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Tuesday, 28 February 2012
Page: 2041


Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (14:35): My question is to the Minister for Human Services and Minister Assisting for School Education. Will the minister outline to the House how the government has supported Australian jobs by delivering educational infrastructure? How has it impacted on the economy and how will this support jobs in our economy into the future?

Mr BRENDAN O'CONNOR (GortonMinister for Human Services and Minister Assisting for School Education) (14:36): I thank the member for Cunningham for her question. Before she was in this place, she was a school teacher. She understands the importance of education. This government fully understands the need to focus on education, employment and the economy. Indeed, this government, when confronted with the global financial crisis, invested a record amount of money into education. As the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth just said, we have doubled school education funding in only four years. We did so because we understand that it is absolutely critical to manage the economy to help working families. We understand that we need to ensure that those people in communities across the country who depend upon on us are able to be supported through those difficult times. We had to make a decision as to where we would invest that money. We rightly invested it in education. As a result, with that particular initiative alone, the $16.2 billion, we managed to support or create 120,000 jobs in this country, a remarkable effort when compared internationally with the way other governments confronted this issue.

We know those opposite neglected school funding in their time in government. There is nothing wrong with flagpoles but you have to go beyond flagpoles and invest in school education. By contrast, we built 4,500 new interactive classrooms, 3,100 libraries, 2,900 multipurpose centres and, one other area I was looking at recently, 280 language and science centres across this country as a result of that initiative. This has been a remarkable effort by the government.

In the end it will always be Labor that focuses on the things that matter. It will always be Labor that puts jobs at the centre of public policy. In relation to this initiative, we focused on jobs to protect the workers in this country and we invested to protect the students who are the workers of the future. This initiative was absolutely critical. Look now at the results. As the Treasurer said today and has said before, we have an enviable unemployment rate of 5.1 per cent. Look around the world: we have an unemployment rate less than half that of Europe and a rate much better than other advanced economies as a result of actions of this government. It will always be the case that this Labor government will invest in education and support jobs.

Ms BIRD (Cunningham) (14:39): Mr Speaker, I ask a supplementary question. I ask the minister, from the answer he has given, how that will impact on communities in the Illawarra.

Mr BRENDAN O'CONNOR (GortonMinister for Human Services and Minister Assisting for School Education) (14:39): I am very happy to take the supplementary question from the member for Cunningham. As I said earlier, this initiative has been an extraordinary success for workers and for students across this land. In the electorate of Cunningham, the BER has provided 16 new libraries, 27 multipurpose halls and 27 classrooms. Indeed, we have invested $114 million in the electorate of Cunningham—not only in the electorate of Cunningham but in many electorates across this country represented by those on this side and by those opposite. The difference is those opposite chose to vote against that initiative, which was to support jobs and local communities. The Leader of the Opposition managed to literally sleep through that vote. In the end, he has no interest in jobs and he has no interest in education.

The SPEAKER: The minister will resume his seat. The minister is not being directly relevant.