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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 2 Hansard (11 March) . . Page.. 627 ..



those schools which are vulnerable out of their misery now and stop kidding them that everything is going to be all right. The Minister has enrolment projections covering the next five years and schools can be identified now as being natural candidates for merging or for sharing facilities with other schools. In cooperation with their communities, let us identify their options now and start them on a process so that they can begin to cope with the realities of changes which are about to happen. If we do not, at some time in the near future a hard decision, even a courageous decision, is going to have to be made, and who likes making those in the face of community backlash.

As I said before, I raised this issue during the last election in the light of a policy for school mergers and a greater degree of school-based management, and I was hammered by everybody, including the present Education Minister. I remember it well. I remember the Health Minister saying that I should stick to football. Mr Moore is not here today, and I think it is lucky for him because I can stand up here today and say that I have been consistent in relation to my stance towards education. God alone knows how he will be able to describe his stance in relation to education. I would like to hear from the Chief Minister, given what she said in the last couple of days about cuts being made, whether she intends making a cut to the education budget given that I believe one of her Ministers will vote against the no-confidence motion in himself.

Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, during the ACTEW debate it was stated over and over again that ACTEW was our biggest asset. I do not believe that this is true. If you pick up the last set of budget papers and turn to the section on housing you will find that the biggest asset this Government owns is its housing stock. Eleven per cent of all housing in the ACT is owned by the Government. This is yet another example of an overhang left over from the days when the Commonwealth ran this town. Back in the 1960s and 1970s people virtually had to be bribed to come and live here, and one of the bribes on offer was a government house.

Today we have the highest percentage of public housing of any jurisdiction in Australia. I am sure that Mr Smyth will correct me if I am wrong, but it is my understanding that our hands are tied to some extent with this stock by the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. I understand that if we sell any of this stock we can only use this money to buy more public housing, a catch-22 situation. Well, Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker, it is time that the public servants who had so much success convincing the Grants Commission that the ACT needed more money because of the special circumstances had a go at changing the Commonwealth-State Housing Agreement. No, we cannot just sell great slabs of housing because we will flood the real estate market. However, I think we should be prepared to support the Government in innovative moves to start off-loading housing stock. Perhaps we could come to some similar arrangement as the Government did with the car fleet. Perhaps we can get a private sector company to manage some of the stock and start collecting the rent, as we also have the largest percentage of tenants in the country who are in arrears.

Mr Smyth: Not true anymore.

MR OSBORNE: Not true? Not true anymore.

Mr Smyth: Was.

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