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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 7 Hansard (21 June) . . Page.. 2362 ..

MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

Mr Deputy Speaker, I reiterate that Mr Berry did not have a very good track record when he was health minister. I think there are some real flaws in the figures and I think he very much misses the point in this entire debate.

MR CORBELL (5.04): Mr Deputy Speaker, I am pleased to support Mr Berry's amendments to the Appropriation Bill. I should stress that what the amendments seek to achieve is entirely consistent with the practice, the convention and the ability of the legislature to prevent or remove an expenditure but not to initiate one.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I would like to make a couple of points. First of all, before moving to some other areas of the Urban Services appropriation, I would like to say something about the issue of free school bus travel. I want to stress the point that the Labor Party has demonstrated leadership in deciding that money should not be allocated for the free school bus initiative. This was not an easy decision to take. The government has gone out and sold the initiative. It has started the process of getting parents to apply on behalf of their children, and so it has done everything it can to enlist a level of support for the initiative in the community.

Fair enough-that is their policy; that is what they are going out to the community on. But the Labor Party has decided that it is not going to be bullied into accepting that sort of proposal. It is not going to be a case of saying, "Well, it's all too hard. Rather than annoying some people, we are just going to accept it; we are going to let it through."

Clearly that was the government's tactic. The government went out and provided to students and parents the opportunity to apply, and it said that this initiative will commence a month before the election. This is a very calculated move, Mr Deputy Speaker-calculated to do everything possible to get other parties in this place to back off and support it because they would be afraid of the public backlash if they did not.

As I said, the Labor Party has demonstrated leadership on this issue. We have said that this is not about just putting a bit of money in someone's pocket, no matter how good that might be for individuals: it is about recognising the broader need. The Labor Party has said that it is about recognising the need of the great majority of people in our community, and that is a need for a high quality education system, for an initiative that delivers on the failings and the weaknesses of the government system and, as well, for support in the non-government sector.

This is the leadership position taken by the Labor Party. The Labor Party is out there campaigning for what it believes is the appropriate approach to expenditure priorities. That is exactly what the appropriation debate is about. The appropriation debate is about saying, "We think the government's priorities are right or they are wrong, and if they are wrong we are going to try and do something about it." Labor has taken the approach that the need for the broader community is more important than the need for a smaller number of people who will get the benefit from this free school bus initiative.

Let me reiterate a few points about the real problems with the government's proposal. First of all, as Mr Berry has said, there has been absolutely no consideration of the impact of this proposal on our neighbourhood school system. What will it mean for enrolments at neighbourhood schools if all of a sudden there is a completely subsidised

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