Ms TIERNEY (Western Victoria) — My question is to the Minister for Education. Can the minister advise the house on how the Bracks government works together with the commonwealth government to achieve a quality education for our children?
Mr LENDERS (Minister for Education) — I thank Ms Tierney for her question and her insightfulness in working out that this government is actually a collaborative and cooperative government. We work with the commonwealth on a lot of areas together, but we can always do better.
I will just outline a few areas where we do work well with the commonwealth. I have been to 17 schools in the last two weeks. Three of those were in Gippsland. I had the pleasure of being with my colleague Mr Viney.
I was also with Mr Peter Ryan, the Leader of The Nationals in the other place, at all three schools. One of the first schools I went to was in Yarram, and Mr Peter McGauran, the federal member for Gippsland, opened one part of the building and I, as a state member, opened another part. It was a collaborative approach. We actually had the new hothouse flexible learning centre — —
Mr Jennings — There were doors at either end!
Mr LENDERS — Mr Jennings says there were doors at either end. It was a situation where the two jurisdictions value-added to each other. It was interesting that during the unveiling of the little plaque, which was a part of the protocols involved in the opening of the building, Mr McGauran erroneously pulled my side of the cable. In a generous gesture, I said we were working with the commonwealth and our outcome was to give those 400 students at Yarram an opportunity.
I did not fire off about 30 letters, like Julie Bishop and Pat Farmer would have done, about breaching protocol. I just accepted that us working together meant that even though in this particular school we had coming from the state $1.5 million, from the commonwealth $680 000 and from the school $560 000, we were providing a good educational outcome for the students of Yarram and giving those students in South Gippsland an opportunity — and we were working together. In answer to Ms Tierney: we can work with the commonwealth, and we can work well.
Similarly in Foster — again, it was Mr Viney, Mr Ryan and me, and at this stage we had Mr Russell Broadbent, the federal Liberal member for McMillan, with us — we went through a similar operation. We sat down and announced a project. Again, the state put in the lion’s share of the money, but this project will mean that the students at South Gippsland Secondary College in Foster will actually get an outcome. We also went to Toora, which has a tiny school. Now, after 127 years, it has a custom-built facility for its 66 students. It had temporary halls for all those years.
My response to Ms Tierney is that we can work together with the commonwealth, but there is always a challenge for the commonwealth in this area. Even though we see a few instances where it works, the next day you get another ‘Dear John’ letter from the federal minister, Julie Bishop. And in the ‘Dear John’ letter yet again is a slavish desire to bureaucratise at every possible step — fill in paperwork, fill in more paperwork, write to the commonwealth, give it an opportunity. We want Victoria to be a great place to live, work and raise a family. We can do that more effectively with a bit less red tape from Julie Bishop.