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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 10 Hansard (29 August) . . Page.. 3073 ..

MR PRATT (continuing):

It is, however, a budget which has not much value-adding content. There are no bold initiatives to reallocate scarce resources, for example, from within the existing framework to the needy areas we identified last year as deserving of further development.

Labor promenaded during the election about the importance of the education system to them, and yet, come budget time, the ACT Labor government has increased recurrent funding to the government school sector by only 1.4 per cent. Mr Speaker, 1.4 per cent, is the lowest funding increase in the government schooling sector across all states and territories that to date have delivered their budget. In the Commonwealth May 2002 budget, the federal government increased funding to ACT government schools by 5.3 per cent. If the ACT government had matched this, public schools would have been $13 million better off.

Despite Mr Corbell's rhetoric in answer to one of my questions on notice to the Estimates Committee that "this government recognises the important role both government and non-government schools have in educating ACT students", this budget has not sufficiently illustrated any such balanced recognition to give weight to Mr Corbell's rhetorical statement.

The public system is not the only part of the ACT education system that has been let down by the ACT Labor government. The education department is the department for all education-government and non-government. The government has failed in its obligation to non-government schools and the 38 per cent of students who attend non-government schools in the ACT. The disparity between the two sectors in the allocation of the $20 million from the free bus scheme is very evident. Only $1 million of that funding has been allocated to non-government schools.

I turn to salaries for teachers. Whilst some provision has been made for salary supplementation for teachers in government schools, provided for in the government teachers enterprise bargaining agreement, no provision is made to the non-government sector, in particular the Catholic schools, which always struggle to balance their budget and require over $1.2 million to assist them. The systemic schools always struggle.

Overall, there are no imaginative initiatives to add value to the salary system, an area I think we all agree needs urgent attention, given the increasing pressures on teachers. Even with a few million dollars, perhaps taken from the $7.2 million slush fund, a modest but effective morale-boosting change could have occurred, in the shape of a performance-based salary system and a pay increase for a small but not insignificant percentage of our teachers. What a powerful signal that would have been in settling things down and adding value to an already effective schooling system.

This government seems to be relying on inquiries to provide them with their policy platform-inquiries, inquiries, damn inquiries. Their reply to everything is: "Wait for the results of our inquiry." In the education budget alone, there is $270,000 for inquiries which have not yet commenced.

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