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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 6 Hansard (18 June) . . Page.. 2069 ..



Of course, perversely, every single primary-aged student at Canberra Boys Grammar will receive a 73 per cent increase in funding. Is that based on equity or need? Is it really necessary to increase by more than 50 per cent the level of support provided to the wealthiest boys-only school in the territory? No, it is not. However, Mr Speaker, that is the level of support that they are receiving courtesy of the Commonwealth government's programs, and there is nothing we can do about that. Not now anyway.

What we can do is make sure that ACT government funds are used in an equitable way and that is what the government is proposing through the closure of the interest subsidy scheme. The closure of the interest subsidy scheme will not realise any significant new money overnight. In fact, it will not be until the existing commitments are close to being met in 15 years time that there will be significant redirection of funding into the non-government schools sector.

I have to stress again, the government is not taking a single cent out of the non-government sector. It has committed funding, as a result of agreements entered into for the next 15 years, to the non-government schools sector for capital works. It is here now. It is committed now. However, what we will do is make sure that, into the future, as money becomes available, as obligations are met, that money will be distributed on the basis of need.

This will ensure that schools such as those, say, in the Catholic education system, which has-I think Ms Gallagher quoted the figure to me earlier-the majority of students who are enrolled in the non-government school sector in the ACT, will actually get a fairer deal because the allocation will be based on need. It will be based on who needs the facilities and who needs the support, rather than being based on who knows how to use the system best, which is quite frankly what has happened in the conduct of the interest subsidy scheme to date.

Mr Pratt's motion is simply flawed. He fails to take account of the significant levels of Commonwealth funding that non-government schools receive, and the significant increases they will receive over the next three years. He also fails to take account of the significant level of ACT government funding already directed to non-government schools. He also fails to take account of the significant level of support that these non-government schools are already receiving, and to which we have made a funding commitment for the next 15 to 18 years. He has also failed to take account of that most fundamental principle-it is not about choice, it is about equity. It is not about choice, it is about spending public funds in an equitable and fair way.


(8.13): Listening to the debate from this side of the room, I am just wondering whether this government will be proud when it is held responsible for putting in jeopardy the richest and most diverse schooling in the country. Is that something that you are going to wave a flag about?

The ACT has the highest attendance in the country at non-government schools. Should parents of the ACT be penalised for this? I think that is what you are doing. If you really stepped back and thought about it, it is smoke and mirrors and you are just playing with numbers, both of you.

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