Page 2969 - Week 08 - Wednesday, 6 August 2008

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Those schools were at the hubs of their particular communities, especially in areas like Flynn where the school was the only public facility there. In the two rural villages of Hall and Tharwa, the schools meant a hell of a lot to the local communities. In Cook a very useful school had operated for many years and had already survived one school closure. Indeed, you would actually save money by not closing Cook and Hall. (Time expired.)

MR SPEAKER: The time for this discussion has expired.

Schools—class sizes

Debate resumed.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (4.19): Mr Speaker, I am very pleased to be able to support Mr Seselja’s motion in relation to education today, because education is where we can make a real difference to the future of our community. Education is where we make real inroads into building a strong community. It is through education that we make future Nobel laureates and future prime ministers. Sometimes, despite the best will in the world and despite education, we also create school dropouts. How we treat children at school really makes a difference to them. We can never guarantee successful outcomes for everyone, but we use the education system to give every child the best chance we can.

If you are an ecorat like Mr Barr, you convert the differences in children’s outcomes to a dollar cost. Those differences would obviously be dwarfed by the savings we make by educating children well and helping them to become functional members of a strong city and a better city. But if we just talk about these things in pure economic terms, we miss the point. We exercise on behalf of the community a sacred trust, and it is never more important than when we decide the future of our children.

We have to think very carefully about what education means. When we talk about education, do we think about investing, or do we, as the government does, think about expenditure? Do we put the money that we have put into education on the red side or the black side of the ledger? When you are dealing with the Stanhope government, it is something that comes down on the red side. It is something that this government thinks that it must spend money on and it does not really think about the benefits.

A purely fiscal view of the world is an incomplete picture. We can be responsible, but we cannot forget what public expenditure is for. Education is for the benefit of and not simply for the cost of the community. Surely any investment that we make repays the dollar investment many times over when we provide children with a good education.

We are in a time of high prosperity and good employment, and we live in a community that places a high premium on education. But what we see under the tutelage of the Stanhope government and three successive education ministers is that there are many people in the ACT who do not feel that we have a decent education system. This is more than a failure of financial management. We saw that financial management was used as an excuse for the failed towards 2020 process. Even today,

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