Page 2864 - Week 08 - Tuesday, 5 August 2008

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MR PRATT (Brindabella) (3.29): Madam Assistant Speaker, I am pleased to raise this matter of public importance today. Research has shown that class-size reductions are beneficial for students and teachers across the spectrum. The Canberra Liberals have recognised this, and the Canberra Liberals are taking action where the Stanhope government has not. The Canberra Liberals have pledged not only to reduce class sizes, but, as part of a comprehensive range of associated policy initiatives, we intend to address teacher numbers, extra classrooms and the provision of tailored teacher support.

Those on the other side of the room will try—indeed, they have already argued—that it is an impossible task, that we cannot afford to reduce class sizes and that we have not costed this initiative. That is bunkum. They are wrong. We have costed the programs that we would implement should we become the government.

Mr Seselja: You can’t point to one wrong figure there, Andrew.

MR PRATT: Mr Barr, as always, is away with the tweetie birds. Mr Barr says it is okay to spend the $52 million, as outlined in this year’s budget, but it is not okay for the opposition, should it become government, to commit to spending half of that amount on cutting class sizes. It is apparently okay for the government to spend $20 million on a new swimming pool, if re-elected, but it is not okay to spend $24 million to cut class sizes. It is apparently okay for the Stanhope government to throw away over $5 million on the failed FireLink project and $1 million on the failed hospital pay-parking scheme, but it is not okay to contribute those funds to creating smaller classes for our kids. It is apparently okay to double the cost of the GDE, as the government did, over a number of years, but it is not okay to contribute those tens of millions of dollars to cutting classes to make them smaller. It is apparently okay to contribute $9 million surplus to requirement to relocate the emergency services headquarters to Fairbairn, but it is not okay to contribute at least some millions of that money to committing to smaller class sizes.

There is a need to care for our kids and to afford them the very best opportunities within our public education system. We as a community must stop the drift of our students away from the public school sector to the non-government sector. The government is failing to do that, but addressing smaller class sizes as a policy would surely go a long way to arresting the drift. The government will not do that. The opposition pledges that it will do so, if it becomes the government.

We must provide our kids and teachers with the best possible school environment available so we create the best possible learning environment and the best possible teaching environment so that we can get those academic skills up to pursue excellence in academic standards. We subscribe to the view that, if you reduce class sizes, you will go a long way to achieving those sorts of objectives.

There is also a duty of care for us to equip our teachers with some sort of authority to be able to get the best out of their classrooms. This government simply does not give a damn. Teachers are burdened by dealing with in-class conflicts, and they cannot cope with that. Smaller class sizes would go a long way to assisting teachers to exert more academic authority over their classes. Smaller class sizes will reduce the incidence of

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