Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2022 Week 09 Hansard (Wednesday, 12 October 2022) . . Page.. 2928 ..
In another question, about new and expanded schools, we asked: “When can residents of Canberra’s north expect the much-needed expansion of college capacity?” Again, it was a simple question. The answer was: “The government is undertaking master planning and preliminary design work during 2022-23 which will inform the time frame for delivery.” This relates to the school in Gungahlin that is already over capacity. That means that not only does the government not know when it will actually be able to deliver extra capacity for schools but it does not know when it will have a time frame for delivery. The current work will inform the development of a time frame. This is capacity that is needed right now. Gungahlin P&C have said that the college is already full.
When we raised teacher shortages last year, we asked repeatedly how many vacancies there were for schoolteachers in the ACT. Repeatedly, the minister said there was only one vacancy. This went through estimates, it went through the budget debate and it went through question time, with the minister digging in and saying, “No, there is only one vacancy for teachers in schools.” I bring to members’ attention to the following advertisement, currently placed on Seek. This advertisement states:
The ACT Education Directorate is anticipating 300 permanent vacancies for 2023.
Members, we have gone from only one vacancy—“All fine; nothing to see here,” from the minister, repeatedly, in question time—to the directorate now advertising for 300 vacancies. This shows that the minister either misled the Assembly or she was wildly and wilfully ill-informed.
Lastly, I want to touch briefly on a matter relating to early childhood education. It was interesting, to say the least, to note the move by the New South Wales and Victorian governments to extend the government-provided period for early childhood education. For them, this is a very significant reform, totalling many billions, between those two states. It was more interesting to discover that, even though we are an island within New South Wales, the minister was not involved in those discussions. That means that for the ACT it is still uncertain, but I look forward to hearing from the minister, now that she is aware, what the ACT response will be.
I will finish by repeating my support for those most affected by these issues—our teachers, our students and their parents. Our teachers do an amazing job in very difficult circumstances, and they have our wholehearted support, but I will not be supporting a government that does not support them. It does not have the information; it does not have the plans to address the chronic problems that we see. This area of government, like so many others, is suffering from a lack of funding for frontline services, and the cost of that is clearly evident in schools across Canberra. We will not be supporting this government in providing too little funding—and we know that that is what is happening—too few resources and way too little respect for our teachers and our schools.
MS ORR (Yerrabi) (11.45): The latest available data suggests that there are currently more than 46,500 students in ACT public schools. To support these students, the 2022-23 budget includes $1.6 billion of overall investment in education. That is 23 per cent of the total spend and second only to the health budget.