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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 6 Hansard (3 September) . . Page.. 1947 ..

MR BERRY (continuing):

What a disgraceful position for the Government to adopt. It runs the risk of injuring teachers and students because it refuses to deal with the problems that schools are having with ergonomic furniture. It did not seem to sink in but I thought we made the point that schools and teachers would probably put themselves at risk rather than detract from the services that they wanted to provide to students in school by way of the new computer equipment. It is unfair to have them make that decision. It is unfair.

The computers essentially turned up in boxes and people were advised to get on with it. Of course, teachers, as is their bent, will get on with it, but at the end of the day the Government has steered away from its responsibility to provide ergonomic furniture and has tried to switch it over to the schools. That is a disgrace. The fact is that insufficient resources were put into this computer matter and injuries could result. If injuries do result the Government will wear the responsibility for that and it ought to be subject to some sort of penalty as a result. As far as I am concerned, workplace safety is extremely important. Expediency should not occur as a result of a trade-off in workplace safety. I think the Government's callous reaction to the recommendation of the committee in this respect demonstrates that they are prepared to accept the expedient route rather than the one that is safe.

Mr Speaker, there is no doubt that the funding or the resources that are being taken out of the central office will impact on schools in the long run. There is no doubt that there are going to be effects on the education system as a result. I have listed these, but I will go through the process again. They are the management of industrial and legal matters, international education, supporting schools through the schools directorate, curriculum support, the student support service, the development of literacy plans, the provision of curriculum advice, policy development and so on. The list is quite a long one, but it is crucial that those sorts of resources for government schooling are maintained.

It is impossible to believe that the savage cuts which are being made to the central office will not impact on education in the ACT. The Minister and the head of his department were right to defend attacks on the central office when they took place in the election campaign. They were correct. I think there is a level of hypocrisy that we have not experienced before. There was an immediate turnaround after the election because you felt safe in the coalition with the Osborne group that you would not be under attack if you ripped into central office. You may feel safe from any criticism from the Osborne group in relation to that matter, but who suffers the penalty? Our education system does. Mr Speaker, I will not be voting for this budget.

MR SPEAKER: The member's time has expired.

MS CARNELL (Chief Minister and Treasurer) (6.40): You have never voted for one budget ever.

Mr Berry: Yes, I have. Several.

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