Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1996 Week 2 Hansard (29 February) . . Page.. 455..
Ms McRae: Who are they? Get their names and addresses. They do not live in Canberra.
MS HORODNY: No; I have heard that time and time again from people. I have heard it at community council meetings where people have said that they would be quite happy to pay additional taxes if they knew that that money was going directly into education. One of the concerns that I had when I was listening to the presentations in this inquiry was that, while we heard constantly from teachers and other people that there was no discrimination between students whose parents paid and students whose parents did not pay, we also heard that there was discrimination because some students were not allowed to take home their craft and art work, and even meals that they had prepared in the course of the school day. It seems that there is real discrimination, and that is a real concern to me. It indicates quite clearly that there is a problem and it must be addressed.
The report recommends that the Government must develop a strong policy on this issue. If voluntary contributions are here to stay, at the very least the Education Department must actively discourage discriminatory practices and ensure that students whose parents cannot pay are not disadvantaged in any way, and that includes taking their arts and crafts and meals home. There needs to be a recognition that some schools are more disadvantaged than others in socioeconomic terms. The Government must accept this and develop policies to support the students of those schools accordingly. No student in the ACT should be disadvantaged because of the inability or unwillingness of their parents to pay.
MR KAINE (10.50): Anybody who has read this report, and I hope that everybody here has, will realise that we have a real problem. Many issues that we deal with in this place are not real problems at all; they are just devices for using up time and for somebody to make political points, and I have made that point a couple of times in the last few days. This is not such a case. There is genuine concern in the community over the broad issue of funding for the education of our children, and that concern is not confined to the ACT. It is Australia-wide. It seems that, even with an excellent education system such as we have in the ACT, even given the fact that the per capita funding by government of education in the ACT is much higher than it is anywhere else in Australia, there are still people who are disadvantaged by the system, and there are still enormous inequities in the system when you compare what each child derives from that public school system.
We took, I think, 82 submissions, which indicates the amount of interest and concern on the part of the community on this particular issue. People who appeared, I believe, were genuinely concerned, first of all, to find a solution to the necessity for so-called voluntary contributions, and, secondly, to ensure that, irrespective of how the total amount of money required for education is obtained, inequities are removed from the system.
Members will note that one of our recommendations, recommendation 5, deals with the need for the department to make a distinction between voluntary contributions that are required for general school funding needs and subject levies. There is a need which perhaps goes beyond what the Government sees as necessary in terms of funding which parents and others can reasonably be expected to make a contribution towards.