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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 9 Hansard (22 August) . . Page.. 3162..


MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

I expect that as the program impacts on more and more students the effects on literacy and numeracy will filter through to improved educational outcomes for our kids. We have good outcomes at present, Mr Hird, as you are well aware. I think 94.8 per cent of year 3 students are above national benchmarks in literacy in some strands. That is particularly pleasing. That is leading the country. With this initiative, I think we will further improve the good outcomes.

Mr Berry mentioned something about Labor. It is good to see that the opposition was so impressed with this initiative that they agreed to adopt it as part of their policy. I guess there is no greater form of flattery than imitation. So enthusiastic was Mr Berry about the idea of smaller class sizes that he undertook to take money out of the urban services budget by scrapping the free bus program and using about $11 million of that over four years to fund an extension to year 3. There may be some problems with that. On the face of it, it might sound all right. But there is ample educational research and study to justify smaller classes in the earlier childhood years as we have in kindergarten and year 2, but there is still considerable debate in educational circles as to any educational value in moving into older age groups. Again, I think Mr Berry has embarked on feel-good policies when there is not a huge scientific or professional basis for such a move.

I have seen calculations-I am not going to go over them; I have done it about 10 times in the Assembly-to indicate that once Mr Berry scraps the free bus scheme it will not work out, the way he does his maths, and there might not be enough money in the kitty to pay for the additional educational initiatives which the Labor Party seem to want. I think there could be some real problems there.

Smaller class sizes are an excellent initiative, Mr Hird. You were right to raise the matter. It is ground-breaking stuff. The opposition, whichever way they say it, have imitated it. I think we will see some substantial benefits, especially in literacy and numeracy, right across schooling when kids in government schools are in classes of 21. They will feel the benefit of that through the rest of their schooling.

Thanks for asking the question, Mr Hird. I think it is timely.

MR HIRD: I ask a supplementary question. So, Minister, Mr Berry is in the dark with his calculator or he does not have any batteries in his calculator? Is that the fact?

MR STEFANIAK: It could be a bit of both, Mr Hird.

MR SPEAKER: The question asks for an expression of opinion.

Housing

MS TUCKER: My question is to Mr Moore as minister for housing and relates to accommodation for single people. In November 1999, a spokeswomen for the then minister for housing, Brendan Smyth, stated in the Southside Chronicle that the $6.6 million received from the sale of Lachlan Court would go towards redeveloping Burnie Court and purchasing more accommodation for single persons. Now that the majority of Burnie Court is to be sold and the majority of the redeveloped Burnie Court will be privately owned accommodation, could the minister say how many units to


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