I rise to make a contribution on the Auditor-General’s report entitled Implementation of School Infrastructure Programs, which was tabled in February 2013. I begin by saying that under the state Labor government I had the pleasure of attending and representing the Minister for Education in my electorate in opening numerous school infrastructure projects. It was one of the highlights of my first four years as a member of Parliament to be out in those communities and seeing just how well accepted our projects were and how the community rallied around those infrastructure programs. This was because the state and federal Labor governments invested heavily in education. Labor governments know that a first-class education is the key to providing the best start to a child’s life.
The report refers to international research findings that physical environments improve learning outcomes if, firstly, students are learning in new or upgraded facilities, secondly, there is natural light, thermal comfort and acoustics and, thirdly, the design supports effective teaching and delivery of the modern curriculum. The Auditor-General’s report states in no uncertain terms that the Labor government’s priority for a first-class education is not a priority shared by the Liberal-Nationals coalition government. The report states that under the current government, the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development provided just 32 per cent of the recommended investment level.
In 2007 the Labor government announced the Victorian schools plan, which included a commitment to modernise public schools by 2017 and an initial investment of $1.93 billion. Between 2007 and 2011, 553 schools underwent capital works. Since the change in government in 2011, the Victorian schools plan has fallen by the wayside.
The government’s ignorance of the issues that schools are facing has forced schools, particularly in regional areas, to adopt a reactive approach to asset maintenance. Schools are receiving less than one-third of the funding required to maintain buildings to industry standards. The report states that this is likely to compound the effects, leading to a need for more costly maintenance in the future.
Due to the lack of current investment, schools are focused on making only urgent and essential repairs. Other works required to maintain buildings or bring buildings up to appropriate standards are being deferred. As a result, school buildings are deteriorating and will likely cost more to upgrade or replace in the future. The report states that 33 per cent of schools have buildings that are at the point of failure or have already failed.
This is the case for Timboon P-12 School, which is in my electorate.
Just a few months ago the school was forced to evacuate its students and staff due to the potential for asbestos exposure in one of its buildings. The principal and school council representatives have been pleading with the government to pay attention to the plight of the school; however, their pleas continue to fall on deaf ears. On this occasion, because of the asbestos, the entire school population missed a week of school.
This is not the only issue facing Timboon P-12 School. The Department of Education and Early Childhood Development has classed 34 per cent of the school’s buildings as being in poor condition. The school has a total of 31 areas, 22 of which are below the threshold; however, no ongoing maintenance money is being granted to the school. The member for Polwarth in the other place has said that the situation is an anomaly, but this is just paying lip-service to a community which is rightly fed up with being ignored by him and his government.
A number of other schools in Geelong are facing issues. They include North Geelong Secondary College, Oberon High School and the Whittington, Oberon South, Oberon, Montpellier, Highton and Clifton Springs primary schools. The Portarlington Primary School is also in desperate need of maintenance and new buildings. All of these schools are fantastic — —
The ACTING PRESIDENT (Mr Ondarchie) — Order! The member’s time has expired.