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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 8 Hansard (26 June) . . Page.. 2265 ..

MR CORNWELL (continuing):

how we best respond to them on the basis of need and equity.” And that is what the Connors inquiry is all about. It will not simply be about arguing over the remaining $7.4 million that is left from the free school bus scheme commitment.

I want to assure those people in the non-government sector that it is not just arguing about that piece of the cake. It’s about responding—

Mr Pratt: All of them?

MR CORBELL: All of them, Mr Speaker. It is about responding to the needs in the system, where they exist, and addressing them. And if that means that we have to seek funding beyond that $7 million then I will be arguing in cabinet for funding in future budgets to address those needs. That is my job as minister for education, and that is a job that cabinet will have as it collectively works out its priorities for future budgets.

The government’s commitment is clear and unequivocal. We will continue to invest in education across the ACT. We will continue to stand by our commitment to ensure that public education is the best system in the ACT, and that it delivers parents choice in terms of the school they go to and the services they receive—free of charge in a public education system.

But we will continue to work with and respect the right of those who choose to send their children to non-government schools for religious or other philosophical or personal beliefs. And we will address the needs that exist in those systems on the basis of the comprehensive investigation being conducted by Lindsay Connors into need in education funding.

Let us just remember that this is the man who professes to be the advocate of the non-government sector but also defends a system, implemented by his federal colleagues, that will result in less funding for every non-government school in the ACT bar one.

MR PRATT: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Will you now allocate to non-government schools a substantial proportion of the $7.4 million slush fund you have retained in your kitty or will that also go to government schools, thereby exacerbating your unfair funding allocations?

CORBELL: Mr Speaker, I have already answered that question

Public dental health program

CORNWELL: My question is to Mr Stanhope, Minister for Health. Minister, in the 2001 election you promised to “Maintain an additional allocation to the public health dental program of $2.567 million over the next four years”. Yet the budget Mr Quinlan put forward yesterday makes no mention of any additional allocation to the public health dental program. In fact, Minister, the total number of services to be provided—and this is found at Budget Paper No 4, page 159— reduces from 70,000 for the current year to 68,300 next year.

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