Page 3109 - Week 08 - Thursday, 25 June 2009

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Finally, the government are moving ahead with its solar power facility project. I do not know what Mrs Dunne is saying we should be doing here. We have a detailed probative process in place to make sure that we go the market in a considered, fair and impartial manner and allow all-comers to put forward their best case for the development of a solar power facility. Is she saying we should just throw that out the window? Should we throw the probative advice out the window? Should we throw the process out the window? The government are serious about this project. That is why we have put these measures in place, so that hopefully we do not face the sorts of complaints that can occur when you do not have a robust, impartial and professional process to gauge industry interest and to assess the claims and the bids that industry put forward.

The decision on the preferred developer of that solar powered facility will occur either late this year or early next year. Considering that you are talking about a project worth over $100 million and to which the ACT taxpayer has committed, through the government as part of its election commitments, to provide at least $30 million of assistance, it means that we have to get it right. I make no apologies for that process.

Proposed expenditure agreed to.

Proposed expenditure—Part 1.16—Department of Education and Training, $465,771,000 (net cost of outputs), $214,821,000 (capital injection) and $249,702,000 (payments on behalf of the territory), totalling $930,294,000.

MR DOSZPOT (Brindabella) (11.42): There are a number of issues that need to be raised in relation to this line item in Appropriation Bill 2009-2010. We have seen some extraordinary backflips on the part of this government but none more spectacular than the promise of smaller average class sizes. Less than 12 months ago the minister, Mr Barr, was bagging this Canberra Liberal policy. Now we see the inclusion of this policy in this year’s funding allocation to the education portfolio with much fanfare.

The only problem is that this diluted, modified version has many flaws in the current climate; namely, how to recruit 70-plus teachers in a very competitive market. The minister failed to convince the estimates committee that he will be able to recruit these teachers which he needs to fulfil his budget commitment of reducing class sizes. Despite his budget commitment of $28 million, there will be no guarantee that all children in ACT schools are, in fact, in smaller classes.

The minister even admitted that some classes in some schools had classes up to 32 students. I support the committee’s recommendation No 89 to include clear and concise information about planned class sizes, including the number of classes which exceed 21, 25 and 30 students in future school census reports. The class sizes backflip has been closely followed by another in a very short space of time—the inclusion of non-government schools in the Shaddock review into special education. I have spoken already today on this extraordinary change of heart and the not-so-subtle message it sends to the non-government sector.

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