Page 1201 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 24 March 2009

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One would presume that in any evidence-based policy approach you would not just write a blank cheque and say, “Go away and come up with whatever and then come back and we don’t mind. We don’t set any parameters around the budget implications.” My very clear commitment in relation to this review was during the election campaign last year—that it would be a priority for this government in this term of the Assembly. We are not even six months into this term of the Assembly, we are not even three months through this calendar year, and we have in place a team, a time frame and a range of experts in the field to provide advice in relation to existing special education provision.

That is an appropriate way, an evidence-based way, to make public policy. For Mr Doszpot to come into this place today following the shooting off at the hip yesterday, suggesting somehow that this government lacks commitment to special education—

Mr Doszpot: I think you protest too much.

MR BARR: I might remind Mr Doszpot that there was no mention in the Liberal Party’s election commitments of any funding—any increased funding—for special education in the public sector. There was $250,000, a one-off top up, in non-government schools—nothing for the public education system, nothing for special education provision in the public education system. For Mr Doszpot to suggest that this government lacks commitment to special education when only a matter of months ago the Liberal Party refused to commit one extra cent in expenditure for special education in the public system strikes me as just a little hypocritical.

MR SPEAKER: Mr Doszpot, a supplementary question?

MR DOSZPOT: Interesting to hit a raw nerve, minister—very interesting. Should the review panel suggest urgent initiatives that would require additional budget allocation, can you tell us which current services will be cut to make way for such recommendations?

MR BARR: The question is largely hypothetical, but, in responding to the second part of the question, I would make the obvious observation that, in order to set a set of terms of reference that do not require the cutting of other services—that is what I said—work within the existing budget envelope. The second you come in with an overrun and say you must spend more money in other areas, you are faced with a choice of either cutting from another area of government or another area of education or raising more revenue. That is why I have set the terms of reference in such a way as to ensure that we are, firstly, utilising the existing resources to their full effect.

That seems to be a very sensible approach to public policy making. It is again fascinating that the first call from the Liberal Party in response to anything is “spend more money”, yet they spend a lot of their time in other policy areas criticising the government for investing.

Mr Doszpot: Not statues, special needs.

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