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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 10 Hansard (18 October) . . Page.. 3249..

MR BARR (continuing):

Mrs Dunne, of course, has not put forward an education policy but has simply sought to oppose everything the government does. We know, consistently in this debate, that those opposite do not believe in investment in public education. This is seen through their colleagues at the commonwealth level. I think this is, unfortunately, relayed through their local mouthpieces.

The community is fully engaged in this consultation process. The proposal the government put forward was put forward as part of the budget. There has been an extensive amount of information available to the community on the 2020 website. School communities are engaging in this process and responding to the proposal. I do not believe that now is a good time to be adding artificial deadlines to the legislation. We are intending at this time to continue to meet with the community on the current proposal and to listen to their views.

As I have previously mentioned, this amendment also proposes to place in legislation another set of guidelines for consultation. I believe this is another unnecessary stalling tactic by Mrs Dunne. We had this debate when I introduced the Education Amendment Bill 2006 (No 2), which strengthened the consultation provisions. Mrs Dunne put forward very similar proposals at that time. Now is not the time to seek to overturn legislation that was passed by this Assembly only a few months ago. Since that time, senior officers in my department and I have been engaged in more than 550 consultation meetings and have read, analysed and responded to more than 1,000 individual pieces of written feedback and correspondence.

As I said at the time of the announcement, I understand that I will be held accountable for this policy decision, not by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal but by the people of Canberra. Whilst Mrs Dunne continues to dream up new opportunities and new ways to speak in this place on what could best be described as procedural matters, I am yet to see any vision at all from the opposition for education in the ACT.

The government's position is that the Towards 2020 proposal provides a vision that is forward looking, puts forward a concrete proposal and asks the community to think about how great and innovative our education system can be. I am pleased to advise the Assembly that many in our community are now turning their thoughts in that direction. I do not believe this bill does anything to enhance education in Canberra or to assist school communities. It is another stalling tactic that will stop debate and consultation rather than enhance it. That is why the government will not be supporting this bill.

MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra-Leader of the Opposition) (4.55): Far from Mr Barr's normal mantra in this debate, which is ongoing and will be ongoing for quite some time to come, Mrs Dunne's bill does a number of things, especially in enhancing the education debate. It makes it essential for the minister to give reasons. It provides a check and a balance and attempts once again to establish proper, sensible guidelines which have been tried and proven. They have been used in the past to assist school communities on this difficult issue, rather than being just a fait accompli, which is exactly what this government has done with its arbitrary decision, obviously based on the functional review, to close 39 schools. Mrs Dunne presented this bill back in August.

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