In our first sitting back in the chamber this year I thought it would be fitting to take a look back at and put on the record some of the achievements that have been delivered in my electorate and in the ACT more generally as a result of the Gillard government's hard work, because it contrasts dramatically with the vision for the future of those opposite. The future that they suggest for Canberra—well, it is recession. It is plummeting house prices. It is the loss of thousands and thousands of jobs. It is thousands of people leaving town. They are talking about 12,000 jobs, but that is just the beginning. They are looking at cutting $50 million in government programs. And then there is the $70 billion black hole—they just do not know where that is. So the future that those opposite have for Canberra is recession, plummeting house prices, loss of jobs and people leaving town—12,000 jobs lost is just the beginning; that is just where we are starting to count.
We know this from experience, because the last time the Howard government was in, in 1996, 30,000 public service jobs right across Australia went, and tens of thousands of jobs were lost in Canberra. I know from experience about loss of a public service job because I was a public servant who lost my job. I was in foreign affairs and trade, and the position overseas that I had was cut, as were many positions, and I was brought back to Australia not having served out the posting. At that stage, there were a whole range of public affairs positions in the department of foreign affairs—I think there were about 60, 70 or 80 public affairs positions; they were reduced to eight. We had 22 postings overseas; they were cut back to three. So you can imagine me coming back to Australia. My partner at that stage—he was not my husband—and I came back to Australia. He had resigned his job to accompany me on that posting, and he came back to a Canberra that was in recession. So work was pretty difficult to find, and there he was, rummaging around; he ended up getting part-time work. But they were pretty rugged times.
At that stage, because so many jobs were lost, there were farewells being held in bulk. You would just go along to a farewell lunch, and there would be 10 or 12 people sitting around the table. Many of these people would have been in the service for 20 years, and they were just being farewelled in bulk, with no gifts, just a nice lunch with some of their former colleagues and then goodbye. That is the future that those opposite would paint for Canberra: a future of recession, job losses, plummeting housing prices, and not growth but decimation and recession.
As the Prime Minister has declared, last year was a year of decision and delivery for the government and, indeed, the Prime Minister has delivered some great macro reforms to this nation and great reforms to Canberra. In contrast to that, with those opposite you would get decimation. With the Gillard government you will get growth and prosperity in the nation's capital.
I would like to recognise the many reforms and projects that have been delivered in my local community that are not always reflected in the national debate. Never before have we seen so many cranes on the horizon in Canberra. It is a great time to be here. It is a picture of prosperity and growth. Canberra has been fortunate to be the recipient of a number of projects that have delivered great benefits to my electorate across a number of areas, and will bring enduring positive outcomes to my community.
Education is an area that I have great interest in. I see education as the great empowerer, the great transformer. So it has been my great pleasure to be able to attend the opening of many, many refurbished classrooms and halls, and new libraries, IT centres and administration buildings in schools across my electorate, from Catholic primary schools in the south of the electorate to government primary schools in the inner south at Red Hill, to independent primary schools. Right across the electorate, every primary school has had an investment of between $1.5 million and about $3.5 million, depending on their needs—every single primary school. Do we get anyone from those primary schools complaining? Not at all. We get people who are grateful, who would never have dreamed of having this sort of money invested in their schools. These refurbishments were made possible only because of Building the Education Revolution, that has seen an unprecedented investment in education infrastructure across Australia. As I said, speaking to all the parents, all the teachers, all the staff and the students, they cannot believe how wonderful it is to have that investment. It is a once-in-a-lifetime investment in their schools and they are so incredibly grateful. In the final weeks of 2011, I was present to officially open new classrooms at St Anthony's Primary School in Wanniassa in my electorate. For 27 years this local school taught from demountable buildings —or, for the Victorians here, portable buildings. Now, for the first time, thanks to the Gillard government, they have modern, purpose-built classrooms, where students can learn and teachers can get on with the important job of teaching. They have now got a beautiful hub area, a central area, with the classrooms all around it. Again, the parents cannot believe their luck, the students cannot believe their luck and the teachers and the other staff members cannot believe their luck.
Today I had the pleasure of visiting Narrabundah College in my electorate, where the minister for school education and I toured the classrooms. We met with students and saw firsthand the benefits that new computers are bringing to that learning environment. Narrabundah College has done well out of the Gillard government's increased funding for public education. Nearly $200,000 has been invested in new classrooms for the year 11 and 12 students through the BER fund. I have also been fortunate enough to see the new trades training centre at St Mary MacKillop Catholic College in Tuggeranong in my electorate. This centre will bring much needed skills and apprenticeships to the ACT. St Mary MacKillop is sharing this trade training centre with St Francis Xavier, St Clare's and Merici colleges. I was at St Clare's the other day doing my school Legends Award program, and I saw the hole in the ground that will be the new trade training centre—hopefully, by the end of the year. The principal there is overjoyed at the opportunity to have this trade training centre and also the other significant investments that the Gillard government has been making in education.
I am also greatly supportive of the Gillard government's training package that was announced in the budget last year and, in particular, I am supportive of the commitment to create another 130,000 new training places as well as an additional $100 million commitment to support apprentices through their training. Recently the ACT minister for education and I visited Tuggeranong College. We saw where $8 million will go towards the establishment of the Sustainable Living Trade Training Centre, which will be built over the next few years. The schools that will benefit from that centre are Erindale College, Lake Tuggeranong College, Calwell High School, Chisholm school, Lanyon High School, Wanniassa School and Namadgi School—all government schools. The other trade training centre is in the Catholic system and now we have one in the government system, which is great news. The refurbishment will service six schools, as I mentioned, and offer young people from the Tuggeranong Valley qualifications in everything from automotive to hospitality. This important initiative will give Canberra students more post-school options while addressing serious skill shortages in certain areas in Canberra.
I also welcome the funding that will provide apprentices with more mentoring and support as well as the introduction of tax payments to apprentices in critical trades. I know from my conversations with training providers in the electorate just how welcome these projects and this funding are. I have spoken to them about their difficulty in getting apprentices to complete their training. Indeed, I understand that only 48 per cent of apprentices do complete their training. That is why these commitments are so critical. They are particularly critical in a town like Canberra, where we have significant skill shortages in every area but community pharmacy. I know that trying to get a plumber on a weekend in this town is a very difficult thing and a very expensive thing. My husband burst a pipe last summer and had to get someone out to fix it. It cost us $450 for this plumber to come out and fix the pipe. Note to self: do not let journalists tackle plumbing. So this measure is very significant. These investments are very welcome in trying to reduce those skill shortages.
The Gillard government knows well that investing in education and training is vital. We also know very well the transformative power that quality and well-resourced education can have on someone's life, and that is why we have delivered so much to support education and training in Canberra.