GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS (INFRASTRUCTURE REGISTER) BILL 2007
Agreement in Principle
Debate resumed from 25 October 2007.
Mr JONATHAN O'DEA
(Davidson) [10.00 a.m.]: The Government Schools (Infrastructure Register) Bill would require the Director General of the Department of Education and Training to keep a register of government school assets, including all buildings and demountables. The register would comprise school status reports that outline the status of the capital assets of government schools and three-yearly school building plans for building and maintenance works in those schools. These reports would be tabled in the New South Wales Parliament and made available to the public on the departmental website. The announcement in this year's budget of an additional $120 million for school maintenance over four years was not surprising. It reflected the enormous damage created by the New South Wales Government in relation to school maintenance issues after years of neglect.
In 2005 the Auditor-General identified a $115 million maintenance backlog. Professor Tony Vinson called for an additional $90 million in maintenance payments each year over two years. I also understand that in real terms funding from the New South Wales Government is still less than the 1999-2000 year level of funding to the Department of Education and Training for public schools and colleges. Last year the President of the New South Wales Teachers Federation said:
Whilst the Federation welcomes the additional money, it is well overdue. The fact that it is over a four year period is disappointing. Why should children have to wait four years for overdue maintenance work which forms the maintenance backlog?
Earlier in this debate the member for Macquarie Fields suggested that the bill proposed by the Leader of The Nationals would require some 44,000 pages to be loaded onto the education department's website at an annual cost of over $500,000. At first I thought that such a figure was ridiculously over-inflated but, given Labor's record of mismanagement, it is entirely possible that an inefficient education bureaucracy quoted such a figure. When I investigated where such figures might have come from I found the same figures quoted in a similar debate over 2½ years ago in the other place. Perhaps it is not surprising that the Government recycles the same old questionable figures. Perhaps it is also not surprising—
Order! All members who wish to speak will be given the call at the appropriate time. The member for Davidson has the call.
Mr JONATHAN O'DEA:
Perhaps it is also not surprising that New South Wales Labor is still talking about paper-based approaches when most significant service delivery organisations in New South Wales have generally moved to electronic records and systems. I caution the member for Macquarie Fields, whom I believe to be a decent man, not to blindly trust backroom Labor hacks. I have no doubt that a Coalition government would deliver the target outcomes under this bill far more cost effectively and utilise technology to much better effect than this tired, old, lazy Labor Government.
Mr Thomas George:
Lazy, lazy, lazy!
Mr JONATHAN O'DEA:
Indeed, it is lazy. While private sector business operations continue to strive to do more with less, this Government continues to demonstrate a record of doing less with more. It is clear that rather than spending money this year on a worthwhile initiative, such as a public schools register, the Labor Government has higher priorities—like spending up to a reported $500,000 on a new office suite for its New South Wales environment Minister. In contrast, the Liberal Leader of the Opposition, in his reply to the Budget Speech, committed the next Coalition government to allocate immediately $2 billion from a proposed state infrastructure fund for the renewal of this State's public schools, which was on top of the usual capital allocation for education. As the Leader of the Opposition said:
Our obligation to future generations demands no less.
We need to build better for tomorrow and not remain stuck in the past, resisting sensible change. Many Coalition members have either attended or sent their own children to public schools, as I do. Public education is an essential government service and its teachers and school communities deserve proper support and financial assistance from the Government and our parliamentary representatives. It was disappointing to hear the member for Fairfield, the Minister leading for the Government on this bill, make absurd, immature and, quite frankly, offensive assertions that Opposition members never support public education. As we shall see later, it is hardly surprising that the member for Strathfield repeated that silly claim. In contrast, I am happy to recognise that the Government cares about public schools. However, the Government's actions suggest that it cares more about itself than the proper management of public school assets.
This Government is obsessed with spin rather than substance. Today Premier Iemma is a product of a school that no longer exists. This New South Wales Labor Government demolished Narwee High School just six years ago. If it keeps on its current track of this old school approach, the Government will self-destruct. The Premier and his Government are a liability and an impediment to the proper management of all public school assets in New South Wales. In addition to the Premier's alma mater, this Government has similarly demolished or tried to close other public schools, including Beacon Hill High School, which is located in the electorate of Wakehurst. That seat adjoins my electorate of Davidson and my local Labor opponent in the State election who was from Beacon Hill made clear statements against the school's closure.
This is yet another example of empty Labor words with a lack of equivalent action by the Labor Party in government. Catholic and independent schools should likewise be wary of Labor's recent words federally, assuring them of support. In introducing this bill the Leader of The Nationals showed determination for a good education cause taken up earlier by the member for North Shore and now Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party. In his speech Mr Stoner properly acknowledged his Liberal colleague. Even the member for Strathfield recognised that in her speech and said:
I acknowledge the Leader of The Nationals' moment of honesty, albeit sparse. At least he is not trying to pass off this bill as all his own work.
She then said that she would prefer it if he had "a few ideas of his own". The sheer irony and astounding hypocrisy of her words is revealed when we look at a speech delivered a month earlier in the same debate by the member for Fairfield. He said:
I acknowledge the Leader of The Nationals' moment of honesty. At least he is not trying to pass off this bill as all his own work. However, I would prefer if he got some ideas of his own.
This was not just a minor incidence of technical plagiarism or general imitation; the speech of the member for Strathfield is littered with direct plagiarism from the earlier speech on this bill delivered by the member for Fairfield. Material of substantive length is copied virtually verbatim without attribution. Most of her speech in this twice-adjourned debate was a slightly reordered repeat of the speech delivered by her Labor colleague one month earlier. I emphasise that we are not talking about introductory comments or just a few sentences; her speech contains many large chunks of blatant and direct plagiarism. This speech from the member for Strathfield demonstrates a lack of care that is becoming a trademark of this lazy Labor Government.
Mr Thomas George:
Lazy, lazy, lazy!
Mr JONATHAN O'DEA:
Indeed, it is lazy. I further question her sense of judgment in wanting to copy the member for Fairfield in the first place. Maybe she is just a bad Judge. And anyone would have to be pretty desperate to model themselves on Joe Tripodi. We are hearing too many "me tooisms" from Labor with Kevin Rudd copying John Howard's policies. Here too is a political party so bereft of ideas that now they are plagiarising each other, with Labor's "me tooism" disease spreading internally in this lazy Labor Government. Christmas is not far away and, yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. However, despite the potential physical similarity, he is not Joe Tripodi.
Who really wrote the speeches that the member for Strathfield and the member for Fairfield delivered? It was probably neither of them. What is even worse is that the plagiarist, the member for Strathfield, is a former teacher and the current Parliamentary Secretary Assisting the Minister for Education and she was speaking on a government schools bill. I asked my 10-year-old son what would happen if a school student submitted an essay or project that was mostly a direct copy from another student in the same class. He told me that they would receive the same grade—a fail. What sort of example is this Labor Government setting to our New South Wales schoolchildren? In September 2003 the then New South Wales Minister for Education and Training, Dr Andrew Refshauge, responded to a question about plagiarism, and said:
The potential for plagiarism to cause serious damage is enormous and must be headed off.
He went on to say:
Cheats have no place in our universities, schools and TAFEs, and we intend to do all we can to eliminate plagiarism in our educational institutions.
We should eliminate plagiarists from Parliament as well. The member for Marrickville may care to listen to this. In November 2006 the then New South Wales Minister for Education and Training, Carmel Tebbutt, issued a press release announcing a new compulsory online course in the fight against cheating and plagiarism. The New South Wales Board of Studies developed the new course, called "HSC: All My Own Work", for years 10 and 11 students to help them understand the principles and practices of ethical research and use of information. The Parliamentary Secretary Assisting the Minister for Education, the member for Strathfield, should study this course herself. She should also apologise to the New South Wales education sector and this House for her intellectually and ethically unacceptable conduct.
Ms Carmel Tebbutt:
Point of order: We have allowed the member for Davidson a fair degree of latitude with regard to relevance, but he is now straying way outside the leave of the bill.
Order! I uphold the point of order. I ask the member for Davidson to return to the leave of the bill.
Mr JONATHAN O'DEA:
I recently asked a written question through the Deputy Premier as the relevant Minister in this House representing the Minister for Education and Training. I asked what public schools in the Davidson electorate have outstanding maintenance work requests, what the work was, and when it was scheduled for completion. The response basically said that the program of maintenance works was currently being prepared and that the Department of Education and Training would advise schools of maintenance works scheduled for completion once the program had been finalised. This answer suggests management incompetence, or an inability to answer clear questions, or an unwillingness to be accountable to Parliament, or a determination not to be properly transparent in allocating resources, or a combination of all those things. [Extension of time agreed to.
Why will the Government not readily publish the current list of outstanding school maintenance works? I have now re-asked essentially the same question on notice and would appreciate a proper answer. Government members in this debate have told us that school maintenance information is already recorded in the department's asset management system. Why is this information not available? Has the Parliament been misled? I doubt that public schools in my electorate of Davidson receive their fair share of capital and maintenance funding. One local school has demountable classrooms that are over 50 years old, dating back to just after World War II. Another local school was told it had to raise its own funds to clear a blocked underground drain. Given the New South Wales Government's lack of transparency, it is reasonably open to people in Sydney's north to ask whether New South Wales Labor in part discriminates against them based on a perceived ability to pay, as we now know occurs with Royal North Shore Hospital? Exactly what criteria are involved in school funding allocations for capital works and maintenance under Labor? The public deserves transparency.
In conclusion, I ask: What are some of the main benefits of this proposed legislation? There would be cost savings from increased efficiencies in management practices; there would be improved confidence from relevant stakeholders in the public education system; and there would be better adherence to good governance principles, such as accountability and transparency. On any reasonable cost-benefit analysis the Government should support the bill, rather than continually trying to hide its mismanagement and underperformance as custodians of our valuable public assets.
Mr PHILLIP COSTA
(Wollondilly) [10.16 a.m.]: I have deliberately kept away from the debate on the Government Schools (Infrastructure Register) Bill because my serial number is still current: I have just left the school system after having been a school principal for 24 years. I understand the issues that are being raised in this debate and I therefore want to address a few key points.
First, I suggest that some of the members opposite who have spoken on the bill should find out what goes on in schools, so they are able to understand what happens in schools now and what is available in schools now. I can only speak from my personal experience as a principal in the public sector for 24 years, but I am aware of the work principals have to do in relation to school maintenance. I draw members' attention to one very important aspect. The bill proposes the establishment of an infrastructure register in relation to government schools. Who do members opposite think will do the work in providing the information for such a register? Establishing an infrastructure register would simply throw another administrative task to a principal who is already doing that task. The principals of our schools across the State would simply be given another task because of some other agenda.
A condition assessment is done every year. When I was a school principal, every year someone came to the school with their computer, and they walked around the school with me and we assessed the maintenance requirements of the school. That condition assessment was then re-prioritised, every year, and then funds were made available to do the work we could afford to do that year. A school maintenance register is already kept. It could be better resourced; there is no question about that. We are all doing our best in that regard. For example, I intend to discuss with the Minister for Education and Training ways of improving the system. But it is outrageous to propose the creation of a system that is already taking place.
Secondly, the proposed infrastructure register relates to the status of buildings on school sites, the number of demountables, the number of permanent classrooms, and school building and maintenance plans. Principals already collate that information and it is readily available. When I was a principal I shared both the maintenance schedule and the future planning schedule for the school with my entire school community. The most important people who need to know what is going on in terms school maintenance and planning are the local community members, the mums and dads of the children who go to the schools. No-one else really needs to know that information. At the end of the day, the Government's responsibility is to help communities resource schools so that principals and teachers can get on with the job they are paid to dothat is, educate our young people.
Last weekend, for example, I had the pleasure of announcing that a brand-new school will be built in my electorate at Wilton, which does not have a school. It is nice to see that we are building new schools. We look forward to the development of this project as part of a partnership program between the private sector and the Government. One of the most important and successful elements of good education is strong leadership. Our school principals need our support; they should not be given more unnecessary administrative and bureaucratic work that they are already undertaking effectively.
I will not apologise for my defence of education because I agree that we have to find resources to help our schools. My strong and personal view is that the more we put towards our public schools, the better. Of course, funds could be directed towards school maintenance—I have worked in schools that were built in 1901 and needed much maintenance work, however, such work requires an enormous amount of money and there are more than 2,000 schools across the State. Service, confidence and accountability from our public schools already are captured in an existing system. Additional burdens should not be imposed on school principals. Their one particular focus is to lead educational outcomes in their schools, not drive additional administrative services introduced by someone with another agenda. Leave our schools alone and let them get on with the job. We already have a system that works. No doubt that system certainly needs resourcing because there is no end to how much support can be given to schools. I do not support this bill.
Mr ANDREW CONSTANCE
(Bega) [10.21 a.m.]: I support the Government Schools (Infrastructure Register) Bill 2007. I should like to acknowledge the significant honesty of the member for Wollondilly in his comments about the state of public schools and their dealings with the Department of Education and Training. As he said, it goes without saying that better resourcing of our schools is required. I commend the member for Wollondilly for having the decency to stand up in this place as a member of the Government and tell it as it is. One reason the Leader of The Nationals introduced this bill was to improve the openness and transparency with school communities regarding plans for maintenance of school buildings within a school community.
If I have to disagree with anything the member for Wollondilly said, it is that this requirement is not to be placed on school principals. Rather, the bill states that the requirement is on the school planners—the education planners in this State—starting with the director general. The bill seeks to establish a requirement for the Director General of the Department of Education and Training to keep an infrastructure register in relation to government schools. I would hope the director general has an overall snapshot of what happens with public schools, but Moruya High School is a great example of the practical implications this bill is trying to achieve. A number of years ago I met with the former education Minister, now the member for Marrickville, together with the Moruya High School Parents and Citizens Association. It is pleasing to hear that only last week that school community was advised that its high school has been nominated for priority status to have conceptual planning undertaken for a new capital works program at the school.
It would be terrific if the school community received certainty about the funding of the project as well as a clear indication from the top of the department that this work will commence as quickly as possible and be completed within a reasonable time frame. This capital works program will include the construction of a new library as well as the establishment of a permanent special education unit and the installation of a two-module staff study. Of course, as always with these types of projects, funding is from a combination of Federal and State governments. We hear the nasty comments from the State Government that this side of the House—the Liberal Party and The Nationals—do not care about public education. That is wrong. No greater example can be shown of the commitment of the Liberal Party and The Nationals to education than by these significant funding contributions to public school developments.
Only two weeks ago the Federal Liberal Government announced $2 billion for the stage three upgrade of Bega High School, after already having contributed a significant proportion of funding for the work that has been rolled out over the past few years. No doubt the nomination of Moruya High School for priority status means that it too will receive a significant component of Federal funding. Time and again we see the State Labor Government out in the community through local media statements telling communities, "Look at all this fantastic work we are doing," but those projects are being funded by the Federal Liberal Government. Some honesty about funding from the State Labor Government would not go astray. Hopefully then we would see more openness and transparency regarding proposals for school buildings and their maintenance.
We are all aware of school maintenance problems in this State. It has been identified in many reports. Is it being addressed? No. By introducing this legislation we seek to ensure that not only do we keep a register, but that it is open and available for the community to digest and will keep this Government honest and accountable through every step. The Moruya High School Parents and Citizens Association and staff were the catalyst for the Department of Education and Training taking action to improve the school. It is unacceptable that in some schools throughout this State students refuse time and again to use the toilets because of the condition of those facilities. It is unacceptable that school students are being taught in storage rooms. Despite these continuing problems this State has wonderful public education built on wonderful teachers, wonderful students and wonderful school communities, but they are being let down in basic services.
Our school communities are being let down by government failing to ensure appropriate school building infrastructure and resources to enable ultimate achievements and opportunities within public education to be fulfilled. No doubt the Moruya High School community is pleased that some action will be taken, but we are not there yet. The department is yet to finalise its priority across the State regarding the positioning of this vital project. A permanent special education unit will be so vital for the future of Moruya High School, a school that presently has a couple of demountable buildings and unacceptable toilet facilities. It is unacceptable that public schools lack adequate staffrooms to help fulfil the environment we all hope for our public schoolchildren.
A number of other schools will benefit should this bill be passed. Bega West Public School is classified as being on a temporary site because the school currently is located next to the route designated for the Bega bypass. As a result of the school being on a temporary site, the Government is failing to invest in basic infrastructure. The Minister is aware of this. The Minister is aware of the petitions and the publicity. It is time the Government had a change of heart in relation to Bega West Public School. The demountables on site are close to 25 years of age and are in an appalling state.
To top it off, instead of bringing new demountables on site, given the disgusting condition that they are in, the Government has decided to build a shed over the top of the demountables to stop the rain leaking in. Rather than replace the demountables, the Government will build covers over the top of demountables to provide a dry environment for our schoolchildren to learn in when it is raining. What is this State coming to if we cannot get the basics right? I agree with the member for Wollondilly that we have to invest more into public education. We have to invest more into school maintenance and infrastructure. To be putting sheds and covers over demountables is just extraordinary. There are other basic problems at Bega West Public School, including much-needed upgrades not only of classrooms but also of the library, the staffroom and those types of things.
The Government needs to talk more closely with the school communities in Bega. In the future Bega West Public School and Bega Public School might have to engage in a debate about whether both schools should be relocated into the one public school site. Unfortunately, that debate needs to take place. Like any member in this Chamber, I understand the close affiliation and love that individual school communities have with their school. There might be an opportunity to look at a greenfield site. There might be an opportunity to look at the building of a brand-new public school for Bega given the growth in the area, both in relation to the new regional hospital that is being built and the proposed civic development. Bega is going to grow. However, while we continue to have a school that is on a temporary sitewith no openness and accountability in relation to school maintenance or school buildingsthere remains a significant problem for the school community moving forward. The conditions of the school are appalling. We continue to see ongoing problems at Bega West Public School, as we do with many schools in country areas. I refer to appropriate air conditioning and the like.
Another school in my electorate that would benefit from the passing of this bill is Batemans Bay High School. That school was promised a demountable in May and there is still no indication as to when it will be on site. School communities want assurance from the department and the Minister that these actions will be undertaken. What better way to ensure that that occurs than by having an appropriate register in place that keeps the key decision-makers within the bureaucracy honest and keeps school communities informed? There is no doubt that school communities should be entitled to that information. Instead of politics dictating the show, instead of marginal seats held by the Labor Government receiving greater attention, it is time for us to have legislation such as this to enable communities to keep the decision-makers within the department open and honest.
I take on board what the member for Wollondilly said in relation to school principals, their workload and administration. This information is about bureaucracy being open and accountable. The member for Wollondilly knows only too well how frustrating it is for school principals to deal with the department and get things through. The principals in my electorate certainly are frustrated. I can only assume that other members would agree that on occasion there seems to be a disconnect between the asset management unit of the department and school communities. Time and again Parents and Citizens' Associations go public to get the department to jump. We see story after story in the mainstream press and hear story after story on talkback radio. Parents ring in about things that should not be happening but are happening, such as raw sewage flowing down school ovals. Those sorts of things are happening because there is no appropriate planning.
I also take on board the point made by the member for Wollondilly that we could put more and more money into education. That should be occurring, but it has to be well managed. The best way to manage it is to have a clear direction from within the department as to how the assets should be managed. That is what this bill is about. The key is for the Government to join with the Opposition to ensure that this bill passes. If it does not do so the Government is sending a clear message about openness and transparency. There is no doubt that school communities will continue to lobby hard. I have referred to a number of examples in my electorate of Bega. Moruya High School wants more information from the department as to timeframes. It wants to find out when two promised demountables will arrive on site. I hope they arrive by the end of the year in preparation for term one of 2008. Batemans Bay High School needs its demountable as quickly as possible. Overall, having such a register in place will be of great benefit to school communities across the State.
Mr DAVID HARRIS
(Wyong) [10.36 a.m.]: Like the member for Wollondilly, I was a principal, but not for as long as he was. I was a principal for 18 years. Last year I finished my role as principal of the Kariong Primary School. I too have an intricate knowledge of how maintenance works in schools. The perception that the Government is doing nothing all the time needs to be cleared up. That perception is clearly not true. The way the system works, as the member for Wollondilly outlined, is that each year the school is approached by the regional assets people from the department. They come to the school and they walk around it with the principal. I always used to include my community in that process so it had a direct input into the asset and maintenance issues that needed attention. We were then able to prioritise the most important things that needed to be fixed.
As part of that process—this needs to be understood—there are always priorities in schools in regard to maintenance because they are places where children learn and teachers work. Schools are open to the weather and the conditions that affect all sorts of buildings, just as they do in any business or workplace. As part of the process the regional assets team prioritises the needs across the region. It may bethis is where the register would not work if it were made publicthat although something comes up one year there is a bigger priority the next year, so it changes. It is not a stagnant process; it is very fluid. Priorities change. As a principal I always informed my community if things we had asked for were put off for a little while. We understood that there was a bigger priority somewhere else.
In my electorate of Wyong we have had five new or redeveloped schools over the last five years. That is in recognition of the growth in the area and in recognition of the growing and changing needs of the children in the area. I am pleased to inform the House that near where I live the Hamlyn Terrace Public School will be completed in mid 2008 to replace the old Warnervale Public School. The project is a public-private partnership and represents very good initiative by the Government. That project is proof that the Government is taking action to provide maintenance and new schools, and to ensure that students, teachers and parents have good facilities for learning. The Opposition gives no credit for that whatsoever and that is very dishonest.
Based on my experience as a former principal, one of the worries I have about a public register is that some people in the media, the community and the Opposition like to use such information to attack public education. A number of people deny that that is their motivation and claim that it is not true, but parents who are considering schools in which to enrol their children might give undue weight to maintenance issues listed on a public register. We should bear in mind that all schoolsnew and oldhave maintenance issues and improvements that need to be undertaken. There will always be a list of maintenance tasks that need to be undertaken.
Parents who access an online maintenance register and focus on a particular school might see a long list of maintenance tasks to be completed, but the improvements might range from minor tasks to reasonably sized tasks. The result might be that the parents, having been influenced by the school's maintenance list, decide against sending their child to that school. Parents may make that decision not because the school does not provide a good education and quality programs, or have a good community that works together to improve outcomes for students, but because of the perception they have gained, correct or not, that the school might be falling down. Some groups may use a public schools maintenance register to attack public education. I wonder whether private schools would be willing to list all their maintenance issues for the community to scrutinise so that a comparison could be made between public and private schools.
Some members have referred to Federal funding. In recent years Federal funding has had strings attached and has been targeted to specific outcomes. When I was a principal I needed some maintenance tasks to be carried out at my school, but what was I offered? A flagpole! The school already had three flagpoles, but apparently that was not enough and we needed another one! If the Federal Government were fair dinkum about funding public schools it would allocate far greater amounts than is the case currently.
We all know that the percentage of public school funding from the Federal Government is declining. All major playersincluding parents, teachers and Professor Vinsonrecognise, irrespective of what the Opposition says, that the remaining proportion takes the forms of tied grants. In other words, the funding has strings attached. Schools and education authorities are not free to decide local priorities. The funding has to be spent in the way the Federal Government wants it to be spent. The State Government does not receive unconditional funding, so the Department of Education and Training is unable to allocate funding for necessary projects.
In contrast to the Federal Government's funding approach, the most recent State budget demonstrates a genuine commitment by this Government to increase maintenance allocations to schools. The schools in my electorate will have new projects such as new halls, new science blocks and new performing arts centres. Against that background, it is dishonest for the Opposition to claim that this Government is doing nothing for public schools. That is simply not true. I will outline the way in which schools approach maintenance issues. When I was a school principal I compiled a report that I shared quite openly with the school's community to show the maintenance that needed to be undertaken. If there were important maintenance issues, the school was able to access its maintenance funds as well as regional maintenance funds to attend to emergency tasks and occupational health and safety compliance. Through that system, as principal I was able to work with my community to deliver the necessary short-term projects that needed to be undertaken.
The merits of that system deserve recognition, whereas a public register will do nothing to improve maintenance in schools. A public maintenance register would not result in one extra cent being allocated for maintenance. I am happy to stand corrected if people can prove otherwise, but my contention is that simply having a register will not result in one extra cent for maintenance of schools. The issue is not registers; it is how money is being spent and how priorities are determined in consultation with communities. Having said that, I recognise, as did the member for Wollondilly, that there will never be enough money to cover all the maintenance issues.
Of course all principals keep pushing to make sure that important maintenance priorities for schools are addressed. That is the main way in which maintenance is tackled efficiently, but registers do nothing. It is all about working with schools and school communities to make sure that our schools are looked after. My electorate of Wyong will have new schools and existing schools will be redeveloped. As our school enrolments increase, we are provided with additional buildings. It is blatantly dishonest for the Opposition to claim that the Government is doing nothing for the State's public school system. I recognise, as did the member for Wollondilly, that more always needs to be done because of the dynamics of the public school system, the ageing of schools and the wear and tear on schools. There are always maintenance issues.
A public maintenance register will merely provide another means by which some people may attack the public school system and claim that it is not up to scratch. A public maintenance register will deflect attention from public education outcomes and the delivery of social outcomes through schools. It will just become another way of attacking public schools. For the reasons I have outlined, I absolutely oppose this bill.
Mrs SHELLEY HANCOCK
(South Coast) [10.45 a.m.]: I support the Government Schools (Infrastructure Register) Bill, just as I supported the Government Schools Assets Register Bill in 2004. As the member for Wollondilly and the member for Wyong jumped at the chance to talk about their backgrounds in public education, I proudly state that I spent almost 30 years as a teacher at Ulladulla High School and that my three children received their eduction at the Ulladulla High School before embarking on careers in veterinary science, law and policing. I support the bill and commend the New South Wales Leader of The Nationals for again drawing this issue to the attention of the House. The former Minister for Education and Training has been complaining that the Opposition continually refers to its school assets legislation. Of course we do because it is good legislation that may resolve some of the problems associated with the continual maintenance backlog in public schools. I praise the shadow Minister for Heath, Jillian Skinner, for introducing the Government Schools Assets Register Bill in 2004.
This morning I intend to briefly restate the arguments I advanced in this place in 2004—perhaps one could say I will be plagiarising my speech! Before I deal with the bill in detail I pause to suggest that the arguments advanced in 2004 by other members and me are even more relevant today than they were three years ago. The Government does not seem to understand that the millions of dollars worth of unmet maintenance being inflicted on government schools will continue to increase unless the Government adopts a strategic approach to resolving the problem. The Opposition's legislation offers that solution, but the Government does not appear to be interested in finding a solution. The purpose of this bill is to require the Director General of the Department of Education and Training to keep a register of Government school assets, including all buildings and demountables. That sounds simple so I cannot understand Government members' opposition to this bill—unless they have something to hide, which I suspect is the case.
The register will comprise school status reports outlining the status of the capital assets of government schools and three-yearly school building plans for building and maintenance work in schools. The reports will be tabled in Parliament and made available to the public on the department's website. So what is the problem? The bill proposes to apply management practices and basic management principles to schools that are as good and as necessary as are those followed by local councils and the private sector for the protection and longevity of assets. The point of the bill is not merely to establish a register but more broadly to make school assets last longer through intervention with maintenance procedures at the optimally opportune time.
This bill has commonsense provisions. As a concept it just makes sense because it not only embodies principles of sensible strategic planning and a responsible approach to asset maintenance, but also embodies the most important principles of openness and accountability. It is undoubtedly those principles that have led to the Government's reluctance to embrace this legislation. The Government simply does not want to create evidence of its neglect that may be publicised for all to see. As with everything the Government does, it wants to sweep the problems under the carpet and hide its schools maintenance backlog. At all costs the Government will attempt to hide its failures rather than plan to resolve the problems in a professional manner.
School communities are entitled to have the information that would be publicised pursuant to the provisions of this bill. They are entitled to know about the status of the capital assets of their schools and plans for building and maintenance works. After all, as the member for Wyong would be aware, school communities are the ones who raise the money to assist their schools. They work hard to provide either new capital assets, which are unfunded by the Government, or long overdue maintenance work in their schools. They are partners with the Government. Yet, under this Government, school communities are not entitled to any knowledge of the Government's plans for their schools.
Mr David Harris:
I always consult the principal.
Mrs SHELLEY HANCOCK:
The member for Wyong may choose to share such information with his school communities but other members do not. School communities are entitled to that information. The Government, which opposed this bill on a previous occasion and no doubt will oppose it again, fails to recognise the important role of parents and citizen groups and individuals who donate money to their local schools or support them in many other ways. School communities are entitled to a more accountable system, as is embodied in this bill. They would benefit greatly from school status reports and school building plans. They could plan their expenditure and identify items of need, which they could reasonably fund in the absence of Government funding.
I use the example of Havenlee Special School and the desire back in 2002 to air-condition a number of classrooms for the benefit of students. The staff and parents made strong representations to the former member for South Coast for such air conditioning. In the absence of a response from the member or the Government, the school community proceeded to raise funds and air-condition the classrooms themselves. Prior to the 2003 election the local member turned up with a pre-election sweetening cheque to air-condition the classrooms, which had already been done by the school community. The member faced a humiliating media backlash in the local newspapers and the Sydney Morning Herald
. That is an example of a school community not having knowledge of the Government's plans for its school and not being part of a partnership. This bill embodies those aspects.
Had the Government published its plans for the air conditioning of schools, the school community of Havenlee Special School would have known about the prospect of air conditioning and could have made alternate plans for other projects, if necessary. However, the Government prefers to work—and I do not use that word literally—in isolation from the very people who support and conscientiously work for improvements to their schools. Whilst speaking about Havenlee Special School, which is now in the electorate of Kiama, I take the opportunity to again raise the urgent need for security fencing around the school. In the face of continuing vandalism and theft at this precious and important school, I urge the Government to provide a security fence—as promised by the member for Kiama before the 2007 election—and to provide it without delay. If the Government does not do so, it may face a further humiliating debacle, as it did in 2003. Once again, the school does not know the Government's plans, except that it made a promise in 2007 to provide a fence.
As mentioned by previous speakers this morning, this bill is not as a result of the Coalition concocting a grand plan to resolve the situation or to criticise the Government about its actions or inaction. It is as a result of the Vinson inquiry into public education in New South Wales and a number of observations made by Professor Tony Vinson who chaired the inquiry. I ask Government members to note that, in particular, Tony Vinson stated:
maintenance and refurbishment of the education estate has been neglected and fitfully managed.
He also referred to:
substandard conditions in which teaching and learning are being attempted.
Professor Vinson clearly recommended that the Government should introduce an asset register of the type embodied in this bill and that plans for schools buildings should be publicised. He advocated a sensible, strategic approach to planning in New South Wales schools. Local councils and the private sector have adopted these strategic approaches as essential elements, not only to assist in their planning and budgets but, most importantly, so that local residents are aware of future plans and have the opportunity for input. Good strategic planning ensures that maintenance occurs at an opportune time and at a time that will avoid the need for the premature and costly replacement of assets. It is as simple as regularly servicing a motor vehicle. The same principles apply. By regularly servicing our motor vehicles we avoid the expensive replacement of motor parts, which occurs when we neglect our asset. If we do not pay attention to regular servicing, the engine could blow up.
Strategic planning, which is an objective of this bill, is a sensible approach that can prolong the life of an asset. But the Government wants to hide the state of neglect in government schools. It does not want to apply sound planning principles to its vast education assets. Its reluctance to do so is beyond belief. If this bill, which embodies sound planning principles, fails to pass the House, the Coalition will continue to raise this matter. Schools in New South Wales are disgracefully run down. Toilets leak or do not work. Sewer pipes explode. At Ulladulla High School, where I taught, sewer pipes exploded releasing sewerage across the playground. The Government had not paid attention to appropriate maintenance of the school's assets. Gutters are rusting, brickwork is deteriorating and buildings are crumbling.
Whether Government members want to admit it or not, this is happening. We all need to work in partnership to find a solution to this problem. I am sure that all members, many of whom are former principals and former teachers, would agree. As mentioned by previous speakers, the condition of our government schools is unacceptable for the children who attend the schools, for the parents of those children and for the school communities who raise funds for the schools and totally unacceptable for the face of public education in New South Wales.
Ms CARMEL TEBBUTT
(Marrickville) [10.56 p.m.]: I will speak briefly on the Government Schools (Infrastructure Register) Bill. Having heard previous speakers' contributions, I feel the need to clear up some of the myths that are being perpetrated about the Government's record on and commitment to public education. The first thing I need to say is that every member of the House acknowledges that school maintenance is a challenge. There are more than 2,000 schools in New South Wales, many of them older schools. Many of the schools suffer a great deal of wear and tear as a result of the activities and actions of students. Maintenance is a challenge, as is acknowledged by all. Members should also acknowledge that our schools have undergone enormous improvements over the past few years as a result of maintenance programs and capital works. That is as a result of the Government's actions and its commitment to public education.
Having spent some time in schools over the past few years, I have seen with my own eyes and received feedback from parents, teachers and students about the improvements at our schools from the extra investment the Government has made in maintenance programs, minor capital works programs and major capital works programs and from the Government's joint funding program with school communities for particular initiatives. A great deal of improvements have been made through the Government's commitment to provide extra funding for maintenance—previous speakers have referred to the Government's commitment of an extra $120 million over four years—and to improve processes. There is no doubt that funding is part of the equation, but we have also learnt from the numerous reviews that have taken place on maintenance how to improve our maintenance processes.
For example, the Government has put in place external audits of school maintenance needs, provided greater opportunities for school principals and school communities to have input and introduced regionalisation of the maintenance program. Schools and school communities come together across the region to get an understanding of the maintenance needs for the whole school region and to prioritise those maintenance needs. Two former school principals have spoken in this debate as to why this bill will not work. I take their words seriously, because they have worked in the system and know how it works. They know what will make a real difference on the ground for schools. Those principals say clearly that the bill will not work. We know why. This bill is full of old ideas. The Opposition has introduced similar legislation time and time again. The wording in the bill has not changed and it does not reflect the improvements that have been made to school maintenance over a number of years. The bill will simply add another layer of bureaucracy and divert important resources to developing a register.
If Opposition members truly want to see improved outcomes for public education in New South Wales they could do no better than lobby their Federal colleagues for a more collaborative approach to public education. The member for Bega talked about Federal funding for public education in Australia. The truth is that Federal funding for public education has not increased in real terms in the past few years. There has been no real growth in Federal funding for public education. Furthermore, the Federal Government links funding for public education with political outcomes, which is extremely detrimental to public education in New South Wales. If Opposition members want to improve public education and see better outcomes in New South Wales they should lobby their Federal colleagues and urge them to work in collaboration with schools, principals and school communities.
Programs such as Investing in Our Schools have produced some good outcomes on the ground. But there is a danger that because the Federal Government is bypassing the State public education system we are not working collaboratively and maximising the potential to gain extra funding and produce better outcomes. I urge Opposition members to take public education seriously and lobby their Federal colleagues to work collaboratively with their State colleagues to improve public education and to increase funding for it.
Ms GLADYS BEREJIKLIAN
(Willoughby) [11.02 a.m.]: I am pleased to support the Government Schools (Infrastructure Register) Bill, which was introduced by the New South Wales Opposition. I would like to think all members in this place value the right of every child to have a sound public education and the right of all parents to choose where they send their children to obtain an education. The Opposition believes the capital works and infrastructure process should be open and transparent. What is wrong with giving the Government an incentive to resolve some of the major problems in our public schools by making it accountable? A register would allow everyone in the community to take note of what is not happening. Parents could then make education choices and school communities could lobby the Government to fix many outstanding maintenance problems.
Opposition members who have spoken in this debate have referred to the comments of Professor Vinson in his report, which is now more than three years old. He pointed out the Government's bad performance in maintaining infrastructure in the public school system. The report also highlighted the impact that school surrounds can have on a child's psychology and education. That point is critical to this debate. In addition to referring to the lack of maintenance and infrastructure investment on the part of the State Labor Government, Professor Vinson drew a correlation between sufficient capital works provision and the impact on student learning. He stated:
the observation that teaching and learning can be enhanced or retarded by the presence or absence of appropriate physical conditions; the school community's spirits can be uplifted or depressed by the presence or absence of well-designed and well-maintained buildings; good building quality and maintenance are associated with improved academic results; the quality of physical space affects self-esteem, peer and student-teacher interactions, parental involvement, discipline, attention, motivation and interpersonal relations; and the quality of school buildings and their surrounds can also be a potent symbol of the regard, or otherwise, in which public education is believed to be held by governments and the community.
That is a strong endorsement of the fact that there is an obvious correlation between a student's ability to learn in a positive environment and the physical structure of school buildings. That is a major issue for many schools across this State, whether they are in regional or remote New South Wales or in highly urbanised areas, such as my electorate. I am fortunate to have outstanding teachers, school communities and parents and citizens associations in my electorate of Willoughby. However, the State Government has let them down by refusing to upgrade major infrastructure in these schools.
I mention particularly Chatswood Public School and Chatswood High School. All members will be aware that Chatswood is a growing community. Chatswood is to get a new railway station but the Government has said that its funding is dependent upon the construction of 500 extra units along the railway line. The public school will be across the road from that development. The school is already bursting at the seams. It is functioning with demountable buildings and playground space is insufficient. The school will only continue to grow. For the past four years the school community has courteously and properly written to the respective education Ministers seeking funding for additional permanent classrooms. On every occasion that funding has been denied. That is not acceptable, and the public should be aware of it. On the one hand, the State Government has imposed high-density development on the Chatswood community and demanded that more apartments be built along the railway line while, on the other hand, for the past four or five years at least it has denied Chatswood Public School sufficient funding to build permanent classrooms to provide additional playground space and cope with increased enrolments.
The Willoughby electorate is interesting demographically in that many parents can afford to send their children to non-government education and many parents cannot. Interestingly, according to the most recent statistics made available by the Parliamentary Library the Willoughby electorate was ranked eleventh in relation to the number of children who attend public education at a primary level. That tells me that parents want to send their children to public education at a primary level, in particular, irrespective of their income. Parents in the electorate of Willoughby are ideologically disposed to send their children to public education at a primary level irrespective of income or demographics. However, the trend is now moving in the opposite direction because the State Government is not investing sufficiently in public education infrastructure.
Chatswood Public School has an outstanding academic record. It has a wonderful school band and students excel in extracurricular activities, such as chess, sports, and mathematics and science competitions. Some 68 per cent of students at Chatswood Public School come from non-English speaking backgrounds, particularly a Chinese-speaking background. It has a growing school community. Why for the past five years has the State Government refused to fund the construction of permanent new buildings at the school? It does not make sense. If this bill were law the Government would be forced to put that information on a public register, which would embarrass it into fixing the problem. While a register such as this does not exist there will be no accountability. Parents and the community will have no recourse to highlight the fact that a growing area such as Chatswood—upon which high-density development is being imposed—is being denied permanent classrooms.
This is notwithstanding the outstanding academic achievements at Chatswood Public School, and the efforts of its principal, Mr Dodds, and his hardworking staff and the parents and citizens association. The association is so connected with the local community that its newsletter is written partly in Mandarin in order to support parents from a non-English speaking background and it celebrates important community festivals, such as the Moon festival, to link in with the community's needs. Yet year after year the Government has refused to provide any funding for important infrastructure at the school. I strongly suggest this bill will solve that problem by forcing the Government to make public what it has not done. It will force the Government to be accountable and transparent in relation to infrastructure needs—which it clearly is not at present.
I also highlight the plight of Chatswood High School. I am a product of the public education system in this State: I went to a comprehensive public high school very similar to Chatswood High School. A few years ago the State Government allowed that school to become so run-down that it was going to be closed. Fortunately, through lobbying by the community and by my predecessor Peter Collins, Chatswood High School remains open and is an extremely vibrant part of the community. I am very proud of what that school continues to achieve. In the past few years, under the stewardship of the very capable principal, teaching staff and school community, Chatswood High School's academic results have been outstanding. The school has done exceptionally well academically, in sport and in music. The school band toured Europe and won an award, which was presented by former Minister Dr Refshauge.
The State Government, rather than acknowledging the wonderful things that Chatswood High School is doing, is denying the school critically needed infrastructure. For at least four or five years the school has been applying for an upgrade of a number of classrooms, plus an auditorium. The State budget reveals that the school's request has been acknowledged by capital works funding, but not enough money has been allocated. This is an opportunity for the State Government to demonstrate whether it has any ethics in relation to public education. Chatswood High School, an outstanding exponent of comprehensive high school education, needs an upgrade. It is the only comprehensive public high school in my community, and I am very proud of it, but I am continually let down by the State Government dragging its heels in providing vital funding. Were this legislation to be passed in this House, the Government would be forced to list infrastructure items on a register and would be embarrassed into making the necessary financial commitments.
I will conclude where I started: this bill highlights the Coalition's commitment to valuing the right of every child in this State to have an effective education to enable them to reach their full potential. I note the comments by Professor Vinson in relation to the impact of the physical condition of a school on a child's ability to learn. Two schools in my electorate, a growing area—Chatswood Public School and Chatswood High School—have been denied vital infrastructure funding. I support this bill in the hope that schools such as Chatswood Public School and Chatswood High School will receive much needed funding once the Government is made accountable and is forced, out of embarrassment, to make important decisions. I appeal to the consciences of members opposite who are also concerned about the dilapidation of public school infrastructure in their electorates. I ask them to support this bill because it will enhance the quality of education in New South Wales.
Mr STEVE WHAN
(Monaro—Parliamentary Secretary) [11.12 a.m.]: I oppose the Government Schools (Infrastructure Register) Bill, as other Government members have done, for a very simple reason: a public register, in whatever form, would not make one single extra dollar flow to public school maintenance. What makes extra dollars flow to school maintenance is the extra commitment that the Labor Government has made to the maintenance of schools, as is clearly evidenced throughout the regions of this State.
As previous speakers have said, there is always work to be done on schools. Schools are used every day by groups of fantastic kids who can sometimes be a little bit hard on the things they use, so wear and tear does occur and ongoing repair is needed. This bill will not make a single ounce of difference. We must ask the question: If the Coalition won government, would it publicly prioritise its intentions on its infrastructure register? Would it stick to its listed intentions? This bill, which raises many questions, is nothing more than an attempt by the Opposition to score political points by giving its members an opportunity to talk about public schools, denigrate the efforts of hardworking school communities and list the work they think should be done.
Great things are happening in the schools in the Monaro electorate, which gives the lie to doom and gloom stories from members opposite. I will start with the newest school, Jindabyne Central School, which was opened last week. I had the pleasure of officially opening that school with the Federal Liberal member, Gary Nairn. Jindabyne Public School has become Jindabyne Central School. For the first time public high school education is available to students in Jindabyne. They will be saved a 50-minute trip each way to Cooma each school day and will benefit greatly from this much-needed opportunity to further their education. Before this school was built Jindabyne's town centre, unlike many other town centres, did not have teenage kids in it after school hours. Now it does, along with a full cross-section of the community. Instead of sitting on a bus travelling home from school, kids are now able to spend more time playing sport in their community or even doing homework; they might not think that is the best result, but never mind.
Jindabyne Central School now offers secondary education as a result of the Government's commitment and a great community campaign. Last week I was thrilled to announce this Government's further commitment to the school. In 2009 the school will take its first years 11 and 12 students, offering a full range of education right up to higher school certificate level. Jindabyne Central School will be working with Monaro High School, Bombala High School and Karabar Distance Education Centre in using information technology and video conferencing to ensure that a small cohort of years 11 and 12 students doing their higher school certificate will have access to full curriculum choices. They will be using technology that the Government has invested in and has worked with schools to put in place.
The teachers are very excited by this opportunity. Immediately after the opening of the school last week a number of teachers from different schools headed off to Karabar High School to discuss how they could implement the technology. These are very exciting times for Jindabyne, and it is all happening in a brand new facility that will have a state-of-the-art science lab, a state-of-the-art food technology section and facilities for high school students. Older parts of the building were used as a primary school and maintenance needs to be done on the toilet block. The school community—they did not need a list—raised that issue with me in February this year and the toilet block will be rebuilt over the Christmas holiday period this year. I would say to members opposite: You do not need a public list to do that; you need a proactive local member. That is what has happened in this case.
Karabar High School, where I have the pleasure of sending my children, was built some time ago. Like many high schools, it has areas that need to be upgraded, and one such area is the toilet facility. I am pleased to say that is on the upgrade list. New food technology areas and a science lab will be coming to that school this term. Queanbeyan High School has also been in need of maintenance work. Under the Government's increased capital works and maintenance budget Queanbeyan High School received upgrades to its covered walkways and also carpeting and painting of other areas.
As a result of the Government's great initiatives, Queanbeyan will get one of the trade schools. Construction—this is not just a throwaway election promise—has started. It is under way. The school will produce terrific results for young people in the area; they will certainly be a lot better than those achieved by the Federal Government's farcical technical colleges, of which there is one. It was announced well before we announced the trade school, but with few students, huge costs and limited results. It is being established in a converted industrial shed in Queanbeyan, rather than having a proper relationship with the State TAFE and school systems, as it could have had under a State Government submission. But that submission was knocked back by the Federal Government because it would not accept that our teachers did not want to work under Australian workplace agreements. That is a great example of ideology being put ahead of service delivery.
Jerrabomberra school, which is a few years old now, is a terrific school in our area. It has grown from having about 100 students in its first year to perhaps being the biggest school in the electorate with 720 students. Its enrolments are about equal with those of Queanbeyan South Public School, which is a fantastic facility. Jerrabomberra school is stretched a bit because it has double the enrolments originally predicted, and that is a great tribute to the quality of the staff and the school community. The Government, through its increased maintenance budget, is helping to provide a new canteen at the school. Recently, extra space has been provided for the staff and two prefabricated permanent classrooms have been provided to overcome the need for demountables. Speaking of demountables, this Government has ensured that all demountable classrooms are air-conditioned, which is something previous governments did not do. The provision of air conditioning has been of great benefit to schools in our area that need demountables.
Jerrabomberra school is a great example of the Opposition's attitude to public schools—always denigrate and criticise. When the shadow Minister for Health was the shadow Minister for Education she issued an appalling press release to the Daily Telegraph
in which she criticised Jerrabomberra school. She said that absenteeism and truancy at Jerrabomberra school had doubled, that it was a disgrace, and that it was a failure of the State Labor Government. However, in her ignorance she failed to point out that at the same time as absenteeism from the school doubled school enrolments increased by 500 per cent. That did not help her score political points for bagging a State school. She did not acknowledge that, and she did not apologise to the school principal. Her effort was disgraceful. However, it shows that the Opposition puts scoring points ahead of working with our public schools and praising them for the great work they do. I am amazed that the Opposition spokesman on health still holds a senior position in the Opposition and still makes outrageous claims about everything without substantiating them.
Last week I had the pleasure of travelling out of the Monaro electorate and into an area I represented until the last State election. Together with the member for Bega and the Federal member for Eden-Monaro, I had the pleasure of helping Eden Public School to celebrate its 150th birthday, its sesquicentenary. It was a terrific day. Eden Public School provides a great education. The notes I took on the day show that Opposition members referred to how terrible everything is now. I ask them: Is it any better or worse than it used to be? One example is the story that Eden underwent a fair bit of growth in the late 1960s and early 1970s. During that time Eden Public School conducted classes off the school grounds in the local Country Womens Association hall, upstairs in a local business, and in other buildings around town because it had insufficient classrooms. Coincidentally, this happened under a State Liberal-National Government. The problem was rectified in 1978 when new school buildings were opened. Who was in Government in 1978? I think it might have been Neville Wran. That is one more example of Labor investing in school facilities.
The member for Bega did not say much about the terrific new Merimbula Public School provided by the State Government. That is a great new facility in the area. Indeed, the Labor Government has provided a number of great new schools in the electorate of Bega. The position of the Liberals and The Nationals on public education is fairly consistent. The Opposition spokesman on education, the Leader of The Nationals, jumped on the bandwagon with the Federal education Minister and bagged the State schools curriculum. The Federal Minister said that our teachers are teaching a Maoist curriculum. What a bizarre comment! The Federal Coalition Government has gradually grasped the freedoms that Australians believe in and tried surreptitiously to put across its point of view and indoctrinate people with that view. That is much closer to Maoism than what is being taught in our State schools.
Unfortunately the Leader of The Nationals jumped on the bandwagon; he said it was terrible that apparently in some schools kids had talked about the European settlement of Australia as invasion day and things like that. Part of a good public education is not to learn by rote and repeat things but to think about things, learn to analyse things, take different sides of issues and debate them. That is part of a healthy public education system. The Coalition, and particularly the Federal Howard Government, consistently put forward the conservative ideology. We look forward to having a Federal government that will provide a fairer distribution of funding for education overall and a better share of funding for public schools. That is critical if we want to ensure that our kids make a contribution in the coming years and are able to fulfil their potential. Education is all about helping our kids to fulfil their potential in life. Debate on this bill has given members opposite an opportunity to talk about the schools in their electorates, and I do not begrudge them that. I have done exactly the same thing. However, I resent the fact that the Coalition always bags our public schools. Coalition members always say, "This standard isn't any good."
When I visit private schools in my electorate I find that their building and facility standards are probably similar to, or in some cases not quite as good as, most public schools. Parents of students in private schools seem happy with those facilities. Of course, they would like better facilities and more money. Everybody always does. Coalition members always present a one-sided argument; they are always bagging public education when in fact our public schools provide increasingly good standards of education, with great results. I know from my experience of the school my kids attend that the results in local schools are terrific. Indeed, one student at Queanbeyan South Pubic School tied for equal eighth in the Premier's spelling bee last week. It was a great result for her, and I congratulate her on that. Yet again in this debate we are seeing a stunt. This bill is simply another example of the Opposition trying to score political points. Having a register of school maintenance would need a lot of resources and it would not deliver a single extra cent to maintenance. This Government is delivering extra money for school maintenance and we are seeing the results of that in not only the Monaro electorate but all electorates in New South Wales.
Debate adjourned on motion by Mr Thomas George and set down as an order of the day for a future day.
Pursuant to standing orders business interrupted.