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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 8 Hansard (27 June) . . Page.. 2376 ..

MR PRATT (continuing):

The government has committed $29 million to new Gungahlin schools. They crow about this, claiming it to be a new initiative. I thank the government for committing on the Liberals' $28 million for Gungahlin schools.

The ACT community should be most concerned about a number of issues other than those initiatives I have just outlined. I wish to take the government to task over these. This budget, Mr Speaker, is a poor, unimaginative budget. The education component is inequitable and incredibly indecisive. In financial detail, there a number of flaws in respect of the education component.

Let us talk about the minister's $7.4 million slush fund-that component not allocated from the $2.7 million taken from the old free school bus money the government promised to spend inside the front gate. I would have thought some of that funding might have been allocated to priority expenditure now-committed now to, for example, alleviating the shortage of teachers and implementing urgent strategies in schools for children at risk. There has been some money committed to children at risk but there is room for a lot more. Some of that $7.4 million slush fund could have been allocated to that.

It could have been allocated for revamping the drug education program-the strategies which need a hell of a lot of work-or for urgent further development of our VET capabilities and so on. It could have been allocated for funding programs for children with disabilities, in both government and non-government school sectors. It could also have been allocated for the sorts of assertive strategies we need to see in place for boys education-to name but a few priority areas. However, Mr Speaker, I suppose the minister cannot do this now because he would first need to set up another inquiry, to see how it might best be spent. Decision-vacuum Corbell!

I also question the cash expenditure aspects of this budget. I question GPO or government outputs and I flag now that I intend, in estimates committees, and through general inquiry and review, to scrutinise the government on this. There are a number of questions which need to be answered and I do not think the situation is particularly clear.

Mr Speaker, I intend to question Mr Corbell as to why the increase in GPO is so low. Why is it only 1.6 per cent? Real-term expenditure was promised by this government to be in the order of 2.5 per cent. The government has mentioned real-term funding guarantees of $5.9 million. That is laudable. It appears that the government has pilfered $1.4 million from education department productivity savings. One can only assume that, given a $5.9 million real-term funding, minus that productivity saving of $1.4 million, this indicates that the government has not kept its promise. I will explain that.

Yes, $5.9 million equals 2.5 per cent. Take away the 1.4, or half a per cent, and what do you get, Mr Speaker? You get a so-called real-term increase of only 2 per cent. Therefore, a broken promise. They giveth with one hand and taketh with the other-an Indian giver exercise, if ever I saw one.

There has been an obvious inequitable allocation of funding coming out of the $27 million into the government school sector. The systemic Catholic schools make up 25 per cent of the ACT school system, yet they were allocated only $1 million over four

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