Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 08 Hansard (Wednesday, 29 June 2005) . . Page.. 2439 ..
MR MULCAHY: My supplementary question is to the Treasurer. How will you address the $14.4 million backlog of uncollected fines if the Auditor-General is unable to review the effectiveness of the fines and collections process in the near future?
MR QUINLAN: In fact, we have imposed, in our budget, virtually across the board, a requirement for efficiency savings. That applies to every area and certainly applies to my area of Treasury and all of the areas under all of our control. The one area in Treasury where we are allowing for additional resources and additional revenue is in the collection of outstanding debts. The current Under Treasurer, as one of his immediate objectives, is addressing that question and reducing the level of outstanding debt—in the budget.
MS PORTER: My question is to the minister for education. Minister, in the lead-up to the last election, you promised that the number of hours of preschool education would increase. Could you inform the Assembly as to whether this promise has been met and how it is being implemented across the territory?
MS GALLAGHER: It is great to be able to talk about the $8 million initiative that the ACT government has introduced in the way of additional resources for the preschool sector. This was a key initiative of the ACT government going into the last election campaign. We campaigned strongly on it and, as members would know, we won the election with a significant majority of the votes. I do not have any doubts that our education policies in relation to the election were a factor contributing to that victory.
This initiative has been funded in this year’s budget and money is there to implement the initiative should the appropriation bill be passed tomorrow. We are well under way with implementing the initiative in preparing the work that needs to be done to ensure that we can move from February 2006 to full implementation across all the preschools in Canberra and we will be moving from offering 10½ hours of free preschool education a week for eligible four-year-olds to 12 hours a week.
In terms of how this initiative came about, we have undertaken considerable consultation with parents and had feedback annually in the parent satisfaction survey. It confirms that the current arrangements for sessional preschool do not really meet the needs of families. As members will know, particularly those with young children, the 10½ hours of preschool at the moment is provided over three sessions of around three to 3½ hours each in either the morning or the afternoon, not necessarily fitting in with school timetables and people’s working commitments and other family commitments.
Mr Speaker, a working party was established with key stakeholders in early childhood. It was formed in February of this year and the working party meets fortnightly to develop the models to deliver the 12-hour preschool week and plan the implementation of this initiative. We know that access to early education puts our children in the best possible position on their entry to formal and compulsory schooling aged five. In recognition of that, any opportunity that the government can give to increase the capacity of those children, particularly those aged four, and to increase our commitment to those children is being met through this initiative.