Mr VAN HOLST PELLEKAAN (Stuart) (11:18): School buses are incredibly important, and I support the member for Frome's position. I would like to say a few words with regard to school buses, how important they are to communities and how I think the government misplaces some of its economic value when it comes to school buses and small schools in rural regional South Australia.

Small schools are always under pressure with regard to their funding. We have seen that in the recent budget. Teachers, principals, parents, governing councils and, indeed, students at small schools work incredibly hard, as I am sure they do in large schools as well. However, they work incredibly hard in small schools just to sustain themselves. They do not have a guaranteed future. When they are under pressure for student numbers and when they are under pressure for survival, they are very often under pressure to keep their school bus in place when numbers get low. I have a dreadful concern that the current government looks at the removal of the school bus on the first-hand not only as a direct cost-saving opportunity but also quite sneakily and quite deliberately as a potential school-saving opportunity—and I mean that in the worst way.

If the school bus goes (as members on this side have said many times), you quite often see the decline of the school, the decline of the shops, and the decline of other services in the town. Once people start taking their kids to other schools in other towns, those local services and local businesses—whether it is the bakery, the garage, the supermarket or what—start to dwindle and fight for their survival as well. Unfortunately, I am very pessimistic that the government not only sees the direct cost saving in the school bus but also sees the indirect cost saving with the potential for a small school to disappear. I think that is a great shame.

I think we should do the exact opposite in this place. I think we should value these schools and these school buses because they support these communities—and we should value these communities, communities which actually support the production of some of our most important exports. There are over 100 small towns in rural and regional South Australia producing grain, for example, and if we do not have people going to schools in those towns, if we do not have people growing up in those towns and staying in those towns providing other business services, it will be more and more difficult to provide those exports as well.

I fully support the member for Frome in his desire to look into this issue. I think that school buses are incredibly important. I make the point again: they are very important not just with regard to the simple and obvious issue of getting kids from home to school, they are very important with regard to sustaining small schools and regional South Australia in general.


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