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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 4 Hansard (10 April) . . Page.. 943 ..

MR PRATT (continuing):

Despite the good condition of ACT education now, more can always be done to improve the capability of government schools. My party remains committed to this improvement-as we are committed to "real terms" funding guarantees, as verified by the KPMG audit-to which the government is not committed.

The government sector will be greatly disadvantaged if there is not a viable non-government sector. Erosion of capability in the non-government sector will have serious knock-on effects for the government sector. I have listened with some disquiet to the minister speaking about equity, and I fear that this, translated, means reinforcing the government sector at the expense of the non-government sector. Surely, equity means fairness of resource allocation right across all school sectors, and that extra resources that are justifiable should be provided to non-government schools where necessary.

It is against this background that I have queried the appointment by the government of one consultant to undertake a complex review of a multifaceted education system. Further, I have queried the appropriateness of an appointee who champions a strong public sector agenda. Evidence indicates that the appointee, while respected in her field, is also a co-convenor and co-founder of a government school lobby group known as Priority Public.

Priority Public is known to be critical of the role and place of the non-government school sector, and it promotes the public sector at the expense of the non-government school sector. This is not welcome news for an ACT school system, 38 per cent of whose students attend non-government sector schools. There is now disquiet in our community about this inquiry, which the government should dispel. Minister, to be able to dispel this disquiet, you have to increase the number of participants involved in this inquiry.

At 5.00 pm, in accordance with standing order 34, the debate was interrupted. The motion for the adjournment of the Assembly having been put and negatived, the debate was resumed.

MR PRATT: I am deeply troubled, and I believe that this inquiry will not work well for the following reasons. First, I believe a single consultant is simply inadequate for the scope of this project. Second, rightly or wrongly, there is now a community perception that this inquiry could be heading towards a preconceived outcome, that is, that it will support what appears to be the minister's preferred option-that the government sector should be reinforced at the expense of the non-government sector.

In the interests of thoroughness, I urge that the consultant be supported by a committee of reference representing all areas of our education landscape, and by relevant terms of reference and conditions that cover all sectors of education policy. The minister has a responsibility to ensure that the community is satisfied with the results of this inquiry and its outcome. So far, the minister has not demonstrated an understanding of this responsibility.

If it is appointed, this committee of reference should report to the consultant, measure all review contributions for validity against the terms of reference, and ensure that all shades of opinion are represented. The committee of reference may not have to be a full-time one. Indeed, in the interests of expenditure savings, some appointments could be casual, although it would be necessary to have a core of key representatives working substantial

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