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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 13 Hansard (12 December) . . Page.. 3961..

Leave granted to dispense with the detail stage.

Bill agreed to.

Education Amendment Bill 2006

Debate resumed from 4 May 2006, on motion by Mr Barr:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (11.18): The Education Amendment Bill 2006 is in large part a fix-up bill. When I was in conversation with an official today, my heart sank when he told me that he envisaged that there would be ongoing amendments to the Education Act which would be fix-ups into the foreseeable future.

A lot of the provisions in the bill are, for the most part, process oriented and designed to clarify the language. These cover things like references to compulsory education rather than compulsory schooling, because reference to compulsory schooling tends to preclude home schooling. There are some minor language and operational changes to the operation of school boards and there is streamlining of provisions about the operation of non-government and government school education councils.

I am concerned at the extent to which we have so many fix-up changes and things that are designed to remove ambiguity in new legislation which was passed in this place only in 2004, after considerable consultation. It is an indication that as an Assembly, as drafters and as commissioning agencies, we need to be much more scrupulous about the drafting of legislation so that we do not have these fix-up bills.

The biggest single issue in the amended bill as it was circulated in May relates to section 26 of the Education Act, which is the part that says that government education should be free. The amendments to section 26—which I thought were pretty much straightforward, but which at the 11th hour appear to be contentious again, and I will go to that later—relate to issues about non-compulsory fees at government schools. We all know that there have been various ongoing controversies about the nature of fees in government schools. I am a parent of children at two non-government schools; and there are voluntary contributions which are paid to the schools.

Depending on where they are, schools have varying success in garnering voluntary contributions from parents. One of the problems is that, while we recognise that those fees are voluntary, they do make a significant contribution to the running of schools. It would be useful for the minister to produce a set of guidelines about what can and cannot be compulsorily levied. The voluntary contribution, which is essentially what might pass in the non-government system for a very low school fee, is widely accepted and paid, but there are outstanding examples where people who are quite well off do not pay a voluntary contribution; those people can become a drain on the rest of the school community. Often people who are less well off are quite happy to pay the voluntary contribution. I and my party room would like to see some arrangements whereby those people who can afford to pay are more likely to pay and are brought to book if they do not pay their voluntary contribution.

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