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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13248


Mr MELHAM (Banks) (21:35): I rise tonight to place on the public record the views of the electors of Banks in a matter that affects all of us. In July this year, I distributed a survey asking my constituents their views on education. Overwhelmingly, they said that quality teaching was their No. 1 priority. They also saw trades training and vocational education streams as a very important    part of the learning process for our children. They stated their concern about resources and assistance for students with disabilities.

In October, I outlined for my constituents the massive investment that this government has made in education in Banks—an unprecedented figure. Madam Speaker, you can see the map of Banks, with the schools noted on it. Since 2007, the government has invested just under $89 million in the local schools in Banks, across a range of programs—and I know that is repeated in every electorate across the country. The programs are: National School Pride; Primary Schools for the 21st Century; Science and Language Learning Centres for 21st Century Secondary Schools; integration of information and communication technology; Solar Schools Program; and National Asian Languages and Studies in Schools Program. In addition, over 5,000 computers have been provided to local schools. There can be no doubt that this Labor government is committed to the future of our children through education and, more than that, prepared to fund that future through investment.

With my constituents, I was dismayed by the O'Farrell government announcement that education funding in New South Wales would be reduced. I received a number of phone calls and emails about the matter, as well as hearing firsthand from people as I moved around the electorate. I then decided to gauge that concern. Consequently, I sent out a petition to the majority of my electorate, printed it in my newsletter and also put the petition on my website. In my 22 years experience, the results have been, to say the least, overwhelming. The Holsworthy airport petition, when the then Howard government was proposing to build an airport at Holsworthy, was another one that was overwhelming. These are the petitions that I have received to date, and they are still coming in.

Mr Ruddock: I thought they were your Christmas cards!

Mr MELHAM: My Christmas cards are much fewer than that, I can tell the honourable member opposite. I seem to have fewer and fewer friends these days, as I get grumpy and grumpier! But here, Speaker, are the responses to date. They are the genuine thoughts of people in the electorate. Honourable members know how hard it is to get members of the community to respond in instances like this, so the O'Farrell government needs to take a check on this. The people of the Banks electorate are not happy with its state government.

What is the cost to our schools of this slash-and-burn approach from the New South Wales government? Potentially it is the loss of over 1,300 teachers, 2,500 teachers aides, 128,000 teacher professional development days, 116,000 computers for schools—and the list goes on. This is totally unacceptable.

Then the New South Wales government, which was bleating about its poor budget position, was found by the New South Wales Auditor-General to have made budget errors. Total revenues were close to $600 million higher and total expenses were over $400 million lower than forecast. I have been here for 22½ years. The honourable member opposite, who is the father of the House, has been here much longer than that. I am sure he has not seen a billion-dollar error in budget figures that has been exposed in such a short time.

Those figures were used to justify the cuts, particularly to education. Those cuts are no longer warranted, given that the Auditor-General, someone in effect within the government process, has exposed it. An expected deficit of $337 million in the middle of June became a surplus of $680 million by the end of June. The O'Farrell government needs to reverse its disastrous decision to slash $1.7 billion from the education budget in New South Wales. We should be investing more money in our schools, not less. If we want students to have a great education and be able to get a great job when they leave school, more investment is required. The New South Wales Liberals need to admit their mistake, end the cuts and sign up to our plan for better schools.