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Monday, 15 June 2009
Page: 5896

Mr PYNE (3:11 AM) —My question is to the Minister for Education. Does the minister agree with the Prime Minister’s comments on 3 February about the school stimulus package when he said, ‘This government will adopt a zero tolerance approach to any state government, whatever its political complexion, to any substitution of effort,’ and, if so, what action will the government take against the South Australian government, which cut funding by 12 per cent for capital works programs in schools in its 2009-10 budget?

The SPEAKER —I call the Deputy Prime Minister.

Ms GILLARD (Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion) —Thank you very much, Mr Speaker, and once again, because we do not have accurate questions from the shadow minister for education, I will check what he has asserted, because we know from former question times that assertions made by the opposition about Building the Education Revolution and about the government’s education policies generally turn out to be completely spurious when investigated.

What I can say to the shadow minister—and he may or may not be interested because the degree of seriousness with which he takes his education work is always something to be doubted—is that the government is absolutely determined that the Building the Education Revolution program is an addition to investment that would have happened in any event as a result of state budgets. We work constantly with our state and territory colleagues to deliver that program. The sanctions that can be applied under the agreements that surround the Building the Education Revolution program are serious ones and they are understood by our state and territory colleagues.

Can I reiterate: for a man who earlier in question time was yelling at me, ‘What about Gepps Cross school?’ only to be humiliated when his claim was found to be ridiculous—

Ms Julie Bishop —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The question was specifically in relation to the cut of 12 per cent to the capital works program in the South Australian budget. I would ask the Deputy Prime Minister to answer what action—

The SPEAKER —Order! The Deputy Prime Minister is responding to the question.

Ms GILLARD —I certainly will investigate the claims made. But, given the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has risen to her feet to once again indicate an interest in education, I will take the opportunity to remind the House that, when she was minister for education, we did have a problem with funding going to schools that were closing. I remind the Deputy Leader of the Opposition of the Investing in Our Schools Program grant she made to the Bowral Rudolf Steiner School in 2007, when it closed in 2007. There is the grant that she made to the Marist College Rosalie School in 2008, when it closed in 2008.

Ms Julie Bishop —Mr Speaker, I—

The SPEAKER —Order! The Deputy Prime Minister will resume her seat and the Deputy Leader of the Opposition will resume her seat.

Ms Julie Bishop interjecting

The SPEAKER —Order! The Deputy Leader of the Opposition will resume her seat! The Deputy Prime Minister will refer her remarks to the question before us.

Ms GILLARD —As I understand the question before us, questions are being raised about the government’s education programs. The simple point I was making is that some of these criticisms lie ill in the mouths of people whose administration—

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order. I am happy to repeat the question if the Deputy Prime Minister seems to have forgotten it. It was not a general question. It was about states skimming—12 per cent by the state government in South Australia—

The SPEAKER —Order! There is no need to repeat the question. The Manager of Opposition Business will resume his seat.

Ms GILLARD —Can I reiterate that, obviously, Building the Education Revolution is an economic stimulus package. It is to go on top of other expenditures. I will investigate the claims made, but I make this very simple point: for an opposition that opposed this program lock, stock and barrel, under whose administration not one school would get one cent, it seems to me pretty interesting that they come in here day after day with claims that, when investigated, turn out to be fabricated. On the track record of the opposition when it was in government and the track record of those who held the education portfolio, let us just contemplate for a moment what, if any, lasting reforms people will be talking about from the Howard era. Can’t think of one? Well, there would be a good reason for that.