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Tuesday, 30 October 2012
Page: 8435


Senator FURNER (Queensland) (16:32): It is easy to stand here today and refute these allegations in this matter of public importance. If I can concentrate on some of the aspects that Senator Mason did, something I love talking about in this chamber is the Building the Education Revolution. I characterise it as this: new halls, libraries, science centres, undercover learning areas, performing arts buildings and kitchens, refurbished classrooms and Japanese gardens. Can you really describe—as do the opposition—those facilities, those initiatives, the advantages of them and how they will impact on our future generations of students—as waste or failure? We put $16.2 billion into that program, which is ensuring our children have the best education facilities money can buy, and those opposite are calling it waste.

I have been so privileged to be a duty senator for five duty seats—Longman, Dickson, Brisbane, Forde and Wright—and to have the opportunity to go to some of those openings—I think it is now somewhere in excess of 134—to officiate the opening of the Building the Education Revolution projects. Each school has generally built something different as a result of their desire and their consultation, generally with their parents and citizens associations—in some cases they have collaborated with the Catholic education system—and they have made amazing achievements.

Some of the schools I have visited can now fit their entire student body into one location. This kicked off their full assemblies, something they were never able to do before. Quite often I get comments from principals, teachers, students, parents and the P&Cs that they would have never been able to achieve these facilities through lamington drives or their other ways of raising money in the past. They would never have been able to get these facilities had it not been for a Labor government. It has been the biggest injection of funds into schools ever by a federal government.

One school built a language centre and a Zen garden to complement their Japanese students. They were also working with a local primary school, the University of Queensland and the Japanese consulate to give their students a boost in learning the language. We only just the other day released our white paper on the Asian century and what will happen in our schools in the future in providing these opportunities for people to learn another language. Another school on the Sunshine Coast ensured they had a nice big kitchen, and it was built into their hall to complement their federal government-funded Stephanie Alexander garden. This way the students could learn how to grow their own vegetables and use these fresh products to make healthy meals. You tell me if that is waste.

I have seen covered sporting facilities, where students can play sport or do HPE classes, rain, hail or shine. I have seen performing arts buildings where schools can now host their own musicals and plays. The possibilities are endless when it comes to these opportunities. The other added benefit of the Building the Education Revolution is the ability of communities to have access to some of these halls that schools have chosen to build. Karate classes, church groups and so on have come into the halls and had the opportunity to use them on the weekends or after school. I have spoken to parents, teachers and principals, and not one of them has indicated any negativity about the BER project—only those opposite.

As you know, Acting Deputy President Marshall, some of the opposition turn up—whether federal or, in my case the other day, one of the new LNP Queensland state members—and they will push you out of the way to get in the photograph. They cannot wait to be in the photograph about a project they condemned all the time. We just heard from Senator Mason, who was condemning the BER project, and the opposition voted against it. But there they are, pushing their way in and stumbling over each other to try and get into the photograph. The hypocrisy of this is stark. The hypocrisy of those opposite and from the other House turning up to be part of these photographs is unbelievable. And what did it do? It generated jobs, and certainly in those five duty seats that I indicated. Longman, Dickson, Brisbane, Forde and Wright—all those members have turned up on most occasions for the Building the Education Revolution openings.

Senator Williams: I didn't.

Senator FURNER: I know you did not—you are not a Queensland senator, that is why you were not there. That is quite easy to understand. In concentrating on jobs, I really want to crunch this reality: in the state of Queensland we have a situation where the new Premier up there is sacking 14,000 public servants—and that is just the tip of the iceberg. They are going to eliminate them off the face of the earth. But when it comes to jobs for the Liberal National Party in Queensland they focus quite squarely on jobs for the boys, like Michael Caltabiano, who is now facing possible criminal charges. They focused on him and made sure he had a job when they were recently elected.

What happened after that? Former DG Neil Scales was terminated as a result of one of those 14,000 jobs that the state government was going through. He was on $343,000 then, and was paid that as a result of his termination, only to be re-hired on $428,000. How do you figure that? It is just another example of the waste of money and of how they treat jobs in Queensland.

Then there is the arts minister's son, Ben Gommers, who was hired to work in the transport department, being investigated by the Crime and Misconduct Commission. Where is Minister for Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts Ros Bates when all this is going on? First it was annual leave, now it is sick leave—she is roaming around in shopping centres with an injured shoulder but nowhere to be seen when it comes to having to answer questions in the Queensland parliament about these atrocities. This is what the LNP government is about in Queensland—jobs for the boys, not jobs for our struggling workers who need them the most.

Focusing once again on the BER outcomes and concentrating on each of those areas: in the seat of Longman there was $94,344,435 spent on 122 projects; in the seat of Brisbane $81,959,700 was spent on 132 projects; in the seat of Forde $102 million was spent on 127 projects; in the seat of Wright $100 million was spent on 245 projects; and in the seat of Dickson $71 million was spent on 113 projects. That is just an example of what those opposite describe as waste—money in education for our future generation that will only benefit them as a result of getting that great initiative and that spending to ensure that they are best situated for the global situation into the future.

One of the Labor Party's core election commitments in 2007, and the crux of my decision to run in this place, was to abolish the Howard government's Work Choices and the unfair, entitlement-robbing industrial relations laws. We did this decisively, to make sure workers were treated fairly, had confidence and security in their workplaces and were not unfairly dismissed. We introduced unfair dismissal laws and we introduced an independent workplace relations tribunal, Fair Work Australia.

One thing we lead paramount on is fairness in the workplace and fairness overall. That is one thing the Labor Party stands for. That is where the divide is between us and those opposite. We believe in fairness while those opposite believe only in the example I gave of Queensland—creating jobs for the boys. This is where we differ—we have created 800,000 jobs since we were elected while those opposite are up there in Queensland with the LNP terminating 14,000 of them. It is the tip of the iceberg.

This government supports Australians at different stages of their lives. One prime example is that, not long ago, the Paid Parental Leave scheme was introduced by this Labor government. It is a proud and genuine scheme that will make sure that workers who are in times of need and giving birth to children have the opportunity to be protected and to have reasonable payment of wages paid to them at a time when they generally need it the most. Shortly, through the partner scheme, we will also be enabling partners to stay at home with their partner and new children for at least two weeks.

I do not have the opportunity to go through all our fantastic initiatives, but this is an example of what we have provided over our term in government and, certainly, since our last election in 2010, and we will continue the rollout of these fantastic initiatives.