Announcement of the 3rd Round of the Primary Schools for the 21st Century school infrastructure projects.

Speech
  • Minister for Employment Participation
  • Minister Assisting the Prime Minister for Government Service Delivery

St Marys Primary School Dandenong

It’s great to be here and be able to welcome the announcement of the 3rd round of the Primary Schools for the 21st Century school infrastructure projects.

I spoke to the project manager today and he told me that about 80 to 90 jobs are being supported at this site alone.

We know schools don’t build themselves.

They need architects to design them, manufacturing workers to build the frames, builders, tradespeople, suppliers and small business to come together to build these projects on site.

And throughout the process, we see the economic flow-on effects in transport, logistics and manufacturing not to mention the small businesses that benefit from the multiplier effects of tradespeople using their wages to buy their take-away lunches, work gear, petrol and family items.

But all of this is only possible because of the Rudd Government’s $42 billion economic stimulus plan, 70% of which is infrastructure.

Within 12 months 35,000 infrastructure projects will be underway, and our stimulus according to Treasury estimates will be supporting 210,000 jobs.

I’m here today with the Deputy Prime Minister and Mike Mrdak, the Commonwealth Coordinator General, to release a Progress Report on the first 5 months of the program up to 30 June.

I’m pleased to say that the stimulus is so far progressing extremely well – supporting jobs, improving our schools, housing, roads and railways and providing a crucial life-line to thousands of small businesses.

When it comes to supporting jobs, this report is an A plus.

Today I will also outline a number of adjustments to the stimulus program being made by the government in response to the most up to date data demand and projections contained in the report.

These adjustments are a testimony to the success of the Building the Education Revolution program and a response to demand for other aspects of the stimulus plan.

The enthusiasm by schools and their communities for investments in our primary schools has exceeded our expectations.

To ensure extra funding is available for every primary school to access the Primary Schools for the 21st Century Program and ensure the broader Stimulus is managed in a fiscally responsible fashion, the Government has adjusted other elements of the package where there have been efficiencies in delivery and lower than expected demand.

When the world’s economies began to collapse almost a year ago, the Rudd Government acted decisively. We had two options.

We could step in with action to stimulate the economy and support jobs, or we could let the full burden of the global recession fall on the shoulders of Australian families and small businesses.

The Rudd Government chose the first path, and Treasury estimates that Government stimulus action will support over 210,000 Australian jobs.

We are by no means out of the woods yet.

The small businesses I talk to – especially in the construction industry – tell me that the stimulus package is the lifeline that is helping see them through global recession

Today’s report is the first opportunity for the Government to review the different elements of the Stimulus Plan, consider the demands and impacts of the different programs, and using actual take-up rates and data, make any necessary adjustments.

The government established a rigourous monitioring regime with the states and territories to ensure taxpayer funds were being spent efficiently and in line with government procurement and building guidelines and as I will outline today, those processes have paid dividends.

With access to the most up to date projections and figures, the Commonwealth Government has decided to adjust some components of the Economic Stimulus Plan to ensure it is targeted to where demand is greatest and ensure we are keeping as many people in jobs as possible, especially in areas of need.

The Economic Stimulus recalibration will still ensure that every single dollar in the stimulus package will continue to be spent on supporting jobs and small businesses.

It will also ensure that additional future funding now being directed to critical school projects is entirely offset by savings in other areas of the stimulus because of greater than expected efficiencies being realised (through sound management) or lower than expected demand.

These changes build on the great strength and success of the entire Stimulus Plan.

As the report shows, by 30 June this year:

  • More than $18 billion of funds have been approved for infrastructure projects across Australia.
  • More than 14,000 projects have already commenced.
  • More then 370 projects are complete.
  • Over 50,000 houses have had ceiling installed under Efficiency Homes Package.
  • Over 37,000 Solar Hot Water rebates received.
  • Over 2,900 Community Infrastructure Program projects commenced.
  • Repairs and maintenance for more than 30,000 social housing dwellings – with 788 new homes under construction.

The Building the Education Revolution Program is the most capital and labour intensive program as part of the stimulus. It gets to every community and every primary school benefits.

Due to the success and popularity of the Building the Education Revolution program we have seen huge take up rates, along with higher school and student numbers and so the Government is making available a further $1.515 billion for that program.

This will ensure that all Australian schools that have applied for funding under the existing guidelines for the Primary Schools for the 21st Century program are able to benefit, just like St Mary’s school today.

Conversely, the aims of the Science and Language Centres program is being achieved at a lower than expected cost. 537 Science and Language Centres have been approved, more than the 500 originally planned, at a cost of $810 million. There will be no further approvals under this program.

There will be a saving of $178.2 million from this program which will be redirected to our primary schools.

Our Social Housing component of the stimulus has also been a success. Through greater efficiencies than we had originally expected and by modestly reducing our target number of new homes to deliver 19,200 homes, we will achieve a saving of $750 million.

However, the total number of homes available as social housing stock will be greater than what we hoped we would be able to achieve in February.

The stimulus package has been great news for our construction sector and for social housing in Australia.

While originally we were planning on repairing or refurbishing 2,500 homes, we will now undertake major repairs to 10,000 homes that would no longer have been able to be used as social housing. This is on top of general repairs and maintenance to 50,000 homes.

I know the Housing Minister has worked very hard to keep costs down and worked with the states to leverage additional dwellings from the not-for-profit sector using capital from the program.

It is a credit to the way the housing program has been administered that we can deliver a saving of $750 million and still deliver better social housing outcomes than we anticipated in February when we announced the plan.

Defence Housing will achieve construction of their planned 802 houses at a lower then expected cost, resulting in another saving of $6 million.

When the Ceiling Insulation package was announced earlier this year, the industry estimated it would create up to 4,000 jobs.

With insulation factories now running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the Homeowner Insulation Program is proving to be a success, however the Low Emission Assistance Plan for Renters has not had similar take up rates.

I don’t think it’s a secret that, getting landlords and tenants to cooperate to make rental properties more energy efficient is an extremely difficult and widely recognised challenge. Unfortunately the renters program, which pre-existed the stimulus, has not been embraced as enthusiastically as we’d hoped, and that's why the Government will change the program so that landlords who want to install insulation will be able to do so under the mainstream program – with a higher rebate of $1,600.

In the coming days Minister Garrett will also announce new measures to help renters make their homes more energy efficient to be funded from existing resources.

As a result, we will close the separate renters program, freeing up $610 million in funding to go into our primary schools, ensuring that money is spent is directed to supporting jobs and building projects.

When the global recession hit Australia’s shores, this Government acted, and acted decisively to support our economy, to support small business and to support Australian jobs.

We are not out of the woods yet.

Unemployment will continue to rise – and that’s why we need to maintain our stimulus package.

Today’s announcement is an exciting next phase in the Building the Education Revolution and provides us with an invaluable update on the progress of rolling out the stimulus plan.

This stimulus is about supporting jobs in our communities through the global recession.

If we had listened to Mr Turnbull, 210,000 Australians would be without a job as the global recession washes through our economy.

Because we acted early and decisively to support jobs and cushion our economy, we are in a stronger position to recover faster than most other countries.

By working together, we’ll build the infrastructure that we need, and put in place the building blocks for a brighter and more prosperous future for children across the country including those studying here at St Mary’s today.

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