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Wednesday, 15 February 2012
Page: 1561

Mr SYMON (Deakin) (18:44): I rise to speak in support of Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2011-2012 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2011-2012. However, I do not support the amendment moved by the member for Goldstein, who seeks to delay these measures for the best part of two years and maybe even longer. The total additional appropriation being sought through these bills is just under $3.2 billion. The vast majority of that is to provide for the implementation of the clean energy future package passed by parliament in 2011, despite the Liberal and National parties' opposition.

There are several recently announced programs from the clean energy future package which I would like to highlight as they have great benefit to community organisations, local government and low-income residents not only in the electorate of Deakin but right across Australia. The Community Energy Efficiency Program will invest $200 million in partnership with local councils and community organisations to improve energy efficiency in council and community buildings and facilities. With dollar-for-dollar matched funding, this program is a great opportunity to save energy, particularly electricity, and the cost of energy. In my home state of Victoria the price of electricity has been rising at close to 10 per cent per annum and for a domestic customer the current retail tariff in my area is now around 22c per kilowatt hour. This is not just a recent phenomenon and I will admit it has happened under state governments of both flavours. From everything we read about the need for new infrastructure in the industry, it is going to keep going that way.

There are gains to be made from energy efficiency, in particular savings from converting standard lighting—incandescent, fluorescent or discharge lighting like the very lights in this chamber—to LED lighting. The money saved by making the conversion can be very substantial. Energy savings can be 60 per cent, 70 per cent or even 80 per cent compared to existing lighting. This result is in a lower electricity bill and a win-win situation as it reduces demand on generation. In Victoria and in large parts of Australia generation of baseload power is almost at a critical point, particularly on very hot or very cold days when there is simply not enough power in the grid for everyone.

Mr Chester interjecting

Mr SYMON: The member for Gippsland would be well versed in power generation issues, as am I, having had a background in the electrical industry for well over 20 years. The member for Gippsland is probably of a slightly lesser age than me but I can remember when light globes were advertised quite proudly as being 1,000-hour globes. I thought that was pretty amazing, that 1,000 hours was a long time. If you do the maths, it is about three hours a day every day for a year—that is pretty good—but the big advantage of the new LED lighting technology is its product life. If you think 1,000 hours is not bad, reset your sites to 50,000 hours. Imagine having to change a globe after 50,000 hours.

Mr Chester: Only a sparky would know that.

Mr SYMON: And that is the good thing about having sparkies in parliament. If you look at LED, you could use it 24 hours a day, every day of the year for six years before you needed to replace the globe. That would be good in places which have very high ceilings, like many community facilities. I know a lot of them struggle when it is time to relamp a hall or similar. It is not the cost of the lamps; it is the cost of getting somebody in who can get up in the air to change those lights. Most community groups simply do not have that sort of money. I see that time after time in many of my local facilities.

There are two other complementary programs to the Community Energy Efficiency Program—the Energy Efficiency Information Grants Program and the Low Income Energy Efficiency Program. The Energy Efficiency Information Grants Program is a $40 million initiative that will provide funding to industry associations and not-for-profit organisations which can work with community organisations and small to medium sized businesses of up to 200 full-time equivalent employees to provide information on better ways to use and to reduce the use of energy. The third program in this package is the $100 million Low Income Energy Efficiency Program, which includes the Home Energy Saver Scheme that is available to 100,000 low-income households. That particular scheme will be delivered as part of the existing Financial Management Program and is designed to assist households that are experiencing difficulty in paying for their energy costs. By concentrating on improving financial and energy management practices through financial counselling services, the scheme can directly assist low-income households.

I should now turn my attention to another program that the Liberal Party voted against in this place: the Building the Education Revolution program. That has delivered more than $79 million of funding to schools in my electorate of Deakin. This huge investment in our local education structure has been met with acclaim by principals, teachers, parents, students and all the various parents associations—anyone you care to name, really, including the people who worked on the projects and the community groups that get to use them outside hours. Right across the electorate, they have only wonderful things to say about the new infrastructure that their schools have received under that program.

It is a huge program, and I still have a few more schools to open. They have been ones that have had various site problems over the last year or two. We are in the home straight now, and I thought I had better have a look and see how many I actually did in the last year. It added up to 18 that I opened in the last year—$39½ million of funding for schools in the electorate of Deakin. Of course, they were not just government schools; they were also Catholic schools and independent schools as well. The really good thing about the program in my part of Melbourne is that by working with the state education department, particularly in the early stages of the program, our schools not only have got the buildings that most suited them but, in many cases, have gone out and got individually architect-designed buildings and got a very good price for those.

I thought I would do a bit of a rewind. I think the first one I got to open during the year was in the newly redistributed part of Deakin, at St James Primary School, a Catholic school in Vermont. That was a project that I had not been completely up with, because until recent times it was over the boundary in the electorate of Aston. Its $2½ million multipurpose community centre included two new classrooms, and there were refurbishments of three classrooms down at the other end of the school. It also managed to put together the installation of new interactive whiteboards, upgrade its school toilets and fit out a resource centre and multimedia lab. It is a great result for that community. It is a school that needed infrastructure and needed money spent on it. Like many schools in the area, it was a really good school inside but from the outside it certainly needed some work, and it has now had it.

As I mentioned before, this also went to independent schools. Tintern Girls Grammar School is a very large independent school in my electorate of Deakin, and it received $2 million to put towards an early learning centre. It also put in nearly $1.4 million of its own funding, and the result is a very spectacular-looking building that has some particular good energy efficiency measures in it as well. I was there for the opening of that, and it was a rather unique day. We even had an archbishop out to assist in the opening, and it was a very good time. Tintern, by doing the building that it did, ensured that it got a great outcome that will serve the school very well for many, many years to come. The early learning centre has three spaces inside it which are named after the values at Tintern Girls Grammar—that is, Endeavour, Discover and Adventure.

Early last year, on 15 March 2011, I also attended the opening of Burwood Heights Primary School, which has now been redistributed into the electorate of Chisholm—a part of the world, of course, well known to Madam Deputy Speaker Burke. That was also a project that was done in conjunction with the state, so there was not only a BER building there but also a rebuild of the school. Being a multipurpose room, it is also very handy for that school to have assemblies in. Its old hall, if I can call it that, where I had attended many assemblies before, was not big enough to hold the whole school plus parents, and that is such a common thing for so many schools in the electorate. The space can also be used to expand the school's kindergarten, meaning that the project not only is meeting needs now but has a great capacity to meet the school's needs into the future. Another Catholic school I attended the opening of in the past year was St Thomas the Apostle School in Blackburn, which was established in 1953. They received $2.5 million and the work they did there is spectacular: it is architect designed; it has access for the disabled—they have a lift; and they have brand new classrooms and computer lab facilities. It is a really wonderful space.

They were also able to do up a lot of the office area and administration parts. This building in many cases had not been touched at all since 1953, so it has really gone ahead by half a century. In addition, some existing classrooms were refurbished. There was great employment of locals on the project.

More recently, towards the end of last year, I was privileged to open the Marlborough Primary School's new BER building, which was funded under stage 2 of the P21 Program. It was the school's first new building in 35 years. Again, it was a wonderful school from the inside that was looking more than a little bit faded from the outside. It now has a much better outlook and a great future. The building certainly makes the school. They set theirs up as an early learning centre for their junior students. Each school has done it differently. At Marlborough it is the little ones who get to use the new building. Having two daughters who have gone to primary school—one is still there—I know there is a great deal of competition about which class gets to use the new building and which gets to use the old building.

With the new building, Marlborough also has a great opportunity to grow as a school. It is in a great part of the electorate, Heathmont. It needs facilities to show off to the public so that when people drive past the front gate for the first time they say, 'I would like to have a look inside and see what they offer.' That is a good thing for any government school.

On 18 May I had the pleasure of opening the Ray Symons Multipurpose Centre—no relation, I might add—which is at the Eastwood Primary School. Eastwood Primary School has been in the papers for an awfully long time, quite simply because it was falling down. It is of weatherboard construction and was built nearly 60 years ago, I believe. There are holes in the external walls you can put your hand into. The buildings are not made for the learning of today. I remember the first time I went there, in late 2007. The first classroom I looked at had one power point, so there was no hope of using any of today's modern teaching aids.

The new multipurpose centre is what is called a Maroondah template building, of which there are only 10 in Victoria. Eight are in very close proximity to the electorate of Deakin. That is a great testament not only to the regional network leaders but also to the principals and especially the parents associations and school councils of the schools involved. It meant that those schools got a full-sized building big enough for an indoor basketball court for a figure of $500,000 less than was being quoted by the Victorian state government for the same facility. Therefore, the school was offered only $2.5 million under the BER. They were able to get a full-sized hall rather than something that was closer to half the size. That has been great for the local community. To me the good thing about a building like that at Eastwood Primary School is that it ensures the school's future. Whilst the state government is still dragging its heels on a rebuild, there is a brand new building there that shows not only the parents and students but the local population that there is commitment by government to their place of education.

That is very important. We have lost many schools in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne in the last 20 years. Although that rate has slowed down a lot there is certainly no cause to become complacent. The more money, the more investment that is put into schools, the more locals will send their children there. With government schools it is particularly important, as it is with Catholic schools, many of which have many low-income families sending their children there.

That is just a short rewind of the year in the types of funding that were delivered to the electorate of Deakin. There is a whole lot more of that to come and that is a wonderful thing to look forward to. I thank the House.