Page 3629 - Week 12 - Wednesday, 20 October 1993

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Wednesday, 20 October 1993


MADAM SPEAKER (Ms McRae) took the chair at 10.30 am and read the prayer.


Debate resumed from 13 October 1993, on motion by Ms Szuty:

That this Assembly instructs the Minister for Education and Training to maintain all school based positions targeted in the 1993-94 Budget.

MR HUMPHRIES (10.31): On the previous occasion on which we debated this matter I spoke about assessing priorities within the education budget, and I made the observation that the Liberal Party in government had reached a very clear decision that what was important about the education system was not buildings but teachers. As such, we adopted a policy which focused on the retention of teacher numbers - - -

Mr Wood: Actually, the kids are the ones that are important.

MR HUMPHRIES: I am talking about what delivers a good quality of service to children. Obviously, children are important; but how to give them those high-quality services is the next most important thing. In respect of that, of course, the issue that we determined to be most important was maintaining teacher numbers and retaining the quality of classroom teaching.

Madam Speaker, we have in this debate three fairly clear positions. The position, first of all, of the Labor Government is that we should save school buildings - they have a commitment, in the course of this Assembly at least, to do that - and that we can afford to cut teacher numbers; teacher numbers are a less important priority than preserving school buildings. The position of my party is the reverse of that. We believe that teacher numbers are worth preserving, worth saving, but that there is some scope to rationalise the school infrastructure. The position of the Independents, the third position in this debate, is basically that we should save both teacher numbers and school buildings. I want to examine each of those three positions from the point of view of which of the three is the best position to be in.

The Independents, first of all, argue that we can preserve basically all the important features of the present education system. Indeed, Ms Szuty last week said that we should spend more on education. I would support the sentiment of that suggestion but condemn the unreality, the grandly unrealistic approach, which is embodied in those comments. It is, in some respects, a supreme statement of the Independents' credo that they are prepared to support all these measures, but they acknowledge that they will not be put in a position of having to actually implement those sorts of decisions and therefore rationalise resources, as one inevitably has to do in government.

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