Page 3352 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 20 August 2008

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very important that we have those things in place and it is great that we have put that level of investment into our education system. After all, this is the future that we want for our children. Our investment in quality education is preparing our children and young people for further study and the workforce, for participation in a culturally diverse and globalised society and, ultimately, for the 21st century.

MR SESELJA (Molonglo—Leader of the Opposition) (3.34): I thank Ms MacDonald for bringing this matter forward today. It is indeed a very important issue and one that we are very happy to have a discussion and debate about. I understand that the odds of getting the MPI two days in a row are roughly 1:121. That is my budget statistician’s efforts, but I believe that is correct if every non-executive member puts one in. So well done. I would not say that it is quite winning the lottery, but if there are any raffles around, Ms MacDonald, perhaps you should get in: you will be a very good chance; you are on a roll.

This is a very important issue and we need to frame this debate for this discussion. I think we all agree, and there is broad agreement in the community, that education, particularly quality education in the early years, is of critical importance to our society. It is not just another thing that government does; it is a critical issue in how our society functions. If we do not get these things right—Ms MacDonald has touched on some of them—we face very serious issues. We face issues of disadvantage; we face issues around crime and all sorts of other social issues that go with poor education outcomes, with the social isolation that sometimes goes with poor achievement and poor literacy and numeracy. There is the difficulty that that creates for employment prospects and all of those things that we as a society grapple with.

So this is not just another thing that government does; this is critical and at the core of what we do as law makers and what governments need to do as they implement their policies.

As we talk about this issue, it is worth touching a little bit on the importance of building a better future for our children through investment in quality education. I suppose I reflect on some of the children at some of the closed schools—the betrayal of kids at Cook, Flynn, Tharwa, Hall and other schools who had the expectation, and whose parents had the expectation, that their school would not be closed. They had that expectation because they were told that by the Labor Party prior to the last election. They were told that their schools would not be closing—certainly not for the next few years. But the government turned around and closed many of those schools.

When we reflect on that, it is worth reflecting on the issue of school closures—the betrayal of the community, children and parents that that was. And there is the immeasurable, the intangible, that goes with that—the intangible educational outcomes that go with having your local school with the community, that go with that. It is particularly those school communities where the numbers were still very strong. They were small. Sure; they were smaller than some of the other schools. They were smaller than a number of the superschools. Of course, we are going to move to this superschool model.

I have spoken to people in the non-government sector as well—principals recently. Enrolments in some of their primary schools in Canberra are fairly low. There are no

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