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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 7 Hansard (22 August) . . Page.. 1857..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

efficiency and rationalisation, but when it comes to the hard decisions, he is prepared to turn around a decision that deals with a 31 per cent oversupply of public education capacity.

Here is the champion of economic rationalisation. Here is the champion of efficiency. Here is the champion of the need for mean, lean government. Here is the champion of the need to reduce taxes across the board. But when push comes to shove, he will not take the hard decisions. He will not demand efficiencies in relation to infrastructure.

MR SPEAKER: Come back to the subject matter of the question, please.

MR STANHOPE: This is the subject matter. The subject matter of the question is schools and school closures. Having taken the responsible decision to ensure that we have an efficient education system, one of which all Canberrans can be proud, one in which we can confidently invest massively, as we are doing, which party with any semblance of responsibility would take a system with a one-third spare capacity and invest in it at the levels that have occurred?

How do you make that work? How do you take a decision to invest $316 million in a system that you know is performing at one-third less than its capacity? Do you just invest in all of those schools with 70 or 80 children that were built for 500 children? Do you continue to invest at those levels? Just explain it to me: how do you invest in a high school which was built for 800 or 1,000 students and which has 120 students at current levels? How do you do it? How do you justify it? What is the investment that you make? You have a school built for 1,000 children; it currently has a cohort of 120 children. Do you think, "Oh well, we'll invest in that,"in the same way that we invest in all of those other schools that we now have determined will represent state of the art in terms of physical infrastructure and teaching capacity? Explain it to me at some time.

The weak-kneed, populist, unthinking response of those without the courage to govern for all Canberrans is: "We'll just reopen it. We've done a little bit of spot polling.' It seems that we do not need leadership in relation to government expenditure; we do not need leadership in relation to ensuring we have a first-class, world beating public education system. In their hearts, they do not really care all that much about public education. We have seen it again today. Mrs Dunne is prepared to abandon year 12. In fact, when she was the shadow attorney, she was prepared to abandon the pilot system altogether.

MR SPEAKER: Order! Come back to the subject matter of the question.

MR STANHOPE: The subject matter of the question is the integrity of public education and this government's willingness to commit to it, and we have shown that willingness on a level which those on the other side never will. Those on the other side do not show the commitment in their words or their actions to public education. They never have and they never will. They never will. As far as they are concerned, they are happy for public education to slip into being the system of second choice. We are not. Public education represents a commitment to a fair go, to egalitarianism, to equality, to the capacity of every person in society to meet their potential in order to be a member of this community, as an equal with all others. This is done through

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