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BER shambles rolls on: too much, too late

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Senator Brett Mason Shadow Minister for Universities and Research Liberal Senator for Queensland

BER shambles rolls on - too much, too late 21/10/10

The Building the Education Revolution program is running significantly behind schedule, with almost half of $16.2 billion dollars of the supposed “stimulus” money still unspent, long after the threat of a recession has passed, according to Senator Brett Mason, Shadow Minister for Universities and Research.

“It’s not just the colossal mismanagement and waste of taxpayers’ money that makes the Building the Education Revolution (BER) program such an embarrassment for the Gillard Government,” said Senator Mason.

“It’s the fact that construction work on projects will be going well into 2011 if not beyond, in some cases years past the original deadlines. It’s also the fact that the financial stimulus which was supposed to save Australia from the recession did not actually start to flow into the economy until the end of 2009, and will continue to flow well into 2011/12, almost five years after the Global Financial Crisis began.

“All that money is now having an inflationary effect, pushing costs and prices up, crowding out private construction investment, and generally having an opposite effect on the economy to what was intended.

“I’ve learned just how bad the situation with the BER is when I questioned the Education Department officials about it.

“Of the ‘school halls’ program (Primary Schools for the 21st Century) so far only 30 per cent, or 3,114, of 10,697 projects under all three rounds have been completed, with only five months to go before the original deadline for completion of all last round of projects expires on 31 March 2011.

“In some states, like Victoria, only 20 per cent of projects have been reported as being completed. Nation-wide, thousands of projects are running behind schedule and are being granted time extensions to original deadlines by the Federal Government to maintain the illusion that everything is progressing well. This is just moving political goal-posts.

“The evidence from the Education Department is that the education authorities have spent so far only $9.8 billion of $16.2 billion. That means 40 per cent of all the “stimulus” BER funding still remains unspent, three years after the Global Financial Crisis. The percentage is even greater for the ‘school halls’ program.

“All this goes to show that the program has not been well designed from the start. Instead of providing a ‘timely’ and ‘temporary’ stimulus, it’s pumping too much money too late into the economy, wasting billions of taxpayers’ money.”