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Tuesday, 25 May 2010
Page: 3997

Mr PYNE (6:05 PM) —I rise to speak on the Rudd government’s third budget, Appropriation Bill (No. 1) 2010-2011 and related bills. As the shadow minister for education, apprenticeships and training, I want to particularly talk about education. There is no doubt that this budget has been a great disappointment in the area of education for people across Australia—teachers, parents, principals, people in higher education, people in trades and apprenticeships—who had hoped to see a budget with some vision on education. But unfortunately this budget was almost silent on the issue of education. There was virtually no mention at all of higher education in the budget. The only times that it was mentioned in the budget was in an announcement of a further delay or further blow-out in programs that had been announced previously.

In this government and in this minister for education, we have seen masters of the disappearing program. The first promise that the government made before the last election was that they would deliver 2,650 trade training centres, one to every secondary college across Australia. It will never happen. So far they have managed to deliver 12. Only 12 out of 2,650 trade training centres are operational in Australia. The program has been delayed, the program has blown out in cost and they are now saying that they will deliver one in 10 trade training centres. So they will deliver—maybe—265 trade training centres rather than the 2,650 that they promised. That is just one of their programs.

We have the now infamous computers in schools program. Everybody would remember the then opposition leader with Julia Gillard, the then shadow minister for education, waving a laptop around before the last federal election and declaring it to be the toolbox of the 21st century. He cannot have just a normal-sounding program. This was 970,000 laptop computers to be placed in the hands of every student from year 9 to year 12. They have so far delivered 220,000 out of 970,00 and the program will now be delivered over seven years, longer than it took to complete the Second World War, and at great expense. That is another blow-out of at least $1 billion that we can absolutely verify—another failure by the master of the disappearing program.

It gets worse. Under the Primary Schools for the 21st Century program—which has also been described as the school hall rip-off program and the Julia Gillard memorial school hall program—we know from hearings last week of the Senate inquiry into the waste and mismanagement of the Building the Education Revolution that there has been at least $5 billion wasted or siphoned off or gouged or mismanaged under this $16.2 billion program. That is on top of the $1.7 billion blow-out that the government already admitted to earlier this year. That is a $1.7 billion blow-out, a $1 billion blow-out in computers in schools and a $5 billion blow-out in the school hall rip-off program, making this minister the $7.7 billion blow-out woman. I know that the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services, Mr Shorten, finds this all very amusing, because of course he has no love at all for the Minister for Education and in fact would probably prefer to take her job rather than have the one he has now.

Mr Shorten —Madam Deputy Speaker, a point of order—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. DS Vale)—Order! No point of order.

Mr PYNE —There is no point of order, so sit down.

Mr Shorten —My point of order is that—

The DEPUTY SPEAKER —No point of order, Parliamentary Secretary.

Mr PYNE —If only you could read the standing orders, Bill, you might be a bit better off. Can I turn to the $1.7 billion blow-out in the Primary Schools for the 21st Century program. There is real scandal involved in this blow-out because the Deputy Prime Minister told this House that the reason there had been a $1.7 billion blow-out was the enormous take-up of the program by schools. She led this House to believe that the reason for the blow-out was a much greater take-up of the program by schools than had been expected. She said in this parliament on 10 September:


being the opposition—

have tried to create the imagery that somehow builders are inflating prices and the government has had to tip in more money. That is simply not true. More money is going into this program because it is going gangbusters, because more schools want to be in this program.

That, unfortunately, was a bare-faced lie and she misled the parliament. The Auditor-General, reporting in the last month into the BER concerns on page 24, said

Ultimately, the need for the additional funding provided by the Government in August 2009 arose from most schools having sought the maximum payments available. It did not flow from any deficiencies identified in the procurement processes or other activities of Educational Authorities in delivering the program, nor was it the result of more schools seeking to participate than had originally been forecast.

The Auditor-General directly, specifically and with intent clearly rebuked the Deputy Prime Minister and made it absolutely clear that what she had told the House was utterly untrue.

Mr Price —Madam Deputy Speaker, on a point of order: the shadow minister at the dispatch box cannot say of the Deputy Prime Minister that she misled the parliament. If he wants to sustain that argument, there are forms of the House that he, as Manager of Opposition Business, well knows that he must pursue. Unless he pursues a substantive motion, I would ask him to withdraw those remarks as they are unparliamentary.

Mr PYNE —I am happy to withdraw the remarks, and if I return to that subject I will move a substantive motion. It is disappointing that the member for Chifley has to come into the House and take an appropriate point of order when the parliamentary secretary, who fancies himself as Prime Minister embarrassingly, sat here for five minutes and took no point of order at all. No doubt the Leader of the House will take that up with the parliamentary secretary, because his job in the House is to monitor what the opposition is saying and doing, but he was doing no such thing.

I return to the budget and the disappearing programs that are the hallmark of the education aspect of this budget. The other one that is an embarrassment to the government is the School Chaplaincy Program. The School Chaplaincy Program is set to end in 2011. This was a program which the Howard government initiated. It is extremely popular in both government and non-government schools, but particularly in government schools. We committed to this program in the forward estimates, and the opposition has committed $165 million in the future, to ensure that this program becomes a permanent fixture of our government and non-government schools. It is a very popular program, because there are many young people who, for whatever reason, may not speak to their parents or their uncles or aunts or best friends about problems they might be having but are more inclined to speak to somebody whom they regard as somewhat of a stranger or as someone who is becoming a friend. That is one of the reasons the School Chaplaincy Program has worked so successfully.

This government has not committed to it in this budget in an ongoing way. The funding is due to finish at the end of 2011. It has put no extra money into making sure it will continue into the future. It is not a program that has been earmarked for growth. Yet again, the government has announced a review of the chaplaincy program, which amazingly is due to report after the election. Of course, if the Labor Party is unfortunately returned to government in this country, I think there will be a lot of very nasty surprises for a lot of people after the next election.

We have talked about trade training centres and we could talk about the school hall rip-off program until the cows come home. I also want to cover an issue that my honourable friend at the table, the shadow minister for early childhood education and childcare, the status of women and other issues, will be interested in—that is, the disappearing childcare centre program. In yet another one of the Ruddisms that we have to tolerate all the time from this Prime Minister, he was going to end the dreaded double drop-off. In other words, you would have a childcare centre at the school and you would therefore be able to drop all your children at the same place. Of course, it was just another promise designed to get them elected in the 2007 election. They never had any intention of delivering that program. They quietly and embarrassingly tried to sneak it through in the last paragraph of a Kate Ellis press release a few weeks ago that they would not be continuing with the childcare centre program.

Mr Shorten —Madam Deputy Speaker, on a point of order: the honourable member should refer to people by their title.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. DS Vale)—Thank you, Parliamentary Secretary. The member for Sturt will refer to members by their correct titles.

Mr PYNE —He has been wounded by my criticism. The childcare centre program was to include 260 childcare centres. It is now going to be 38. None of the others apparently need to be built; 222 will go the way of the dodo and never see the light of day—another one of this government’s broken promises in the education area, along with computers in schools, the Primary Schools for the 21st Century program, which has been a well-documented fiasco, the trade training centres and the School Chaplaincy Program.

I turn now to one of the issues that specifically relate to South Australia—that is, the great big new mining tax, which will do tremendous damage to the resources sector in my state of South Australia. You do not need to take my word for it. Marius Kloppers from BHP has already warned that dividend payments to their 540,000 shareholders will be hit by the federal government’s great big new tax on mining. BHP Billiton has made it clear that all of their projects in Australia are on the table, including the Olympic Dam expansion in South Australia at Roxby Downs, which is the largest mining project in South Australia and one of the largest in Australia and the world. If properly expanded, it would be the largest copper mine in the world. That is at risk as a consequence of the government’s great big new tax on mining.

What have we heard from the South Australian Labor MPs and senators on that subject? Nothing but a full throated endorsement of the great big new tax on mining that will put at risk the Olympic Dam expansion in my state. Another great mining project in my state that is at risk as a consequence of the great big new tax on mining is the Prominent Hill copper and gold mine in South Australia. Neil Hamilton, the Chairman of OZ Minerals, said that his company would not be able to finish a feasibility study for a potential $300 million project at its Prominent Hill copper and gold mine in South Australia until more detail of the new tax is known. We know that Prominent Hill and Olympic Dam are just two of the mining projects that are at risk in South Australia as a consequence of this government’s fatally flawed great big new tax on mining, which is a dagger pointed at the heart of the Australian economy and, in this case, of the South Australian economy.

I would also like to talk a little bit about some projects in my own electorate. I can tell you that, if the coalition gets elected at the coming election—and we hope that will be sooner rather than later so that we can put this country out of the misery it is enduring under this Rudd Labor government—then I will be fighting in my electorate of Sturt for funding for a number of the black spot projects that need to be done. I will do so from a position where we will have a Treasurer and a Prime Minister who can actually manage the books of the country, a Prime Minister and a Treasurer in Tony Abbott and Joe Hockey, who will be capable of ensuring that we get back into surplus again and we pay down the Labor Party’s $93 billion debt, which does not even include the $18 billion for the National Broadband Network and other projects, so that we will be in a position to fund the important black spot projects in my electorate that this budget is silent on.

I am talking about projects like the improvement of Gorge Road between the Newton shops and the Athelstone shops and of Fosters Road at Oakden. The state Labor government has put very significant housing developments at Oakden and around that part of my electorate, and on the other side of the road in the federal member for Adelaide’s electorate. This has brought thousands of new residents to the area without any consequent thought for the improvement of Fosters Road, which is now a very dangerous road in the north of my electorate. Sudholz Road in Gilles Plains is used by hundreds of thousands of vehicles every year. There have been fatalities there over the years and there was a very nasty accident only last week. These are the projects that need to be attended to in my electorate.

St Bernards Road runs from Magill right through to Newton. St Bernards Road is one of the more dangerous roads in my electorate. There was recently a very sad fatality on St Bernards Road which needs to be raised in the House. Sarah Bridge lived in St Bernards Road in Magill. Unfortunately, Sarah Bridge’s partner, John Swindell, and his 10-year-old Bichon Frise dog, Tilly, were killed crossing the road at St Bernards Road and Shakespeare Avenue. That is not the only tragic loss that has occurred on St Bernards Road over the years, but it is the most recent one. Action needs to be taken to ensure that those kinds of fatalities do not occur again.

There has been a longstanding campaign to try and get traffic lights at the corner of Graves Street and St Bernards Road for similar reasons. The demands, the calls and the pleas for this to occur have fallen on deaf ears in the state government and in the federal government. We have been campaigning for traffic lights on Lower North East Road, Dernancourt, where there is a significant shopping centre and where, in the last few years, an infant child was killed trying to cross the road. We have been asking the state government to do the necessary studies for traffic lights at Graves Street at St Bernards Road in Newton, at Shakespeare Avenue and St Bernards Road in Magill and at Lower North East Road in Dernancourt. The state government’s action has been slow and paltry. If the coalition gets elected at the coming election, I will be fighting for this kind of sensible spending on important projects in my electorate of Sturt. I will be doing that from a foundation of good economic and budgetary management—from a foundation of real fiscal conservatism. I will be fighting for the improvement of roads like Fosters Road at Oakden, Gorge Road at Newton and Sudholz Road at Gilles Plains. I have already mentioned St Bernards Road.

There is one other subject I would like to touch on and it is a subject that has been close to my heart. When I was the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Health and Ageing, I initiated, for people suffering from a mental illness, the Medicare items for social workers, occupational therapists and psychologists. In this budget, the government abolished the Medicare items for social workers and occupational therapists. After a short campaign, they announced a delay until April next year. I assume that is so that the social workers and occupational therapists can get their affairs in order before their businesses are ruined. The most important reason people with a mental health problem were given access to these Medicare schedule items was so that they would get the treatment they needed, treatment they could not otherwise get because there are not enough psychiatrists and because they could not afford to pay for the services themselves. This government has ripped those Medicare items away from the most vulnerable people in the community—people who are usually homeless, who are almost always of low socioeconomic status and who have a mental illness. The government should hang their heads in shame for not being able to find it in their hearts to support those people. (Time expired)