17 November 2021

Ms TRISH DOYLE (Blue Mountains) (23:36): I speak on behalf of the hundreds of concerned parents, students and teachers who have contacted my office about this Government's neglect of local public schools in the Blue Mountains. The revelation of the Government's complete and utter failure to deliver its Cooler Classrooms Program commitments was one of the most scandalous findings from budget estimates. On 11 March 2019, less than a fortnight from the State election, the then education Minister made an unambiguous campaign promise: air conditioning for every classroom, in every public school and in every community across New South Wales. Now, two years later, the Government's true colours are showing.

After stringing along hundreds of schools for years on end, this Government, without any reasonable explanation, failed to provide funding for 97 per cent of schools that applied for round two of its Cooler Classrooms Program. The Government has utterly failed to deliver across the State and its record in my electorate has been reprehensible. Every school from the Blue Mountains that applied for funding in that round was left without a cent from this Liberal-Nationals Government. There was not a cent for Blackheath Public School, Ellison Public School, Hazelbrook Public School, Katoomba High School, Lawson Public School, Leura Public School, Springwood High School, Springwood Public School or Winmalee High School.

Only a government as Sydney-centric and out of touch as this one could think that schools in a highly bushfire-prone region, with smoke-filled air a common feature of our hot summers, are underserving of air conditioning. As if the Government's failure to successfully deliver on its election commitments was not enough, its complete lack of willingness to rectify the situation or even to acknowledge that it broke its promise is outrageous and, frankly, disrespectful to every student and staff member in New South Wales public schools.

What I find most disappointing about it is not necessarily that the Liberals and The Nationals have broken a promise. After all, that is nothing new. It is not that they have yet again disproportionately shifted funding away from areas like the Blue Mountains and western Sydney, where that funding is most needed. Our communities have become used to that. It is not even that hundreds of schools will be left with inadequate cooling, making life harder than it needs to be for staff and students. No, what is most disappointing about this whole sorry affair is what it says about this Government. To break promises left, right and centre is one thing, but to break promises to our kids is another. One would think Government members could find it in their hearts to not let down the children of this State. I thought I had seen everything, but this sets a new low even for them. Ultimately, the entire ordeal has been completely emblematic of the Coalition's ethos on education: over-promise, under-deliver and when the going gets tough just walk away.

Speaking of walking away from commitments, I wonder whether any member of the Government will provide us with an update on the second commitment made by the then education Minister on that day back in 2019—the promise to scrap demountable classrooms in every public school across New South Wales. I am not sure whether the education Minister has taken herself to any of the schools across the State with so many demountables, but many schools no longer have access to playground facilities. Perhaps she should do that so she can let them know how much longer they will have to continue putting up with the Government's complete lack of investment in basic school infrastructure. Perhaps she could pay a visit to my electorate of Blue Mountains and explain to our community why not a single school across the region featured in the Minister's 20 October announcement of schools to receive funding for new or upgraded infrastructure projects.

The Minister might want to drop in to Katoomba High School, where the student population has surged by over 50 per cent in the space of five years, and explain why not a single new or upgraded piece of infrastructure has been delivered to the school to help accommodate the hundreds of extra students who now attend. Of course, we will see none of that from this Minister or this Government, because they will take credit for anything and responsibility for nothing. The message that sends to our schools and communities could not be clearer: The Government does not care. I conclude by sending a message of my own to staff and students. To the teachers and staff of our public schools, thank you for your hard work, dedication and commitment. To the parents and communities advocating for better conditions, thank you. To the fabulous, bright, gifted, talented and creative students across New South Wales, we will not forget you, we will not stop fighting for you and you deserve better.