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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 7 Hansard (20 June) . . Page.. 2153 ..

MR STANHOPE (continuing):

greater support for IT development to ensure that we maintain our capacity to compete with the rest of the nation and the world. We could deal with problems such as the significant drop-out rates at the secondary level.

Despite our continuing determination to focus on retention rates, there is a failure to complete high school by a significant number of children. A large number of children are simply not finishing school. Our retention rates look good. The glossy good news figure is the retention rate, and that is the one that I notice the minister concentrates on. He ignores always the level of the completion rate. Just think of the interventions you could make with the $27 million in recognising and dealing with students at risk, ensuring greater parent participation in schools, and dealing generally with students with special learning and organisational needs. The government has provided some programs in relation to all of this, but think of what we as a community could do with the application of an additional $27 million to those proposals.

The most significant major intervention ever made by an ACT government in relation to education spending will be made by a Labor government that expends this $27 million on education rather than on a cynical, shallow, vote-buying exercise of free buses that affects just a select group of students and ignores the vast majority of students and their particular learning needs. It is an outrageous policy. It should be put off until after the election. Money should not be squandered, such as $1.4 million on hiring buses. This is extremely bad and poor policy. It should be delayed. This bill is a mechanism for delay. I endorse the proposal, Mr Speaker.

MR OSBORNE (11.44): Mr Speaker, I will not be supporting this legislation. I think some of the arguments put up by the Labor Party have been quite valid. I think more money could be spent on education, but if I went through the whole budget there are a number of areas that this government has prioritised that I am not happy about. This is really a question about priorities.

I think the $27 million, which is really just a tax rebate for a lot of people, could have been spent a hell of a lot better. I recall that on the budget parameters committee that I chaired we spoke about whether there should be an inquiry into whether or not people in the ACT would be prepared to pay more for better services. I think the answer would probably be yes.

Mr Quinlan: But that was a draft budget process, and we ignore that.

MR OSBORNE: It was the draft budget, was it? Mr Speaker, I think it is a silly move on the part of the government to be giving this much money back. But having said that, I have run into a lot of people, especially in my electorate, who are quite excited about the free bus travel. I saw someone the other day who is paying something like $400 a term for their kids, and they are certainly not wealthy. They are just battlers. They choose to send their children to an all girls Catholic school, of which there are none in Tuggeranong, and it costs them a lot of money. I think there are arguments on both sides. I think the money could have been spent better, but the rule I have always adhered to is that it is the government's budget and they are the ones who determine how the money is spent.

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