Labor denies air-con for our kids

I rise to speak in support of the private member’s motion moved by the member for Kawana, and in doing so I call on those opposite to adopt the LNP’s plan to air-condition every Queensland state school classroom. Since I began in my role as Bundaberg’s MP, the lack of air conditioning in our state school classrooms has been one of the most common complaints I have heard from my constituents. Countless teachers, parents, principals, school staff, grandparents and students have asked me when air conditioning will become a reality in their classrooms. I am tired of having to tell them that Labor is not interested. Air conditioning is not only something our state schools want; it is something our state schools need in order to provide our young people and teaching staff with the comfortable learning environment they undeniably deserve.

In June 2018 we announced that an LNP government will install air conditioning in every state school classroom in our great state. Just one month later in July the New South Wales Labor opposition leader made the same commitment in New South Wales. Also in July the Queensland Teachers’ Union voiced their support for air-conditioned state school classrooms. Despite all of this, this Labor government still refuses to follow suit. How much more convincing do they need?

Under this Labor government, state schools south of Gladstone do not obtain funding to install air conditioning in their classrooms. My electorate of Bundaberg is just a two-hour drive from the cut-off line. We just miss out, yet we experience the same weather conditions as Gladstone and communities further to the north. For much of the year we endure extreme hot and humid conditions. I have been advised by teachers and principals that there are classrooms in Bundaberg that cannot be used in summer as they are too unbearably hot. I have also heard from teachers in Bundy that they are being forced to hold their classes outside in the shade of a building or a tree purely because it is cooler outside than in their classroom. That is not fair on the students or the teachers.
What is Labor’s plan? Under Labor, Queensland’s hardworking P&Cs based south of Gladstone are expected to raise the funds for air conditioning themselves. Making local parents pay for air conditioning is Labor’s plan, and I do not think that is good enough. With over a year until the next election, Bundaberg P&Cs are desperate to raise funds for air conditioning and I will continue to support them in every way that I can. By October 2020 I will have donated barbecues to all 15 state schools in my electorate to use as raffle prizes, with all funds raised going straight to the P&C. These community raffles have been very well received at Bundaberg’s P&Cs. They are extremely grateful for this assistance as they receive none from this Labor government.

Our P&C members should not be responsible for raising the funds to install air conditioning when those located just a few hours north have it paid for. Under this government our kids are left struggling, suffering and sweltering in their classrooms. The Premier’s office and the ministerial offices are all air-conditioned. Our electorate offices are air-conditioned. What about our kids’ classrooms at Avoca, Brayan Road, Bundaberg Central, Bundaberg East, Bundaberg North, Bundaberg South, Bundaberg West, Kalkie, Thabeban, Norville, Walkervale, Bundaberg Special School, Bundaberg North State High, Bundaberg State High and Kepnock State High schools? What about the thousands of students at these schools in my electorate? Some of these 15 schools have air-conditioned classrooms paid for and installed by their P&C. Others have not because they genuinely cannot afford to do it.

Our Wide Bay region currently has a youth unemployment rate of around 20 per cent—the second highest in Queensland. This number desperately needs to decrease. Studies have shown that employability is linked to education and that comfortable learning environments help students stay focused and engaged. Still the Labor government does not budge. Local teachers tell me that, when a classroom gets air conditioning installed, the behaviour improvement of the students is phenomenal. In Queensland in 2017, 13 out of 20 NAPLAN rankings went backwards. It is no wonder kids are struggling to learn and concentrate when their classrooms are over 35 degrees.

The Queensland education department does not even know how many classrooms are air-conditioned. Labor does not care. How much more obvious can it be? The LNP’s goal is for Queensland’s kids to be the smartest in the nation. To achieve that, we need to air-condition our classrooms to give our kids the best possible start to their careers and lives. Our kids are the future leaders of Queensland. Our kids are worth it. I call on those opposite to quit their ignorance and finally show some leadership by adopting the LNP’s plan to air-condition every state school classroom in Queensland.

You can watch Mr Batt’s speech here.

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