Liberals lost for words over Labor laptop plan

Summary:The Opposition spokesperson for education has accused the Labor government of trying to back-pedal on its commitment to provide a laptop for every student between years 9 and 12.

The Opposition spokesperson for education has accused the Labor government of trying to back-pedal on its commitment to provide a laptop for every student between years nine and 12.

Senator Brett Mason, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Education, told ZDNet.com.au today that the Labor government is "watering down" its pre-election policy to provide laptops to each individual student to now providing "access" for each student.

Senator Brett Mason, Shadow Parliamentary Secretary for Education (Credit: Parliament of Australia)

"The language has changed since the election from a definite one laptop per student merely to 'access' for every student," said Mason, claiming Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had adapted the wording of the policy in a number of instances.

Mason levelled the same criticism at Senator Kim Carr, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research saying that Carr and the Prime Minister had "cheated" every parent of every student eligible for a computer under the policy.

The Liberal senator said the Labor party should not have made such "grand sweeping statements" ahead of the election, and refuted Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard's assertion last month that "some schools have virtually no access" to computers for their students. Mason cited a 2005 OECD report into the matter which stated that 99 percent of Australian schoolchildren had access to a computer, based on figures collected in 2003.

"Based on the number of computers per student I think we're the third highest in the world," he said.

Gillard made her comments in January at the halfway mark of a national schools IT audit, administered by the Council of Australian Government (COAG) to establish a priority list of schools most in need of computers as part of the first phase of the federal government's digital education revolution. The audit was expected to be complete by mid February, although no announcements on its results have been made yet.

Despite this, Mason said the government has again started to refer to the policy aim to provide a laptop for "every student", but only after a Senate Estimates Committee hearing yesterday.

"The real question is who's going to pay for it?" said Mason. "One hundred million dollars isn't going to be enough in itself, and who's going to look after the maintenance and ongoing associated costs?"

"The government wasn't telling me that in the estimates committee yesterday," he said.

Topics: Government, Government : AU, Hardware, IT Employment, Laptops

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