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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 4 Hansard (31 March) . . Page.. 1396..


MR PRATT (continuing):

particularly around the year 8 and year 9 mark, as they are having trouble with focusing. A lot more needs to be done in our high school curriculum to cater for that as a predicator to encouraging perhaps those students to go to college and pick up a formal VET stream.

We have had a discussion this morning about free education. Unfortunately, free education from kindergarten to university is a silly and irresponsible pipedream. It just cannot happen. Families and students have to pick up some of the responsibility. The government needs to pick up the responsibility for ensuring, as I said earlier, that those children who come from a difficult SES background are identified, recognised for their talents and supported. I am sure that in terms of poverty line issues that can be catered for, it is very important that we have in place good strategies to ensure that all children can attain their best potential in whatever stream.

MS MacDONALD (11.13), in reply: I thank members for their contribution to this debate, such as it was. I would like to note again the presence in the gallery of Max Jeganathan and Kathryn Cooper, the president and vice-president of the ANU Students Association. I thank them for their support in coming along today and when I gave my introductory speech.

It was announced on 12 March, after I gave that speech, that the Senate Employment, Workplace Relations and Education References Committee will be conducting investigations into student income support, indigenous skills and training and lifelong learning in Australia. Austudy, Abstudy and rent assistance will be the focus of a six-month investigation, with the committee being expected to report to the federal parliament later this year.

Those inquiries are welcome news, but it is still important for this motion to get up because, apart from anything else, it would be a good motion to put forward to that Senate committee inquiry. But the Senate committee inquiry will not be reporting to parliament for at least six months and students are in a crisis situation now.

Today is a national day of action for students. A rally is being held in Garema Place today and I believe that hundreds of students from both the ANU and the University of Canberra are expected to attend. As part of the national campaign, students, unionists and community activists will be protesting against the introduction of the Howard government's new higher education package. I understand that the speakers at the rally will include Senator Kim Carr, Senator Kerry Nettle and representatives of the ANU and the University of Canberra. I will be attending that rally today to give my support to the students who are facing fairly tough times these days.

I would like to respond to some of the comments that have been made this morning in relation to this motion to correct some of the misinterpretations and misunderstandings of what my motion is calling for and talk about the facts of life. Mr Pratt said that the previous government had set about revitalising vocational education and training in the ACT. I could not disagree more with that assessment of the actions of the previous government. Mr Speaker, as you know and as other people in this chamber know very well, I worked within vocational education and training in an industry training advisory board for two years and I was also involved with that ITAB for five years prior to actually having a paid role, being both the chair and a member of the board for five


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