Abbott quizzed on broadband and economy
Reporter: Kerry O'Brien
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TONY ABBOTT: ... but if you can't put batts in rooves without causing house fires, if you can't build school halls without rip off after rip off, why would you be confident that they could do this? [Roll out a $43 billion national broadband network.]
KERRY O'BRIEN: Well let's talk about school halls. When you talk about the waste in the Government's school building stimulus program, the Orgill report investigating claims of waste in that program found that there had been complaints related to 2.7 per cent of all schools that have benefitted from the program - that's 254 schools out of 7,900 schools where there were complaints. That presumably means there were no complaints at all from 7,650 schools for a program designed to bring benefits to schools and underpin the economy, provide jobs, keep the construction sector going. Is that really the disaster you've painted it to be?
TONY ABBOTT: But every single complaint that was investigated was found to have substance. Now at the very beginning of the Orgill process, Mr Orgill made it clear that he could not guarantee the anonymity of complainants. We know that there has been a great deal of institutional bullying of school principals who have gone public with this. I don't think anyone can assume that just because only 2.5 per cent or thereabouts of people complained that there were no problems anywhere else. Those 2.5 per cent of public complaints I think are the tip of this iceberg.
KERRY O'BRIEN: Well, you're making assumptions yourself. The Orgill report found that of the 254 schools there were complaints, half those complaints related to money. That brings it down to 125 schools out of 7,900 where some money - not all of the money spent - where some money might have been waste. Do you acknowledge that?
TONY ABBOTT: Well what I do state, Kerry, is that the Orgill report found that the cost per square metre across the board was vastly higher than the building standard, than the building standard.
KERRY O'BRIEN: Five to six per cent.
TONY ABBOTT: No - in NSW, the cost per square metre, the average cost in NSW public schools was something like $4,500 per square metre. It was something like $3,500 per square metre in Victoria public schools. The industry standard is more like $1,500 a square metre. Catholic schools got it for about $2,000 a square metre. Just on what the Orgill report found, plainly, value for money was not being achieved. And in some cases, the cost per square metre was vastly higher. We had $25,000 per square metre in the case of some of these canteens.
KERRY O'BRIEN: More broadly on the economy, your campaign slogan focuses heavily on Labor debt. But Joe Hockey [shadow treasurer] acknowledged at the Press Club on Monday that if the Coalition had been in government for the global crisis, you too would have had to run a deficit. How big a deficit? And can I ask you just not to say "Smaller than the Government's"? How big a deficit would you have run?
TONY ABBOTT: But we weren't in government. We are not in government. We would have pursued different policies. I can't say exactly what the deficit would have been with those different policies because we didn't get the chance to put those different polices into place. But what we have said all along is that the second stimulus was too much too soon. We, I suppose, had a premonition, if you like, Kerry, that the home insulation program and the school halls program were gunna turn out to be disasters and we were right.
KERRY O'BRIEN: So, it'd be very lucky for you if you had these wonderful premonitions through government that you're able to rely on.