Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 4 Hansard (2 April) . . Page.. 1225 ..
MR CORNWELL (continuing):
I was amused by Ms Gallagher's comments about the $7.4 million not having been spent yet. Of course it has not. You are waiting for the budget next year. It will come down probably in next year's budget, Mr Pratt. Does that come as a surprise to you, sir? No, of course not.
Mr Pratt: Good for the kids, though, Mr Corbell.
MR CORNWELL: Perhaps, although unfortunately in this city there has been a long history of the attitude that shovelling enough money at education will solve all problems. I do not accept that argument-I never have and I do not believe that I ever will.
What my colleague Mr Pratt has said in relation to this matter is perfectly true: there is grave concern about Ms Connors' report in relation to the non-government sector. I would strongly suggest that the government tread very carefully before they start to interfere and overturn, for ideological reasons, the position of ACT non-government education in which 38 per cent of pupils attend the non-government school sector and 44 per cent of pupils in years 7 to 10, the high school years, attend non-government schools. I would suggest that you let both government and non-government sit side by side, thus endorsing the concept of diversity and choice in education.
MR CORBELL (Minister for Health and Minister for Planning) (12.02): Mr Speaker this is a disappointing motion from Mr Pratt, disappointing because it simply continues his attack on the author and, indeed, on the very important issues of education funding in our city.
Mr Pratt in his comments criticised Ms Connors' report for, amongst many other things, not addressing a range of education policy issues-bullying, violence in schools, et cetera. These are important issues and the government has strategies-which it continues to refine and develop-to address, amongst other things, violence and bullying in schools. But what Mr Pratt reveals in those comments is his fundamental misunderstanding of this report. This is not a report about education policy per se. It is not about policy issues in education: it is about how we fund education. Mr Pratt has missed that point and, therefore, his argument is fundamentally flawed in that regard.
Mr Speaker, the purpose behind this inquiry, as the minister for education has pointed out, is about ensuring that public funds, the ACT community's funds, are spent in the best possible way to ensure that we maintain and develop further our high quality education system. The government made clear this commitment prior to its election and by its implementation we are keeping an election commitment.
Mr Speaker, the Connors inquiry raises some very important philosophical issues-ones which the opposition should pay heed to. When public money is spent in any other field of government activity or non-government activity in the ACT we have extremely high levels of accountability and reporting in respect of expenditure. Through the annual reports process in this place and scrutiny by Assembly standing committees, there is a very detailed accounting of the way every single dollar is spent in the public education system.
Mr Speaker, what accountability is there for the way non-government schools spend the public money they receive? Is there any annual report? Is there any scrutiny by this