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Thursday, 11 October 2012
Page: 8082

Senator GALLACHER (South Australia) (19:08): I note Senator Ian Macdonald's contribution and rise, ironically, to deal with significant infrastructure spending in a very safe Liberal seat. I had the honour of representing Minister Garrett under the Local Schools Working Together pilot program, in which this Labor government has invested $62.5 million over three years. The aim of the program is to fund innovative collaborations between schools and other partners to address shared infrastructure. I understand this is a pilot program, but from what I saw in the Southern Flinders Regional Sports Complex in Gladstone, South Australia, it is already on the way to being a great success.

Senator Farrell: Which seat is that in?

Senator GALLACHER: It is in the seat of Grey, which is a 12 per cent Liberal seat. Very importantly, the federal member for Grey was there to support this initiative and was ecstatic about the outcome, as were all of the participants. A key objective of this program is to get schools which are located closely together in regional and rural Australia to form partnerships, enabling them to apply for funding. The types of facilities which could be delivered include, but are not limited to, gymnasiums, performing arts centres, libraries, language facilities, swimming pools and music schools. It is not only schools which can form partnerships but also local government authorities, businesses and community organisations.

The program will assist and promote partnerships between schools, particularly those operating in growth areas with poor infrastructure or important educational facilities which are not able to be funded by individual schools. The program provides funding for up to 25 projects, up to $2.5 million per project. The initiative is directed towards the sharing of facilities, which are not provided through the Trade Training Centres in Schools Program, the Digital Education Revolution or the Capital Grants Program. The rationale for this project was to address the challenge and to find new ways to resource schools to ensure they provide high-quality and stimulating educational experiences for our students.

A further aim is to encourage government, Catholic and Independent schools to work together in ways which will broaden the benefit of Australian government expenditure on educational infrastructure, particularly in low socioeconomic communities. One way to provide infrastructure support for more students is clearly by sharing infrastructure resources. In new schools and in existing schools in close proximity to one another, gains can easily be made through the pooling of resources and, very importantly, sharing the cost of maintaining the infrastructure. It is also expected that the program will foster relationships with local communities and businesses which may seek involvement in the projects. In such cases, the wider community—as it is in this particular case—directly benefits from this infrastructure build. The Ewart oval, where cricket and football is played in regional South Australia and attracts quite a large following, is immediately adjacent to this new infrastructure spend.

A couple of South Australian projects were successful but the one I am talking about is the Southern Flinders Regional Sports Complex, with $2.13 million. I was privileged to open this facility. It is important to pay tribute to the people who put together these bids. The clerical workers, the office staff and the technical people behind the lead partner operators are extremely skilled and able to get all of the projects defined in such a way as to gain the funding. The Northern Areas Council, Gladstone High School and Saint Joseph's Parish School were awarded $2,134,377 under this project. The complex is situated in Gladstone, South Australia, which in the 2006 census had a population of 629 people.

The complex's facilities will ensure that all students, no matter what their level, are enjoying lives enriched by the participation in sport and staying active. It will target breaking down the barriers for young people to participate in sports education and deliver a big boost to the region with the potential to introduce new sports and sporting clubs. The complex includes two new sports courts, change rooms, a function room and a commercial kitchen, which, importantly, is used for trade training. The complex is available for hire for local community groups to put on all manner of events, whether a wedding or any sort of community gathering. The kitchen is state of the art and the catering capabilities are right up there, so it will be a self-funding project. Immediately, as you walk through the entire project, you can see that there is value for money.

I want to share with those listening and also with the Senate some of the comments. Councillor Ben Brown, Chairman of the Northern Areas Council, when asked what this means to the community, stated: 'It means a huge amount for the community. The result was simply fantastic, with infrastructure ensuring the community will be served by the complex for another 50 to 60 years. Our thanks must be expressed to the federal government. Without this funding, this would never have come to realisation.'

Tom Humphris, Chairman of the Southern Flinders Regional Sports Complex, stated: 'I would like to thank everyone involved, especially those who were part of the tendering process. This is a complex that has absolutely got value for money—not a cent wasted. The benefits to the community are immense, and already the complex has been used every day of the week. The benefits of the complex are already flowing into schools and sporting bodies and it has become the central focal point for the community. For the younger generation, the facility will also bring new sports into this community.'

Brett Czechowski, Acting Principal of St Joseph's Parish School while Principal Ros Oates is on leave, stated: 'This is a fantastic complex for the students. The complex serves as a useful extension of the curriculum in the areas of health, science and physical education. For the young students, the sports complex is a great source of excitement. In respect of the community, it has become a central exchange, especially when the town revolves around sports. This complex is a model of its type for many communities in the mid-north of South Australia.'

Clearly, these are resounding third-party endorsements of the successful initiative of this Labor government in regional South Australia in a seat held by a considerable margin by a federal coalition member, who also attended the event and expressed his satisfaction and delight at this investment. When I arrived there, five or 10 minutes before the schedule time for me to speak, there were 500 students on the oval. The police band was fully active. There were representatives from the Paralympics. There were representatives from the community. It was a really great show and the community were all coming together to celebrate their achievement.

The top of the bar of the facility is made of wood taken from the grandstand which was torn down. John Hennessy and Tim Zander took the seats out and painstakingly varnished, polished and restored that wood and put it on the bar to retain some connection with the historic grandstand which had been on that oval. It was a source of immense pride, not only for the students and the principal. Bishop O'Kelly had travelled up to bless the facility. It was a real gathering of the community, the community's leaders and all of the people, putting together and having an enjoyable day on what was a remarkable outcome.

My experience in Grey is getting to be more and more varied and widespread, but I would say that this facility achieved more than value for money. The community involvement had driven an outcome that was quite remarkable and far exceeded the investment in dollar terms by the Labor government.