Internet in Regional Schools Adjournment Speech

GRIMLEY (Western Victoria) (16:25:57): My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Higher Education representing the Minister for Education in this place. In searching for an answer for the poor internet in regional schools, especially in my electorate of Western Victoria Region, I have become aware of a contract between the Department of Premier and Cabinet and telecommunication service providers. This contract stipulates arrangements for, among other things, internet within government departments such as for government secondary schools, of which there are 56 in my electorate alone. As I understand it, the contract ceases in 2020, with conversations for it to extend to 2021. I have to take issue with this extension, as what is currently being offered to our schools is not working in regional Victoria, and I ask the government to consider other options.

Why are we not looking to the future for our schools if we indeed want to be seen as the Education State? In an earlier response from the government on this issue I was told that improvements to internet speed were made to a particular school in my electorate. Unfortunately with a growing cohort, a 50 megabit upgrade from 100 megabits for 1000 students is slower than in some Third World countries. But I have a solution. AARNet are a third-party internet provider to educational institutions, including research facilities, who are funded by all Australian universities and the CSIRO. AARNet funnel profits back into creating further internet infrastructure and are currently servicing many Catholic and independent schools, most of which are metropolitan, but also regionally in western Victoria, all with tremendous results. I am aware of a government school in western Victoria that is using AARNet to access the internet, but neither this school nor the Department of Education and Training are providing answers to my queries of the details of this arrangement. Rather than dealing in secrecy I feel we should be willingly sharing information to get the best deal for our kids to learn. What is stopping us from signing up to this innovative infrastructure?

If the future is online, then why are we seemingly living in the past on this issue? While I appreciate the government’s investment to improve current internet speeds, it needs an overhaul for any significant improvements to actually happen. I do not claim to know everything about the internet; however, I ask the government to take action on considering other internet options, including AARNet, which has proven results, rather than renegotiating a contract to supply a service which is currently not delivering for schools in regional Victoria.