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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 1 Hansard (13 February) . . Page.. 82 ..

MR BERRY (continuing):

But we must not let ourselves fall into this mantra that the quality of the public provision is driven by the private sector. If we do that we will end up with a welfare education system. We have to ensure that the bar is set in the public system and that it is something for the private system to emulate. If we ignore that requirement our public sector will go into decline and it will be a sorry day for the territory, because in the end the community will suffer as a result.

This government's ideological mindset is not about excellence in the public sector. That's the difficulty for them. They cannot promote the public sector adequately because they just do not have that commitment. Their commitment is to the private sector. We have heard it continuously in here. It never stops. This government attacks anybody asking questions and denies the figures. We heard a claim that it was only the capital budget that was affected by these figures, and then competing figures were produced. Finally, there was this leak about the reduced class size commitment in an election year.

This government is in panic, trying to recover the ground lost over six years. That lost ground cannot be recovered. Nobody trusts you on education any more, and they have good reason not to because there has been a desert for six years when it comes to public schooling in the ACT and a barrage of commitment to the non-government sector. It is not good enough, Mr Minister. It is too transparent, and we do have memories of what happened over the last six years.

This should not be about getting elected. It's about our kids and their future. The government is good on rhetoric but the facts show the lies of the rhetoric. Mr Deputy Speaker, a knee-jerk reaction close to an election is not the way forward for quality public education in the ACT. The only way that we can demonstrate that we have a commitment to quality public education is to set the benchmark for all other schools to emulate. If they can beat it, good on them. Our job is to keep pushing the bar up higher and continuing to set the standard for education in the ACT. If we do not do that we have betrayed our community. I suggest to you, Mr Deputy Speaker and members, that over the last six years there has been an element of betrayal in our community.

MR STEFANIAK (Minister for Education and Attorney-General) (5.11): Mr Deputy Speaker, I would agree with Mr Berry on one point-it is very important to set benchmarks and to set the bar high, and I will come back to that in a minute. Mr Berry started off by making a correct statement. He said that nothing strikes the contrast so much between the ALP and the Liberals than a commitment to public education. Maybe it does, and I say that with some sadness, Mr Deputy Speaker, because I think this government has shown a far greater commitment to public education than the previous Follett government did.

Mr Berry: See if you can find somebody who will believe you.


: I think we only need to go back to Hansard, Mr Deputy Speaker, back in May 1994. I am sorry; it does refer to you, Mr Deputy Speaker, as you were the minister at the time. Of course, you were part of cabinet and Mr Berry was a colleague there. We were discussing education. There was an MPI on education, and very timely it was then. Mr Moore, I think, had commented that you had cut or had

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