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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (3 September) . . Page.. 1922 ..

Part 15 - Department of Education and Community Services

Proposed expenditure - Education and Community Services, $513,410,000 (comprising net costs of outputs, $374,256,000; capital injection, $41,098,000; and payments on behalf of Territory, $98,056,000)

MR BERRY (4.55): During the Estimates Committee process it was discovered that there was a $4.2m net increase in the education budget over 1997-98. That increase represents the forecast increase in the consumer price index. I want to go through some crucial areas in relation to the education budget, because it has become quite clear that there are some cuts that at the end of the day will impact on government education and government schooling. Initiatives such as the $400,000 to support literacy in schools and the $1.5m for the computer program are to be paid for from savings within the department. In addition, the department, according to the Estimates Committee report, which everybody will have read, is required to contribute $1.9m to the Government's operating loss. Of this amount, about $500,000 is to be contributed to the Canberra Institute of Technology. Further contributions to the operating loss will be required in each of the forward years.

What it boils down to is that these initiatives and the contribution to the operating loss amount to almost all of the net increase of $4.2m. The end result is that, quite contrary to the Government's promise to maintain education funding in real terms, almost all of it has gone with these initiatives and with funding the Government's operating loss, so that promise has been breached.

Mr Wood: But Michael Moore would not support that.

MR BERRY: I expect at least one member aside from Ms Tucker to be voting with Labor on this issue, and I expect that to be Mr Moore. I think he would be rusted onto us by now in relation to this, after having examined the budget. As a matter of principle and because Mr Moore has claimed time and time again that this is his favourite issue, and one upon which he would never relent - - -

Mr Wood: It is on his list.

MR BERRY: It is on his list, Mr Wood. He will never vote for a reduction in education funding. This is clearly a reduction in education funding. There is no question about it. The Government's response to the Estimates Committee report is quite interesting. It states that the contribution of $1.9m which the Department of Education and Community Services is making towards the Territory's operating deficit will not affect government schooling. In addition, it states that the department is continually reassessing its funding priorities to meet changing and emerging needs, with more than half of the emerging needs in government schooling, and that schools will directly benefit from the funding reallocations proposed by government. Of course it ignores the fact that the $400,000 for new initiatives and the $1.5m for the computer program will have to be found within departmental resources and will have an impact in one way or another on the services which are provided to government schooling.

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