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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 3 Hansard (10 March) . . Page.. 949..

MR PRATT (continuing):

The Liberal opposition agree that the Labor government needs to ensure that existing funds available are advertised and then accessed by parents, when their applications are approved by the chief executive of the Department of Education, Youth and Family Services, to assist in the payment of fees associated with these school activities. The government will need to examine whether the existing funding system is adequate. The evidence indicates that it needs to be enhanced if it indeed does exist in any meaningful fashion. Clearly, families are missing out. Clearly, vulnerable families are not being advised of any resources that could otherwise be made available to them.

I believe that the government needs to be able to investigate the best way in which to either enhance the existing system or establish a fund, which may be the model that Ms Dundas has suggested here today, the existing ACT junior secondary bursary scheme, or a completely new and different scheme may be more appropriate.

We will support the government's amendment to paragraph 1 but we will not support the amendment that they have suggested for paragraph 2. We would rather not move around the edges of this debate and that amendment might just blur the edges. Let us get straight to the nub of this issue and see if some action can be taken. I urge the government to investigate options for a fund to serve this purpose and for them to establish the most appropriate option to allow parents to apply for financial assistance as soon as practicable.

The opposition will support the amendments proposed by the Greens. They both seek concise but reasonable actions, and a timeframe of May 2004 for the government to report back by on an issue of this importance we feel is doable. I was pleased to hear Mr Corbell this morning say that the government will have a look at this issue. We will keenly watch for timely action by the government on this. I would also like to commend Ms Dundas for tackling this issue and moving this motion here today.

MR SPEAKER: The question is that Mr Corbell's amendments be agreed to. Mr Pratt, you mentioned in the course of your contribution to the debate that you would support one amendment but not the other. The Assembly has already agreed that they be considered together, by leave, so you might have to work out how you are going to deal with that.

MRS CROSS (11.10): I agree with the sentiment of Ms Dundas's motion; I think it is admirable. But I think the way the motion is at the moment it is a little way off becoming a practical reality. The scheme will place the onus of funding on the taxpayers, a matter that is always a cause for pause. It also throws up a number of other questions, particularly in relation to the administration of the scheme. What proportion of children in public schools will fall into the category that at present misses out? Who decides where the low income line is to be drawn and how is the means testing to be applied? Are there really "numerous cases"where schools refuse to enrol students in a subject for these reasons? What is the likely scale of bureaucracy that will be needed to administer this scheme or is it intended that the existing education bureaucracy take on the additional responsibility? I think also that the comparison between the proposed scheme and the ACT junior secondary bursary scheme is not apt. The bursary scheme is about something else; it is about providing to the disadvantaged the opportunity for a core education. It does not necessarily extend to cover any additional activities.

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