Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 13 Hansard (14 December) . . Page.. 4189..
MR BARR (continuing):
there are a number of schools that clearly are not viable that they would not support. Maybe that is a question for future Liberal speakers: which schools will they reopen?
MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra—Leader of the Opposition) (3.42): It amazes me, to talk initially about economic viability, to compare the various governments we have had since self-government. At self-government, the territory had a fairly good amount of cash, but it did not have it by 1992; it had been totally squandered by the Follett government. We inherited a $344.8 million deficit which was turned into a surplus in about four or five budgets, after a lot of trouble. Mr Barr talks about investment in education. Mr Barr was not around then. He might have still been at school or university. We took to the 1995 election a policy that, despite the difficult economic times we faced, there would be one area in which we would increase funding by the CPI, and that was in education. That was a promise that we kept, despite that huge deficit. I think that shows how much value we place on education.
I think the economic competence of the previous Liberal government stands by itself. It is amazing how you lot have managed to squander so much money in excellent economic times. You have had so much extra GST money coming in, $90 million more than you anticipated, and you still managed to get yourselves into the unholy mess which led to the disastrous, knee-jerk situation of the plan for school closures, the 2020 document, coming hard on the heels of the 2010 document which, incidentally, tended to back up what the spokesperson for the then minister said in saying that there would be no further school closures. The minister did not make that comment, but it was never refuted. So don't give me that sort of nonsense. Your plan has caused untold harm and damage to a number of school communities. Indeed, it has been quite illogical.
I was talking yesterday to someone from Isabella Plains who was very concerned about the P to 2 model. She has children aged three and seven and is not too sure now exactly where she will place those children. She would want them to be in the same school, but that would cause her immense difficulties. I went to Griffith infants school from 1957 to 1959. It was called an infants school and had a kindergarten and years 1 and 2. It really does seem that you have gone back to the future there. I thought you lot did not like John Howard's white picket fence, but you seem to have reinvented the wheel on that one.
I am well aware of how effective the cooperative school is in O'Connor, but I think there is considerable angst in the community about your plan. I am not even talking about closures now. We now are going to have six superschools. Whilst that might suit some people, a lot of the people I have talked to in going around the community have felt that one of the great benefits of our public school system was the fact that they could choose a small school for their children. Many people would drive across many suburbs to put their children into the school of their choice and many chose a smaller school. I think it is obvious educationally that kids with some disabilities, kids who need that extra attention, often thrive far better in a smaller environment.
In attending a number of meetings last year about the west Belconnen uber school, the superschool there, I found that a lot of the concern there was about the fact that the kids had done very well individually from being in smaller classes and being in a smaller school, and some of them were not looking forward to being involved in and