Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 856 ..
MR CORBELL (11.28): Mr Speaker, I think the Government chose the wrong person to be Minister for Education. I think the Government should have chosen Mr Moore to be Minister for Education. At least he would have injected a bit of passion into the debate. At least he would have advocated in an articulate manner and in a relevant manner on the issues facing preschools in Canberra. Let us face it; what we hear from the current Minister for Education is nothing more than a bumbling recitation of a brief written for him by a public servant in his department. There is no commitment to the principles of education. There is no passionate defence of the need for a strong education sector and a strong preschool sector in our society. Instead, we hear this bumbling recitation of some dry language about economics and about how the Government is doing everything okay and, really, what are we all worried about. Mr Speaker, it is a pity that Mr Moore is not the Minister for Education because at least he would have injected some life into this debate from the Government side of the Assembly.
Mr Speaker, Mr Berry's motion today is a very important motion. It is important because what it says, first of all, is that this Assembly should recognise that the preschool sector is a part of the education system. What we have heard from the Minister for Education, Mr Stefaniak, is that the preschool sector has nothing to do with the education system. When the Auditor-General's report came out we had the extraordinary spectacle of the Minister for Education suggesting that preschools did not belong in the education system; that they were part of some other element in the provision of government services. Mr Speaker, all I can say to that is this: What an absolute insult to those teachers who work in the preschool sector! What an absolute insult to those professionals who train as teachers to teach children in the preschool sector! That, Mr Speaker, is what came from the Minister for Education. That is a damning indictment, Mr Speaker, of this Minister's failure to understand the important principles that the Education Committee of this place has had the good sense to want to investigate and report on in a comprehensive manner.
Mr Speaker, it is important that we recognise that the Territory's preschool system is part of our education system, and it is a fundamental part. It is a building block of our education system. The very important work that preschool teachers do in preschools simply seems to have been ignored by the Minister when he said that they were not part of the education system.
Mr Speaker, the second element of Mr Berry's motion is equally important because we saw from the beginning of the Education Committee's attempts to investigate the issues to do with the provision of preschool services an attempt, a weak attempt, by the Minister for Education to suggest that our inquiry had nothing to do with the Auditor-General's report; that our inquiry had nothing to do with the future of preschools in the Territory and the Government could continue to plough ahead, as it has said it was always going to do, in dealing with the issue of preschools in the Territory. That is why it is important that this Assembly endorse the Standing Committee on Education's decision to undertake this inquiry.
Clearly, this Government is not particularly interested in hearing what that inquiry has to say. It is not interested in it. Indeed, at the beginning of the initiation of the inquiry, the Minister put out a statement saying that he did not believe the inquiry had anything to do with his Government's attempts to reform or to restructure the preschool system.