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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 4 Hansard (2 May) . . Page.. 1032..


MR STANHOPE (continuing):

So there really is not an answer I can give to a question about why it is that Mr Costello may have said something, or indeed whether he did say it.

Having regard to the assertion that the Leader of the Opposition now makes, I would be more than happy, of course, to seek from Mr Costello confirmation of the suggestion that the Leader of the Opposition makes that the government is facing a deficit of $190 million—because, if it is, that is news to me. I guess what I am saying in this oblique way is that, whilst I do not know—

Mrs Dunne: It certainly is oblique.

MR STANHOPE: I guess it is the constant problem that we face on this side: the Leader of the Opposition stands up and states as a fact something that a third party said in a particular environment. I do not know what he said, so I cannot confirm or deny the truth or otherwise of a claim that the Leader of the Opposition makes as a matter of fact. But my immediate instinct is to not believe it, and I suppose that is what I am getting to. Just because the Leader of the Opposition stands up and says, "This is a fact,"my instinct, after many years of sitting opposite the Leader of the Opposition in this place, is to immediately doubt the truth of what he says. But it is perhaps inappropriate for me to stand here and say, "Well, it's not true,"even though that is my instinct, and at one level my belief. The difficulty is, of course, that I was not at the briefings. I do not know what Mr Costello did say and I do not know what he did not say. The Leader of the Opposition says, "Oh well, your staff were."Should I now just wander off to the back of the chamber and have a conversation with my staff, wander back and answer the question? I think it is fairer to say that, when Mr Smyth stands up and claims something to be a fact, my first instinct is: don't believe that, if it comes from Mr Smyth. The difficulty is, of course, that I do not know what Mr Costello said, because I was not there—

Mrs Burke: Something as serious as that and you don't know?

MR STANHOPE: I might receive advice during question time and we can go to the nature of the question and the information that the Leader of the Opposition has and his assertion as fact that the territory faces a deficit of $190 million; that the position in the midyear review in relation to the anticipated forward outlook for the budget has changed from the numbers included in the midyear review to a figure of a deficit of $190 million. Well, that is not advice that I have.

Schools—closures

DR FOSKEY: My question is to the new minister for education and is in regard to the discussion about excess capacity of schools and proposed school closures. Members are well aware of the strongly expressed views of the Chief Minister and the past and present education ministers that there is too much excess capacity in ACT schools, that it is costing the ACT government too much money and that some schools need to be closed. Minister, will you undertake to work with and consult with school communities, particularly those that might be deemed at risk of closure, on the educational, financial and social impact of closing schools before the government takes any decision to close them?


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