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Tuesday, 12 May 2009
Page: 3481

Ms RISHWORTH (2:38 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion. Will she outline to the House reaction to the government’s $14.7 billion Building the Education Revolution?

Ms GILLARD (Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion) —I thank the member for Kingston for her question. I know she is working closely with local school principals in her electorate on delivering Building the Education Revolution. It is my pleasure to be able to report to the House that our $14.7 billion program to build the education revolution is rolling and supporting schools right around the nation. This is urgent fiscal stimulus to support jobs right around the nation. It is supporting jobs today while we build the infrastructure of the future. There is nothing more important to the future of this nation, to its economic future and to future jobs than the quality of education.

Mr Robb —School halls!

Ms GILLARD —I can see that the member for Goldstein is yelling out in a sarcastic tone that, apparently, to him, school halls are not important at all. I suggest that he walk down to one of his local schools and find out. To date, the Building the Education Revolution program has funded over 10,500 infrastructure projects in 6,491 schools, valued at over $3.7 billion. Under round 1 of the Primary Schools for the 21st Century program, which I announced last week, it is funding construction and works in 1,499 Australian schools that were successful in having 2,010 projects approved, totalling $2.83 billion. Under round 1 of our National School Pride Program, 5,995 Australian schools were successful in having 8,663 projects approved, totalling $828 million.

This is a historic injection of funds in supporting jobs today and in supporting the education infrastructure of tomorrow. Of course, it has been well received by people who care about education right around the country. I quote from a letter to me from Tim Richards, the Headmaster of the Scots School in Bathurst, represented in this place by the member for Macquarie:

Work started today on replacing the old worn out asbestos roof on a classroom block. This will benefit our school community greatly as there has been some concern about this roof for a number of years.

I also quote the principal of St Augustine’s Primary School in Rivervale in Western Australia, in the federal electorate of Swan. He wrote to me about the National School Pride Program and said:

… a refreshed classroom environment and upgrading of facilities in the outdoor areas of the school can only benefit students and their learning. On behalf of St Augustine’s School Board, all students and their families, I wish to thank all involved in this initiative. There is no question it will stimulate jobs throughout Australia and in our local communities.

I quote from Kaye Lewis, a state school principal in the electorate of New England—probably known to the member there, who I am sure would know all of his principals. Kaye was quoted in the Northern Daily Leader as saying:

It’s just terrific —the community has been waiting 20 years for a school hall and we couldn’t raise the money. In the past we had to call off events because of wet weather.

I draw the attention of the House to the words of Royce Fairbrother, from Fairbrother Constructions in Tasmania, in the federal electorate of Braddon. He said in the Burnie Advocate:

I think they—

the tenders—

are very welcome and very timely particularly in the north and north west. This will be of great benefit to the building industry.

This is a measure about supporting jobs today and the educational infrastructure of tomorrow. Members of the government and Independent members of this parliament are working with school principals and those who care about education to deliver Building the Education Revolution.

I draw the attention of the House to the fact that, when it comes to the opposition benches, there is no limit to opportunism. After having come into this parliament and voted against Building the Education Revolution, and after having made deriding remarks about the importance of education spending and spending on education capital, I have received 11 letters from members of the opposition asking for money for their local schools. There is no limit to opportunism.

Mr Pyne —Why shouldn’t we get our share?

Ms GILLARD —I have received letters from members opposite, including the member for Sturt who is calling out now, asking about their involvement. The member for Sturt is yelling out, ‘Why shouldn’t we get our share?’ I can assure him that schools in his electorate will benefit despite his opposition to the program.

Mr Pyne interjecting

The SPEAKER —The member for Sturt!

Mr Pyne interjecting

The SPEAKER —The member for Sturt is warned.

Ms GILLARD —Despite the fact that he did not want the schools in his electorate to get a dollar, they will benefit through this program. The Labor government, the Rudd government, is delivering for all schools. It is members like the member for Sturt who do not want schools in his own electorate or anywhere around the country to benefit from this $14.7 billion initiative. And, of course, apart from the correspondents wanting money from a package they did not vote for, members of the opposition have shown their opportunism by writing to me with various demands about being involved in ceremonies to celebrate these new developments. I assure members of the opposition that I hope they are there answering the question to school communities of why they voted against and why they do not want their local schools to benefit from these programs. I hope they look into the eyes of the local tradespeople who built those construction facilities and say to them, ‘I didn’t want you to have a job either.’