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Thursday, 5 February 2009
Page: 461

Senator BOYCE (3:18 PM) —I would also like to take note of the answers given by Senator Carr and Senator Conroy in question time today. I must admit I concur thoroughly with Senator Conroy when he says that there will be some senators going back to their constituents this weekend to say ‘sorry’. But it will not be the coalition senators; it will be the Labor Party senators. If we are apologising at all, it will be for the indecent haste with which it has been attempted to put through this package. If you look at the number of emails that have come in, the number of phone calls that have come in, there is a small number that are saying, ‘Yes, give me the money.’ There are many saying: ‘I’m embarrassed. Why am I getting this money? I don’t need this money. There are plenty of people, like pensioners and the unemployed, who need this money more than I do.’ They are the ones who are going to be asking those opposite to apologise for spending a huge amount of money and for spending it in the areas that they are with so little notice of process as they go.

I was much amused by Senator Carr’s views on whether questions should be asked about the schools program. Why, he wondered, were we quizzing this package if we were not going to pass it? So we have the lovely double dip here from the government: do not query it, just pass it—oops, you are not going to pass it, so why query it? ‘Scrutiny? What’s that? We don’t want any.’ That is what this government is all about.

We have examples raised already by Senator Bob Brown about mistakes and errors in this package. If we are talking double dipping, let us look at some of the provisions that already involve double dipping. Parents who work part-time are quite likely to be eligible to receive the $950 twice. For students with jobs, there is also the possibility that a lot of them will be eligible to receive the $950 twice. Let us get this right. Let us look at this package with something that looks vaguely like scrutiny.

I was also quite interested to hear Senator Carr’s view about what happens in the real world. This is the same minister who boasted that he did not go to schools to find out what to do about computers; he went to the education departments. They were the ones who would know about computers. You do not have to go to a school to know what is happening in the real world, according to Senator Carr. We can see the result of that very poor research and that attitude in the very poor way, or the non-way, that the computers in schools program has been rolled out. What hope, what trust is there? That is certainly what P&Cs and schools are saying to us. What can we expect to be the reality of this program from a minister who does not understand what is really happening in the real world?

The problems go on and on. We have the suggestion that, for $14.7 billion, all 9,540 schools get a new hall or a new library. That is excellent for those that do not have one. That is excellent for those for whom this is a desperate priority. But of course they have not got a clue as to whether this is the case or not. Then we look at how this might be delivered in places like Queensland, by QBuild. This is a monopolistic government organisation described by Terry Sweetman in the Courier-Mail as ‘an organisation of monstrous inefficiency’. That comment was backed up just yesterday by talkback radio people who were quite keen on the idea of a schools package and quite keen on the idea of something that their schools actually want but who said that they do not want this delivered by an organisation universally regarded as ‘a costly, bureaucratic and inefficient monster’. This is yet another example of the poorly thought out results that you get when you try to bully legislation through the parliament. It is time that this government was brought to account.