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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 5 Hansard (6 May) . . Page.. 1565 ..

MS CARNELL (continuing):

Tonight we have heard comments about us not living up to our promise of real terms funding in education. Not only have we complied with our real terms funding guarantee for government-based schooling but we have spent some $26m more than real terms funding. It was interesting recently to hear Mr Quinlan criticise the Government on the basis of our approach to rates increases. We increase our rates based on a projected CPI figure, which over the last couple of years - yes, Mr Quinlan is right - has come in under our projection. Mr Quinlan has suggested that under those circumstances we should give the community a rebate. We could do that if we did the same thing in education, because we have geared our education funding to the same CPI increase. I am not sure whether Mr Quinlan is suggesting that we take out the $26m that we have put into education over and above real CPI increases. I would be surprised if he is saying that, but if you take his approach to rates then you have to take the approach to education that would take $26m out of education funding over the last few years.

In this budget we spend $5.2m more on government-based schooling and $2.76m more on non-government schooling. This spending shows a significant commitment to education. Along with that, as I have made the point before, in this budget we have picked up on areas of particular need, such as people with disabilities. There is an extra $1m for disability funding, an increase of 5.8 per cent in ACT funding to disabilities. An extra $100,000 is to go to students with disabilities in non-government schools. There is an extra $420,000 to upgrade Melba High and Canberra High for disability access. Those sorts of areas are incredibly important in any budget. You have to ensure that you target what little extra funds you have to the areas of most need. I suppose the thing of most interest in this whole debate is how few problems anybody could find.

Mr Berry: Have you not been listening?

MS CARNELL: I have. We could not think of any issues that were raised. All we have ended up hearing from the Opposition is, but again, that you should not go down the path of redundancies, even though they did when they were in government and spent some $37m on over 1,000 redundancies over three years. That really shows that, in government, they know as well as we do that you have to reduce expenditure. There are a number of ways to do it, but one major way to do it is to reduce your staffing levels. Mr Kaine knew the same thing when he brought down a budget. You have to reduce your staffing levels if you are to reduce your expenditure.

Mr Smyth: What is the percentage for wages?

MS CARNELL: It is different in different departments, but basically wages are 70 per cent of the budget. Those opposite have suggested that we should address the operating loss. Mr Quinlan has said categorically that ideally we should move the budget into surplus in 2000-01. That is what we have done.

Mr Quinlan: Categorically? Ideally? What is it?

MS CARNELL: Ideally. What you said was "ideally". You said that we should move it into surplus, and gave the exact year that we are going to do it.

Mr Quinlan: I think I said it would be nice.

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