Matter of Public Importance - Education funding

 BURGESS (Hastings) (15:42:19): It is a pleasure to speak on this matter of public importance (MPI). From the start I would like to put on the record that I have no doubt that the member for Northcote was being sincere, truly believed what she was saying and holds those values—that education and dental health and all of those things are really critically important to our communities and to our schools—so I have no argument with that at all. However, what the member for Northcote probably does not know is the extent of the hypocrisy and dishonesty of this government.

Really, it only takes an objective view to take a look around the state and see what is really going on and to understand that what you are talking about from your experience in Northcote is entirely different to the experiences that electorates like mine have and like my schools have. I will give you some detail on that as we go through. There is a course of conduct that this government involves itself in—and I think anybody within this room would understand that, but to this stage Victorians are still coming to terms with it, although the last budget is certainly going to be a shock to them as they understand what it really meant.

Some of the statements like the statement that we are debating today in the MPI or statements such as, 'We are doing this to help the CFA’, are so disingenuous when you really consider what is really going on with the CFA and what this government is trying to achieve. With— Mr Richardson interjected. Mr BURGESS: I have already had this approved by the Speaker, so that is fine. 'We are doing this for the CFA’, but then they are bullying volunteers and boards out of existence and destroying groups of local heroes. Mr Richardson: On a point of order, Deputy Speaker, this is a matter of public importance on education, dental and early childhood. While the CFA matter is really important and will be up very soon, I am not sure where the member for Hastings is in this realm or this planet.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I actually do uphold the point of order. I do ask the member for Hastings to come back to the MPI. Mr BURGESS: On the point of order, Deputy Speaker, the sincerity of the statement is also able to be brought into question here, and that is exactly what I am bringing into question in this debate. The DEPUTY SPEAKER: I would like you to come back to the MPI. Mr BURGESS: I will. There have been other statements, including about education but not limited to education, made by this government that are disingenuous, and this statement today is disingenuous. It talks about the importance of education. It talks about what is happening in education in schools—but not all schools. It talks about schools in electorates that have Labor members and not coalition members, and it is really clear when you look at my electorate and electorates around me and electorates across the state where there are coalition members that the communities in those areas really are doing it tough.

Labor’s MPI today is just the latest in those disingenuous propagandist spiels that this government goes on with. I can take the house to many of the smaller communities in my electorate and the schools within those communities just to point out the stark difference between the experience that the member for Northcote and other members on the government side of the house are having compared to the experience that we are having on this side of the house. I tried to ask the member for Mordialloc how much investment had gone into his electorate and into his schools. He had no clue. In fact he looked across at me and said, 'I don’t know’. But I would be able to bring him to the point where— Mr Richardson: On a point of order, Deputy Speaker, I would like the member for Hastings to withdraw. I take great offence at that. What I was saying was that he would have no clue what equity funding went into his schools in 2015–16. I ask him to withdraw because it is an absolute fabrication and is misleading the house. The DEPUTY SPEAKER: That is a point for debate, member for Mordialloc. The member for Hastings to continue.

Mr BURGESS: People do get sensitive in this house when they are called out on the things they say, whether they are true or incorrect. Certainly the member for Mordialloc is very sensitive about that, but he continues to do it. Schools in my electorate, such as Cranbourne South Primary School, have literally gone on for years without the things that they need. Certainly they have had petitions, Facebook pages, numerous meetings with the current member for Cranbourne and the previous member for Cranbourne and letters to the minister both from me and from the school council, all of which have just fallen on deaf ears. They are not being heard at all. While there has been some money spent just recently on it—but mostly on asbestos removal, which the government was required to do anyway—the school had no heating and cooling in block A. It certainly had no emergency maintenance. They asked for that on several occasions and were rejected by this government—that is the government that is so hell-bent on education in this state. They do not have a kiss-and-go area and are unable to have that. Staff have to park on the netball court, so there is no netball for the kids and this reduces outdoor areas. The space ratio is far below most schools as far as kids play is concerned. Parents have to park in all sorts of different spaces, including in the next-door service station, so that they can actually get to the school. The drainage for the septic system was unsafe. There were telecommunication issues. They have an antiquated phone system, and there is no security system in the school. They have to replace the rotted foundations under the admin building. There are rotted gutters, eaves and fascias, and the roof is extremely poor. They have had to quarantine classrooms because of mould. They have limited meeting spaces, and only half the staff can fit into the staffroom. There are plumbing issues, with unstable plumbing under block A. There is spider web electrical circuitry across block A as well. As I say, some has been done, but is that a surprise? Because when you look at the school, the school actually has more parents out of the Cranbourne electorate than it does out of my electorate now—but that has only just happened because it is a Labor area. You have got more families coming out of a Labor electorate. A member interjected. Mr BURGESS: You are making the same point that I am making, so I am glad we are in agreement on that. If it is a Labor electorate, the money goes in. If it is a coalition electorate, you do not want to know about it. That is exactly what is happening here, and that is just the first of the schools.

If we go further into the schools, at Langwarrin Primary School there is no air conditioning in new block A. I wrote to the minister. What did the minister say? 'You have got to get it yourself. We do not care if the kids are too hot. We do not care if it is stifling the hot on those days. You have got to raise that money yourself just for the cooling and that air conditioning’. I brought it up with the minister. Of course the critical need is for kids to be able to get out of those classrooms on those boiling hot days, and $140 000 is a lot of money for a school to raise by itself. But then again, this government is so committed to education that it is out there helping these schools. 

Langwarrin Park Primary School has no playground. What do you say to that? There is no playground in this school. I have written to the minister, and the minister’s response was again, 'You’re going to have to find the money yourself’. Is that the experience of the Labor members? Because if that is the experience of the Labor members, why are you not in here saying that? Why are you not in here saying that this government is short-changing education instead of coming in here and saying exactly the opposite? The reason is that money goes into your electorates. Nothing goes into the coalition electorates because this government is not committed at all to education. It is committed to politics, and that is exactly what you show every time you open your mouth.

At Somerville Rise Primary School the years 3 to 4 middle playground is taped off. You cannot get to the playground, and there is no shade. There is not even any shade for these kids to go and play under in these schools. That is the kind of existence that these kids have to put up with because they have a government that does not care about them or their education. It only cares about the circumstances in Labor electorates. Christine was one of the parents who came to me and brought this to my attention. The response we got back from the minister, believe it or not, was that schools are required to ensure there is sufficient shelter and trees to adequately shade school grounds. That is the school’s responsibility. So the kids do not have somewhere to go to play, the kids do not have somewhere to go to get into the shade, and the minister’s response is, 'That’s your problem’. I am sure that is not the experience you are having over in Cranbourne or in Mordialloc, but that is the experience the coalition seats are having under this government. What this MPI should be saying is that this government is good on education in your electorates and terrible on education in other electorates. You have got a Premier who is an admitted socialist—he is an admitted Socialist Left Premier—who thinks that socialism is the redistribution of wealth from all electorates into Labor electorates. That is what he thinks. He is raising taxes from the state to put into your electorates so that my community gets no benefit from any of these, except they get the debt to be paid by your government— (Time expired)