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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 8 Hansard (23 August) . . Page.. 2546..


MR HARGREAVES (continuing):

have proof positive—has a commercial interest in the development of an implanted pill. I say to the Canberra Times that if it quotes scientists at 50 paces and there is divided opinion in the scientific world, it should print both sides of the argument. It should not just pick one that suits it; it should print both sides of the argument otherwise a reporter's credibility will be in tatters.

I just referred to two contradictory statements made by Professor Cooper on his own web site. The worst thing about all this is that Professor Cooper wants to tranquillise an animal and then implant a pill. That means that every two years or so an animal would have to be tranquillised. The Marsupial Research Centre is looking at ways to control the numbers of wild kangaroos without the need for an anaesthetic. I congratulate the centre on its work.

Education—enrolments

MRS DUNNE: My question is to the minister for education. On Wednesday, 16 October, your colleague Ms Porter told listeners to ABC Radio 666 that we had to get "our education system out of the doldrums so that it doesn't continue to fail us, doesn't continue to have parents leaving it like they're leaving a sinking ship". Is your colleague correct when she says that the education system is in the doldrums, that it is failing and that parents are abandoning it like a sinking ship?

MR BARR: I thank Mrs Dunne for the question and for the opportunity to put on the record the government's strong support for public education in the ACT. However, as we have all acknowledged in this debate, there are some significant issues that our public education is facing, not least of which is the change in demographics that we are experiencing in our city. The most recent ABS data that was released, I think, on 30 June showed an eight per cent decrease in the number of people under 15 in the ACT in the last 10 years and, at the same time, a 45 per cent increase in the number of people over 65. This is further evidence of the ageing of our population and of the demographic changes that we need to address in looking forward with our public education system.

The point the government has acknowledged that we need to address is that there are fewer kids in our territory at the moment. Running parallel with this decline in the number of people under 15 in our city has been a well-documented drift from the public system into the private system. It has been at a rate of around one per cent a year in recent times. There are a variety of factors that are at play in terms of this drift, many of which are beyond the control of the territory government and they relate to the funding policies of the commonwealth government. Nonetheless, the government is seeking, through the Towards 2020: renewing our schools package, to address these specific issues, to ensure that this drift does not continue and that we are able to invest a record amount in public education. I note that members opposite seem to have no interest at all in engaging in a debate about investing in public education.

The government is embarking on a major reform process. In this budget, there is $90 million over the next four years. In this budget, there is a program of major investment in our public education system, to address many of the issues that have arisen as a result of our system being largely put together in the 1960s and the 1970s and needing renewal. That issue is clear. That is why the government is engaging in this extensive consultation process and why we have put forward a major reform proposal. It


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