Page 2931 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 12 October 2022

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provide a long-term solution to those issues, and I hope that this will address those community concerns.

These investments are essential for our growing community. Strong investment in our public education system is a core priority for this government. The Gungahlin school upgrades are part of a wider strategy that sees an additional $240 million being invested across the ACT in our public school system. This investment will create additional school places for almost 5,000 children throughout Canberra. Altogether, the ACT government has allocated roughly $1.7 billion for education and skills in this year’s budget. I look forward to the delivery of these upgrades and new schools over the coming years, and I know the community does as well. Thank you.

MR DAVIS (Brindabella) (11.53): On behalf of the ACT Greens, I rise to support the Appropriation Bill as it pertains to education. The Greens will always prioritise public schools, public school students, public school parents and public school educators. It has been a privilege, in my almost two years of service in this Assembly, to have a very close working relationship with teachers, through their union, the Australian Education Union, and I take this opportunity to thank them for their ongoing support, healthy critique and wisdom as I undertake my responsibilities as my party’s spokesperson for education.

Labor and the Greens do share a belief that public education is one of the most important investments in the public good that a government can make. One recent report from the OECD, for example, found that the societal benefits of early childhood education, and public education more broadly, included reduced healthcare costs, reduced expenditure on social safety nets, increased rates of volunteerism, increased feelings of safety and trust, and reduced costs in our criminal justice system.

That last one seems especially relevant in light of recent criticism in this chamber of the Greens’ approach to reducing crime and recidivism through justice reinvestment. The OECD report also underlined how important public education, and particularly good early childhood education, is to improving equity. It said:

The impact of early childhood education on disadvantaged children has been demonstrated in a number of longitudinal studies. The longest running study started in the 1960s. The Perry Preschool Study involved children from underprivileged families, one group of them who received two years of preschool education while the control group did not.

Taking into account half a dozen different measures, including the rate of high school graduation, the income level and the rates of arrest, the kids who had been to preschool did better than the kids who had not. The societal benefit to cost ratio by the time those kids hit 40 was running at 16 to one. In other words, public education yields whole-of-society benefits, not just benefits to individuals. People who do not have kids benefit from this kind of investment just as much as people who do.

Labor and the Greens do sometimes differ on the detail of how this vital investment in public education is best delivered, but that is a healthy argument, I think, and not a destructive one. We agree on the destination, which is a well-funded, smartly funded public education system from early childhood onwards, but there are many different routes to get there, and choosing the right one can require some robust debate.

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