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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 13 Hansard (5 December) . . Page.. 3932..

MRS DUNNE (continuing):

government attempted to close schools, and it did close some back in the 1990s, the financial circumstances we were facing were quite different—quite different indeed. That was a time when the ACT budget was under considerable stress. We had just emerged into self-government and there was a great deal of stress on the budget; the budgets were running at huge deficits. This is not the case now. We have just seen the end of 2006-07 statements coming in here with a budget surplus in excess of $100 million.

Yesterday we voted on an appropriation bill of $36 million for this financial year, but over the outyears over $100 million—nearly $110 million, of recurrent and capital money. This is money that three months ago the Stanhope government claims it did not know it had. We have to stack up against that the fact that if we close Cook primary school at the end of this year, by the time we get to the end of the 2009-10 financial year we will have saved the ACT taxpayer, by the government's estimation, $811,000. If we close Village Creek primary school, by the end of the 2009-10 financial year we will save $1.898 million, and if we close Kambah high we will save $3 million essentially.

That means that for those schools that are closing, over all of that period of time $5.7 million will be saved for the ACT taxpayer—when this government, this year alone, in extra expenditure proposes to spend $36 million, and the extra expenditure in the education budget as part of the second appropriation bill is $6.4 million. There are some extra savings, which are very hard to quantify, for the preschools, but when you remember that the government proposed to save $500,000 by all the preschool closures, the amount that we are talking about is very small indeed. As someone said to me at a meeting in Kambah, "The Labor Club could run a raffle each year and raise enough money to keep the preschools open, and it would probably be better use of the money the Labor Club raises rather than using the poker machine money to fund the Labor Party."

This motion here today is an important one. We are in a much better financial situation than Mr Barr and Mr Stanhope would have us believe we were in in 2006. Cook was described by the minister in September last year as a great school. He said that Cook school was a fully-integrated P-6 model with excellent IT classroom and playground facilities that the rest of the ACT school system could be modelled on. "Cook is a great school,"he said in September last year, but he proposes to close it in a few weeks time. This is why we are here today—to stop the Stanhope government closing these schools for these paltry savings when it is overspending in a whole lot of other areas. I commend the motion to the house.

MR BARR (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Planning, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Minister for Industrial Relations) (11.34): I thank Mrs Dunne for raising this debate. It is of course timely to reflect on some of the significant achievements in our public education system, and I am very pleased to see again today that the ACT leads the nation. Indeed, in what has been a difficult period for education in Australia, the ACT stands out as a shining beacon for quality education, and the decisions that the ACT government took through 2006-07 go to the heart of maintaining a quality public education system.

MR SPEAKER: You will have to remain relevant, minister.

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