Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 13 Hansard (5 December) . . Page.. 3937..
MR BARR (continuing):
Australia overall has fallen back when compared with other countries. The ACT stands alone, leading this nation and continuing to be competitive with the best education providers in the world.
MR SESELJA (Molonglo) (11.49): I thank the minister because he has now clarified for us that, in fact, what has saved the government's previously parlous budgetary position is not the booming property sector, with the massive revenues that are coming in from there, nor the massive increases in GST revenues but, according to the minister, the school closures. It was the school closures that saved us. It has nothing to do with the absolutely unprecedented property boom and the revenue that is flowing into government coffers as a result. It has nothing to do with the massive increases in GST that we have seen coming in. It is all to do with the school closures.
When we talk about school closures, it is worth taking a step back to prior to the last election and actually go back and look in detail at what the government had to say on the issue of school closures. Of course we know that the figures that Mr Barr quotes for us now in terms of decline in enrolments are not new figures; they are figures that have been well known around the place for some time.
In fact, that was part of what sparked the discussion which I think you, Mr Deputy Speaker, were involved in prior to the last election, and that was that more than a quarter of the classrooms in Canberra's public schools sit empty because of a lack of students, a trend that will worsen over the next five years, according to education department figures. This was in the Canberra Times on Wednesday, 11 August 2004:
... Canberra's school-age population is expected to fall about 3 per cent, with enrolments at public schools expected to fall 5.9 per cent.
It goes on to say:
ACT Education Minister Katy Gallagher ruled out any immediate school closures, but said the future of small schools would have to be discussed.
This was on 11 August. On 11 August she puts it out there—
Mr Barr: Yes, and what did she say on 26 August?
MR SESELJA: She did not clarify that on the 26th at all, Mr Barr.
Mr Barr: I think future legislative assemblies, governments and ministers will have to seriously look at—
MR SESELJA: Absolutely; future legislative assemblies! She goes on—
Mr Barr: This is the future Legislative Assembly.
MR SESELJA: Yes, but it is in the context of what she said. Mr Barr has sought to try to use that to actually distort the message that was coming out from the government prior to the last election.