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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 4 Hansard (2 April) . . Page.. 1219 ..

MS DUNDAS (continuing):

concentration of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, and the job of being a public school teacher gets harder each year. We cannot let the children of those who cannot afford the private school system suffer.

We need to support efforts to make our public school system better than it is at the moment. We need to support those children whose parents cannot afford to send them to private schools. We need to support every child. Public education should be a right, no matter how much money your parents earn, and we should be supporting out public school system to be the best so that all children can get the education that we know they deserve.

Although I am concerned that the money saved on the school bus scheme was not promptly redirected into areas of need-areas such as work with children with challenging behaviours, support for kids with disabilities and school counsellors-I am not at all happy with this motion as it attacks the work that has been done. We now await the budget to see how the remaining money will be spent.

I also think it is important to ask where the other reports are. The Connors inquiry is only one of the inquiries into the educational sector that have been established over the last 15 months, and hopefully we will see the other reports before the budget. The report into school counselling is one that springs to mind. This must be the year for action. We have had the year for reviews and now is the time to turn these reviews into actual outcomes. We need the reports of all the reviews so that we and the government are informed about where the next step should be taken in the education sector. With regard to that, I would draw members' attention to notice No 25 on the notice paper regarding the next steps following the Connors inquiry. We should be taking the next steps. We should be setting up an implementation team to review the recommendations, to report to cabinet, so we do have action as opposed to just having another government report that will sit on the shelf.

It is now time to stop the neglect of public schooling. I praise Ms Connors' report for highlighting the injustices in school funding and for giving the ACT government the evidence it needs to make real changes to current funding arrangements.

MS TUCKER (11.38): The Greens will also be opposing the motion, as we see the Connors inquiry as a constructive contribution to the debate on school funding in the ACT and a necessary punctuation point in the process that had become an unending dispute over numbers.

The discussion of the roles of government and non-government schools in this context, and the funding and accountability recommendations proposed, are particularly helpful. I was also pleased to see a real exploration of the role of pre-schools and other early childhood education and an acknowledgement that education at this level, and overall government responsibility for it, is a given.

The question of funding students with disability remains fraught, with some remaining issues developing an approach which assures students of funding to meet their needs, whichever school system they are in. Nonetheless, Connors' approach to establishing a base level of disability funding, with an individual package negotiated on top of that, is a step in the right direction.

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