ACT Election Column | By Member for Fraser Andrew Leigh | The Chronicle 2/10/12


The Clever City

Over the coming fortnight, I’ll be stepping out of my usual shoes as a federal MP to write about the ACT election campaign. This election is as important as any since self-government, and I appreciate the Chronicle giving me the chance to share some thoughts from a Labor perspective.

One of the most enjoyable things I do as an MP is to visit schools. Whether it’s talking with students about economics, sitting in on a reading lesson, or discussing Gallipoli, I never fail to learn something. Invariably, I’ll leave the school with an extra bounce in my step, energised after chatting with schoolchildren, parents, teachers and principals.

As the national testing data have again shown, Canberrans top the nation on many school outcomes. But given our strong fundamentals, we need to keep aiming high. In the ACT campaign, I’ve been pleased to see a focus by Chief Minister Katy Gallagher and Education Minister Chris Bourke on raising performance by all students.

ACT Labor has announced a new Coombs Primary School in the Molonglo Valley, and planning work for a possible new primary school in the Gungahlin suburb of Moncrieff. And ACT Labor has committed to upgrading classrooms in existing schools – recognising that better buildings are vital to good learning.

Because education is the best antipoverty vaccine we’ve yet devised, it’s smart to invest in struggling students. For example, I’ve seen first-hand how Literacy and Numeracy Field Officers work to coach teachers in disadvantaged schools. I’m delighted ACT Labor is expanding the program.

For children with disabilities, ACT Government funding has more than doubled over the past decade, with Malkara, Black Mountain, Woden and Cranleigh special schools all receiving major upgrades. For children with autism spectrum disorder, ACT Labor has promised more hours for early intervention. ACT Labor also recognises that parents want to be able to choose whether their child attends a mainstream school or a specialist school. One size never fits all.

From its origins as a meeting place for the Ngunnawal people, Canberrans have lived on our wit and ingenuity. Knowledge has never been more vital than it is today.

On education, Canberra voters will face a clear choice. While the Liberals are re-fighting the public versus private debates of the last century, Labor is focusing on students, not systems. By raising the bar for everyone – with a particular focus on disadvantage, Katy Gallagher and her Labor team will ensure the ACT enters its centenary year as the clever city.

Andrew Leigh is the federal member for Fraser, and is writing a weekly column on the ACT election from a Labor perspective.