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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2004 Week 10 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 4335..


MS GALLAGHER (continuing):

with 1,600 students; we have a preschool with 100 students. In Tuggeranong we are seeing big declines in population. As a community, I think we seriously need to have a chat about that. Of course, as soon as you say that we need to have a conversation, it gets misconstrued into "schools are going to be closed", which was not the subject of the discussion.

I think future legislative assemblies, governments and ministers will have to seriously look at the matter and have a conversation with the community. In short, we have no plans to close any schools. The Education Act sets out a very firm and rigorous process for that, if it were to occur, and how it could occur with community support. The government, of course, would abide by that. We are conscious of the fact that we have seen significant declines in our student population. That will affect not just the government school system; it will also affect the non-government system.

MS DUNDAS: I thank the minister for the very full answer. You mentioned that you have been looking at preschools and that there was a review undertaken into whether or not there was a need to close any preschools. Has that review been completed? Are we any closer to looking at the future of our preschools?

MS GALLAGHER: The review is under way; it has been undertaken all this year. I do not believe it will be ready for any decision prior to the caretaker provisions. In fact, from what I saw of the timetable, the community consultations on the overall strategic plan would finish in December this year. Usually the census and staffing allocation data are made available to the department and they are aware of it by about 24 September, from memory. Based on that, there would be no ability to close a preschool next year, due to the caretaker provisions. There is that timing and the timing of the new Assembly being elected. That work is being done and will be finished by December. The community consultations will certainly be finished by then.

Bushfires

MRS CROSS: My question is to the Chief Minister. Chief Minister, did you notice the camera flash off to your left when you were on the Red Hill lookout with a number of emergency services officials around 8.30 on the evening of January 17, 2003?

MR STANHOPE: I am sorry, Mr Speaker. I did not hear the question.

MR SPEAKER: Could you repeat the question, Mrs Cross.

MRS CROSS: With pleasure. Chief Minister, did you notice the camera flash off to your left when you were on Red Hill lookout with a number of emergency services officials around 8.30 on the evening of January 17, 2003?

MR STANHOPE: I was not on Red Hill on January 17 and I would love to see the photograph, Mr Speaker, so we can identify who it was and we can put to bed this absolute nonsense.

MR SPEAKER: Mrs Cross, a supplementary question?


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