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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 3 Hansard (23 March) . . Page.. 669 ..

MR STEFANIAK: I thank you for your guidance, Mr Speaker, because that is quite helpful. I take it that you do not want me to deal with the official Opposition, the ones with a big "O". Mr Hird, I suppose some opposition would come, as you would expect, from the P&C Association. It has used the previously mentioned arguments to make its case. Might I say that most of its arguments are valid and are ones that need addressing, which is exactly what Mr Lee's article seeks to do. Indeed, other people do as well. I think that is essential to assist the Government and to assist this place in terms of this question.

Mr Hird, I would be very upset, and I think that it would be detrimental to this important debate, if members opposite or other members in this house were to trivialise this issue or were to play petty politics. It is a very serious and a very important issue. I think people do need to appreciate the positions that people in the education sector have taken. For example, people need to realise that the union believes that school amalgamations are, in fact, an acceptable solution to the issues of excess space and the need to maximise the use of limited education funds. It is very important for people in this place - and I would include the Opposition with a big "O", Mr Speaker - to think very carefully on this issue and make sensible contributions to this debate.

I quoted Mr Lee in terms of its being a debate that has to be had. The P&C, the Government, the Primary Principals Association and everyone else who has commented so far have said that this is a debate that needs to be had. One has only to look at such things as our demography and the fact that we now have - I saw a graph recently - fewer students in our government sector, not by much but by a few hundred, than we had in 1978. In fact, Mr Wood said either in estimates or when we were going through the annual reports late last year that one of the big problems is that we seem to have the same number of students in our sector now as we had when he became a teacher here in the 1970s. The figures bear that out. It seems that it is not something that will go away. This is a debate that we need to have and I think people need to be very sensible in their comments and not make cheap political points or take cheap shots at it because it is very much tied in with our children's future.

Mr Speaker, I read from the latest issue of ACT Teacher, Volume 9, No. 2, of March 1999. I table it for the benefit of members.

Community Safety and Crime Prevention Grants Program

MR QUINLAN: Mr Speaker, my question is to the Minister for Justice and Community Safety. Final government approval of applications for funding under the community safety and crime prevention grants program for 1999 was due in about November of last year, I think. When will decisions be announced about successful applications?

MR HUMPHRIES: Mr Speaker, this is one of those occasions when one actually turns to one's book to see whether there is any information about that in it and, as is classically the case, there is not; so I cannot answer Mr Quinlan's question. It is a good question and I will take it on notice.

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