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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 6 Hansard (18 June) . . Page.. 2072 ..



Canberra and every other family in Canberra, should subsidise that, and that is what has happened.

You can see that the figures that Mr Corbell quoted, unchallenged, have delivered that sort of outcome. Now, if the interest subsidy scheme had been directing that subsidy to the poorer level, the less well-resourced level of the non-government sector, the decision might have been just a little bit harder to make. However, the funds are not going there. You could argue that they are not going to where they are more needed, so it is certainly the case that this is a fine decision.

Yes, I can say to Mr Stefaniak that I said, when I was education minister, that I was minister for all students. I also said very, very firmly, clearly and often that my first responsibility, my priority, was to the government school sector. Beyond any doubt, it is the responsibility of a government, any government, to establish and maintain an excellent education system. That is the government's responsibility.

After that, we acknowledge that, if parents do not want to access that system, they have the right not to. They do not have to access it. They may operate and fund other schools, and they may use other schools; that is their right in this society. They may then make that choice, but we have to fund a good education system and it is not helped when we have to struggle for funds.

Mr Stefaniak, from his experience, made a point that I totally agree with: that there are middle-class families in Canberra-certainly not poorer families, certainly not people on the lower 60 per cent of income I would think-who do sometimes scrimp and save to send their children to the expensive non-government schools, not necessarily the less expensive ones. Yes, there are some of those, and there are some parents who are quite well off who send their children to government schools.

However, overwhelmingly the balance is that, at those more expensive non-government schools, the children are from pretty well-off families. It is undeniably the case. The fees alone determine that and the fees are pretty modest compared with what is delivered, when you can have a you-beaut arts facility. The fees are modest in comparison with the resources that you get, and they are modest because of the very, very substantial help that those schools have been given over some time.

It is not really an argument to say that poor people send their children to these schools. I am not sure that was the argument that was proposed-I think it was middle-class people-but certainly there are no poor children in these schools. We have to cater for them, as we should and we should do so very well.

Incidentally, just to make a point about these schools, not particularly related to this, I saw mention in the paper of a recent furore at one of the non-government schools in which a school was said to be "the elite"St Edmunds College. I am not sure that St Edmunds College is an elite school. If you looked at the income level of its parents and the level of its fees, I doubt that you would find that it qualifies for the word "elite", but that is really beside the point.

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