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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 9 Hansard (20 September) . . Page.. 2936..

MR PRATT (continuing):

The last point I would make is that, while Dr Foskey's amendment bill is a very good bill and worth supporting, we believe that there needs to be value added to that bill. I therefore support Mrs Dunne's amendments which seek to build on that bill and lay down the marker that something needs to be done to identify why the drift is occurring from public to private schools. The government does not have the answer. You have to find the answer if you are to arrest the exodus. The government's priority should be to add value to our schools. This government has failed the community and it has failed the schools. They have not consulted, and that is a disgrace.

MR SPEAKER: At this juncture I acknowledge the students and teachers from year 6 of St Thomas the Apostle at Kambah. Welcome.

Members: Hear, hear!

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (12.07), in reply: I want to thank the opposition for supporting my bill. I believe the government will deeply regret its decision to oppose it. I believe that the community backlash that they will see after this so-called period of consultation is over and a decision is made will be devastating. Frankly, I expected a lot more of a Labor government than this budget, in particular this process, and I am reflecting a whole community that is still trying to work out what happened.

How could this have been done differently? The Chief Minister keeps asking the opposition and the Greens, "How would you do it? Where are your answers?"I am only one member of this Assembly, but I have worked in education. I have worked in a variety of roles. I care about schools. I use the government schools here. I watch what is happening. I believe that I have something to offer this debate. This bill was put forward in the spirit of taking a chance to do better.

I have been told that the government is going to oppose the bill and I am disappointed. I am disappointed that I have not heard the backbenchers speak. But that is the government's decision. I believe that this whole process has been based on political expediency and no doubt that is why we are not hearing from the same people who supported the motion that was put to the Labor Party conference.

Let us go back to how this could have been done differently. We had the functional review. It is handed down, but it is bad news! The functional review says that we have to make some savings. Where? We will not do too much to health. Health is a politically dangerous area to touch because that affects everybody. But government schools affect a diminishing percentage of the community, so we are told, so let us go there. It will affect the families, the kids and the teachers. But we might get through. They still would not vote Liberal, would they?

So we get the review and we are shocked. The money situation is not good. The territory finances are not good. What do we do? I think that what the government should have done then was make that document, or at least those parts of it with the greatest impact on the community, public. Why not bring them in? It is an intelligent community. It is the most highly educated city, proportionally, in Australia. Let us treat them with the respect that they deserve.

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