Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 9 Hansard (23 November) . . Page.. 2513 ..
MS McRAE (continuing):
do not have the resources to put together the number of computers and the amount of software, the maintenance and the programs that have now become basic to our education - as basic as libraries. I think this budget showed a complete lack of concern. That policy has been pushed through as a framework, with no depth, no analysis, no backup, no cost. I have talked before about sport, which suffers from exactly the same lack of analysis.
MS TUCKER (1.59 am): I will keep this reasonably brief. A strong education system, like the health system, is part of what Eva Cox is referring to in her Boyer Lectures as social capital, part of the basis of our society. It is not an add-on if we can afford it. Education, our social capital, is an investment in the future. It is essential to the wellbeing of our society, and the resources that go into education do make a difference to the outcomes. That is one of the reasons why the ACT has the highest retention rates in Australia, an often quoted fact.
It is very disturbing to the Greens to see the education budget effectively being cut, despite all the promises and rhetoric around election time about maintaining the education budget. The Government apparently thought no-one would notice that they have not maintained real expenditure compared with the 1994-95 outcome. What will these cuts mean? Teaching positions will be affected, particularly in the college system, and the effect of the budget decisions will likely be to reduce student choice of units and increased class sizes. As the parent of a college student, I have already been notified by the college that budget cuts will require them to reduce staff, thereby reducing student choice of units and increasing class sizes. Also affected will be student services related to work experience, careers advice, and library and sport services. Programs related to vocational education will also be cut. It is interesting to know that the Government's objective is to make greater provision for such opportunities.
Core support functions have been cut from central office, which will affect a range of areas. ESL programs have been cut, particularly programs catering for long-term residents. Cuts to the Aboriginal education budget will not only impact here; there is also a possibility that Commonwealth funding will be put at risk. Despite the Government's claim that the schools are up to scratch in curriculum development, there are very strong arguments for maintaining ongoing curriculum policy officers in the eight key learning areas. There are many teachers who have contacted us on this topic, and it is certainly not the consensus that this support is no longer needed. Particularly with school-based curriculum development, a strong level of central support is vital to keep abreast of research and development in particular fields. Curriculum development is not a one-off process; it requires ongoing commitment. Then there is the equity issue of charging full fees for evening college classes.
The Greens were also concerned about the Government's initial statements regarding Birrigai outdoor school. At a time when teaching our children to respect the environment in which they live is more important than ever, we simply cannot afford to submit everything to the same economic formulas. Some services run by government do not recover their costs. That is why we pay taxes and have governments. Of course the Greens want to see Birrigai run as efficiently as possible, but only if the quality of the programs and affordability are not affected. We will be assessing very carefully changes proposed to the management of Birrigai.