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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 13 Hansard (Wednesday, 1 December 2021) . . Page.. 3987 ..

words, are summarising what are currently the challenges for the ACT public school teaching workforce.

While I do not want us, as a progressive government that cares about public education and public sector workers, to be seen to be abandoning our responsibility, it would be intellectually offensive to those observing this debate if I did not acknowledge and emphasise the point that this is not a challenge facing the ACT uniquely. This would be a much different conversation if the challenges that are facing us were the result specifically of ACT government interventions or ACT government policies. If that were the case, I probably would not have to see Mr Hanson’s name on this motion; the motion would have been one of my very own.

The reality is that this is a challenge right across the country. There is not a single government of any political stripe that is not struggling with the ongoing challenge of recruiting and retaining quality teachers within their public schools. We are doing more than any government in the country to answer this question. We are paying our teachers more money than any other government in the country. We have purposely set up, at the union’s request, a task force that will very deliberatively look at the challenges that they have identified and, with them as partners, work through solutions and programs for change. As the minister rightly points out, no other government in the country has done this.

While I am always excited to talk about public school teachers, public school parents, public school students and the public education system more broadly, I am concerned about the insinuation that motions like this could risk creating in our community about the value of our public education system and the efficacy of a public school education. I want to endorse those who have chosen a public school education for their young people and their families. I want to assure them that, based on my best understanding, they can be assured of a great education from great teachers, the highest paid in the country, who, through their union, are in the only place in the country now engaged in a very deliberative consultation process with their government to identify the challenges for their workforce and work through their solutions.

At the risk of repeating myself—it is my key point, so I most definitely will make it—the EBA negotiations will start in earnest first thing in the new year and if the Treasurer is listening, I encourage him to loosen the purse strings immediately. If the last year has taught us anything, it is that our public school teachers deserve everything we can give to them.

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella—Manager of Government Business, Minister for Corrections, Minister for Industrial Relations and Workplace Safety, Minister for Planning and Land Management and Minister for Police and Emergency Services) (4.12): I want to add my support to what Minister Berry has said. Our teachers have worked through extremely difficult circumstances for the past few years, dealing with the impacts of the pandemic not only in their classrooms but also in the wider community. I would like to recognise the grace and determination with which they have handled the situation and cared for the young people in their charge who have needed stability and support through these difficult times.

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