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Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Page: 6186


Mr RAMSEY (4:08 PM) —It gives me no pleasure to have to report more BER disasters and rip-offs. The Port Broughton Area School Chairperson, Mr Andrew Bowley, has reported the school is extremely disappointed to have been advised, late in the planning procedure for their BER project, that severe cuts will have to be made to the project, to accommodate fire safety tanks.

‘What could be wrong with fire safety tanks?’ you may well ask. There are a few things badly wrong with this plan. Firstly, this is clearly a case of the state government shifting responsibility for normal school building programs to the federal government, an action specifically prohibited under BER guidelines. The requirement to have fire safety tanks at schools is a state regulation in areas that are deemed to be a high fire risk. It is a regulation of the state government, which they would be required to meet anyhow in the due course of events. No-one can make any kind of case that the water tanks will improve educational outcomes, and this is a blatant case of the state government rorting the program.

One would think that the minister would be sensitive to criticism of this type, but even though I have raised this issue before with her and in this House concerning the nearby Snowtown Area School, which has a similar problem, I have not received any response. If we leave aside the issue of the requirement of the school to have fire tanks—and I must say, as a long-term volunteer firefighter with some experience, that I am somewhat surprised that neither Snowtown nor Port Broughton schools are considered high risk, considering the fairly flat and open country in which they sit—the second grievance I have with the fire safety tanks is the price.

In line with so many of the totally out of control building sites under the school halls program, the cost to the taxpayer has virtually no connection to the normal price of the goods. The Port Broughton Area School has been told that it will have to pay $90,000 for two 37,000-litre tanks. I have approached a supplier and found that I could source the tanks for $8,900—less than 10 per cent of the price. Even allowing for limited plumbing—that is, a pipe to a fire hydrant—and installation costs, this 1,000 per cent mark-up is preposterous. How the Deputy Prime Minister can come into parliament, day after day, claiming that the school halls project is a resounding success when incidents like this are brought to her attention is completely beyond comprehension. She should be absolutely ashamed, and I have said on a number of occasions that the faults in this program will continue to be exposed for years to come.

As appalling as all of this is, we should also consider the sheer idiocy of a policy which means that these tanks will not be even used to collect rainwater. You would think that if the government were serious about trying to reduce our reliance on the Murray then we would be planning to catch the run-off from the new buildings. But unfortunately it is just another example of the confusion surrounding this government and we watch it beginning to implode.