Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 6 Hansard (18 June) . . Page.. 2077 ..
argument that this is about choice and the figure now is 39 per cent, what would their side of the house like to see? Would they think it was fine if it was 80 per cent?
The question I have to ask then is: who are the other 20 per cent? What you would end up getting is a residual system of schooling, which happened to some degree in the UK when the whole system was thrown open to competition. Of course, the UK is now trying to address the serious and significant social problems that have come out of that and is actually trying to bring some equity back into schooling in that country because of the general cost to the community. Those general costs come from the fact that it is very important for a society to have equal opportunities for high-quality education. That is the basic bottom line and that is why supporters of public education are very concerned that in Australia much greater funding, particularly from the Commonwealth, is now going to independent schools.
According to some figures I have seen recently, for the Catholic schools there is between 112 and 115 per cent more for each student than for those in a public school and the grammar school expenditure would be about 152 per cent higher for each student. You can see that there is an issue there about how well students are funded in both systems. On top of that, the independent schools are determined to hold on to their capacity to control enrolments and expulsions. We had the example recently of the St Edmunds school being happily prepared to expel or suspend two whole years of the school. That was some kind of statement of authority and threat to the students and parents that they needed to-
Mr Pratt: You would see it that way, wouldn't you, Ms Tucker?
MS TUCKER: You do not need to interject. If you were in a classroom, Mr Pratt, at the school I am talking about, St Edmunds, that would be talking back and you might get suspended for that, so why don't you just behave yourself for a change? That would be good. Emulate one of the wonderful students you think that we would like to see in all the schools. St Edmunds have happily taken this position of expressing and stressing their authority by throwing out a large number of students and saying, "If you don't behave, you don't come back."Where would those students go? Of course, they would go to the public system.
Mr Cornwell said that the public system should emulate St Edmunds, so we could have a situation where the public schools could do the same thing and say that they are going to expel any student that does not shape up. Where would those students go if they were expelled? They would not be receiving education at all because no school would take them. The independent schools would not take them because they would not want those sorts of persons in their schools. Society as a whole would then be dealing with a large number of students who were probably coming from socially disadvantaged backgrounds anyway and who had not had such education. What would that do for the community in the long run? It is pretty obvious that people who do not have an education, who are not in school from a young age, have a very low chance of making a success of their life in this society.
These are really basic things that we are talking about here. The independent schools do insist on having the right to expel students. I had an interesting conversation about that with one set of parents who came to visit me. I was trying to understand what the