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Wednesday, 19 March 2008
Page: 1285

Senator EGGLESTON (2:55 PM) —My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Education, Senator Carr. Now that the Rudd government has confirmed that it will break its promise to begin building a national broadband network within six months of taking office, has it dawned on the minister that Labor’s parallel promise to begin connecting computers in schools to the new network this financial year will be technically impossible?

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —I thank the senator for the question. I am not certain that the commitment was that we would begin connecting this year. When the present government was in opposition, we outlined a program to provide greater access for all students in Australian schools to computers and a curriculum that supports computer programs. Labor’s education revolution was spelled out in detail during the election campaign, and Minister Gillard is in the process of implementing that program. She has already commenced detailed discussions with the states and territories to ensure that every child does have access to a computer. I am absolutely convinced that the program will be implemented fully and effectively in line with our election commitments.

Senator EGGLESTON —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Following Labor’s first cabinet meeting on 6 December 2007, didn’t the Minister for Education claim that the rollout of the ‘fibre to the schools’ plan would commence during the course of this financial year? Without a network to connect to, rather than new leadership, isn’t this nothing more than old-fashioned Labor incompetence?

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —What Minister Gillard did outline is that our promise was to provide access to a computer for every student from years 9 to 12. On 5 March we opened round 1 of our funding initiative, the first $100 million of the $1 billion digital education revolution, inviting 937 schools from across Australia to make a submission. These schools were identified as having a ratio of one computer for every eight students or worse in a recent national audit. The government are now implementing those policies consistent with our election commitments.