Page 2080 - Week 06 - Thursday, 7 May 2009

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Questions without notice


MR SESELJA: My question is to the minister for education. Minister, you were reported in the Canberra Times on Tuesday, 5 May 2009 as considering whether parents could be paid to sit on school boards. This week you have advocated an important measure of micro-economic reform through the abolition of the board of Exhibition Park Corporation, a decision that would apparently save $50,000 a year. Minister, have you estimated how much your policy for school boards would cost? If so, what would this policy cost?

MR BARR: If Mr Seselja read the detail of my comments to the Canberra Times he would note that I explicitly ruled out directors fees or any situation for school boards to be in any way similar to a company board structure. What I indicated was that there may be a case to broaden the number of parents able to participate in school boards if some form of honorarium or assistance with associated costs such as provision of childcare may be possible and that schools might, as part of the review of school-based management, consider making available to parents some small provision to offset the costs that some parents might incur through their participation in sitting on a school board.

The provision of something like an allowance to meet the costs associated with childcare could be something that schools might consider in individual circumstances if it would enable a broader range of parents to participate in their school community, particularly in active representative bodies like the school board. That was a matter that I indicated should be considered as part of the review of school-based management.

In relation to the attempt by the Leader of the Opposition to draw a relationship between the government’s position on the EPIC board—which is that it is an unnecessary administrative duplication—the Liberal Party has failed its first test on this budget. It has failed its first test. It has shown that it is soft on reform; it is soft on micro-economic reform. It talks the talk; it comes into this place and asks all the big questions of the Treasurer about micro-economic reform. Yet, when it comes to a practical example—at the most micro level, I might add, and in my comments during the debate I did point out that this was the most minor of micro-economic reform issues. Nonetheless, it is about the degree of efficiency in government services.

If the opposition do not believe that delivering government services efficiently is micro-economic reform, I would invite them to look at any textbook—even a year 11 or 12 economics student book; probably even year 8 or 9 economics—and look at the definition of micro-economic reform. Of course, it extends to the efficient delivery of government services and it is worth noting, in spite of all the catcalling, that on every significant test of micro-economic reform in this place whilst I have been a member, the Liberal Party have opposed it—opposed it outright.

Whether it is in relation to reform of government service delivery in the education portfolio, in the tourism portfolio or in any portfolio I have held, those opposite have

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