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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 4 Hansard (10 April) . . Page.. 946 ..

MR CORBELL (continuing):

The inquiry's terms of reference require that Ms Connors be available to consult stakeholders. As I have indicated earlier, the government will not be supporting this motion by Mr Pratt today, because we believe it is an attempt by Mr Pratt to dictate to an independent inquiry how that inquiry should be conducted. The government will not do that. Therefore, the specific consultation arrangements are a matter for the inquiry head, Ms Connors. However, I am pleased to advise members that she has already begun to speak to stakeholders and that, in addition to inviting formal written submissions, she is proposing a range of other consultation arrangements. I want to outline these to members.

First of all, there will be an opportunity for stakeholders to comment on other stakeholders' submissions, so the question raised by Mr Pratt-about whether everyone is going to be able to comment on the relevance or otherwise of the issues raised-will be dealt with. Joint and individual discussions with stakeholders will take place, including discussions about funding principles and the progress of the inquiry. Ms Connors will also arrange presentations to stakeholders by the expert researchers that she commissions to assist her, and there will be a series of public information meetings.

All submissions will be made public. Copies of all submissions will be provided to each stakeholder and stakeholder group. As I have already indicated, stakeholders and stakeholder groups will have the opportunity to comment on other stakeholders' submissions. Copies of all submissions will also be made generally available to the public through the ACT public library service. Further, Ms Connors will be establishing a website to report on the conduct of the inquiry and, where possible, submissions will be placed on the website.

That is a very open and transparent process. It is a rigorous one that allows everyone to contribute, and that allows different perspectives to be recorded on the views being put to the inquiry itself. I expect that all interest groups will take full advantage of the opportunity to contribute to the inquiry.

In these circumstances, I am satisfied that the arrangements provide for independence, expert assistance, openness, and full and substantial consultation. As I have already indicated to the Assembly in question time in earlier sittings, Ms Connors is also intending to seek to visit a wide range of public schools, and has indicated to me that she will be seeking to visit, and speak with representatives of, every private school in the ACT. Ms Connors has already spoken to many of the key stakeholders, and they have indicated support for the arrangement she is putting in place, and a willingness to work with her on this very important piece of investigation.

I am very confident that the processes Ms Connors intends to implement will provide ample opportunity for stakeholders and the community to contribute to her work, and that her findings will be informed by the taking into account of those contributions. I think most of Mr Pratt's speech really dealt with the issues related to the debate. The government is not interested in opening up that debate, but we are interested in making sure that funding arrangements are equitable, and that funding is provided on the basis of relative need. That is essentially what this inquiry will strive to achieve.

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