Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 6 Hansard (18 June) . . Page.. 2060 ..
Currently, according to the government's own figures provided to me in estimates, that 40 per cent of students receives only 28 per cent of total government funding. That 40 per cent receives only 11 per cent, I state again, 11 per cent of the total funding allocated by the ACT government to schools in the ACT. The abolition of the ISS is set to have a direct and detrimental impact, not only on the schools which it directly funds, but indirectly on the ACT school system as a whole.
Maybe this is what the government wants. Maybe the government thinks that the best way to cope with its own embarrassing problem of enrolments transferring from the government to the non-government sector is by trying to make non-government schools unviable. I would find that line of thinking unrealistic and I would much prefer to think that this minister and the government in general does not take that line, but we have the problem of the Connors report, don't we? That famous review with the predetermined outcome commissioned by ground zero Corbell.
The fact is, Ms Connors implied in her report that this was one of the very reasons for her recommendation to remove the ISS, and I quote:
The interest subsidy scheme is attractive because it means that a school can put its own private income to other purposes. This assists the school to compete more actively to maintain or increase its market share of enrolments in the context of a relatively static school population.
Mr Speaker, this is not a particularly clever comment from Ms Connors. Ms Connors suggests that non-government schools use the funds from the ISS to direct their private income to other purposes. It is not entirely clear what Ms Connors means by this comment. In theory, of course, this is what a school might do, but that is highly unlikely.
In practice, Ms Connors does not appear to have appreciated what many of these schools are doing continually, that is, they are attempting to fund new building projects and projects to refurbish and upgrade existing buildings. It is to these types of projects that the private income received by these schools is being directed. That is, these schools are constantly juggling their resources to maintain their building programs and to ensure that the quality of their existing facilities is maintained.
Ms Connors only has to visit the Burgmann Anglican College in Gungahlin to see how the ISS funds were deployed and how they are being used. Indeed, the Chief Minister has just opened a new building at Burgmann that has been funded in part, I say again, in part, by the ISS allocation. The relatively small amount of funds available from the ISS for Burgmann is being used by Burgmann to develop a new school on a greenfields site. The ISS funds enabled Burgmann to prepare a slightly stronger proposal to raise capital for building projects. The ISS funds are not being used to permit other funds to be used for other nefarious purposes. Rather, the ISS funds enabled Burgmann to provide buildings that are of an appropriate standard.
Mr Speaker, I can bring to mind other non-government schools that have been established for 20 years or so and that are now involved as much in refurbishment as in funding new buildings. Again, the ISS funds are a very small component of the overall building costs that typically are involved in these projects. As with new building projects, they strengthen proposals to raise the necessary capital.