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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 7 Hansard (20 June) . . Page.. 2164 ..

MR QUINLAN (continuing):

place in relation to the introduction of this scheme is that there was no reasonable analysis. There was no analysis at all. It was a very quick decision.

The second claim I want to refute is that this was an election promise. No, it was not an election promise. It was an election promise in 1995. If it was not an election promise in 1998 it lapsed.

Mr Smyth: Why did Mr Hargreaves raise it in 1998 and 1999? Why did Mr Hargreaves throw it across the table during the debate on the new network?

MR QUINLAN: Just to demonstrate, Mr Smyth, how duplicitous you guys are. That is why. Once another election is held the election promises of the previous campaign lapse. There was no groundswell for this. Nobody would come before us and say there has been pressure from parents, from any part of the education system, or any part of the community, that they want free school buses, so why did this initiative arise?

I will tell you why it arose. It arose through the politics of divisiveness. This is a deliberate and cynical strategy to divide the community in the hope that you gain more than you lose. It certainly is based on a political motivation to divide the community. I fear that it will work on some electors, but I certainly hope and trust that it will not work on many more, and that they will see the value of investing in education as opposed to providing a political sweetener.

This government claims, even in this budget, that part of its thrust is innovation. We talk about the major resource of Canberra being its educated population. Where does that come from? That comes from having a decent education system, the best education system in Australia. Already, now, not only the ACT but also Australia generally is being criticised as falling behind the rest of the world in terms of keeping pace with technology and the changing use of information. If we do not have any other major resources in this economy, which we don't, it is quite clear that we do need to invest in that particular single asset that we have.

Mr Stefaniak made some claims in relation to the literacy rates in the ACT. I am sure that they can be confirmed by numerical analysis, but I also have to say that it does help if you have middle-class parents, and we have a very high proportion of middle-class parents in the ACT and quite educated families. That is probably far more likely to be the reason behind our better performance than our school system.

We have seen the Productivity Commission criticise this government for reducing the rate of investment in the education system. It is quite clear that there is a declining commitment to education for all. A couple of people have brought up in this place that this free bus travel is a relief for battling families. This same government is cutting back on public housing which is needed by the battlers. So what do you do to help struggling families? You introduce an initiative that favours some people regardless of their income status and regardless of their particular personal wealth. There is no logic to that claim. Maybe you are helping some battling families, but you also are helping families across the full spectrum, and with a high probability that you are helping more in the upper echelon who have the resources to send their children to private schools than you are in the lower socio-economic strata.

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