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Monday, 14 September 2009
Page: 9392


Mr TURNBULL (Leader of the Opposition) (2:17 PM) —My question is again to the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, Minister for Education and Minister for Social Inclusion. I refer the minister to the wasteful plan for Abbotsford Public School to use $2½ million of taxpayers’ money to tear down four existing classrooms in perfectly good working order and replace them with four new classrooms. Will the minister confirm that parents and teachers at the school were told by officials last week that they cannot have the project they want and need because it would create a precedent for other schools to make similar demands for building the buildings their schools actually need?


Ms GILLARD (Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion) —I would say, particularly following the Prime Minister’s answer, that in the middle of a global recession the Leader of the Opposition may like to note that the importance of the Building the Education Revolution Program and consequently delivering it quickly is about supporting jobs today—the jobs of tradespeople, of carpenters, plumbers and electricians—whilst building the biggest school modernisation in the nation’s history. Of course, he refers to one project out of more than 24,000 projects in 9,500 schools around the country. Given the inability of the opposition to answer my last question to it, a question I have asked before, in detail, we can only assume that this is a project that the Leader of the Opposition is opposed to—just like he is opposed to each of the more than 24,000 others. The Leader of the Opposition may choose to go to Abbotsford Public School and explain that he is opposed to this project, he is opposed to every dollar of expenditure and he is opposed to every job that this project will support.


Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order on relevance. The Deputy Prime Minister was asked a specific question about the dangerous precedent of schools asking for what they want, and I would ask you to—


The SPEAKER —The member for Sturt will resume his seat. The Deputy Prime Minister is responding to the question.


Ms GILLARD —If I could conclude that point, obviously the Leader of the Opposition is opposed to the project at Abbotsford Public School. He voted against it. Every member of the opposition voted against it. The Abbotsford Public School has decided that it would like to access the Building the Education Revolution Program and the resources in money that that program brings. The Leader of the Opposition is opposed to every dollar of expenditure on the Abbotsford Public School. Discussions are in train with the Abbotsford Public School about their program, and I would make the point to the Leader of the Opposition that if he chose to go to schools around the country, if he chose to walk into them and if he chose to be honest that he is opposed to the biggest school modernisation program in the nation’s history and the jobs that it supports, he would actually find principals, parents and teachers who disagree with him—who believe that this is important to their school, that this is important to their local community and that it is are delivering programs that they want and projects that their school very much wants.