Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 1 Hansard (13 February) . . Page.. 34..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
I come back to the view which I have placed before the Assembly very clearly that the government will deal with these issues in the most forthright way it can. If your position continues to be one of sitting on the sidelines criticising that, that is fine but it does not say much for whether this falls into the categories I indicated before of being a good government or a bad government.
MR HIRD: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Minister for Education and Attorney-General. Last week the Canberra Times revealed that the government is proposing to reduce-
Mr Quinlan: Are you ready for this, Bill?
MR HIRD: Just a minute. You will hear some wise words and you may learn something. The Canberra Times revealed that the government is proposing to reduce class sizes to 21 for kindergarten through to Year 2 students. Minister, what is the timetable to implement this wonderful initiative?
Mr Stanhope: Shame-absolute shame!
MR STEFANIAK: Mr Stanhope says, "Shame." I would have thought he would say, "Good initiative." So I do not know what this "shame" is. I would think that this is a wonderful initiative. Certainly, far from being shameful, as Mr Stanhope would have it, we on this side of the house are very proud of this initiative.
I think someone opposite said that this was something that the government suddenly conjured up overnight. No, no-wrong, wrong, wrong. That was not the case. It has actually been under consideration by me and the government for the past 12 months.
Mr Hird, the reason that we were able to bring forward an initiative like this was the good financial position that the territory finds itself in now after six budgets under the Liberal government. It would have been rather hard to do so two or three years ago when we were still suffering from the effects of that $344 million deficit. But this is an indication of the social capital that can actually be delivered when a budget does go into surplus.
Mr Hird, you asked for details. This is a very well thought-out and thoroughly costed project which details not only the underlying educational philosophy but also the basis on which it will be brought into practice. It is certainly not a knee-jerk reaction. Local and also international research has shown that the early years of schooling, particularly in what we call in the ACT kindergarten to Year 2, covering children from the ages of five to seven generally, with closer individual attention from teachers will have very beneficial outcomes for those children concerned, especially in the crucial core skills which they will need for the rest of their educational and working lives. I am talking about the basic things-the ability to read, to write and to count.