Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 06 Hansard (Friday, 27 June 2008) . . Page.. 2358 ..
that I have mentioned are addressed, we will continue to see people moving and choosing private over public education. I do not think you need to spend a lot of money on market research because time and time again you hear people express these concerns, whether they are parents who say that disciplinary standards are not up to the mark or whether it is teachers who say they are completely frustrated by the environment in which they are operating.
There is a message there for the minister to take on board. The challenge is with him to address those issues, not sweep them away, as is happening, as I mentioned, in housing with problem tenants. If we have got problem people in schools, let us not just ignore the problem. Let us find a solution because the solutions are not there at the moment. These problems are impacting on parents’ decisions as to where to send their kids. They are putting a lot of families under significant financial strain to provide their own way of getting away from those problems.
MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (12.35 am): The education lines in the budget are of extreme importance and are worthy of some note. I am a little surprised at Mr Mulcahy’s comment that the Liberal opposition seemed to be expressing concern at the success of non-government schools by criticising the drift to non-government schools. It is not about that. It is about the apparent failure of government schools. We have been saying consistently for a long time that there needs to be a balance. The people in the non-government school sector are at this all the time. They want to see a balance. They want to see both sectors succeeding.
We have got to a situation or almost to a situation where 50 per cent of children in high schools, in particular, attend non-government schools. I think we are getting to the stage where the balance has tipped too far away from the government school system. The minister himself has said that if we ever got to a situation where we were simply running a safety net school system for the poor who could not afford to go anywhere else, we would be in serious trouble. I think we are coming very close to that situation, and that is the thing that the Liberal opposition has been sounding alarm bells about for years.
Obviously, even after the reasonable amount of tutelage that I thought Mr Mulcahy obtained in the Liberal Party party room on this issue, he does not seem to have got it. It is not that we think that the non-government school system should do less well; it is that we think the government school system should be doing better.
Mr Mulcahy then went on to highlight some of the areas where he thought the government school system should be doing better. They are things that have been to some extent addressed in the budget, and some of these things are welcome. The announcement made last October, which is here again in the budget paper, so it is worth commenting on, about a student welfare pastoral care package is indeed a welcome initiative. But we have to remember that the 17 pastoral care staff that the government proposed to put back into high schools at the beginning of this year do not replace the 25-odd that they took out in 2007, and it does not make up for the 12 extra staff that were promised by Minister Gallagher before the 2004 election.
If you put together the 25-odd staff that were lost as a result of the Towards 2020 proposal and the teachers EBA and the general cuts in the 2006 budget and the