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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 4 Hansard (2 April) . . Page.. 1218 ..

MS GALLAGHER (continuing):

not thought through. We do not want to be seen as the type of government that jumps into things.

Mr Speaker, the Stanhope government is carefully considering how to spend the remaining $7.4 million. We are listening to community views. We will make sure that the money is well spent and that it is spent where it can do the most good-in other words, where it is most needed. We will ensure that it is used to improve educational outcomes for all of our children.

Mr Pratt is concerned that the report is biased towards government schooling. I do not apologise for that at all. The ACT Labor government sees its primary responsibility as providing good resources and enough resources for a very strong and vibrant public education system. Mr Pratt, I do not apologise for that.

MS DUNDAS (11.33): Mr Speaker, I will not be supporting Mr Pratt's motion. Although I have often been critical of the government for conducting reviews instead of spending money on real services-school counsellors is an area that springs to mind-I think an examination of education funding arrangements was warranted.

The Connors inquiry report came up with a number of useful recommendations, such as: that more funding should be given to pre-schools; that more funding is needed to support kids with disabilities; that inequality of resources between government and non-government schools should be addressed; and that new schools have been approved before they could provide adequate facilities.

We certainly do have one of the best education systems in the country but there are still a lot of kids who leave our schooling system with inadequate literacy and numeracy skills and few career options. We could be doing better for these kids and an examination of how these defects could be remedied is highly invaluable. The statistics in this report also show that we have one of the highest educated populations in the country, but that does not mean we should be resting on our laurels. The aim should be to get all our kids up to a high level of education so that they have the options that they want for their future.

The Connors inquiry looked at equity and funding between government and non-government schools. Across Australia, more money per capita is spent on educating each child in non-government schools relative to children in government schools. Although in the ACT children in Catholic systemic schools may still have less resources than public school children, if current trends continue then public school students will be at the bottom of the educational heap, and that is not a situation we want.

I do not agree that a child at a non-government school deserves a better education than one in a government school. When ACT government funding is contributing to inequality of education opportunities, I think it is timely to examine how the injustice can be ended.

I do not think it is a secret that I am a passionate supporter of public education. I see enrolments in public schools declining because our public schools cannot offer a competitive standard of education. Better-off parents who can afford to pay private school fees usually choose to do so and this leaves public schools with a higher

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