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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 850 ..

MR OSBORNE (continuing):

Mr Speaker, I rise to support the motion. I do believe that the Territory's preschools are a vital community resource and that they should be funded to a level which ensures a decent service. But I also recognise that demographics change over time and, where preschools are not viable, there is little point in keeping them open. It is hardly appropriate to have facilities that are not used or preschools where the enrolments are so low that children do not get the benefits of socialisation that are so important in their early years.

That said, I think it only fair that any changes made by the Government in an area which affects so many people in the community are properly considered and that the stakeholders - the parents, especially - get a chance to have a say. So, I support the inquiry by the Standing Committee on Education and believe that the Government should hold off on any changes until that committee reports. However, Mr Speaker, there should not be an open cheque on the time the committee takes to consider the issue. I understand that preschool enrolments begin in late August, and it would be appropriate if the committee reported by 1 September. I have discussed this issue with the Canberra Pre-School Society, and they also are keen to see the report handed down in early September. I have had a short discussion with Ms Tucker. She is a little bit concerned about that date, Mr Speaker. There may be some more discussion on that during this debate. But, 1 September strikes me quite clearly as a fair compromise.

I turn now to a related issue. Mr Speaker, through you, I would like to say that in future, if the member who put up this motion wishes either me or Mr Rugendyke to support something, he might like to come and talk to us about it before he tells the media that he hopes that we will back it. It is a little hard to do when we have no idea what the motion is, especially when it is written by our most noted bomb thrower. Of course, that is based on the assumption that Mr Berry wants to actually achieve something. He need not bother if he just wants to continue in his role as the chief Assembly anarchist. As I said, Mr Speaker, we will be supporting this motion with the amendment. Both Mr Rugendyke and I certainly believe that the community should have some input into something as delicate as this. I look forward to members supporting my amendment.

MR MOORE (Minister for Health and Community Care) (11.08): Mr Speaker, once again I take the opportunity to rise in the Assembly to lend my support to preschools, as I have been doing for the past nine years or so since I was first elected to this Assembly. But I am surprised at two things in particular. The first is the adoption of this matter by the Education Committee when, in fact, the notice paper shows that the Chief Minister's Portfolio Committee is looking into the issue already. The Auditor-General's Report No. 1 of 1998 is a matter that is being considered by Mr Quinlan's committee. The title of that report is "Management of Preschool Education", which is the very issue that we are talking about now.

One cannot help wondering why Mr Quinlan did not speak to Mr Berry and say, "Actually, we are looking into this already and, of course, we have the wherewithal to do it. Let us make it public that we are already looking into preschools and that we can deal with this very issue". In fact, it was this report that raised the concern of the Pre-School Association. When the members of that association came to see me, it was primarily to talk about the report and what were we doing about the report, to ensure that the budget would see no cuts to preschool education.

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