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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 03 Hansard (Tuesday, 1 April 2008) . . Page.. 771 ..

Mr Pratt, as former education spokespeople for the Liberal Party, have said there is a problem with bullying and security in our schools. That has been ignored by the minister.

This is the minister who said there was nothing wrong with Campbell high school, Chisholm high school or Calwell high school: “These things don’t happen.” But they do, and when you sit down and talk to the community and ask them to tell you their story, and you get people from the union and the principals association, and families and victims, turning up, they tell you that the department and the policies of the government are not helping them.

You hear about the young woman who has been assaulted at school and whose family has suffered a home invasion by the same group of individuals, and they say they received no assistance from this government and its education department, and there was no justice in terms of bringing the offenders to book. So you have to question what this minister is doing. On the day that the Leader of the Opposition held his forum in Calwell, the minister trotted out a forum that morning. When we held our forum on safety in Civic, the Chief Minister had his forum that morning. So we have this recurring theme from the government as they catch up.

It is too important to put it to spin. The problem with this government and their management of public education is that they rely on a couple of trite lines, well delivered by the minister. I can see the hours of practice there, getting the words right, getting the inflection right, building up to it, steely-eyed, with a firm jaw: “Yes, we’ve spent more money than anybody else.” Well, you have a bigger budget than anybody has ever had, but I do not believe that the education budget in the ACT has ever decreased, Mr Speaker. Perhaps you could tell me from your time in office back in the early nineties whether it decreased. It goes up every year.

So when the government claim, “We’ve got a bigger budget,” I would say, “Yes, you do, but what is the effect of your bigger budget?” The effect of the bigger budget is simply to go back to the performance of students in the Australian Capital Territory on PISA. And what is the first key finding? “There has been a significant decline in the reading literacy performance of students in the ACT from PISA 2000 to PISA 2006.” There are declines in maths. At the heart of it, what do parents want? What do employers need? What does the society require? What do students need when they leave school? They need to be able to read and write; they need to be able to add up.

We have a government that is full of spin. Yes, it is cashed up and full of dollars and full of invective which they like to throw across the chamber. But when we get the results from PISA, we see the words “significant decline” in the very first line of the report. I looked for the words “significant decline” in the minister’s press release, but he must have forgotten to put them in, just as he forgot to do his homework.

MR BARR (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Planning, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Minister for Industrial Relations) (4.25): I think we have just had demonstrated why the deputy leader was never going to be the education spokesperson. The glaring errors and misunderstandings that––

Mr Pratt: Resort to a personal attack!

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