Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (3 September) . . Page.. 1939 ..
MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education) (6.09): Mr Speaker, I thank members for their comments. They were quite varied, as one would expect. As I did at the Estimates Committee, as the Government has done since this budget came down, and as my colleague Mr Moore has done in relation to criticism from Mr Berry of him, I will say it again: The Government, in terms of its budget for primary and secondary schools, has provided an extra $4.2m. That reflects the central plank of our commitment that we took to the election. I tendered this document in the Estimates Committee. It is page 2 of our policy. It is the top paragraph. The heading is "The Future" and the paragraph reads:
The major commitment by a Canberra Liberal Government will be to maintain primary and secondary schools' funding in real terms during the next three years. This will ensure that schools can plan ahead with confidence.
I repeat: We will maintain primary and secondary schools' funding in real terms during the next three years. That is important, and that, quite clearly, is what we have done. Mr Berry has come up with a number of things. He says we should have put in an extra $400,000 for the extra literacy initiatives. We should have put in an extra $1.5m for computers, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Our commitment, Mr Speaker, was to maintain primary and secondary schools' funding in real terms during the next three years, and that, quite clearly, is what we have done.
It would be lovely, as Mr Hird, I think, said in his dissenting report, for a government to have the money always to just top up; to always maintain real terms funding and then add a few little extras here and there, maybe an extra $10m or $15m a year. Where would it end? Obviously, we do not have the money to do that, and that is not what we said. What we said is quite clear. It is there in black and white. I tabled this in the Estimates Committee and I reiterate it now.
In relation to the $1.5m for computers, I would remind Mr Berry that that was announced towards the end of last year, well and truly before the election. There was nothing to indicate that that was extra top-up money. That was money that the department was going to fund. There was considerable benefit to the ACT education system through the deal that occurred with InTACT. It involved some $12m, I seem to recall, over four years, in terms of computer systems. It was about a $20m deal, Mr Speaker. I think we had to find $1.25m per annum, but that was a particularly beneficial deal for the ACT Government. It represented over $20m in terms of benefits to our education system, very little of which we had to find ourselves. I think that was excellent for our government school system. So, I think Mr Berry is quite wrong when he talks about breaches of election promises.
I will turn now to Mr Rugendyke's comments. Mr Rugendyke, this is not just in terms of education budgets because there was an increase of $4.2m, which everyone seems to be conceding, in terms of primary and secondary schooling. When you compare that with other areas of government where there were some significant decreases, that is a very important factor.