Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 6 Hansard (18 June) . . Page.. 2073 ..
Mr Speaker, this change does not really have a great impact, certainly in the short term, but it does say a lot. It reinforces the principle that the government has given priority to establishing a good school system. That is what it says and I do not think anybody can argue about that.
MR CORNWELL(8.25): I was very interested that Ms Gallagher, the minister for education, began by lamenting that we have spent so much time on this issue. Questions have been asked in the estimates process and now we have this motion. The reason we are doing it, Ms Gallagher, is that it is important. It is important to 39.2 per cent of students-the percentage is slightly higher for high schools-who attend non-government schools. That is why it is important and that is why we continue to raise this matter.
The minister went on to talk about a totally spurious $20 million land grant-spurious because that land grant may have taken place over many years.
Mr Corbell: It still has value.
MR CORNWELL: It still has value, yes, but it is spurious to try to claim it tonight in this debate. Of course it has value, but a great many other things that have been handed over in this city over many years have value. Do not forget that many of the earlier grants were given to schools to encourage them to establish themselves here in a growing city. In 1960, when Canberra really began to go ahead, they were encouraged to do so. To turn round now and put a costing on it is, I think, very misleading.
We have the good old Orwellian approach of 1984 and newspeak whereby the word "choice"has suddenly been replaced by "equity". That means, in effect, that if this Labor government had its way there would be no choice, ultimately, in terms of education in this city. Why, however, do people choose to send their children to the non-government schools? That is the question that you, the Labor government, should be addressing.
Mr Wood mentioned St Edmunds and recent action taken there. From what I read, some 90 per cent of the parents of St Edmunds students welcomed the action. That is something that perhaps we should consider.
Ms Gallagher: All right, we'll close a couple of government schools, then.
MR CORNWELL: The minister for education laughs.
Ms MacDonald: We were all laughing, actually.
MR CORNWELL: Thank you. That is why 39.2 per cent of the students are going to non-government schools. It is because you have not looked in enough detail at improving the government sector so that it can compete with the non-government sector.
Ms Gallagher: By closing the schools.
MR CORNWELL: Do you see what I mean? No, instead, you want to work through the Connors report and weaken the viability of the non-government sector by removing the interest subsidy scheme.