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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 09 Hansard (Thursday, 27 September 2007) . . Page.. 2818 ..

of those major factors, we undertook a significant reform process. I have outlined at more than 100 public meetings that I attended last year and at more than 700 meetings attended by myself and my departmental officials the reasons why we went through this process.

As a result, we now have $350 million worth of investment in education—the strongest position in financial terms that the public education system has ever been in. We are investing record amounts into our public education system to address just the issues that I identified, ensuing that we have the highest quality in terms of building facilities and resources. As we move into our new curriculum framework in 2008 and institute a range of new policies across the education sector we will see a continued improvement in the strength of our public education system.

Mr Mulcahy: But what about enrolments?

MR BARR: Mr Mulcahy raises a question about enrolments. There is no doubt that following 10 years of skewed funding polices from the commonwealth government we are seeing and have seen a move away from government schools. The combination of additional subsidies to non-government schools at commonwealth level, a massive increase in funding to non-government schools and a capacity in the Canberra community with the highest incomes in Australia to be able to afford to pay—

Mr Mulcahy: That’s not why they’re moving.

MR BARR: Indeed, Mr Mulcahy, the research we have, nationwide and in the ACT, is that they are factors. There are a range of factors at play, and those are amongst them. There are also issues about the quality of facilities in government schools. The surveys that we undertook showed that one in four parents identified facilities and the quality of facilities as a major issue. There were a range of other issues, which we have discussed, around religious values, moral values, uniforms, and perceptions around discipline, particularly in government high schools, that were all raised by parents. But in that list was quality of education and facilities, and they are the two areas where the government has put a significant focus in terms of investment to respond to the issues that parents are raising.

This government will continue its record levels of investment. I am very pleased that the August census for preschools showed a massive increase in enrolments in government preschools and that our investment in early childhood education is beginning to pay dividends. I will look forward to a continuation of Labor’s strong record in public education, and as a result of the difficult reforms we undertook we will see a stronger public education system into the future. We made decisions last year to ensure the long-term viability of public education, not just for the next year, not just for the next two years, but for the next 15 years right through to 2020. They were difficult decisions, ones that obviously involved short-term political pain and ones that provided opportunities to opportunists like those opposite. When they were in government they recognised these issues but lacked the courage and the intestinal fortitude to address these issues.

To his credit, the now Leader of the Opposition, in a process that stands in marked contrast to the process I undertook last year, closed certain schools on a couple of

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