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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 6 Hansard (7 June) . . Page.. 1841..


DR FOSKEY (continuing):

new initiatives in this area that will assist community sector viability. Minister, what is the status of this report and why did the government decide not to respond through the budget?

MR BARR: I thank Dr Foskey for the question. It is an issue of some detail, Dr Foskey. Obviously, having been in the portfolio only a short period of time, I have only just received full detail of the report. I will continue to work towards the government response. I note, however, that there are aspects of the report that have caused some concern for those in the community sector. I am seeking to engage-my office certainly has-with some members of the community sector on how we can progress this. It is something I intend to do in the near future, but at this point it was not ready for a response in the budget.

DR FOSKEY: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Given that, will the minister commit to the immediate public release of the full task force report?

MR BARR: No.

Schools-closures

MR SESELJA: My question is to the Minister for Education and Training. Minister, as part of the government's schools rationalisation project, 39 schools and preschools are identified as having to close, a radical policy program that will undermine any sense of stability in ACT public education. Minister, how will this destabilising of public education and increased uncertainty among students and parents prevent the flow of students into the non-government sector?

MR BARR: I reject the premise of Mr Seselja's question. I think the clear point is that we need to act now to stem that flow. It is inevitable that any change process will result in a degree of uncertainty. That is inevitable. We cannot seek to change something without creating some level of uncertainty. That point I accept and acknowledge.

In putting forward a proposal that we can have what I hope to be a rational discussion over the next six months in which we engage with the community-and I am sure members of the opposition and the crossbench will seek to engage on these issues as well-we have the opportunity to make some forward-looking decisions, to move beyond just next year and the year after and look towards 2010, 2015 and 2020 and where we want our education system to be.

If there is a view that government should not look forward or that, as a new minister, I should not have a view beyond next week or next month or the next election, then I apologise, but I reject that. I will engage constructively over the next six months. I am eager to have a conversation about how we can improve our public education system and I welcome anyone who wishes to contribute to that debate.

But let us have a genuine debate. Let us have a view to the future. Let us have a view about changing our 1970s education system into something that is more relevant to the 21st century, something that does deliver outcomes for students and something that will make a difference in terms of the enrolment decline that we have been seeing.


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