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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 4 Hansard (24 June) . . Page.. 872 ..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

We should try to get through these amendments before 12.30 pm if we can. I think Trevor is correct when he says that, hopefully, in the search for more data and for more knowledge through this inquiry, we all make better decisions. I have no problems with that. The thing that I look forward to the most in that process is that the ALP, in their submission to this inquiry, will follow the advice of the economics adviser to the shadow Treasurer, Mr David Hughes, and tell us how they would fund it. If preschools do not have to go, how would they keep them open and how would they fund them? If the budget does attempt to reduce expenditure in some programs, the mini critics who step forward to voice their disapproval should have the decency to tell us how they would deal with the operating loss. It will be interesting, Mr Speaker, when the report is tabled in this place, whether we see a submission from the Labor Party spokesperson on education matters and whether they address how they would fund it. If they want to extend services they should be telling us how they will fund them.

MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education) (12.24): I am speaking to Ms Tucker's amendment and I will be brief, Mr Speaker. Ms Tucker has had discussions with a number of people, including me. I would simply point out that our biggest concern is with the reporting date of 14 September. The problem is that that may very well lead to compulsory staff transfers, and any dislocation that would occur certainly causes the Government considerable concern. I think members need to be aware of that. Therefore, we think Mr Osborne's initial suggestion of 1 September is better.

Mr Speaker, Mr Berry kept mentioning cuts. I would remind him that, in fact, there is a 3 per cent increase per student.

Mr Berry: There is a bit of creative accounting there, I think.

MR STEFANIAK: "Creative accounting", he says. It is enrolment based. There is a drop in enrolments, Mr Berry, of about 300. If you read your budget papers again you will see a 3 per cent increase per student.

MR BERRY (12.24): Mr Speaker, it seems as though I have trodden on a few frogs with this motion, because all I can hear is the squawks. I will deal firstly with Mr Moore. Mr Moore apparently has fallen, in a very relaxed way, into the Government's position on almost anything, and I find his rationalisation of issues quite intriguing. As reported in the Canberra Times not so long ago, Mr Moore was twisting and squirming about preschools. He said that preschools were a part of the education budget and then said, "But I have never interfered in a government moving money around within education. It is the only community facility in the suburb - that is the Reid preschool - and the same argument applies to any other suburb".

Mr Moore did say it was a planning issue, not an education issue. I am glad that the Government today has decided to support this motion; otherwise I fear Mr Moore might not have supported it either. Had this motion been moved on 13 June, I think Mr Moore may have opposed it, because he seemed to be travelling in close company with the Government. But it is a government of economic dries, of rationalists, and Mr Moore is comfortable with them. They are an extremely dry and conservative government.

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