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Monday, 15 June 2009
Page: 6010

Ms GILLARD (Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion) (5:38 PM) —I will address the comments in reverse order. On Building the Education Revolution, you heard it here first: a historic offer. On the issue of targeting, if the shadow minister would forward to me a list of the schools that he believes have adequate infrastructure and should miss out—the schools that he thinks should not benefit under the program—then I will publish that list for community discussion and input. I will wait to get that very quickly from the shadow minister, who says he is concerned about targeting. If he wants to give me the list of the 10, 20, 50 or 100 schools he says have everything they need and should miss out on the Building the Education Revolution program, I will undertake to publish that through all mechanisms available to the government for community debate. I look forward to the receipt of that as soon as he can get it to me. I would be happy to engage in publication of that as early as tomorrow morning.

On the various claims the opposition has made about Building the Education Revolution, the problem here for the shadow minister is that when we have got to matters of detail about his claims they simply have not stood up. His claims about the Cleve Area School did not stand up. Regarding his claims about the Hastings Public School today, it is not very helpful to just talk about covered outdoor learning areas and compare one cost to another and then allege profiteering. You have obviously got to see what is in the covered outdoor learning area. I know that the shadow minister had been excluded from question time, as he frequently is for poor conduct, by the time I added to an answer. What he may not appreciate about the Hastings Public School in New South Wales is that the covered outdoor learning area is a significant building with a solid roof. It also includes an amphitheatre, seating, a sound system to facilitate school assemblies and performances, and science and work spaces. We are talking about a very substantial construction with very substantial facilities.

On the other claims that the shadow minister has made from time to time—that we are giving money to schools that close. He was yelling about Gepps Cross in question time today. Those claims have not stood up to public scrutiny and I answered that fully in question time today.

On the question of our arrangements with state governments, our arrangements are very clear—that is, states will pay a very substantial penalty in terms of the withdrawal of funds if they do not maintain effort in school capital expenditure. That is very clear. The government is very determined about that. It has been made clear through COAG. If the shadow minister wants an undertaking that any such action by any state government would be acted upon by this government then I can give him that undertaking—it most certainly would be.

In the Building the Education Revolution we are talking about a huge and unprecedented investment being rolled out unashamedly quickly to support jobs. I know the position of the opposition is that not one school should benefit and not one Australian should have a job from this $14.7 billion. I know that is their position and I know that, in a desperate attempt to justify that political position, from time to time, they throw up examples that they claim are flaws with the Building the Education Revolution program. I think everybody can see through the political desperation that drives these inaccurate claims.

I am going to be frank and I have been frank with the Australian people about this—when you are delivering a program of this size quickly to support jobs, from time to time there are going to be concerns, comments, criticisms and complaints. On each and every occasion that such concerns or comments or criticisms come to us we act on the basis of them. Of course, what we do not respond to are things said by the opposition which, after the simplest inquiry, turn out to be completely factually inaccurate.

On the question of the Education Investment Fund I understand that today is a day to be very generous about Peter Costello’s record in public life but, even being generous about Peter Costello’s record, I do not think that he can claim to have delivered—as this government has delivered—more than $5 billion in education infrastructure for higher education. One billion dollars of it came off budget and that was the Better Universities Renewal Fund. (Extension of time granted) I will just finish with this one sentence and then we will move to other members—having allowed the shadow minister to do the same. With more than $5 billion invested in higher education infrastructure, vocational education and training infrastructure, I say this to the members opposite: it is very interesting to me that when called on to detail an education policy all they can do is criticise. I have not heard an education policy about early learning. I have not heard an education policy about school education. I have not heard an education policy about investing in important things like overcoming disadvantage in schools. I have not heard a substantive response to the Bradley reforms. This is the problem for the opposition—all they do is moan and complain but they are a policy-free zone. And the shadow minister for education more so than most.