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Monday, 28 February 2011
Page: 1752

Mr CHEESEMAN (5:19 PM) —Having listened to the contribution made by the previous speaker, it certainly reminded me a lot of the type of language that One Nation often used. I wonder if a lot of his speech notes were indeed prepared by One Nation or perhaps the Tea Party from the Republican Party in the United States. It was quite a contribution that was not based on science but on the need for a good scare campaign.

Today I rise to make my contribution to Appropriation Bill (No. 3) 2009-2010 and Appropriation Bill (No. 4) 2010-201. I want to particularly focus my contribution on the whole issue of education, schools and preschool funding, which is critically important to not only my electorate but many other electorates across the nation. This is about funding for the future of our country. It is about providing opportunities for our future citizens and providing a skills base for our economy.

I want to talk particularly about an area in my electorate that has gone through tremendous growth, and that is the Surf Coast. The Surf Coast is typical of many electorates throughout Australia in that rapid population growth has been taking place over the last decade or so. We need all levels of government to come together to provide funding and policy development to ensure that we get the outcomes right not only in managing the growth but in providing those educational opportunities for all citizens within that area.

I have particular pleasure in acknowledging a group of parents within my electorate, the Save Our Schools group, which has been campaigning for the need for investment in Torquay, Jan Juc and Bellbrae to ensure that we provide educational opportunities for our young ones who are the future of our nation.

It has become apparent to those communities, particularly those parents, that the school sites within Torquay, Jan Juc and Bellbrae are at capacity or will reach capacity next year. Over the next three or four years, without further investment in education for those students in Jan Juc, Torquay and Bellbrae, we will have a situation where perhaps 500 families will need to travel into Geelong, some 30 kilometres away, to place their kids in primary education. This is particularly worrying. The Save Our Schools committee with assistance from my office has looked at the ABS statistics, and those 500 families can be identified by the growth projections within those statistics. We are particularly concerned by that.

Through the Building the Education Revolution, the Commonwealth made a very substantial investment into those schools. The capacity of those schools to take additional students was dramatically increased through the provision of new learning areas, new libraries and the like to cater for that growth. With such rapid population growth taking place on the Surf Coast, more funding will be required.

The current capacity of the Torquay College, Bellbrae and St Therese Catholic School, is 1,566 students. That is what those schools are designed to cater for. I believe the Torquay College is at absolute capacity at 480 students. Bellbrae has a maximum capacity of 350 and State Therese has a maximum capacity of 450. If you add those figures together, it is obvious that investment will be required in those schools.

As I said earlier, the ABS statistics on this are very enlightening. They predict the annual growth rate of primary age kids to be about 5.9 per cent—that is, 5.9 per cent growth this year, 5.9 per cent growth on top of that next year, and so on. You can very quickly see the challenge that our community needs to respond to.

The equation becomes more complex when you look at long day care and kindergarten. The reality is that those kindergartens and long day centres are also at or very close to capacity, and again that is very worrying for many parents. Many parents now have to travel into Geelong to access those kindergarten educational opportunities for their three-year-olds. It is clear that again we need the three levels of government to come to the table and address these very substantial growth challenges.

Over the last few years the Gillard government has been pumping an additional $210 million into improving kindergarten services as a part of what is close to a billion-dollar COAG reform agenda. That $210 million should be matched by the Victorian state government to ensure that we do give young people the opportunities they need, particularly in areas of substantial population growth like we have seen on the Surf Coast. In some instances that might require $200,000 or $300,000 to build an additional room onto the kindergarten to cater to that growth. That might be about the extent of the funding that is required. But in other areas where there has been substantial population growth over a significant period—and that population growth is going to continue into the foreseeable future—we need to work in an innovative way to ensure that we do develop a children’s services hub type of model where we bring together kindergartens, long day care, maternal health nurses and the like. Perhaps also the private sector could be brought onto that one site. Such sites would provide an integrated service for our communities.

I know many here have contributed to the whole debate on growth corridors. As a federal member who has been engaged in these issues in my community for the last four years, I know it is true to say that we do need in those instances to come together, to bring the three levels of government together and to ensure that we do drive good outcomes for our kids. Growth corridors and areas like the Surf Coast very much need the three levels of government working together. We have put $210 million on the table as a part of our COAG reform of kindergartens, we have put hundreds of millions of dollars into each and every electorate across this nation through the Building the Education Revolution—building new classrooms, new libraries, new learning spaces—and we need the Victorian government now to match that investment to ensure that we do provide in these growth corridors every opportunity for our young Australians.

As I mentioned earlier, the Torquay College community have come together and formed a community group called the Save Our School group. They are a group of women, predominantly, who have the best interests of their kids at heart. What they want to see is educational infrastructure capacity in Torquay dramatically increased over the next two or three years to ensure that kids are not going to school and being jammed in like sardines, which is very much where things are at the moment. They want certainty. They want the Victorian government to put on the table, in very clear and practical ways, what its plans are to deliver that certainty. They want a new primary school to service that growth corridor. They want a new children’s services hub to ensure that three- and four-year-olds can access kindergarten services and long day services. These are critical issues to the Torquay Surf Coast community.

Further to that, I would also like to commend the work of the City of Greater Geelong, who have undertaken a very innovative piece of work to look at their kindergarten services across their municipality. They have prioritised, as one, two or three, every service. They have done so to determine what needs to take place to meet growth within the zero to four age group, the kindergarten age group, within that community. What they have said is that there are some areas where a lot of investment will be required. They have been very clear about that. They have said that, in other areas, they will be able to meet demand through being flexible and creative and doing things such as perhaps providing kindergarten services on Saturdays. The nature of work has changed quite dramatically over the last 20 or 30 years and many parents now enjoy their weekends on a Monday and Tuesday. Perhaps the provision of kindergarten on a Saturday might be a flexible way to suit their lifestyles. There are areas where those sorts of things will be required and there are areas where the provision of $200,000 or $300,000 to build an additional space and engage an additional teacher will meet that demand.

I commit to working with the Save Our Schools community group. I commit to working for all parents across the Surf Coast to ensure that we do provide adequate infrastructure for kindergarten and for schools. I think these issues are very important and I look forward to working, over the years to come, to ensure that investment goes into that very substantial growth corridor.