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Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Page: 26

Ms VAMVAKINOU (3:55 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion. What is the Rudd Labor government doing to stimulate the Australian economy through the rebuilding of Australian school infrastructure?

Ms GILLARD (Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion) —I thank the member for Calwell for her question. I know she is deeply interested in education and the circumstances of schools in her electorate. Each and every day since the Rudd Labor government was elected we have been delivering an education revolution, including $2 billion for the Digital Education Revolution, $2½ billion for Trade Training Centres in Schools and more than $60 million to support cooperative projects between schools.

Today we move to a new phase, with a $14.7 billion investment in Building the Education Revolution. This is an investment in all 9,540 schools in this country. Primary schools will be invested in under our Primary Schools for the 21st Century program. I understand that the Leader of the Opposition might mock that title, but I can assure him that it is not very funny for those teachers and students who work in the 19th century facilities that they were left with after the 12 long years of the Howard government. Primary Schools for the 21st Century covers primary schools, special schools and combined primary and secondary schools, and schools will be able to get grants to build the new learning spaces that they need, particularly 21st century libraries and 21st century multipurpose areas for performing arts, assemblies and indoor gymnasiums. These are the things that schools are crying out for. This investment enables schools to get the assistance they need, and depending on school size the amount of assistance can be up to $3 million.

Then there is our Science and Language Centres for 21st Century Secondary Schools program, enabling the construction of 500 new science laboratories or language learning centres—of course, key skills for the 21st century, where you need 21st century infrastructure. Then there is the Renewing Australia’s Schools program, a $1.3 billion program to refurbish and renew infrastructure in schools—for the maintenance and small projects that schools need. Under this program schools will be able to receive up to $200,000, depending on their size. This is building an education revolution in each and every school in this country. In addition, we are bringing forward an extra $110 million as part of our very successful Trade Training Centres in Schools Program to enable secondary schools to have access to 21st century facilities to learn trades so that students can choose that life path and not be forced, as they were under the Howard government, to learn in facilities better suited to the 1950s than the 21st century.

We are investing directly in the formation of skills during this global financial crisis. In particular we are investing more than a billion dollars in our training and learning bonus. This investment is to give assistance to eligible students, such as people who have youth allowance as a benefit, to enable them to be compensated for the costs of education. In addition, it enables eligible social security recipients to receive a one-off payment to enable them to meet the costs of returning to study. We know that continuing to train and continuing to form skills during economic days such as these is very important. The history of past economic times has told us that if there is a lack of skills and training then, inevitably, when the economy grows that leads to skills shortages. We want to avoid that cycle by maximising our training effort in these difficult days.

Mr Pyne interjecting

Ms GILLARD —I know, and now the shadow minister for education is verifying this, that the sort of attitude the Liberal Party will bring to this will be one of contempt and mockery. We have already seen the Leader of the Opposition start that. The school children in schools across the country, the teachers who teach there, the principals that lead them and the parents who send their children to those new facilities will be looking forward to these new investments as part of an education revolution because they want their children to get the very best education possible, and this infrastructure is part of delivering it.

Mr Pyne —You have not even got computers in schools!

The SPEAKER —Order! The member for Sturt is warned.