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Wednesday, 17 June 2009
Page: 6322

Mr PYNE (2:53 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Education. I refer the minister to the Grays Point Public School, in the electorate of Cook, which has been instructed to spend its $2½ million grant under the schools stimulus debacle on a school hall of a style that cost $900,000 a year ago. Why won’t the minister do the right thing and refer the waste and mismanagement of this program to the Auditor-General?

Ms GILLARD (Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion) —Of course I will look at the matter raised by the member for Sturt, but I will make the caveat that, in terms of questions raised by him and members opposite in this House, we are yet to see any of the facts being right. The facts are never as they are represented by them in this parliament. So I will check that.

But what I will say to the member for Sturt, and what he may not realise—he obviously does not know much about this program, because of the continued misrepresentations he makes in relation to it—is that the expenditure on this program is calibrated so buildings are constructed and there is the fit-out of them so that they are fit-for-purpose. I actually explained this to the member yesterday, during the MPI. He was wandering around a bit, so he may have missed this part of the explanation: when you are comparing quotes, it is very important that you are comparing them for the same purpose.

Mr Pyne interjecting

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Sturt has asked his question.

Ms GILLARD —Many of the quotes that have been used in the public debate around this have been the sort of per-metre construction quotes you get if you are putting up the building but not fitting it out. As I remarked during the MPI yesterday, and as anybody would know who has been a builder of a new home, or perhaps has done a renovation of their own home, there is a difference between the costs of the lock-up stage and it being completely fitted out. For example, if you were constructing a kitchen to lock-up stage, you would get a particular quote per metre. If you were doing all of the fit-out—the sinks and the electrics that would go with it—

Mr Pyne —Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. The minister was asked why she would not refer this matter to the Auditor-General. She has not yet cleared up why she will not refer this program to the Auditor-General. Why won’t she just do the right thing and have the Auditor-General look at it?

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Sturt will resume his seat. The Deputy Prime Minister is responding to the question.

Ms GILLARD —I was asked about building costs at a specific school, and I am explaining the way the Building the Education Revolution program works, for the member to try and understand so he can stop the cycle of coming into this parliament and misrepresenting this program for base political advantage—while he refuses, of course, to generate anything that looks like an education policy for the opposition. So the simple point to the member for Sturt is: I will look at what he has raised, but the Building the Education Revolution program includes the cost of the building being fit-for-purpose, so it will include the cost of things like interactive whiteboards, seating, sound systems in halls and the like. Consequently, when you look at those, they are built into the project costs and we will see whether or not the shadow minister is really making an appropriate comparison with those figures.

But what I can also say to the member for Sturt, given he has asked me about Building the Education Revolution program—and this will be a matter that interests him a great deal I think—is that I have had a look today at the words in the East Torrens Messenger, a local newspaper in the member for Sturt’s electorate.

Mr Pyne —A very good newspaper!

Ms GILLARD —He is yelling out, ‘A very good newspaper’. Well, I am glad he is of that view, because the East Torrens Messenger today records the words of Cathie Wilson, the principal of the Stradbroke school—

Mr Pyne —A very good principal, too!

Ms GILLARD —The shadow minister is agreeing with me that she is a very good principal, so I hope that he is going to agree—

Mr Pyne —A very strong supporter of mine!

Ms GILLARD —A very good supporter of the shadow minister, and a woman whose counsel he should take, said the following with respect to the money coming to her school:

This is the first time we’ve had a new building at the school in 30 years. The kids are thrilled. They’ve been asking for a larger gym for a long time, because we can’t fit the whole school into our current one.

That is a quote from a woman the shadow minister says he respects, who is a very good principal, who is a supporter of his—and what does that very good principal and woman he respects say? She says the Building the Education Revolution program is making such a difference for her school that the kids are ‘thrilled’.

But that is not the end of the words of wisdom in the East Torrens Messenger today, because the East Torrens Messenger today also contains an article headed ‘Funding gets a gold star’. It is referring to the Building the Education Revolution programs at Burnside Primary School. The principal of Burnside Primary School, Frank Mittiga, says, ‘This is something that will go a long way to supporting children in reception to year 5.’

I say to the member for Sturt, if he would just stop giggling and squealing for one moment and think what his role is in this parliament, his role in this parliament is to come to it and represent the views of the community in Sturt. Through his own local newspaper today, the community in Sturt is speaking loudly to him about their support for Building the Education Revolution. The only thing I hope is that on his return to his electorate the member for Sturt has got the guts to go to the Stradbroke School and to the Burnside Primary School and look both principals in the eye—

Mr Pyne —That is the school I went to.

Ms GILLARD —Well, he can go back to it and have the guts to look the principal in the eye and say: ‘If I had my way you would not get one cent. If I had my way not one child in this school would benefit from Building the Education Revolution.’ I suggest to the member that if he has got the guts to do that, between giggling and squealing, he should then come back to this parliament and report on exactly how those conversations went.