Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 06 Hansard (Wednesday, 23 June 2010) . . Page.. 2249 ..
government have found for their pet purposes—the statues, the arboretum and those areas where their interests seems to lie to a far greater degree.
I thank all contributors to the debate on the motion this morning. I think, certainly from the Greens’ point of view and from the Liberal side, that we have covered it adequately. All we have heard from the government—the minister for education and the minister for disability—basically are notions that they have about what we are doing. We are not opposing for opposition’s sake. We are making you accountable. So far you have shown that you do not recognise the responsibilities that you have towards our community. I think we have covered the details enough and all that remains is for this motion to be agreed to.
Motion agreed to.
Education Amendment Bill 2008
Debate resumed from 24 March 2010, on motion by Ms Hunter:
That this bill be agreed to in principle.
MR BARR (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Planning, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation and Minister for Gaming and Racing) (12.07), by leave: The government will be supporting this bill in principle. The bill represents a workable political compromise on the difficult issue of school closure. The Assembly has grappled with this issue numerous times over the past 20 years. Coalition and alliance governments have fallen apart over this issue. Difficult decisions have been postponed year after year and, until 2006, hard decisions were avoided.
Today’s debate provides closure on this matter. It provides an opportunity for me to explain once again how our reforms have improved public education in the territory. If we go back to 2006, the territory had around 170 government schools and preschools. Enrolments in ACT public schools had fallen seven percentage points from the period 2000-01 until 2006 and were in continual decline at a rate of around one percentage point per year.
Across the public school system, the system was under capacity by more than 30 per cent. There were nearly 18,000 empty desks across our school system. At the same time as enrolments had fallen, education costs and expenditure increased by over 30 per cent from that 2000-01 financial year. Whilst we had seen massive drops in enrolments in some schools, most particularly in the older suburbs where the demographics had changed considerably, other schools and other regions in parts of the city were experiencing very high demand—for example, in Gungahlin.
That is not an unusual pattern of development in newly emerging areas. There is a peak of demand for education services and then, over time, that demand tails off. Many of the schools were facing challenges with ageing infrastructure and, combined with declining enrolments and changing demographics in the area, they simply could not be sustained. Without reform, our public education system would have continued to struggle.