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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 4 Hansard (21 April) . . Page.. 1085 ..

MR BERRY (continuing):

the quality of education that is delivered by the government of the day. Two important planks of a successful society are the education and the health of the community. That is why Labor is rusted onto those basic planks. They play such an important role in society's development, in the development of a civilised society which provides for its members.

Education is one of the fundamentals for Labor. You can bet that the importance of options for schooling into the next century will not be lost on Labor. We will not be infatuated by the almighty dollar and reduce the debate to the closure of schools, as has happened here today. This is turning into a disgraceful debate because of the continual focus on the justification for closing schools. Time after time, Mr Hird, you referred to the reasons to close schools instead of the reasons to maintain them. The reasons to maintain them are the important ones to focus on.

This was proven in the community campaign in relation to the Downer Preschool. All of a sudden, out of the blue, it was announced that Downer Preschool would close. The community, thankfully, were articulate and organised, and were able to prevent the closure of that preschool. I am happy that that occurred, because that will strengthen the community and strengthen the preschool education system in the ACT, because it will draw more of a commitment to that particular education. We all know the savings that flow from preschool education. It is something like $8 for every dollar spent.

If that particular community had been less articulate, less organised and perhaps not so well off, it is quite possible that there might not have been a loud and organised protest about the closure of the preschool and it might have been difficult to preserve it. That articulate, well-organised population were able to lobby members of the crossbenches and others who needed convincing. There were some who did not need any convincing at all. Ms Tucker was one of those and I think Mr Kaine was one. It did not take long for the crossbenchers to be won over, because it was an easy argument to run. If it were not for the articulate and well-organised campaign of that community, it might have been a harder argument to win.

Mr Speaker, I hope that when the Minister gets to his feet we hear more about quality education in the future and less about the need to close schools. I do not want to hear any more about school closures. I want to hear a little bit more about the quality of education that you are going to provide and I want to hear how you are going to stick to your election promises when you make them. You have not stuck to your education commitment. You have cut education funding, and you have been allowed to do that by Mr Moore. In fact, you have been applauded for cutting education funding.

Mr Moore: Do not mislead the Assembly, Wayne.

Mr Corbell: I take a point of order, Mr Speaker. Mr Moore has suggested that Mr Berry is misleading the Assembly. He should be asked to withdraw that.

Mr Humphries: It is true.

Mr Corbell: Mr Humphries should be asked to withdraw, too, Mr Speaker.

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