School capital works

It is with great pleasure that I join the debate on this matter of public importance proposed by the Minister for Education about the importance of capital investment in Victorian schools. We have had quite a perverse response and contribution from those across the chamber. The opposition was led by its newly minted junior woodchuck for education, the member for Kew. He basically did not say anything about capital works because he said it is not important and he wanted to focus on student outcomes. Previously in this Parliament he has said —

Mr Morris — On a point of order, Deputy Speaker, there have been a number of occasions recently where members have been urged to address other members by their correct title, and that is certainly not the address that the member used with regard to the member for Kew.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER — On the point of order, I agree. I encourage members to refer to other members by their correct titles.

Mrs Green-Thank you, Deputy Speaker, for your ruling. The member for Kew described school infrastructure as a distraction, frankly — the stuff about capital works and budgets and the like. Member for Kew, student outcomes do not improve when you cut funding to education. Whether it is capital or whether it is recurrent, they do not improve. That is what has happened when the coalition has been in government, whether it has been in the Kennett era or the Baillieu-Napthine era. We saw the Vertigan review. It was a secret review of government expenditure, and it delivered savage cuts to education across capital and across recurrent. Those opposite have said that if they take the government benches at the end of this year they will have another audit committee, and we know that they will cut budgets.

The Leader of the Opposition represented the northern metropolitan area of Melbourne in the other place before he scuttled off to the leafy east. He was the planning minister who oversaw the absolute explosion in the growth of the population in Victoria, particularly in the growing suburbs. Either he had no power at the cabinet table to achieve any expenditure or any support for growing communities, particularly growing schools, or he did not care. The Leader of the Opposition is a product of a government school. For those who do not know, the Leader of the Opposition attended Montmorency Secondary College. My stepdaughter actually attends there. What is it about those opposite? The member for Bentleigh referred before to Senator James Paterson, who attended Bentleigh Secondary College. It seems like they are so ashamed of their state school roots that they want to decry them and cut funding to them when they are in office. They are never concerned for the most disadvantaged students, for those that are living in poverty. They contributed to poverty by cutting the funds for disadvantaged students like the school education maintenance allowance, and for students studying VCAL who wanted to get into work, VCAL coordinators were cut.

In the four years that those opposite were in government, there was almost nothing that occurred in education in my electorate that was not fought for tooth and nail by that community. Mernda and Doreen doubled in population under the Leader of the Opposition’s watch from 2011 until 2014. We had funded land for a Mernda P–12 school in the 2009 budget. The land was funded and paid for. In the 2010 budget we had money allocated to purchase land in Cookes Road, Doreen, for a standalone secondary college. Immediately after those opposite got into government they cancelled that project. Miraculously, the next May they found some money in the budget and it seemed to be the same amount. They said, ‘We’ll have land for a primary school in Cookes Road’, when the community was crying out for a secondary college. Eventually they thought, ‘Maybe we might throw some building money at it’. The only time they actually thought, ‘Whoops, we had better actually do something about a secondary college’ — in a postcode that was rapidly becoming the size of Shepparton — was when the private school Acacia College collapsed. Then they pinched some money from stage 2 of a school in the member for Yuroke’s electorate and said, ‘We’ll turn that primary school in Cookes Road, Doreen’ — an undersized site — ‘into a P–12 school’.

We now have a school: Hazel Glen College. I love this school. The students are great and the teachers are wonderful, but there are nearly 3000 students there. All morning I have been dealing with parents saying, ‘How on earth do we pick up and drop off our students at this school?’. Well, the roots of that problem were in the population expansion led by the then Minister for Planning in my electorate with no investment in infrastructure to support it.

We heard the member for Eildon talking about how important school capital is, but at no stage did she mention Beveridge Primary School. Beveridge Primary School was in the then member for Seymour’s electorate. It is now in my electorate, and I am fighting hard for them to get a new school. In the 2010 budget the Brumby government funded an $850 000 rural school upgrade — because that is what that school was then. It was a rural school. Another thing: immediately those opposite got in, they cut that upgrade. Shortly after that the Leader of the Opposition, then the planning minister, shifted the urban growth boundary so that Beveridge primary became inside the urban growth boundary — ‘Whoopsie, we’ll take your rurality bonus ‘cos you’re no longer a rural school’, neglecting the fact that they had no sewerage or reticulated water, they had to provide their own water for firefighting and the school population was tripling.

Did we hear one peep from the now member for Eildon, then member for Seymour, who stood up earlier and claimed she cares so much about education? There was not one peep about Beveridge Primary School. She might have had a beverage for how good she is and how good they were in their four years. Well, the community of Beveridge do not think so. In last year’s budget we funded land for a new school in Beveridge west, and I am fighting hard, tooth and nail, for that community, which is growing rapidly inside the urban growth boundary, because they need a new school. In the last sitting week I raised it during the adjournment debate. I will not be silenced, unlike those opposite.

The member for South Barwon had some memo claiming that the coalition had made some investment in school infrastructure. He did not get the memo that they had actually made a mistake. They panicked in their final year and thought, ‘We had better start doing something, particularly in Yan Yean’, because it had become notionally a Liberal seat — ‘Whoops, we didn’t do anything for three years; we had better start doing something now’. They said they were going to build a school at Mill Park Lakes East. There are not enough children at the school at Mill Park Lakes. Rather than building a P–12 on the Mernda site that had been purchased in 2009, they were planning to build a school at Mill Park Lakes East. The then Minister for Education claimed that he had consulted the community. Well, he never did.

Those opposite, if you want bipartisanship — and member for Kew, do not talk about bipartisanship for phonics — talk about bipartisanship for school capital and make a commitment that you will match Labor and never cut education funding in this state. The future of our kids is too important. Labor will get it done. Victoria is the Education State.

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mr McGuire) — The time for the matter of public importance has expired.