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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (28 October) . . Page.. 2323 ..

MR BERRY (continuing):

We expect you to take note of Assembly committee recommendations. We expect you to consult with the Pre-School Association. Those important aspects of consultation are sadly missing from this whole episode.

Minister, this preschool is an important feature of the Downer social landscape. It is only a small building and there are only a few children there, but those children come from the community of Downer, and if you take away from Downer their preschool you take away an important part of their suburb.

MR SPEAKER: Order! The member's time has expired. Before I call on the Minister for Education I would like to acknowledge the presence in the gallery of students from Year 6 and Year 5 at Garran Primary School. Welcome to your Assembly.

MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education) (10.54): Mr Speaker, I congratulate Garran Primary School, along with Red Hill Primary School, on winning their division of the primary school Tournament of the Minds. I do not know whether any of the students involved are present, but their performance was particularly impressive in an Australia-wide competition of 3,000 schools. Congratulations.

Mr Stanhope: Is there a preschool in Garran, Minister?

MR STEFANIAK: Shut up, please. I listened to Mr Berry in silence, Mr Stanhope. I would expect you to accord me the same courtesy. As I have mentioned to several Downer parents, should this motion be passed today, the Government will certainly ensure that Downer Preschool opens for 1999. I make that statement quite unequivocally. In late October certainty about next year is essential. Mr Berry, you can rest assured that if your motion is successful Downer will commence operations again in 1999.

Mr Berry talked about closure. The Government is absolutely definite that it is a suspension rather than a closure. The Government has looked very closely at the recommendations of the Education Committee, what should occur at Downer Preschool this year and the fairest thing to happen to that particular preschool, and decided on a suspension. I will indicate later what can happen as a result of that, but first I make the point that we do not regard it as a closure if your motion is unsuccessful. We regard it as a suspension.

Mr Berry mentioned the Auditor-General's report. We have made it quite clear that the criteria used to identify the 12 preschools mentioned by the Auditor-General were not the best criteria and that people should not take too much notice of them. I thought that was made quite clear over a number of months.

The Auditor-General does, however, speak of a number of other factors which the Education Committee looked at and which we have looked at. To completely disregard all of the Auditor's comments, especially his comments in relation to utilisation rates for facilities and staff, would be irresponsible. The Education Committee has looked at this matter. Mr Berry, I remind you of the brief debate and decisions on the last Thursday

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