Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 9 Hansard (20 August) . . Page.. 3341..
MR BARR (continuing):
further information and further understanding of how the new planning system works. They have been very proactive in their approach to working through some of the issues that the new system has presented.
However, we have made a significant change in our planning system, picking up the development assessment forum's model. It is best practice in Australia. Other jurisdictions are seeking to move in the same direction the ACT has. One of the key elements in the reforms to the planning system was to exempt more activity from planning requirements. This is an area where, with a little bit of further information and some more education, these issues can be adequately resolved.
Education—capital works program
MRS DUNNE: My question is to the Minister for Education and Training. Minister, why has your department forecast an underspend of $30 million out of the Stanhope government's total capital works forecast during 2007-08, and what impact will this have on the delivery of services to students?
MR BARR: I thank Mrs Dunne for the question. I understand that the bulk of that underspend relates to projects that were either at the final stages of completion or had already been completed since that end-of-financial-year date rolled by. A capital works program as significant as the ACT government has undertaken across all of our schools means that there are some projects that were not completed by 30 June. Of course, the estimations that are made do require that all work is completed within a certain time frame. From time to time, that is not possible. Largely due to the strength of our economy and the availability of tradespeople in particular areas, there have been some delays. But I would much prefer to have a situation where there is a government investing in the quality of our school facilities and that we have a problem of not being able to finish all of the projects than the alternative.
I know Mrs Dunne is on the record on numerous occasions as suggesting that this investment in schools is throwing good money after bad. Given that the education department has completed more than 200 projects across more than 70 schools in the ACT, the department has a very good track record of delivering on improving our school facilities. I know the Liberal Party opposes this; I know it opposes this bitterly and that there is a huge amount of division on that side of chamber, as there has been over the last four years, in relation to investment in public education. Members of the Liberal Party really, really dislike it. It is evident in the nature of the questions they ask and the nature of their behaviour around the government's record investment in public education. They dislike it; they disapprove of it; and this is another example of Mrs Dunne and her particular agenda that investment in public education is throwing good money after bad.
MR SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Mrs Dunne.
MRS DUNNE: Minister, why can your department not provide accurate forecasts for its capital spending program?
MR BARR: The department does an outstanding job in investing in our schools; it does an outstanding job in ensuring that we have the world's best education facilities.