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Schools confident they'll qualify for govt sp -

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Reporter: Tanya Nolan

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Schools, unions and builders say they're confident of satisfying the Federal
Government's conditions to be eligible for new investment in education infrastructure.

The Commonwealth insists public and private schools must have a need, and the ability to have the
projects completed by 2011.

The Australian Education Union predicts all the nation's 9,540 schools need either a new library,
indoor sports centre, performing arts facility or hall.

And the Master Builders Association says it's feasible for these buildings to be built by the end
of next year.

Tanya Nolan reports.

TANYA NOLAN: The independently run A.B. Patterson College on the Gold Coast has already identified
its most pressing building need.

DAWN LANG: We certainly have need for a multi-purpose hall; that would be high on our priority
list. We don't have a place for our whole school to get together at all, or even for our whole
primary school to be able to gather together.

TANYA NOLAN: As a school with more than 1,300 students from kindergarten to year 12, it will be
eligible for up to $3-million of infrastructure spending to help it build the hall.

But in order to qualify for the money, the school also needs to prove it can have the building
complete by the middle of 2011.

Principal Dawn Lang says she's already received quotes and is confident the timeframe won't be a
problem. Her colleague up the road is even more upbeat about meeting the criteria.

Craig Bassingthwaighte is the headmaster of Somerset College in the Gold Coast hinterland. He says
his school needs upgrades of its library, performing arts centre and languages lab and he too says
it could all be completed in the specified timeframe if the Government releases the money quickly

CRAIG BASSINGTHWAIGHTE: They talk about removing the bureaucracy and that's one of the issues that
we have at the moment, is that any sort of capital funding we apply for through the Block Grant
Authority, has a turnaround of between application and completion of at least 18 months. We'd like
to give it a go, that's for sure.

TANYA NOLAN: These two schools charge annual fees of anywhere between $4,000 and $12,500 per
student, but that doesn't preclude them from receiving funding for their projects under the Federal
Government's spending package.

The Australian Education Union expects 70 per cent of the package will be allocated to public
schools, but predicts every single one of the nation's 9,450 schools will meet the criteria of need
when it comes to new buildings and maintenance.

President Angelo Gavrielatos says the union will be keeping an eye on the wish-lists of all schools
that apply for funding.

ANGELO GAVRIELATOS: We'll be looking at all applications to ensure that they satisfy the conditions
as established by the Prime Minister.

TANYA NOLAN: And he says the union will also help the Prime Minister hold state and territory
governments to account to ensure they don't scrimp on their pledges to fund capital works programs
for public schools.

If the union is right and every school in Australia does apply for some part of the building fund,
it begs the question; will there be enough builders to get all the work done by the middle of 2011?

The Master Builders Association seems to think so. Chief executive Wilhelm Harnisch says it is
contingent on a few things.

WILLHELM HARNISCH: What is very important for the Government to do is to work very closely with
industry and master builders who do have the expertise.

They need to get it right in terms of making sure they're getting qualified builders to do the
work, they've got to get their tender process right.

And the whole process is done in a coordinated way, so that this can be delivered in the shortest
period of time.

TANYA NOLAN: And for an industry suffering a serious downturn thanks to the current economic
slowdown, Mr Harnisch says such a massive injection of investment may help arrest the growing
jobless rate.

WILLHELM HARDISH: A huge shot in the arm. The commercial building sector was heading for a major
nose dive; this will be a welcome boost in terms of activity and more importantly in creating jobs.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Wilhelm Harnisch, chief executive of the Master Builders Association.