Tuesday, 15 September 2009
Questions without Notice
Building the Education Revolution
My question is to the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Education, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations and Minister for Social Inclusion. I refer the minister to the Jerilderie Public School in my electorate of Farrer. After being told that their application under the Building the Education Revolution for an upgrade to their administration block and a new classroom had been approved, the school was informed last week that they would get only one classroom, costing $850,000. Does the minister agree with the view of the school’s P&C that, ‘To an untrained mind, $850,000 for one classroom seems ridiculously expensive’?
I thank the member for Farrer for her question. I note the fact that in this parliament she voted against the 116 schools in her electorate benefiting from 265 projects—total funding, in her electorate, of $128 million. She voted against every dollar of it, and she voted against every job that it would have supported. She is nodding her head in agreement: yes, she did vote against every dollar of it and, yes, she did vote against every job that it would have supported.
On the figures she has raised about one of the schools benefiting under Building the Education Revolution, I am happy to look at what the member for Farrer said, but I would issue these words of caution: when matters have been raised by the opposition in the past, we have frequently found that things asserted as facts are nowhere near facts. We have also frequently found, when we have tried to follow matters up with members of the opposition—or at least some of them—that they are more interested in making a political point than they are in getting matters resolved for their local schools. But you would expect that attitude to be on display by members of a political party that voted against the biggest school modernisation program in the nation’s—
Mr Speaker, on the point of order: the Deputy Prime Minister can certainly match it with anyone in this parliament. My concern is the slur that was put on the P&C, which are not represented in this parliament.
Can I say about the Building the Education Revolution program that the one thing we absolutely know is that P&Cs around the country support the biggest school modernisation program in the nation’s history. The political party in this parliament that stands on the sides of parents and citizens who support schools is the government.
Order! That is not a point of order. That is usually done at the end of the question. I think people would understand that, if we allowed that, it would be clearly interrupting the answer. I am not accusing the member for Farrer of that, I am just illustrating that it is more appropriate that that be done at the end of the response by the particular minister.
As I was saying, the political party in this parliament that is representing the views of parents who care about schools is the government. The political party that has set its face against the views of parents is that which voted against the biggest school modernisation program in the nation’s history. My reference to inaccuracies was a reference to members of the opposition who have come in this parliament from time to time and raised wholly inaccurate matters about Building the Education Revolution, and we have got very clear evidence of that. Can I say to the member for Farrer, who represents a—
Mr Speaker, I raise a point of order: standing order 90 on the imputation of improper motives. The Deputy Prime Minister has imputed that the opposition deliberately comes in here with false facts in relation to Building the Education Revolution. That is not correct. That is the imputation of improper motives.
Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I invite you to ask the minister to withdraw the imputation against the P&C at Jerilderie. It is very clear from the question that the statement about the money was from the P&C. The minister has imputed that that statement is false. She has slurred the—
Order! I am not in the position to give a critique about my interpretation of the answer. But even if the point being put to me by the Leader of the Opposition is factually true, there is no way in which the standing orders could demand me to ask the minister to withdraw. The standing orders refer to offensive remarks to members of this place and other listed people.
I know that members do not believe me when I make such statements as the following, but I have a little difficulty in actually knowing who makes some comments from that quarter. I warned the member for Solomon when it was clear that it was him.
Mr Speaker, on the points of order moved by the member for Mitchell and the Leader of the Opposition: the point is that the Deputy Prime Minister is imputing an improper motive to members of the opposition: that we come into the chamber and raise falsehoods under the auspices of questions. I would ask for that to be withdrawn.
Order! I have actually, then, misinterpreted the Leader of the Opposition’s point of order. The Leader of the Opposition spoke on behalf of the P&C. But I will take it that the Manager of Opposition Business is rising further to the member for Mitchell’s point of order. This is a question that has taxed my mind and the minds of my predecessors in the past, when general comments about groups of members have been made and there have been difficulties contained in those statements, and I stand by my ruling to the member for Mitchell.
Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. As the member of the House who has asked the most questions specifically about the failure of Building the Education Revolution, I personally take offence, and I ask you to ask her to withdraw.
Every parent group, every teacher and every principal works hard and has my respect in supporting local schools. Because of that respect and on the question of imputations, may I take the House to an email I received from Tony Shaw, Principal of Glen Park Primary School—and these are his words, not mine:
I have read and watched with some concern over the last few weeks the unprecedented attack on—
I have read and watched with some concern over the last few weeks the unprecedented attack on small rural schools by the Federal opposition in parliament and in some sections of the media.
In an attempt to discredit the Building the Education Revolution program they are calling into question the high quality education provided in small rural schools in a condescending and arrogant manner.
These are the words of a principal. He goes on to say:
The only handicap we face in the delivery of 21st century education to our students is the dilapidated condition of our school buildings. The BER not only provides a much appreciated economic boost to our local economy but it will provide us with a classroom that will finally match the innovative and cutting edge education provided within it.
I wonder if National Party politicians feel as adamant about small rural schools missing out on getting new classrooms as their Coalition partners. I think Prime Minister’s Fadden, Page and McEwen would be ‘turning in their graves’ if they do.
He goes on to say:
I support the BER as I’m sure all small school principals and their communities do. Of course with such a massive project there will be problems in implementation. (There was with Investing in Our Schools, the Howard Government’s school infrastructure improvement project) but the mean spirited attacks on small school principals, teachers, children, parents and rural/remote communities is—
No, the member for Warringah is being very, very foolish if he thinks that he is doing anything (a) to change the way that this House handles question time or (b) to assist in the way that the House, as a totality, is seen outside of this place. The member for Mackellar on a point of order.
Mr Speaker, my point of order is on relevance. If the minister’s remarks in reading out that letter are to be relevant to the question, she must show that this particular principal is in support of $850,000 being spilt at Jerilderie. Otherwise, it is totally out of order.
Order! I thank the member for Moncrieff. He has some advice he is willing to give by interjection—plenty of that goes on. There is no point of order. The Deputy Prime Minister has the call and she will bring her response to a finalisation.
I will, Mr Speaker. I conclude with his last few words that it is ‘mean spirited’ and:
… is a disgrace and it demeans those lone ignorant voices that persist in them.
These are the words of a principal and I table the email from that principal.
Can I conclude by saying that in the time the House has been in progress, the Liberal Party have updated its website about women. They can update their website but they cannot update their attitude quite so easily—a website two years out of date and attitudes stuck in the past with the dinosaurs. That is the Liberal Party.
Mr Speaker, I rise on a point of order. In answer to the member’s question, the Deputy Prime Minister said, as she has done on numerous occasions, that she would come back with an answer. I invite her to do so before the end of question time.