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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 7 Hansard (16 August) . . Page.. 2260..


Education (School Closures Moratorium) Amendment Bill 2006

DR FOSKEY: I seek leave to present the bill.

Leave granted.

DR FOSKEY: I present the bill and its explanatory statement.

Title read by Clerk.

DR FOSKEY: I move:

That this bill be agreed to in principle.

Thank you to the Assembly for allowing me to present this bill. My reasons for presenting this bill are partly a response to community demand. There are a lot of school communities that are really supporting this bill. I am sure that many members know that. Secondly, my reasons are pragmatic in that, whilst I might have rather higher hopes for what could happen in this process about discussing public education, I have gone for a bare-bones approach because I believe that, by doing so, I have more chance of support from both sides of the house. Let us face it, this bill needs support from members of the government if it is going to get through. It is rather similar to a motion that was voted upon in the Labor Party conference a little while back.

We have been told that, ever since the budget came down and beforehand, the key problem facing the ACT is the overall lack of government services. The government has commissioned a report that says so and now tells us that the dimensions of this problem are absolutely shocking. However, it has not shown us the report. The more I see prevarication, the more I wonder why.

The underlying problem here is one of trust or, rather, the lack of it. The government was not prepared to bring the wider Canberra community into its confidence. Canberra people are telling me that they do not know what has gone wrong and how. Without the evidence in front of them, they are not inclined to believe what the government is telling them, even if what the government is telling them is the truth. This is something that gets set in motion when trust is lost and doubt enters the equation. People doubt even the truth.

In dealing with the problems highlighted by the secret functional review report, the government has adopted a program of mass reorganisation of government schools, which includes countless changes in structure and amalgamation and the closure of 39 schools and preschools, as in the Towards 2020 proposal. The Towards 2020 proposal came as a big surprise to the school communities affected, with the axe hanging over the head of many schools at the most unhelpful time of the year. It involves a massive reorganisation of schools right across the territory.

On the one hand, it has been justified as a cost-saving measure; on the other, it has been promoted as a project to renew the ACT government's school system. Unfortunately, if it is put in place without significant refinement, it is likely to fail on both counts, leaving


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