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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 7 Hansard (15 August) . . Page.. 2142..


Mr Pratt: You do not even know why there is a drift. You have got no idea why there is a drift.

MR SPEAKER: Resume your seat for a minute, minister. Mr Pratt, silence please. Mr Smyth, next time you will be on a warning. No further interjections. The minister has the floor.

MR BARR: Thank you, Mr Speaker. The answer to Mr Smyth's question about what we are doing to address it is that we put forward the most significant reform package in the history of self-government to ensure that our public education system remains viable, strong and, in fact, is strengthened into the future. That is the whole point. Do you think I would go through the process that we have been through in the last couple of months for the sake of it, with no actual desire, no passion, to see an improvement in public education? Come on! There is a real and definitive need to undertake this reform. It cannot wait.

Previous governments, as the Chief Minister has indicated, have shirked taking the tough decisions that are necessary to ensure the strength of public education into the future. A decision to defer, to put off, until some time in the future for some other government, will not cut it anymore. We cannot sit by and allow our public education system to drift into minority status. It is unacceptable and it is something this government will not stand for.

It is why we are investing a record amount in public education. It is why we are upgrading IT in our schools. That is why there is a $20 million package over the next four years, to ensure that every school in the territory has broadband internet access, that students in the ACT are at the cutting edge of information technology, that we take advantage of all of the new areas of teaching and learning that can incorporate technology, that we do so in school buildings that are of a decent standard, that we reject what we previously accepted as acceptable for a school building and that we can do better and we should.

That is why we are investing this money. That is why the government is pursuing a significant reform of public education. The time has come to do it. I am prepared to get up here and argue for it and I am prepared to argue for as long as it takes to ensure that we get a viable public education system, a strong one and one that in 10 years or 15 years time has a chance of being better than it is now. The judgment on exactly how well we go with all of this will be how strong our public education system is in 2015 and 2020, long after most of us in this place have gone. If we fail at this point, then I am concerned that public education will simply be a safety net for those who cannot afford private education. That is unacceptable. The time to act is now. This government is doing so.

MR SPEAKER: Chief Minister, if you want to raise anything in relation to questions that have been asked and you think you have been misrepresented, you can do so after question time.

Schools-closures

MR PRATT: My question is to the Minister for Education and Training. Minister, now that you have announced that the first tranche of government schools will be closed on


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