Page 2622 - Week 08 - Thursday, 30 June 2005

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massively improved the communications system is to justify an organisation of that size. We still await the answers, even though we have been asking in estimates and in questions on notice. The community deserves to know that the emergency management system and the emergency services capabilities backing that up are well funded and quite capable.

Proposed expenditure agreed to.

Proposed expenditure—Part 1.21—Department of Education and Training, $452,142,000 (net cost of outputs), $27,099,000 (capital injection) and $157,687,000 (payments on behalf of the territory), totalling $636,928,000.

MR SESELJA (Molonglo) (9.48): The Treasurer made a comment earlier this morning when trying to read something into the fact that Mr Mulcahy was leading off when it was not his portfolio area. I am leading off here. It is not my portfolio area, but I assure you, Treasurer, that you do not need to read anything into that. A number of important issues came out in the estimates hearings, one of which was bullying. That has been the subject of a lot of discussion. It was clear, in my opinion, that there was a seriousness among officials in dealing with this very serious issue. From what came out in the hearings one concern was that there was no specific funding or funding strategy when it came to dealing with bullying, and that there did not seem to be any real way of gathering statistics. There was a little bit of a concern there. No doubt that will inform community debate somewhat in the coming years, which will be welcome, and allow the community to understand how widespread the significant issue of bullying is.

Another issue of concern was voluntary fees. This seems to be a bit of an issue for the government as far as its funding is concerned. Something like $3 million a year is collected in voluntary contributions from parents. We saw that drop when it was highlighted that these contributions are voluntary and it was made clear to schools that they had to tell parents that they are voluntary. Obviously that is something the minister addressed to some degree, but it is a concern. I took the minister’s assurances that no child who is struggling will miss out on excursions and the like. No doubt Mrs Dunne will continue to watch that issue closely and ensure that that is indeed the case.

Another issue of concern was with regard to school ovals. We had quite an animated discussion about that. There were some claims of kids walking eight kilometres. I do not know that it was actually eight kilometres, but there was a distance for some students to walk, at schools where their ovals had died, due to both the drought and the water restrictions. I want to put on record that I think that, generally in respect of ovals, it seems like an odd use of resources for schools or other bodies to let a certain number of ovals die, especially in areas like Gungahlin where there is a high rate of usage and the local soccer clubs and others are crying out for them and, later on, lots of money has to be spent to rehabilitate those ovals. The savings in water could probably be found somewhere else. Mr Pratt has certainly had something to say about that.

Disability funding for non-government schools was a big issue during the election campaign. There did not seem to be much additional funding for students with disabilities at non-government schools. This remains a significant concern. Obviously there is no data to suggest that disabled students in non-government schools are any less needy; and there does not seem to be any real reason for having any less funding for

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