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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 6 Hansard (14 June) . . Page.. 1795 ..

MR HARGREAVES (continuing):

We have people attending a government school in Torrens. There are about 37 of them from the suburb of Conder. The reason they are attending the primary school at Torrens is because they happen to perform well in the traditional method of classroom approach. They have been tried in Gordon and at Charles Conder, which is the open plan process, and these kids do not respond to that. Rather than spit the dummy and complain bitterly, the parents have negotiated a transfer from the school to Torrens. Naturally enough, you would think that these parents, whose kids are now well and truly over the 2K zone, would be absolutely chuffed about the new free bus school system, and indeed they were. Five out of the 37 are from the one family.

But what they really wanted, in fact, was to maintain the choice of educational institution for their kids and have their own bus service from the Conder shops to the school. They didn't want it free, necessarily. They just wanted to have that one go there. When I put to this gentleman, "Do you want your services inside or outside the school gate?" he said the whole reason for doing what he did was the educational outcomes for those kids. He was more concerned about getting a dedicated bus to pick the kids up from Conder and take them to Torrens, which is in the same zone anyway, so the zonal system did not matter, than he was about the free bus system, knowing that he would still have to pay his five fares.

He also said to me that if the amount of money that was going on the free bus system was to be applied to bringing the class sizes down in the schools his kids were attending-I think the youngest one was in about grade 4-he would give the local primary schools another shot. That is what this guy said. If we had the money going in to reduce the class sizes to, say, grade 6, three of his kids would be having another shot at their local school, the Charles Conder primary school.

This minister is disingenuous about the whole thing. He has not consulted anybody. He has consulted tea leaves and a 1995 piece of parchment he got out of Tutankhamen's tomb. He dusted it off and said, "We will try to bribe the electorate." Well, it does not wash at all, Mr Temporary Deputy Speaker. I think I have had my spray. I support Ms Tucker's motion, and I look forward to the eloquence of Mr Moore.

MR MOORE (Minister for Health, Housing and Community Services) (6.41): In order to explain my attitude to this extra research that Ms Tucker is asking about, I have to give some background to my view on the issue. There are two possibilities on how I handled this in cabinet. One is that I went in there and said, "This is a really good idea. You guys made promises. You should be keeping your promises and that is all there is to it." That is one of the possibilities. The other possibility is that I went in there and vigorously argued, as I had publicly in I think 1995 and 1997, that this is a bloody stupid idea and the money is better spent elsewhere. It does not matter which of those arguments was put. If I argued the way I did and the outcome was that I was outvoted in a budget matter, the government is entitled to its budget and I support the budget.

Whichever way it is, I support the government's right to have their budget and to put the initiatives in their budget. I have done so, whether on the crossbenches there or here, with the one exception which, as I said earlier today, I consider a mistake.

Mr Berry: All of a sudden it's a mistake.

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