Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 2 Hansard (9 March) . . Page.. 413 ..



In some respects, the Standing Committee on Education has been disappointing in that it has wasted some of its time and resources on peripheral issues. The work for the dole issue, a Federal scheme, could be put very much into that basket. I note that the committee is yet to report on that, although I trust that will occur soon. I think our community is looking for more substantive and important issues to be addressed. To date, I think those opposite have let the community down by not doing so.

I think our financial situation is such that it is crying out for constructive comment. I think the people of Canberra want to see a collegiate debate, that they want to see us cooperate rather than be constantly involved in adversarial roles. I think it is very important that constructive debate occur in this place, and today we have the right opportunity for that to start. It is all well and good to harp about things such as Bruce Stadium, the absence of a few rubbish bins or that old tried and true hoary chestnut, the futsal slab, or, as it is correctly called, the Acton Arena. I do not think members opposite would have been particularly worried if that had been just a car park, and I am advised that the cost of that would not be terribly much different. But that is not going to be the panacea for our ills; far from it. But where is the Labor Party discussing how we should address the operating deficit and what to do about the fact that, for example, we have increased the number of government schools by 13 over the past 20 years, whilst our school enrolments have stayed static over the same period, or that we continue to spend more each year right across the board than we earn as a community?

Recently, again in my area, the Productivity Commission revealed that in the five years between 1992 and 1997 enrolments in our government school system declined by 3.6 per cent, while our school numbers increased by some 4.2 per cent. What are we going to do about the fact that we have schools operating in very small numbers in the older inner suburbs while, at the same time, there is a demand for more facilities in the new greenfields developments? Mr Speaker, are there not ways that we can do things better? What about issues such as curriculum choice, the viability of options in the school programs - sports days, school excursions and camping programs - and the share of resources devoted to small schools at the expense of others in the system? Are there some small schools which are unique and certainly should not change? Are there other schools or school clusters where better educational outcomes could be achieved by taking a different approach?

There has been some public debate about the number of surplus places in schools. The Auditor-General has identified about 16,500 surplus places in our schools. That would mean that we have about 56,000 places for about 39,000 students in our government sector. Mr Speaker, I would not suggest that we could do without some surplus spaces; in fact, we could not do so. We need some. However, we certainly do not need all those spaces. For example, the actual surplus number of places is probably more in the order of 10,000 to 12,000 when you take all the relevant factors into account. At a cost of about $270,000 for a primary school site, we are certainly spending significant dollars that are not available for classroom teaching to maintain some surplus spaces.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .