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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 09 Hansard (Wednesday, 25 August 2010) . . Page.. 3849 ..

He is prepared to run a really nice line about smiling faces welcoming children to school and lost lunch boxes, and we know where he is coming from. We know what the motivation for that is. What he is trying to do is cover up the underlying policy. The underlying policy is there in stark figures. The ACT government provides less than an 18 per cent contribution to the education of a child in a non-government school in this territory. By comparison with the kids across the border in Queanbeyan, they get substantially less from the ACT government than the kids in Queanbeyan get from the New South Wales government, which is now approaching 25 per cent.

If Mr Barr actually talked to the people in the Catholic Education Office, he would understand what the problems are, because for instance, the people who administer the Catholic Education Office have to have a whole different budgeting system because of the inequities in funding between New South Wales and the ACT. I have asked this question in here on a number of occasions, and neither Mr Barr nor any of his predecessors can answer the questions: what is so special about the kids who go to St Gregory’s in Queanbeyan, as opposed to the kids who go to St Benedict’s in Narrabundah, two or three miles down the road? What is so different about them, that the kids who go to St Gregory’s in Queanbeyan get much more state government-territory government support than the people who go to St Benedict’s in Narrabundah?

No-one is prepared to answer the question. The costs of running schools that were established at roughly about the same time—and the amortising of blocks of land and all that sort of thing—are way gone. They are paid for. They are paid for by the parents. The buildings are paid for by the parents who send their children to those schools. But why does Andrew Barr think that the kids at St Benedict’s are less worthy than the kids at St Gregory’s? That is the question that this government has not been able to answer.

The socioeconomic differences between the kids at St Greg’s and the kids at St Benedict’s are not very great. The issues are that Andrew Barr and ACT Labor are not prepared to put their money where their mouth is. They can talk about finding lunch boxes and smiling faces, and they can put together motions that say the public-private debate is over. It is not. It will never be over until the ACT government is prepared to put its money where its mouth is. Words are fine, but by their deeds shall you know them, and Andrew Barr is not prepared to stump up the money, just the same as Katy Gallagher was not prepared to stump up the money and just the same as Simon Corbell was not prepared to stump up the money, just the same—

Mr Barr: So when is the debate over, Vicki? Define when the debate is over.

MRS DUNNE: We still have members of the ACT Labor Party who are prepared to support in conferences motions that say that non-government schools are divisive and that they should not be funded by Labor governments across this country—until those times come to an end and until the Labor Party is prepared to fully embrace it, not just by rhetoric and not just by words about lunch boxes.

We can see what he is trying to channel here, but lunch boxes do not cut it. It is funding that cuts it. It is real, active support for the people of the ACT who choose to

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