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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 7 Hansard (22 August) . . Page.. 1859..


MR STANHOPE (continuing):

You do not have to show a commitment to a system that you do not really have, anyway. But we decided to take the hard decisions, and it has not been much fun. It has not been much fun. But we did it, we are proud of it and we will deliver a legacy in the form of the excellence of public education in the ACT that, in the years and decades to come, will be acknowledged as being a direct result of the decisions that were taken last year.

For the first time in decades, we took decisions in relation to public education in the territory that no other government or minister would take. And we followed up those decisions and those actions with a massive, historic investment, to the tune of $320 million to date and counting, in ACT public education—including, of course, a commitment to upgrade all of our science labs. There is a commitment to do something which, on reflection, at one level is an indictment—to ensure that every high school in the ACT has a gymnasium. Imagine that: we were fostering a system that allowed government high schools in the territory to persist with not having a gymnasium. We have fixed the problems, we found the money, we have made the investment, and we will continue to do so.

The level of IT investment, networking and infrastructure are second to none in Australia and befitting of the sort of system that we aspire to deliver to the people of the ACT. Educational outcomes are the envy of the rest of Australia. But there is much more to be done, we are aware of that and we will continue to do it. We will do it for children that traditionally have struggled—children with a disability, and indigenous children. There are areas of underperformance but we are addressing them. We saw that most recently at Duffy primary school, with the opening of new, state-of-the-art services. The innovation and level of resourcing and investment that we are now making in special units in our schools have been applauded by everybody. They are the envy of Australia, and they are an investment that could only be made realistically as a result of the decisions that we took. We wanted to ensure that there was an efficient system that could be invested in with confidence to the levels that we have. (Time expired.)

Housing—rents

MR SMYTH: My question is to the Chief Minister. Chief Minister, a significant outcome from your government's approach to "squeeze investors until they bleed but not until they die,"is a shortage of rental properties. According to the latest information provided on rents for the March quarter 2007, Canberra has the highest median weekly rent of all capital cities—at $354 for a three-bedroom house. Chief Minister, why are private sector rents higher in Canberra than they are in any other capital city?

MR STANHOPE: We certainly do have high rents at the moment. Similarly, over the last year or more the housing market in the ACT has exhibited the strongest growth in price. Indeed, we have the strongest housing market in finance approvals within Australia. To some extent the ACT is beating the nation on issues such as housing finance commitments and residential start-ups. I do not have the full list of numbers in front of me, but they are very significant and something for which we can be particularly grateful.


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