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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 1 Hansard (12 December) . . Page.. 138..


MR CORBELL (continuing):

inquiry will be conducted. Once the government has considered how the inquiry will be conducted-for instance, its governance and its terms of reference-we will be in a position to better ascertain its cost, and the government will be making an indication of the way that inquiry will progress early in the new year.

MR HUMPHRIES: I ask a supplementary question. I thank Mr Corbell for that answer. Can you guarantee, Mr Corbell, that the amount that will be spent, whatever it might be, on this inquiry will not be deducted from the $27 million the government has promised will be spent inside the school gate?

MR CORBELL: The commitment in relation to the $27 million is that it will be spent on education provision for schools, and that is the commitment we stand by.

Education

MR HARGREAVES: My question is also to the Minister for Education, Youth and Family Services, and along similar lines, in the interests of clarifying something that one of our fellow members from Brindabella raised yesterday. Is the government considering options to provide tax credits that would allow parents to cut out the government "middleman" and pay their money directly to schools? Further, does the government consider that there is a need to reduce the role of government in maintaining and enhancing our public education system in the ACT?

MR CORBELL: Thank you, Mr Hargreaves, for the question. Yes, I must say that I was concerned by the comments of the new shadow minister for education, Mr Pratt, in relation to cutting out the government middleman in the provision of education in the ACT. There are a couple of points I would like to make about that, and to outline the government's point of view in relation to the issues you raise.

First, I am happy to inform the Assembly that, of course, taxation is the responsibility of the federal government, not of the ACT government; so, unlike Mr Pratt, the government does not believe that it has a role in income tax changes such as those proposed by Mr Pratt in relation to education.

Second, it is important to note that the ACT government is not in a position to implement such a suggestion. Of course, funding for ACT government and non-government schools comes primarily from the Commonwealth. That is the major component, at least, under the states grants primary and secondary assistance pact.

Also in his comments yesterday, Mr Pratt outlined the appropriateness of a voucher system. The ACT government is not considering a voucher system for the ACT school system. We do not believe that it is an appropriate system. Despite the fact, of course, that it is a responsibility of the federal government to pursue such a system if it so chose, we do not believe that the user choice methodology is appropriate to address equity and needs-based funding for schools in the ACT.

Indeed, the Commonwealth's new user choice mechanisms, in so far as they have been implemented, actually disadvantage new non-government schools as well as, clearly, government schools. That is an issue of considerable concern. The real issues here, which the government is seeking to address, are those of equity and need in our school


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