Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 2 Hansard (11 March) . . Page.. 554 ..
I think what the Government did last year was eminently sensible, in terms of minimising some of the effects of the Auditor-General's report. But it is important, I think, that, in an ongoing way, we look at some of the problems that will continue to arise in relation to the efficient delivery of preschool services and ways of doing it better. It is quite clearly one of the areas where we spend a lot more than any other State or Territory, in terms of delivery of that service, and it is a situation too where the numbers of kids who go into preschools will continue to decline over the next few years. Quite clearly, a number of steps need to be addressed there, and that is something we are very keen to do in conjunction with and working with the preschool community.
As I think I said before, I would like to take this opportunity to thank the members of the Standing Committee on Education for the work they have done on this very important issue. It was an issue where I think the Government actually agreed with all the recommendations. I was quite happy to see the results of the work of the members and the report they brought down. I thank all members of the Assembly, too, for their contribution to this particular debate.
MS TUCKER (10.48), in reply: Thank you, Mr Stefaniak, for working with this report in a positive way. I am glad to see that you have picked up the last two recommendations in particular - the one asking the Government to look at ways of increasing the proposed level of professional support to teachers and assistants, and the recommendation regarding children with special needs. I hear Mr Stefaniak talking about responsible management. Of course, that is a useful thing to have in government; but we do always need to question how you define responsible management.
I was interested to see recently a paper that came out from the Federal Government. I think it was called "Pathways to Prevention". It was about addressing juvenile crime in Australian society. What was very interesting was that the focus of it was indeed prevention. One of the proposals that were put in that document was for an increased understanding of the importance of preschool as a vehicle for assisting children in troubled families, or troubled situations, or at risk in any way.
So, when we talk about responsible management of the preschool sector, we must understand the role that the preschool sector plays in this long-term planning in prevention and the opportunity for intervention within the preschool to actually assist these young people and their families. As I said, the costs that will be saved down the track are being acknowledged now by the Federal Government. It is absolutely critical that this be brought into discussions of what is responsible financial management. We must have that long-term view.
I am waiting to hear from the Minister about the process he is going to use to develop an overall strategic vision and plan for the preschool sector. That was obviously an important recommendation, and one that the Government was supportive of. The committee has written to the Minister asking that we have the opportunity to be involved in the development of that process with the community so that there is ownership of that felt by the community. Otherwise, we could end up having to have another whole inquiry looking at the Government's position and proposal for a strategic plan for preschools and do the consultation that way, which we just did with the work for the dole committee. It is a pretty wasteful way of doing it, obviously.