Coalition promises $120m IT schools fund

Scheme would replace Labor's computer for schools project

The Coalition has pledged to allocate $120 million towards a fund that would allocate grants to technology for schools around Australia, replacing Labor’s computer for schools project.

In a press conference this morning, Opposition Leader said the fund differed from Labor’s project in that it would not simply say to schools “you will get computers — whether you like them or not”.

Labor’s policy — which has been progressively implemented since 2007 — promised a computer (typically a netbook or laptop) for every student in years nine to 12 as part of its Digital Education Revolution. But Abbott and his offsider, Coalition education spokesperson Christopher Pyne, said this morning claimed the rival proposal would offer principals more options and would actually be delivered.

“They promised 970,000 laptops in schools — whether people wanted them or not — and they’ve delivered about one third,” said Pyne. Abbott described the Coalition’s fund as “an affordable project in a fiscally constrained environment,” and one which could cover a range of areas, with principals being able to apply for funding on an individual basis.

The news came as Prime Minister Julia Gillard intensified her attack on the Coalition over its broadband policy, which would disband Labor’s National Broadband Network.

The central planks of the rival policy are a competitive backhaul network, regional and metropolitan wireless networks and an ADSL enrichment program that will target telephone exchanges without ADSL2+ broadband.

“If you elect the Coalition, the NBN will perish on August 21,” said Gillard, claiming Australia would not be able to match competing countries like Korea, Singapore and Japan for talent — “that’s where the jobs will go”, she said during a speech.

The debate around the competing parties has continued to rage over the past several days, fuelled by Labor’s revelation that the NBN would support speeds of up to 1Gbps nationally — compared with the Coalition’s guarantee of just 12Mbps.

NBN Co chief executive Mike Quigley was forced to deny the speed revelation had anything to do with supporting Labor’s election chances, in the face of a Coalition policy that would see his fledgling broadband company shut down.

Abbott has described the sudden 1Gbps speed increase as a “yet another technological rabbit out of a hat”.

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