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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 4 Hansard (3 May) . . Page.. 1122..

MR BARR (continuing):

can be too large but, clearly, some can be too small. In addressing this issue we need to take account of both of those extremes.

There are some schools in the ACT that, in my view, are too small, but I will be consulting broadly with affected communities. Obviously, in some parts of Canberra—in particular, Gungahlin—there is a growing need for public schools and there will be more schools in Gungahlin. There are other parts of the city that, due to demographic changes, will have to see a restructuring of school services, but it will be done in a compassionate manner by a government that cares.

MR SESELJA: Minister, do you stand by your government's pre-election commitment not to close schools in this term?

MR BARR: I have just answered that question.

Teachers—wage negotiations

MS PORTER: My question is to the minister for education. Would the minister update the Assembly on the progress of negotiations with teachers over their enterprise bargaining agreement?

MR BARR: I thank Ms Porter for the opportunity to provide an update on this very important issue. As members would be aware, the current teaching staff agreement expired on 1 March this year. Negotiations for a new agreement have been ongoing since October last year. The government has offered to increase the salaries of our public school teachers. The Stanhope government recognises the importance of our teachers and the important role they play in keeping our education system amongst the best in the world.

The two initial government offers were rejected by the AEU, but in a sign of goodwill the ACT government, with the agreement of the AEU, asked the Australian Industrial Relations Commission to conciliate in relation to the dispute. That occurred on 24 March this year. The former education minister took this step in an effort to protect teachers in the AEU from penalties and fines that would accrue under the federal government's draconian work choices legislation.

Mr Stefaniak: Is that with a small "d"or a big capital "D"?

MR BARR: A big "D", Mr Stefaniak. They are big "D"draconian laws. Under these laws each and every teacher could have faced fines of up to $6,000 for industrial action.

Ms Porter: Every teacher?

MR BARR: Every teacher, $6,000. The government felt our teachers and the AEU should be protected from these harsh penalties. On 26 April the government made a new offer to teachers that replaced our earlier offers. This new offer is for a 12 per cent salary increase over three years commencing on 1 July 2006, with consequent increases in teacher contact hours from 2007. This offer meets the AEU's original claim for a four per cent increase for all teachers and principals.

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