OPINION: Billions of inherited  debt had to be tackled

IT was with disappointment on Thursday I read Councillor Tim Crakanthorp attempting to lead the people of the Hunter astray. 

At no time have I ever said people need to ‘‘harden up’’ in reference to changes to NSW Government spending on education. 

With respect to the arts, I have met with a number of teachers, parents and students studying various fine arts courses and have made representation to the education minister regarding their concerns. 

I understand fine arts courses are valued by the community and that they are a vibrant part of the Newcastle business landscape. 

I am a strong supporter of the arts and have asked the minister to consider alternative strategies to maintain this important area of study in our constrained fiscal environment. 

I find it curious that Cr Crakanthorp chose to raise his concerns in this manner, given the fact he has never taken the time to write to me on this important state issue directly, despite the fact I am his elected state member of parliament. 

Therefore I can only conclude his comments are an attempt to grab the popular vote by launching an unconstructive attack along partisan lines. 

If Cr Crakanthorp had taken the time to discuss changes to the NSW education funding model with me directly, I would have explained to him that no government likes making cuts to any portfolio. 

Tough decisions needed to be made in order to turn an inherited Labor debt of billions of dollars into a budget surplus. 

I don’t recall Cr Crakanthorp voicing his objection when between 1996-97 and  2009-10 the percentage of state funds allocated to TAFE fell from 72per cent of overall funding to 59per cent.

Perhaps he understood the need to rein in government spending at the time, but fails to understand this principle now there has been a change of government?

Before I was elected I made clear election commitments, which the government is well on its way to achieving.

Once elected, I stated my strong support for the arts scene in Newcastle, something I am still very passionate about. 

Over the past 18 months I have written and spoken to the Minister for Arts on numerous occasions regarding funding for the Newcastle Art Gallery redevelopment and stated my strong support for funding applications submitted through the Hunter Infrastructure and Investment Fund.

Furthermore, our government has supported seven organisations in the Newcastle electorate through the 2012 arts funding program, enabling them to continue their valuable work in the community. 

The NSW education budget has increased by $383million this year alone and education now comprises 22.4per cent of total government expenses in the state  budget – up from 22per cent in 2011-12. 

Finally, while I support everyone’s right to freedom of speech, I find it inappropriate that Cr Crakanthorp has chosen to stage a protest about cuts to NSW education funding on Remembrance Day, a solemn and sacred occasion on our national calendar. 

Tim Owen is the Liberal state MP

 for Newcastle.

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