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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 855 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

In fact, following extensive consultation last year, Mr Speaker, we changed the system to enable parents to register at the preschool of their choice. Other changes in the process allow parents and carers to be advised of the preschool placements for their children in December - not in the week school begins, which was the system before. I think that was a significant achievement. It was one that was welcomed by the community for the certainty that it provided. I think, in this debate, too, we need an open and rigorous debate. We need to have the committee, obviously, and it will have lots of consultation; but we do need to make any changes as a result of consideration of that committee report with minimal dislocation to the preschool community.

There is a timeframe in Mr Osborne's amendment. That timeframe is tight, but it is manageable. We are keen to have the benefit of the committee's findings. I would hope, Mr Speaker, that the committee is as mindful as I am of the timing question and that it will produce its report by that suggested timeframe of 1 September so that we can consider its recommendations in time for the start of the school year and make the necessary adjustments in terms of staffing, causing minimal dislocation to parents and giving parents a chance to make any adjustments they need to make.

The third part of Mr Berry's motion, obviously, the Government is not supporting. We are supporting Mr Osborne's amendment there. We do not support the motion or Ms Tucker's proposed amendment. If changes are to be made to the preschool system for 1999, decisions are required earlier than provided by Ms Tucker's amendment. They are required, really, by about 10 September. We support Mr Osborne's amendment, although the timing is tight, because that does enable the Government to conduct its decision-making in the preschool area for the 1999 school year. As I said, the preschool enrolment policy established last year was used very effectively. It was used to ensure that the system was adjusted to meet the needs of families. I think that system needs to be maintained this year to keep faith with all those who are regularly involved in the process each year.

MR QUINLAN (11.26): Mr Speaker, I wish to clarify the points made by Mr Moore. He talked about duplication. I suggest that he talk to his conservative colleague Mr Stefaniak. My committee received this report and my committee incorporates the public accounts committee. It looked at the report. The report has two clear dimensions. It talks about the educative dimensions of preschools and it talks about physical resources. We are aware that the Education Committee wishes to look at preschools from an education perspective and we believe that that should be the case. We have written to Mr Stefaniak to explain that the Chief Minister's Portfolio Committee does not want a report from him or a response from him in relation to the educative dimensions of preschools. What we do want is a report, as we must do as a PAC, on the physical resources. We accept that the report would go to the Education Committee because people on this side of the house, at least, put education ahead of the dry economics of the Government opposite. The fact that there are two committees involved is a function of the committee system that was imposed upon this Assembly by that side of the house and some of the crossbenchers. We are doing our level best to make it work anyway.

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