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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2007 Week 13 Hansard (5 December) . . Page.. 4006..

MR SESELJA (continuing):

Stanhope government misled the community about its school closure program prior to the 2004 election". I do not think I heard the minister actually say that that it is not true. I do not know whether he said that he was going to support the amendment or not, but—on the basis of not having said it, on the basis of not actually challenging the validity of the statement—I would have thought that he would have to support it. It is a statement of fact.

The minister had 10 minutes to respond to my challenge, to tell the Assembly what had changed from May 2005 to prior to the budget of 2006, when the decision was made to slash and burn in the government school sector in the ACT. Faced with the same demographic data as his predecessors, Mr Barr went ahead with the proposed 39 school closures and the eventual 23 school closures. He has not been able to come back to us and say what actually changed from when Ms Gallagher was minister and when Mr Corbell was minister to when Mr Barr was minister. The answer, of course, is nothing—other than the minister.

In his statements about these essential changes and the fact that the situation had been ignored for 17 years, Mr Barr was having a direct go at his predecessors—his fellow Labor ministers on the left—Mr Corbell and Ms Gallagher, who, according to Mr Barr, ignored this issue. They were faced with the same demographic challenges and the same statistics—showing a drift away, showing the smaller numbers coming through the school system. According to Mr Barr, they ignored this issue; that is essentially what Mr Barr is saying when he defends his position on this. He is having a go at his predecessors. He is saying that either they were deceptive, before the 2004 election, or they simply could not see it as he did.

We see the embarrassment of this minister when he gets up. There is his defence to Ms Gallagher's comments on the public record definitively ruling out school closures in the next term and going on to say that there will not be school closures during her political life—that that is somehow redeemed by a statement in the Assembly that says, "Well, future Assemblies may well have to close some schools."She categorically rules out any school closures in the next term; she claims that, if there are going to be school closure sin the future, it is not going to be during her time in the Assembly. According to Mr Barr, that is okay because she said, "Well, you know, future Assemblies may close schools."That is an argument completely lacking in any logic from the minister. When he makes some of these arguments, you can see in his face that he does not believe them himself. He does not believe the argument that he is actually making.

In the excitement of my previous speech, I did not hear the bell and I did not see the two-minute warning. There was one part of the article of 12 August 2004 that I neglected to mention. It was, once again, from Ms Gallagher's spokesman. He was busy. The article said:

If the Government was to close a school it would only do so with the support of the community.

The statement was that not only were there not going to be any school closures in the next term but they would not happen in Ms Gallagher's political lifetime and, if they were to go down that path, would only do so with support. Presumably when this

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