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Computers in schools still a shambles.

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Wed, 28th January 2009

COMPUTERS IN SCHOOLS STILL A SHAMBLES The Hon Christopher Pyne MP Shadow Minister for Education, Apprenticeships and Training

The Rudd Government’s announcement of a “supplementary” new round of funding is an embarrassing fig leaf to cover Minister Gillard’s shame at her Computers in Schools program, according to Shadow Education Minister Christopher Pyne.

“This program has been a shambles from the start:

- As an election promise it was $1 billion to give a computer to every student in Australia.

- At Budget time last year that became a $1.2 billion program, and the Government started using weasel words like “access to a computer” as if they wouldn’t be held to account to their promise of a computer on every desk.

- In its first year computers were allocated to less than 10% of public schools in Australia, and many schools that were promised computers mid-year had still not received them when their students left for Christmas.

- Freedom of Information applications and Estimates hearings forced the Government to reveal that the program was under-funded by several billions of dollars because it hadn’t occurred to Minister Gillard that giving someone a computer without software, networking or IT support is pointless. The Minister tried to pass these costs on to the states.

- The states refused to pay for Minister Gillard’s mess. New South Wales withdrew from the program altogether, and other states threatened to follow suit.

- Finally at COAG Minister Gillard was forced to offer an extra $800 million, bringing total costs to $2 billion.

“Now we see that with the Round 2 promises of Computers, and even after the new ‘supplementary’ round is complete, the Government will still be trying to bring schools to a ratio of one computer for every two students.

“When Kevin Rudd stood up at a national press conference before the election, laptop in one hand and microphone in the other, and promised all Australian parents he would provide a computer for their child they took him at his word.

“What is becoming increasingly apparent was that he made that promise with no understanding of the costs involved. Computers are important but so are the programs that have been cancelled to pay for this out of control spendathon - such as the popular Investing In Our Schools program that the Rudd Government has refused to renew.

“Julia Gillard should have been on top of these issues. Instead, between her day job of being Acting Prime Minister whenever Kevin Rudd is away and her secondary job of being Minister for Industrial Relations, she seems to be paying scant regard to her third part time job as Minister for Education.

“Computers in Schools has been an embarrassment from day one. It is time for Minister Gillard to step aside so the Government can appoint a full time Education Minister who is on top of the detail of their portfolio.”

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