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Wednesday, 26 May 2010
Page: 4193

Mr BIDGOOD (3:00 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Education, the Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and the Minister for Social Inclusion. Will the Deputy Prime Minister inform the House of any threats to schools receiving funding for trades training centres?

Ms GILLARD (Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion) —I thank the member for Dawson for his question. I understand that it is his birthday today—so happy birthday. The member for Dawson’s—

Opposition members interjecting—

Ms GILLARD —We are so pleased to see the good wishes flowing from the opposition as well. That is very generous and charitable of them. I am asked about threats to our 10-year $2.5 billion Trade Training Centres in Schools Program. This is a program that has been constantly vilified and misrepresented by the opposition. This is a program that is providing between half a million dollars and $1.5 million to each secondary school around the country in order to develop or refurbish a trade training centre facility.

We know the opposition struggle with the truth—the Leader of the Opposition has made that very clear on national television. The opposition have constantly claimed—and, indeed, interjections today have repeated these false claims—that somehow this program has been changed so that fewer schools are benefiting. That claim is, of course, 100 per cent untrue. I invite those opposite to check the policy documents that were released at the time of the budget reply when the Prime Minister was the opposition leader—in the days when someone giving the budget reply would actually talk about things in the budget. In those policy documents we talked about schools getting between half a million dollars and $1.5 million in funding and about schools having the option of working together to pool those funds for a bigger facility. So every time the opposition criticise that, they criticise the decision of school principals—a disgraceful thing to do.

This program has funded 230 projects in 732 schools. That is a total investment of $809.9 million. There are 135 projects underway, 13 trade training centres have been completed and 42 schools are already delivering new trade qualifications through their trade training centre funding—a great achievement, giving real skills for real jobs to Australian students.

In the budget reply, which was delegated from the Leader of the Opposition to the shadow Treasurer and finally to the shadow finance minister, the opposition announced that it was going to cut this program. That was a very, very disappointing announcement for those schools that had not yet had funding approved—schools that had hoped to get a trade training centre in the future. Those schools were now hearing that the program was going to be cancelled if the opposition were elected—that is, 1,800 schools that would have wanted to benefit that would not be able to benefit in that event. That is very bad for those schools.

But I have to inform the House that there is something even worse coming out of this cutback. On 5 November last year, 302 schools were approved for trade training centre funding, a total investment of $384.2 million. Those schools are approved for funding. They know they are getting their funding. They are making the arrangements for their trade training centre. Money is conveyed to those schools as they reach project milestones. There is money in the forward estimates so that those schools which have been approved for funding can get the funding they have been promised. It is this very money that the opposition say they are going to cut if elected. That means not just that schools which have not yet been approved would miss out but that schools which have been approved and are in the process of delivering their trade training centre would lose funding if the Leader of the Opposition and the Liberal Party were elected at the next election. This is a cut of a magnitude that would mean approximately 180 schools and 62,000 students missing out, even though they have been approved for funding—a disgraceful cut, pulling the rug out from under these schools.

At the conclusion of this answer, I will table a list of these schools by electorate and by state. I say to every member of this parliament that they should look at this list by electorate and by state and it will give them the names of the schools approved for funding that the Leader of the Opposition wants to cut.

Opposition members interjecting—

Ms GILLARD —They are approved for funding and the Leader of the Opposition wants to take their money away. No amount of interjecting will cover up that fact. Every member of the House should look at this list.

Members opposite have a choice here. They can back their school communities and schools that have been approved for funding, which are rolling out their trade training centres now, or they can back the Leader of the Opposition. They cannot back both. Each and every member of the opposition will have to make a choice, ‘Do I back my local schools approved for funding knowing that they are going to get those funds, or do I back the Leader of the Opposition?’ And member by member we will call them to answer that question.

Today I call the member for Dunkley to answer that question. He has not been a good supporter of the Leader of the Opposition and he will not be a supporter of the Leader of the Opposition after this. The member for Dunkley wrote to me about the Patterson River Secondary College trade training centre proposal. He said: ‘I believe the local community would benefit greatly from this project, which would help young people and future job seekers develop new or existing skills and improve their employment prospects. It is my pleasure to endorse this project. Please let me know if you require any further information in support of this excellent proposal.’

It was funded in round 2 for $19 million. It is a consortium involving a large number of schools. On this side of the House we want to deliver the $19 million that has been promised. The Leader of the Opposition wants to cut it. The member for Dunkley is the first member of the opposition that will need to make a public choice. Do you back the government and your local schools getting this funding or do you back your leader? You do not have the choice of both and you will need to make it publicly and on the record as will every member of the opposition. Mr Speaker, I table the list.

Mr Robb interjecting

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Goldstein is now warned.