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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2015 Week 09 Hansard (Wednesday, 12 August 2015) . . Page.. 2779 ..

is quite right to highlight and acknowledge that this year’s allocation of $1.1 billion is the largest investment ever. It is incumbent on all of us to ensure that the money is well spent and spent well. Given the ACT has one of the highest, if not the highest, per capita spend on public education, it is important that the money is appropriately allocated. My comments tonight will focus on two main things: ageing infrastructure and capacity issues at Canberra schools. I also wish to draw the attention of the Assembly to the government’s response to recommendations related to education and training.

For some time I have been concerned at the quite frequent mechanical and infrastructure failures in Canberra schools. Dickson College is the latest to have a fire in their electrical switchboard. I cannot remember how many times incidents like this have disrupted a school during school hours, but quite frankly there are just too many. Dickson College is one of the schools in their 50s. It was built it 1962, making it 53 this year. Harking back to the 1950s is clearly the Labor Party room slogan of the week, so I will take the liberty of using it as well.

Every time I refer to ageing infrastructure, the minister interprets that as meaning the Liberals want to knock down schools. For the record, yet again, no, it does not. What it does signal is that on this side of the chamber we believe political parties should not make election promises they do not intend to keep. It does seem a challenge for some of those opposite to accept that what is said and promised in an election period is expected by the community to be delivered in government. And $70 million in new money—that is, spending over and above the usual maintenance allocation—was a program promised in 2012.

Since then, I have asked how it has been spent. Teachers keep asking where it is being spent, and the teachers’ own union claim it is not being spent. None of us believe it is being delivered, and that was confirmed during estimates. I quite specifically asked about how much had been spent in the years since the 2012 election, and was advised that over $62 million had been spent since 2012 on a variety of programs—$3 million on school infrastructure, another $3 million on hazardous material removal, and the balance on capital school upgrades.

When I asked if the funding was new money, the answer came back as “The funding was appropriated through the annual budget.” I take that as a no. I also asked if the program was a replacement for previous programs. The answer came back as “This program includes capital upgrades.” I take that answer to mean nothing new or special here. Canberra is 102 years old, so of course we will have schools that belong to an earlier era. They does not mean they should be pulled down, but it does mean that they need close scrutiny and more frequent maintenance to ensure that they remain fit for purpose.

I think the intention of promising an additional $70 million in 2012 was recognition of that need. It is regrettable, then, that higher priorities, such as train sets and light rail, perhaps, seem to have allowed this government to fall short. We have electrical faults, leaking roofs and schools that could do with a little more than a new fence or some extras.

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