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Thursday, 5 February 2009
Page: 449

Senator ARBIB (2:26 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Carr. Can the minister inform the Senate how the education initiatives in the Nation Building and Jobs Plan will further the government’s innovation agenda?

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —I thank Senator Arbib for his question and note that at least he is asking a question to the minister who is actually responsible for this area. Education and innovation go hand in hand. The purpose of the education system is to nurture creativity. The purpose of the innovation system is to harness that creativity. The government’s $14.7 billion Building the Education Revolution initiative is a huge, long-term investment in our innovation capacity. It will give schools the physical facilities they need to do their job properly. Remember that there is something in this initiative for each and every Australian school. The Independent Schools Council of Australia ‘supports the inclusive nature of this package’.

The opposition of course have different ideas. They want to slash the investment to $3 billion. That is one-fifth of what is actually needed. Under the opposition’s plan, four out of five schools will miss out. Perhaps Senator Minchin can tell us which South Australian primary schools he wants to deny a hall or a library. Senator Barnett and Senator Abetz, perhaps you can tell us which Tasmanian secondary schools you want to deny urgent maintenance and upgrades.

When you invest in education, you are investing in our capacity to come up with new and better products and services, which is the key to maintaining Australia’s prosperity in an increasingly competitive world. All of this is lost on the opposition. The world is in crisis and they want to play politics. (Time expired)

Senator ARBIB —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Can the minister explain how the science and language centres included in the secondary schools component of the package will improve innovation outcomes?

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —This initiative includes a $1 billion fund to build up to 500 science and language laboratories in secondary schools. This will increase our ability to create the technologies of the future and to participate in international collaborations. It complements the incentives this government has introduced to get more students to do maths and science at universities. Sir Robert Menzies is still remembered for building high-school science laboratories in the 1960s. Apparently, the Leader of the Opposition wants to be remembered for denying Australian children state-of-the-art laboratories. Apparently, he wants to be remembered as Malcolm the destroyer—the destroyer of jobs, homes, schools and businesses. It is little wonder that Peter Costello looks so cheerful today. (Time expired)

Senator ARBIB —Mr President, I ask a further supplementary question. Can the minister explain how the government’s Nation Building and Jobs Plan increases educational equity and social inclusion?

Senator CARR (Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research) —Building the Education Revolution includes two specific measures to improve educational equity. The back-to-school bonus of $950 per child will help low- and middle-income families meet educational costs for the 2009 school year. The $950 training and learning bonus will help students and people outside the workforce with their educational costs in returning to study. Universities Australia have welcomed this measure but the opposition has rejected it. They believe in supporting working families and seeking to increase their job and life opportunities by improving their education. Why doesn’t the opposition take that view? The opposition, of course, does not care how much pain and how much suffering it inflicts upon the Australian people. It is time they took off their neoliberal blinkers and had a look at what is actually happening in the real world. It is time they stood up for Australian jobs. (Time expired)