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Key Rudd Government adviser slams Labor's 'missed opportunity' on sustainability attributes in school modernisation program.

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Thu, 11th June 2009

Key Rudd Government adviser slams Labor’s ‘missed opportunity’ on sustainability attributes in school modernisation program

The Hon Bruce Billson MP Shadow Minister for Sustainable Development and Cities

The Rudd Government has ignored calls from the Coalition, industry groups, education unions and its own hand-picked advisers to ensure that stimulus package capital works incorporate best practice sustainability and environmental attributes.

One of the Prime Minister’s own hand picked infrastructure advisers and Curtain University’s Sustainability Institute head, Professor Peter Newman, has described the lack of commitment to embrace sustainability innovation in the Rudd Government’s template-approach to school buildings as a ‘missed opportunity’.

In February the Coalition called on the Rudd Government to ensure that capital works spending in our schools and public building had sustainability attributes embedded as mandatory requirements.

Of further concern are examples of Government officials pressuring school communities into accepting ‘knock down and rebuild’ proposals as stimulus projects, that offer no additional teaching and learning facilities and ignore the sustainability advantages of re-using existing structures for which emissions and energy have already been expended.

When school communities argue for a refurbishment of existing buildings and the redirection of the funding saved into new facilities, they are being told ‘no - take the knock down and rebuild template’ or miss out.

The Rudd Government is clearly not ‘for real’ about practical emission reductions opportunities, re-using existing buildings with embedded energy and emissions and a more sustainable built environment.

Last year the Coalition highlighted how the Rudd Government has failed to incorporate key sustainability goals within its National Rental Affordability Scheme, but Labor chose to relegate sustainability to an after-thought and gave it ‘optional extra’ status within the scheme’s guidelines.

And despite the clear calls for action to embed sustainability principles in stimulus package capital works, the Rudd Government has again shown its lack of commitment and interest.

This is not good enough and the Rudd Government continues to overlook sustainability improvement opportunities in its decision making and policy design. The Australian Government should be leading by example and insisting that new school buildings at least include sustainability features that are well in reach and are entirely viable, readily accessible and ready-to-deploy.

Improved sustainability and building performance achieved through proper design, leading construction techniques and appliance selection is the type of additional public policy dividend a genuinely interested Commonwealth Government would secure for taxpayer funded capital works.