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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 8 Hansard (7 August) . . Page.. 2432 ..

MRS BURKE (10.58): Mr Berry, the ALP needs to focus on students at risk, not school bus plans. How right you are, sir; how right you are. I really believe that the ALP has tried to hijack the long awaited release of this important document, and that is disappointing. It is very sad indeed. This is an issue that affects us all. I believe that the attempt here to distract public attention from the report is very low. It is a desperate attempt to grandstand on Labor policy and it lacks the political will to address the issues raised in the report, as I said in my release.

Instead of constructively adding to the debate, a political attack has been launched over free school bus initiatives. Let's get it right here, Mr Berry. You were commenting well beyond the brief given to the committee in the first place. You had your say on this issue in the budget debate and you lost comprehensively.

I do not want that we try to distract the debate. Concentrate on the issues at the heart of the report. It's an excellent report and much work has gone into it, as you already said. There was unanimous support for the report. Let us move ahead in a practical way. It is a workable document. It provides useful recommendations for the government, which I think has been said as well, and I think we must all remember in this place not to be sidetracked by petty political grandstanding here. You are obsessed with your own roll-back of the government's free school bus scheme. This has been passed by this Assembly. Let's not make that an issue anymore. You have the chance to scrap the scheme when you come in, in October, but, until then, let this government get on with its job.

I am proud of the work done by the committee. It developed a detailed and constructive report for the government. It builds on the work done for students at risk of not achieving education in our system. The chair of the committee, Kerrie Tucker, is to be commended for this excellent report and her professional and dedicated approach.

MR HIRD (11.00): As a former member of this committee, I commend my colleagues on the committee and also my replacement, Mrs Burke. When you read the report in detail there can be no question that this house would have to agree with the 18-odd recommendations. I agree with our colleague Mr Berry in that regard. However, I note that Mr Berry went on and added Appendix 4 containing additional comments by the deputy chair, to wit, Mr Wayne Berry. Of course, Mr Wayne Berry has always been an expert in everything. Once again we find Mr Wayne Berry as an expert on free school buses. This chamber knows that in 1995 this party, this side of the house, agreed on a policy to have free school buses, and we are not apt to change our policy commitments.

Mr Berry: You forgot that one pretty quickly.

MR HIRD: When the time came, Mr Speaker, we reduced the deficit of $344 million, plus Harcourt Hill and the building of clubs in that area, which is another $30 million odd. We will not forget that at the appropriate time. When you go through Mr Wayne Berry's additional comments under appendix 4 you find he talks about the $27 million which the Treasurer has committed to the Minister for Education for free school buses. Mr Speaker, I draw your attention to page 95 of the report. In paragraph 11 Mr Berry says this:

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