Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 5 Hansard (8 May) . . Page.. 1748 ..
MR PRATT (continuing):
Mr Speaker, these few new initiatives, formulated by a committee of education stakeholders, are indeed worthy programs. They are really good programs for which the government should be congratulated and which, by the same token, the government should treat more seriously by funding adequately. These funding amounts are a mere token gesture to innovation. This is not vision.
Where is the funding for other priorities such as boys education programs; arresting the decline in literacy and numeracy performance in years 7 and 9; childhood obesity and nutrition and exercise programs; the teaching of values and ethics, promoting positive cultural change in public schools; and addressing the exodus of students out of the public system and into the non-government sector? The minister and her government cannot claim to be strangers to these ideas. As shadow education minister, I have repeatedly called for these and other issues to be taken seriously by the government. Education stakeholder groups have repeatedly called on the government to address these problems. Why aren't they in the budget?
But all ideas seem to have fallen on the deaf ears of this government. It is just not clear what the minister hopes to achieve in the education portfolio. It is just not clear where she hopes to make a difference or how she intends to return Canberra's schools to the status of best in the country. What a missed opportunity this education budget is, and what a shame for the parents and children of the ACT.
Mr Speaker, I would like to turn now to a different part of the budget that unfortunately contains a similar theme. The police and emergency services budget also represents nothing more than a "steady hand on the tiller"with little in the way of new initiatives-no vision for excellence, no strategy for the protection of the people of the ACT against natural and unnatural disasters, and very little innovation or strategic policy and initiative design.
I use as an example-I have only got time for one-the erstwhile late Woden Joint Emergency Services Centre. Please bring the yellow flowers. This is one instance where the government has not followed the previous Liberal government's plan. It is one instance where they have "gone it alone", and look at the mess they have created. This will be somewhat difficult for the government benches to follow, as I am beginning to think they are not good at all with numbers, so I shall spell out their mistake step by step. Firstly, in the 2000-01 budget the Liberals allocated $5.7 million to the Woden Joint Emergency Services Centre (JESC) project. Secondly, in the 2001-02 budget the Liberals re-assessed the enterprise and added money to the initiative to a total value of $7.89 million. Thirdly, in the 2002-03 budget Labor removed the $7-odd million and wiped out the Woden JESC project. They sought to replace it with a less useful, simple upgrade to the Woden police station costing $5 million. Big deal!
Now, this year, the cost has gone up and the government has had to put in more money to a total value of $7.332 million for the police station upgrade. If it still is not clear to the government, I will spell it out: for a comparable sum you could have purchased a brand spanking new joint emergency services centre to service the whole of the Woden Valley and south Canberra. Instead, for a comparable amount of money you get only a one-third capacity facility-a mere upgrade of an existing facility. You have let the people of Canberra down. You are asking them to make compromises in their safety and