Page 686 - Week 02 - Wednesday, 11 February 2009

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50 enrolments—to have a specialist language teacher or, indeed, a specialist arts, PE or music teacher. So the advantages of being able to deliver a diverse curriculum are there in primary schools of sufficient size and it is very pleasing to see that this year 11 primary schools are offering language programs.

I take on board the observations of Ms Hunter in relation to closer working relationships between agencies and between those community groups, most particularly the Ethnic Schools Association, and our school system in order to get some economies of scale, for example, on language delivery. One of the areas of reform that we have been looking at is that a significant proportion of government funding that was made available to the Ethnic Schools Association for the individual languages was being spent on accommodation, on rental costs or hire costs for teaching facilities—classroom space.

A concern that my department had was that, rather than going to the provision of teaching, so much of that money was going in rent or, as I say, hiring of classroom facilities. So we have been working with the Ethnic Schools Association on a consolidation of the teaching locations and making space available within ACT public schools to deliver programs rather than having other facilities being rented out. And I think that will go some way to better directing resources within the sector.

I will always argue that we need to look at how effectively we are spending our existing resources before we go cap in hand seeking more. I believe that is an appropriate way to administer any program within the territory government. It has always been my position. I know I have received a huge amount of criticism from some members opposite, including your good self, Madam Assistant Speaker, for adopting that approach. However, I think that is the way that we should approach resource allocation.

When you are a minister for six or seven different portfolio areas, there are always competing demands on available resources within the territory budget. If we are not using the resources we have at the moment effectively, I think it is appropriate that we do take steps to use those resources more effectively before we start asking for more.

In this instance, I think that work is progressing well. I note Mr Hargreaves and his agencies have been involved in that process. It was certainly a cause of some angst a couple of years ago but we are working through those issues and the consolidation of particularly the ethnic schools to a smaller number of sites across the territory has meant that less money is being spent on rent and more on teaching, which, I think, is a good outcome for all.

Having said that, I commend Ms Porter for the motion. I thank other members for their contribution and acknowledge the need for further work in this area. We will, of course, respond in more detail in both the education and multicultural affairs portfolios over this term of government.

MS PORTER (Ginninderra) (5.52), in reply: I would like to thank members for their contributions to this debate. It is very pleasing—I think it is the first time this year—that we seem to all be on the same page. It appears to me that we seem to be in agreement and speaking the same language, if you excuse the pun.

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