HE'S A MINISTER FOR OBFUSCATION - no straight answers for Echuca Specialist School

May 11, 2018

EDUCATION Minister James Merlino has vowed his government will finish what it started when it comes to the Echuca Specialist School.

Despite the school — currently battling ongoing issues including asbestos, sewerage and power — getting zilch in this month’s state budget towards its move to join Twin Rivers.

And more than three minutes of political waffle during Question Time, and not answering Member for Murray Plains Peter Walsh’s demand he explain to the families and children of the Specialist School how this was expected to be the best time in Victoria for them?

Instead Mr Merlino talked about the ‘‘broad investment’’ his government was making in schools across the state.

Though he did promise to address immediate issues in regard to sewerage at the school at the end of the discussion.

‘‘I’ll talk to the Echuca community, absolutely, but in terms of our broad investment in school buildings and upgrading existing schools 72 new schools, 1300 upgrades, $1.25 billion in this year’s budget ... hand in terms of rural and regional Victoria, over $800 million through the Andrew’s Labor Government, more than double the investment from the he said.

‘‘So what matters ... this not what you say in opposition, not what you promise at election, but actually what you deliver.’’

Order was called, and the minister was asked to answer the question.

But he didn’t.

‘‘Investment in our schools and upgrading our schools is vitally important,’’ Mr Merlino said.

Order was once again called and he was once again asked to answer the question.

‘‘So in terms of special schools and Echuca Specialist School this government has invested in specialist schools like no other,’’ Mr Merlino said.

‘‘Over 40 projects, whether it’s Echuca Specialist School ... I understand that there’s more work to be done. But to the Echuca community.’’

question’’ regarding no funding in the budget for a school in such a ‘‘deplorable’’ situation.

He has also challenged the Minister to come to Echuca and face the school community. 

‘‘And I ask you (the speaker) to bring him back to answering that question specifically about that school...he’s had three minutes now with one minute remaining,’’ he said.

‘‘A specific answer about their needs and their community would be appreciated.’’

Mr Merlino said his government had invested $11 million in the first stage of Twin Rivers but the previous government invested nothing.

‘‘On the issue of actual truth, the previous government purchased the land for that school, the Minister is deliberately misleading the house,’’ Mr Walsh said.

Mr Merlino then said his government would address any immediate issues in regard to sewerage.

‘‘But we have funded stage one...we will finish stage one. Unlike those opposite, when we are in government we actually deliver,’’ he said.

Mr Walsh said he could not believe government had turned its back on the students after leading them to believe it would get the funding.

‘‘How is that fair?’’ Mr Walsh said.

Mr Merlino said $18 million had been invested across schools within Campaspe Shire.

‘‘Where is their (Liberal National party) voice when they are in government?’’ he said.

The Specialist School, which is now paying $100,000 in rent every year — for substandard facilities — had been expecting its long overdue funding to complete stage two of Twin Rivers and move into new, purpose-built facilities.

It will have to wait until 2021, at the earliest, to become part of the new Echuca school.

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