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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 6 Hansard (18 June) . . Page.. 2083 ..



In summary, though we accept that the ending of the interest subsidy scheme may have the impact of lifting costs for many non-government schools and the parents of children enrolled in those schools, we believe that there will be a greater net benefit to the quality of education in the ACT if the money saved is allocated to helping children with disabilities and behavioural problems. These children are enrolled in both government and non-government sectors.

I think Ms Connors summed up the situation very well in her report when she said on page 131:

As a funding mechanism, the Interest Subsidy Scheme is inherently inequitable. It is most valuable to, and most prized by, those school authorities and communities that can afford to service large capital debts. This inherent inequity is demonstrated by the bias in the distribution of funding through the scheme to the highest-fee and best resourced independent schools.

We, too, have limited resources to spend on education and all the other priorities that we put forward to government. If we can spend that money more equitably and help more students and more young people in our community, I support that. Hence, the ACT Democrats will not be supporting this motion.


(9.08), in reply: I rise to close the debate and make a number of points. Firstly, Ms MacDonald asserted that all the funds taken from the ISS will remain in the non-government sector. Can she guarantee that all that funding will go directly to the coalface and not to the bureaucracy which is supporting non-government school programs? No, she cannot. I do not think that anybody could do that.

Ms MacDonald said yesterday that she strove to expunge from the Estimates Committee's report all references by the opposition to the ISS issue. I am looking at Hansard now and she was proud to have moved to sweep beneath the carpet the government's vulnerability on and responsibility for funding of non-government schools. She accused the opposition of engaging in an ideological debate about funding. What a load of rot! Was nobody entitled to hold the government accountable for very questionable decisions on funding for non-government schools? I think not.

Ms Tucker questioned the percentage figures for children in non-government schools. It is a fact that 39.2 per cent of the children go to non-government schools overall and, specifically, 44 per cent go to high school. In response to the other issue that Ms Tucker raised, we do not care whether the proportion of children going to non-government schools is 90 per cent or 10 per cent; it does not matter. What we say and what our policy is about is that the government sector must be viable to ensure that all children whose families choose for them to go to the government sector are well serviced, as well as having choice and diversity to allow those families which choose to move their children across to a non-government sector to do so.

The minister raised an issue about the MCEETYA principles and the MCEETYA report. My understanding at the time of the estimates process, and my understanding still holds, is that the federal minister for education was, in fact, quite happy with the compact, but needed more time to finely scrutinise some aspects of that report. So to say that the federal minister is not happy with the MCEETYA principles on the funding of schools is quite incorrect.

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