Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 08 Hansard (Wednesday, 6 August 2008) . . Page.. 2918 ..
labelled the research compelling and was quoted as saying that the research makes sense. But yesterday Mr Barr performed a foolish backflip—not a backflip based on evidence, but one based on political posturing. It is the kind of decision you get from someone who believes in nothing and sees politics as a game, not as a business of helping to deliver real solutions to people in need.
So what has happened since October last year? Why the backdown from a policy that he described as making sense? The answer is simple. Politics has trumped policy. Labor has been shown up as being on the back foot and willing to sacrifice sound policy for party room politics. In yesterday’s debate Mr Barr declared for the first time that Labor would oppose my proposals to lower primary class sizes which can reach 30 students in years 4 to 6. It has taken Labor two weeks to work out where it stood, and we now know. Mr Barr now claims that the electorate has to choose between investing in teacher quality or investing in smaller classes. He is setting up a false choice and showing ignorance or dishonesty about the contents of my major reform package.
Canberra Liberals are committed to both smaller class sizes and investment in top quality teaching, as is reflected in our policy. Our $34.7 million package includes $24.7 million for smaller classes in primary schools and $7.5 million for teachers for high schools. These investments will lower class sizes. We have also committed $2.7 million for securing the most talented teachers—graduates and mature age. This investment will bring a wealth of talent into the ACT teaching profession. I want to unashamedly poach the best talent in the country for our city and for our education system.
My policy includes HECS forgiveness scholarships for the best teaching graduates in the country, particularly in areas that are sought after. I will provide funding for a flexible teacher training course that will draw professional scientists, statisticians and IT experts into the teaching profession. We have school shortages in high school teaching that need to be met, and my plan will bring us the best available talent to meet those skills gaps. These policies are on top of our commitment of 15 April to increase the teacher professional support fund by 50 per cent, and to index it. I have also committed to index the teacher scholarships fund. All public school teachers will benefit from this enhanced investment in their ongoing training.
Mr Barr has some cheek to claim that Labor supports teacher quality when in fact Labor has cut funding for teacher training in real terms by $280,000. The latest budget included a little bit of catch-up money, purely as a cosmetic response to our announcements. But that catch-up money cynically cuts out after just a couple of years. It reduces to zero. So much for Mr Barr’s interest in teaching quality in the long term!
This debate is not about pitting investment in teacher training against smaller class sizes. It is about achieving both. There is no reason we cannot have smaller class sizes and better teacher outcomes, and this is exactly what the opposition has proposed, and this is exactly what our policy will deliver.
Most parents and teachers believe that smaller class sizes are better for student outcomes, and the key research evidence supports this belief. The first major