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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 858 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

play groups - a whole range of people. I understand that even scouting groups and cub scout groups use these buildings. When we look at the utilisation of preschools we need to be looking at those issues as much as we look at the formal use of those buildings by preschool classes.

Mr Speaker, this is an important motion. It deserves the support of this Assembly. I hope that Ms Tucker's proposed amendment to Mr Osborne's proposed amendment is accepted, because then, and only then, will we have a reasonable report date for what will be a very important inquiry.

MR STANHOPE (Leader of the Opposition) (11.36): Mr Speaker, there are a number of things I would like to say in relation to this motion. I think it is an incredibly important motion. It is a very important issue. I am disappointed that the Government and Mr Moore, if I can include Mr Moore in the Government, really do not take the issue seriously and do not address the substance of the motion.

I was one of those members of the Assembly who did attend the meeting called by the preschools of the ACT at the Hawker preschool two Sundays ago. It is very significant - I draw this to the attention of the members of the Government who chose not to attend - that whilst the meeting was at 4 o'clock on a Sunday afternoon, a time that one would imagine was almost guaranteed to determine a very poor roll-up at the Hawker preschool, with the football on and all those other things that distract families on a Sunday, there was standing room only. There were 250 to 300 concerned parents of preschool children and citizens prepared to turn up at that time of day to express their distress at concerns they felt about this Government's attitude to the education of their preschool-age children. There is a message in that for the Government. That is the extent of the feeling within the community about their distrust or their attitude to this Government in relation to the education of their preschool-age children. I think the Government really should take that on board.

I would like to respond to Mr Hird's explanation of why he was not in attendance at that meeting. I think it is significant that the meeting at the Hawker preschool was on the day after the meeting at the Latham shops about the prospect of the Latham shops being closed and the appalling photographs in the paper the next day of Mr Hird being jeered at by everybody attending that meeting. I think the reason why Mr Hird did not attend the preschool meeting was that he was directed by the Chief Minister not to; that the Government could not afford Mr Hird appearing in public two days in a row.

This is a very serious matter. This is about the education of our children. This is the most fundamental issue that affects parents - the education of their children. It affects the rest of their lives. It is an issue that affects our community. Education is fundamental. It is a matter of great regret that the Government and its members taking part in this debate cannot stand up in this place and address the fundamental importance of this issue without being distracted by whether or not it has been referred to the appropriate committee and whether or not the report date is appropriate.

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