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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 6 Hansard (6 June) . . Page.. 1773..


services and creating the infrastructure to accommodate a fourth linear accelerator by 2012.

$12 million will be spent to boost acute bed capacity and almost $5 million to boost critical care bed capacity.

There will be a four-year, $10 million assault on waiting lists, and almost $5 million will be spent boosting the numbers of mental health specialists in our health work force.

Education

Mr Speaker, if health is the biggest budget item confronting governments, education is the next biggest.

Government schools and preschools have delivered education of high quality to Canberrans from the earliest days of this city's existence, helping generations of young Canberrans reach their intellectual and social potential.

There is no doubt that the sheer quality of that experience makes most long-term Canberrans fiercely protective of the system, and nostalgically attached to the neighbourhood school concept.

But as we progress into the 21st century, our government school system is labouring under considerable pressure from changing circumstances and changing community expectations.

It is losing students to the non-government sector, and it is losing out to an ageing of the population that is robbing our classrooms of boys and girls, leaving almost 18,000 empty desks across the system.

Our schools are under capacity by more than 30 per cent across the board. Our infrastructure is ageing. Some of it is tired-looking.

If current trends persist, our government schools will cater for fewer than half of our school age population within a decade.

This is another of the fast-looming crises which cannot be put off to another day or another government.

And nor would we want to.

Labor is deeply and philosophically committed to government schools. We don't believe the answer is simply to close schools with dwindling populations and to keep on closing them until there is just a ghost of a system left to remind us of what was.

We want to again make government schools the schools of first choice in this town. And we will do it, starting today.

This budget involves a historic investment in government schools and preschools.


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