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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 849 ..

MR BERRY (continuing):

The Auditor-General makes the point that the preschool system is a quality system. I must say that it appears to me from the Auditor-General's report and anything that I have had to do with the preschool system that one of its most important features is accessibility; that is, the geographic location of preschools throughout the ACT enhances their accessibility, particularly for those people on low incomes. That is an important feature that we should preserve at all costs, because it is that accessibility which guarantees the quality of education for our children and it is that accessibility which guarantees, in effect, our future.

As the community has tried to tell the Education Ministers, there are many aspects to our preschools which are not in the Auditor-General's report; there are many important aspects which cannot be measured in simplistic dollar terms; preschools play an important community role; and they are meeting and gathering places. The Government sees these facilities as valuable real estate rather than as an important part of our future. We all own it; we have a responsibility to guarantee our future so far as education is concerned.

The message from the community was, "Lay off our preschools. We value our preschools. We do not want an economic rationalist approach taken to them". People want to respond to the Auditor-General's report. They want to talk to the Education Committee. They are reasonable people. They do not expect the earth; but they want a chance to have their say. They have not had that chance to this point. In effect, they are being led up the garden path by the Government in relation to this matter; but it is very clear now that the community have dug their heels in and they are going to fight on the issue of this quality part of our education system. We on this side want to hear what they have to say. We want to hear their ideas. That is the reason for the third clause in my motion. Any changes to our preschools could lead to irreversible decisions being made. There is no rush. If there had been, the Chief Minister would have told us about it during the election campaign, one would have thought. But this may have been a hidden agenda as well.

Mr Speaker, I urge all members to allow the committee's report to be completed, to allow the report to be tabled and to allow members to consider the report before we take any precipitate action in relation to preschools. To do otherwise would betray the trust which has just recently been given to us as elected members. We have an important role in this Assembly, and that is to protect our future. The education of our children is a dominant feature of our future, which must be protected at all costs. I urge members to support the motion.

MR OSBORNE (11.05): Mr Speaker, I move the following amendment:

Paragraph (3), omit the paragraph, substitute the following paragraph:

"(3) requires the Committee to report on that inquiry by 1 September 1998 and that the Government take no action until the Committee has reported.".

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