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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 2 Hansard (11 March) . . Page.. 626 ..


: I actually wrote this speech, Mr Kaine. I could come up with a budget too if I had the Office of Financial Management writing it for me. I could look like a genius if every word written down and proofread by a bevy of public servants was available, but I and other non-government members do not have that luxury. I am prepared at least to be positive and to take up the challenge. At the same time I make the point that we on the crossbenches and, to a certain extent, the Labor Party do not have access to all the information in making our points. For example, I do not know where all the money comes from because the Government chooses not to make that clear, one example being the issue that we spoke about in the Assembly the other day, the arbitrage system.

If there is one section of the budget where both major parties, and the Government in particular, really ought to know better than their present policies it surely must be in the area of education. I have singled out the Liberals for special criticism, Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, because I believe they really do know better, while I am not sure that the penny has actually dropped for the other side. The days of "Let's keep every school going just the way it is, no matter what the cost" have well and truly gone. I think those days actually passed us by some time before the beginning of self-government, but, as I believe the Alliance Government found out the hard way, actually closing a school in defiance of the local community's wishes is a nasty business. To give Mr Kaine and his cohorts some credit, however, they did take action, and take it within the context of having only a short timeframe to react to budgetary pressures.

In the ensuing eight or nine years though there has been no obvious planning put into coping with the falling student enrolments. Most of Canberra's schools north of Woden were built at the direction of the Commonwealth during times of boom growth in this city.

Mr Kaine: It is better to put it on the back of the page, Paul.

MR OSBORNE: I am going to have this problem every five minutes or so, Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, as I get to a new page.

Mr Smyth: Perhaps Mr Osborne's staff could bring down a reprinted speech, for his convenience.

MR OSBORNE: Without the letterhead. Too many schools were built and it has been only a matter of time ever since before the critical mass of students in some of those schools fell below the level where what most people would refer to as good education could be expected. After seeing how hard it was to close schools in the past, nothing or very little has been done since then about planning ahead. Some of the vulnerable schools from a decade ago are now on the borderline of being too small, with no hope of recovery. It seems that the present Government's approach is to wait until the student body is too small and then strangle it by stealth.

The point I would like to make is that no school should have to wait until it is at the point of extinction before being told that a hard decision needs to be made. With some forward planning, decisions that hard should rarely have to be made. It has been speculated over the last couple of weeks that a wholesale slaughter of primary schools is on the horizon, and I would like to put on the record that I do not support that. But let us put some of

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