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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 7 Hansard (20 June) . . Page.. 2146 ..

MR MOORE (continuing):

to use the free school buses, and we are expecting at least another 4,000 before this is due to start in September. Mr Smyth informed us yesterday that 40 per cent of those are from government schools-

Mr Berry: No, no, he said "non-government".

MR MOORE: Roughly 40 per cent are from government schools and about 60 per cent are from the non-government sector, the majority of those being from Catholic schools because there are more Catholic schools. Mr Speaker, clearly, the government has taken a policy, which from my perspective has nothing to do with education, and Mr Berry wants to take it as an education policy. What he wants to do is make sure that that free school bus is taken away and that the money is then put into decreasing the class sizes, as I understand it, in year 3 and so on.

There is an irony in this. The debate we had in 1993 was when Labor was trying to increase class sizes with their 80 teachers, and I do not miss that irony. What is surprising, I guess, is that Labor would pick on that money in those free school buses, which is some $26 million to $27 million over the next four-year period, of which about $7 million or $8 million is capital expenditure, and not look at the tax break. If you really want to do this, if you really think we have it wrong and you want to make sure you have smaller class sizes, why don't you look at the tax break we put on registration, which over the same period is $40 million? Surely that would be a more sensible way to go about this, but, of course, that is not what is driving it. What is driving it is the fact that the teachers union, first, and the P&C Council about the same time, said, "How come you are putting the money into free school buses? Why don't you put it into education?"

That is the sort of decision governments make when they are putting a budget together. We have a certain amount of money. We prioritise here, we put some into here, we put some into here, and we put some into here. In this budget we used a particular technique to do that. We looked at our series of themes and made sure that our budget was primarily about issues of poverty, innovation and early intervention. We also looked at capacity building. Mr Speaker, those were the fundamentals behind the budget. Those were the things that drove it, and Mr Berry's legislation interferes with the way that was done.

Mr Speaker, when we were putting this budget together there was a huge amount of consultation. I suppose the Liberals will argue that they did this because it was an election promise.

Mr Berry: No, they didn't. In 1995 they did. They didn't in 1998.

MR MOORE: They did in 1995.

Mr Stanhope: And 1,000 hospital beds.

MR MOORE: At the same time, as Mr Stanhope interjects, they promised 1,000 hospital beds. I am not worried about their particular promise in this area; I am worried about the fundamental issues. It is interesting that a political party would try to keep the promises it has made. I think people are expecting that and I can understand the argument.

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