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Monday, 23 February 2009
Page: 1532

Mr ROBERT (7:31 PM) —With the greatest respect for the member for Petrie, this motion is farcical in the extreme. There is no way the Rudd government can be congratulated for delivering a so-called education revolution. This revolution is beached and destroyed on the Bay of Pigs, where all revolutions end up. The Prime Minister stood there and said that Labor will undertake a groundbreaking reform by providing every Australian secondary school student in years 9 to 12 with access to their own computer at school—campaign launch, 14 November 2007. Well, 15 months in, my electorate has got five. It is not five schools; it is five computers. Now, that is a groundbreaking reform!

Labor committed $1.2 billion to the program over five years in the May budget. Yet recent announcements have added almost $1 billion to it—a 66 per cent cost blow-out—and the member for Petrie wants the chamber to stand up and congratulate the Rudd government for a fantastic rollout of computers. If a Howard government minister had dared to have the temerity to have a 66 per cent blow-out, a billion dollars, he or she would have been sacked on the spot. The centrepiece of this dudded education revolution is massively underfunded and the program is incomplete free fall. Departmental figures released under freedom of information demonstrate that to deliver on Labor’s election promise of one computer for every child in years 9 to 12 the whole program may well cost more than $5 billion, based on figures showing that the states were going to have to commit $3.27 for every federal dollar under the original $1.2 billion program. If those figures hold true, that is a blow-out in effect of 400 per cent. Labor’s $2 billion spend, though, has also cunningly been reworded to say that they will give a computer for every second student, using words like access to a computer rather than a computer for every student—a clear breach of an election promise.

The program has been plagued from the start by disagreement between the Commonwealth and the states as the Rudd government’s financial support for the computers did not extend to installation, software, networking, IT support or indeed any of the other on-costs for running computers. Instead, those on-costs were conveniently passed on to the states. That is ironic, because in my state of Queensland the Labor government has racked up $74 billion worth of debt. I can only assume the other Labor states are doing the same thing.

Round 1 of the program that was finalised late last year provided computers for less than 10 per cent of public schools in Australia. New South Wales has withdrawn from round 2 of the program. The South Australian and ACT governments have said they will use the new computers to replace old computers rather than increasing the number of computers in schools. The Western Australian government has threatened to withdraw from the program unless the program’s guidelines are sorted out.

The 66 per cent blow-out is a complete and utter failure. There is no other word that can be used. Prime Minister Rudd used the laptop held aloft as the ‘toolbox of the 21st century’—a great ploy and a con to get elected. But if you look at the rate at which computers are being rolled out it is unbelievable. If the rest of the program will be delivered at the same speed as round 1 of the program, it will take 10 to 20 years to roll out to every single secondary student between year 9 and year 12. Unfortunately, the children of Australia cannot afford to wait for Kevin 07, and with the grand total of five computers rolled out in Fadden—not five schools, five computers rolled out—we will be waiting past when we all pass away from this green earth for Labor’s education revolution to deliver anything for the Gold Coast.

Far from adopting, agreeing and indeed supporting the member for Petrie’s motion to congratulate the Rudd Labor government, I stand here and condemn the government for a con and a farce, and a deception on the children of Australia.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER (Hon. DGH Adams)—Order! The time for this debate has expired. The debate is adjourned and the resumption of the debate will be made an order of the day for the next sitting.