Page 1406 - Week 05 - Wednesday, 10 April 2013

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The only dispute on the costings was in relation to the capital up-front cost. We are talking about the Canberra Liberals’ costings, which were based on what it actually cost to build them in Queensland and what Treasury had to say. So we are talking about $3 million difference on the capital. Mr Rattenbury got up and cited that as one of the reasons not to support it. Yet we have got a debate about light rail where the government do not know how much it will cost. It might cost $600 million, it might cost $800 million, it might cost a billion dollars and they have basically said they will deliver it, whatever the cost. Let us just put that into context—Mr Hanson put it into context well—in terms of some of the priorities that are being pursued.

This is far too important to see the kind of political posturing and dishonest approach to numbers that we have seen. These are the facts. It works in other states. The policy that was put forward by the Canberra Liberals would give additional support to what the Queensland government gives, making it even more affordable for parents. The model draws on commonwealth funding for those who most need it. This is a model that works. It is early intervention, and we know what all of the experts say. Have the early intervention. Seventy-five per cent of these kids will go into mainstream schools. Surely that is something we can agree on. The model has been tried and tested. It works. It should be supported here in the ACT. We should put aside the politics and in the next few years, regardless of who is in government, it should be delivered. (Time expired.)

MR GENTLEMAN (Brindabella) (11.06): The ACT government welcomes the opportunity to raise awareness of autism during Autism Awareness Month.

Early intervention, as we have heard, for children with autism is most effective and provides the best possible outcomes for children when provided as early as possible after diagnosis. Early intervention services should be tailored to the individual needs of the child and their family. These services provide families with the knowledge, skills and support to meet the needs of their child. They optimise a child’s development and increase their ability to participate in family and community life.

Therapy ACT recognises the importance of working in partnership with families. Professionals spend time with families working on goals that can be incorporated into family routines and play activities so that learning is incorporated into activities that take place every day and give children with autism the best chance of learning.

The ACT government continues to provide innovative models of service for children with special needs. More than 250 Canberra students with a disability were supported by the ACT government’s therapy assistants in schools program in its first 12 months. The therapy assistants program was piloted in 2011-12; then $1.31 million was allocated in the 2012-13 budget to continue it for a further two years. The government has pledged a further $1.67 million to fund the program until 2016-17. The program supports up to five mainstream schools and two specialist schools each year, giving students with autism and other disabilities an opportunity to receive regular therapy sessions in their classroom.

The ACT government recognises the need for families to have a choice in the services they access for their child with a disability. In order to better support families in the

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