘You can’t have nearly $2 million for a refurbished library and new classrooms.’ You will not see Clare local Sean Edwards, State President of the Liberal Party and Senate wannabe, opposing local investments in these great country schools. What you will see is the Liberal Party sliding around with these nitpicking, deceptive criticisms which all have one purpose, and that is to prevent spending on schools and to undermine this great program, which is a response to the biggest financial collapse we have seen since the Great Depression. Thirty banks have been either nationalised or taken into some sort of government mandate. It is a terrible economic crisis. This school modernisation program is a key part of our strategy to prevent recession in this country, and we have seen early signs of success.

So we have a pretty clear choice: a government that will act to combat the world recession and that has begun the largest school modernisation program in history, which is helping schools in my electorate from Angle Vale to Wasleys and from Craigmore to Two Wells, or an opposition that is so small and so lacking in dignity, integrity and courage that it is reduced to the most debased and dishonest tactics because it has no program of its own.