Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2008 Week 9 Hansard (20 August) . . Page.. 3362..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
lot of parents feel a lot more comfortable in having their children in smaller schools than with them being in a huge school. I cannot think of anyone coming to me saying, "We are really looking forward to the superschool around Kippax in Holt or the superschool that is planned for Kambah."I just hear people who are concerned about that school being too big. I think it might have been Mr Seselja who said that a lot of parents do not want their four or five-year-olds at school with 16-year-olds who might be driving cars or riding bikes. I can fully understand that, so the one-size-fits-all policy is a real problem for this government.
The minister said that savings from Cook were about $400,000. I know in the case of Hall that it was something like $100,000—it might have been $109,000——that the government saved. Guess what? The Hall community are now going to get a hall that is going to cost either $1.6 million or $1.8 million dollars. They already have a very nice hall at Hall; it is a community progress association hall down there near the oval. They do not need another hall. They had a very good school with just over 100 students; it might have been 120 to 150 students as it varied. Yes, certainly about 50 of them might have come from interstate, but a lot of people come from interstate to attend other senior secondary colleges as well. Guess what? Some people actually go from the territory to attend school interstate. Not many do that, but some do go that way as well. That is a subject the minister needs to take up with the Grants Commission. That was done fairly successfully in the late nineties, and maybe the minister needs to try that one again. The same can be said of health; we are a regional centre and either 25 or 33 per cent of the people using that system actually come from interstate. That is just a fact of life with a place like Canberra.
The people of Hall have a hall; they do not need another hall. That is an insulting slap in the face to them from this government. The Hall school is an historic school; it has been going continually since 1911. In the case of the Tharwa school, it started in 1899. It might have closed on one occasion in the past, but, again, it is a small, unique, rural school. It is the centre and hub of the community, with minimal savings generated from its closure. As a matter of fact, I would like to chat to the minister later about his figures because they seem to be very different to what I have seen and read in relation to this debate. I wonder where he gets his figures, and perhaps we can have a chat about that later. The government is making minimal savings at a maximum cost to the community.
The government is now adding insult to injury in planning to spend extra money in an effort to placate these communities. That is not working—the communities feel even more insulted. That is a very good object lesson for the government in terms of doing proper consultation and not making arbitrary decisions. People will respect you far more if you do proper consultation. The government has a very good blueprint, which it continually refuses to use, and it does that to its detriment.
There are a number of other things too. There were a few good programs for students who may not be travelling too well, especially at high schools, that we do not have any more. There was a very good program at Dairy Flat, which no longer operates. It used to operate two days a week, and I knew some of the teachers who ran it. It was a particularly good program for kids at risk and kids with problems. I do not think project Saul is done anymore, and that was also very good, especially for year 8 students. It is very difficult to see any decent programs in terms of kids who are