Question: Building Better Schools Program


Dr CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (17:05): My question is to the Minister for Education. Will the Minister for Education rule out reallocating any of the $692 million in funding allocated to 91 public schools as part of Labor's Building Better Schools program?

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER (Morialta—Minister for Education) (17:06): I thank the former minister for her question. Yes.

Dr CLOSE (Port Adelaide—Deputy Leader of the Opposition) (17:06): Supplementary.

The SPEAKER: Certainly.

Dr CLOSE: A supplementary seeking clarification on the 'yes'.

The SPEAKER: Very difficult to have a supplementary, deputy leader, but it is your question time.

Members interjecting:

The SPEAKER: Order! Deputy leader.

Dr CLOSE: Thank you, Speaker.

The SPEAKER: Shall we make it a new question?

Dr CLOSE: I'm not quite sure how you ruled anything—

The SPEAKER: A new question.

Dr CLOSE: I can ask it as a new question—

The SPEAKER: New question, deputy leader.

Dr CLOSE: —or as a supplementary on clarification on the 'yes', which is: so the plans that are on the website currently for each of those 91 schools will proceed identically as planned at present?

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER (Morialta—Minister for Education) (17:06): I thank the former minister for her question. 'The plans that are on the website,' she says. The fact is that the former government failed in the time they had to finalise plans in any of those schools.

Mr Koutsantonis interjecting:

The SPEAKER: Member for West Torrens!

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER: This government will—

Mr Koutsantonis interjecting:

The SPEAKER: Member for West Torrens, order!

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER: —honour the commitment that we made on the very same day that the former government announced—

Members interjecting:

The SPEAKER: There are three minutes left. Order!

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER: This government will honour the commitment that we made on the very same day that the former government announced the funding commitments, and that is that the Marshall Liberal government will follow through on all those funding commitments to those schools. Those schools can go forward with certainty. The fact is that the former government announced all those plans in terms of how much money would go to a range of schools. The former minister announced $690-odd million going to all those schools.

The money that was allocated at the time was allocated without specific plans or objectives, and the former government started a process of discussing with schools what was going to be in the best interests of those schools in how they might spend those funds. At the time, I was on one of the governing councils of those schools, as the former minister knows. I was therefore aware of the process the department was undertaking. The department announced through the minister—in fact, announced through members of parliament who seemed to have prior knowledge of the funding commitments by phone calls to these schools—

Members interjecting:

The SPEAKER: Order!

The Hon. J.A.W. GARDNER: Prior to any public announcement, the Labor Party caucus was aware of exactly how much was allocated for each of these schools, but the first school councils heard of it was when they got the phone calls from Michael Atkinson, when they got the phone calls from Jack Snelling or the member for Port Adelaide or the member for West Torrens or whoever else. They announced, 'Your school has been selected to get this amount of money.'

What process the former government went through to choose those schools is as yet unclear. However, in order for those schools to be able to proceed with their plans and their discussions with the department about the sorts of projects they might want, the opposition—as we were then, the government as we are now—made a commitment that, under this government, those schools would get that money and would be able to undertake infrastructure projects accordingly.

Upon coming to government, of course, I was interested: how far have we progressed? How many of these projects are ready to be announced this year? I asked the question: what is the nature of the projects that are going to be announced? The answer I got was, 'Well, we are still working out those details with the school.' That's the legacy left by the member for Port Adelaide as the former minister. If she is not aware of the fact that her government had not actually completed any of those plans, had not actually completed any of those negotiations with the school, then that's on her. That's not our fault.

We will continue the process of working with the schools to get the sorts of projects up that those schools need for the future, so that our kids can get the best possible education and their needs be met, and that is the purpose to which this government is going to continue applying those funds.