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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 12 Hansard (Wednesday, 21 November 2007) . . Page.. 3626 ..

A system designed to accommodate around 50,000 to 55,000 students had 35,000 students. There were empty desks everywhere and 30 per cent overcapacity.

We then undertook the most significant assessment of the public education system and the most significant public consultation on the future of that system. We backed this reform process with the single largest investment in public education in the history of self-government in the ACT—$350 million. I note that the opposition continues to describe this as throwing good money after bad. That is the opposition’s view of investment in public education in the ACT.

Mr Seselja: How much are you cutting out of non-government schools?

Mrs Burke: You’d better say it again to get the trifecta.

MR SPEAKER: Order! Mrs Burke and Mr Seselja, cease interjecting.

MR BARR: As a result of the significant factors that were influencing the long-term future and sustainability of the public education system, we took some difficult decisions—to concentrate on quality within our public education system and to reinvest money in the quality of our schools. When you look on a region by region basis, and particularly at the area of south-east Belconnen, where Cook primary school is located, you will see that there is another primary school with more room, with more empty desks, than the entire population of Cook primary school 800 metres down the road. That is not to mention Weetangera primary and Aranda primary, which are also within 1½ to two kilometres of the Cook primary school site. So we have four primary schools under capacity, with surplus space, and that is drawing resources away from the quality of our education system.

We took the difficult decision to rationalise the number of schools in the ACT to respond to the fact that we have a declining school age population and that it is not responsible on educational, social or financial grounds to maintain a system that is operating at 30 per cent overcapacity and that draws resources away from where they are needed in our education system—to provide quality education for all students in the ACT, and not just those in Cook. I refer to the 35,000 students to whom we have a responsibility to provide an education. That is my focus. That is why the government undertook the difficult decisions we did in 2006 to reinvest in the quality of public education. That is an important decision to take. Difficult though it was, we are backing it with the largest investment ever in public education—an investment the opposition describe as throwing good money after bad. (Time expired.)

DR FOSKEY: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Were the reasons for choosing which schools to close based purely on numbers, or were qualitative reasons taken into account? In Cook’s case, what were the qualitative reasons?

MR BARR: I have answered this question at least 30 times in this debate over the last 18 months.

DR FOSKEY: No, you haven’t. You haven’t answered that question.

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