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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 6 Hansard (18 June) . . Page.. 2070 ..



There is a misconceived and misguided belief that parents who choose to send their children to non-government schools are well off. Let's ask ourselves what that term "well off"really means. I heard Ms Gallagher use it. It really intrigues me. Many parents scrimp, scrape and save to afford to send their children to a school of their choice. Are they classed as well off? This is the key.

We talk about choice: Mr Corbell just wiped that off straight away-"It is not about choice, it is about equity."Where is the equity when there is no choice? Removal of the ISS will, I believe, exert greater pressure on parents and will limit their choice. Will that be equitable? I doubt it.

This just seems like another ploy by this government to remove the choice factor, Mr Speaker, for parents wanting to send their children to a non-government school by making the cost prohibitive. It will come to a time when the fees will be so exclusive that only the really well off, Ms Gallagher-if you talk about well off, you need to ensure you're backing up that-

Ms Gallagher

: I said well-off schools, not well-off people.


: No, you talked about well-off people. I am sorry, you have. Not tonight. You have talked about well-off people. It amuses me. Why don't you listen to the community? If you do not listen to the community, you are going to do this at your peril.

I fully support my colleague, Mr Pratt, in his move to call on the government to reverse this decision which will impact on very many parents in our community. You have said yourself, Ms Gallagher, you have heard from some of them.

Mr Speaker, I can use my own education as an example. I am one of four children. My parents chose to do without many material things in life, happily, to send my sisters and my brother to private schools at various times through our education. Were they well off, the term to which I hear the people opposite often allude? No, my father had three jobs. He insisted my mum never work. Okay, call it Draconian, but that is what happened then. My mother knitted and sewed many of our clothes. We went without and my father had his first car at 37. Okay, get the violin out.

However, my parents, like so many others here in the ACT, are about to be slugged by the Robin Hood approach of this government. I think, Mr Speaker, that there is a real mindset about people being financially well off for some reason. Let's slug them. If they have saved and worked hard, let's slug them. Let's just hit them in the bank balance and make them pay for everybody else. If you are successful, you pay for it. That is terrible. We all have opportunities in life; we can all make choices in life. Wishing to penalise those that do well is odd.

If students are not entering our government schools we need to find out why, surely, not slug the other side because it is not doing so well. We have a fantastic school system here. Why aren't we being more innovative? This government is simply too lazy and lacklustre to do a proper and balanced review of the government school system. What about trialling concepts aimed at value adding? Mr Pratt has alluded to some of those things. This is probably a debate for another day. We in the ACT do have one of the best school systems in Australia.

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