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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 6 Hansard (7 June) . . Page.. 1830..


MR SESELJA (continuing):

the schools. It is those nasty Liberals. You do not need to worry about us. We are for public education. We will not close your schools."That has been shown to be a lie, Mr Speaker. That has been shown to be a deception of the people of Canberra. It is an absolute disgrace!

In recent times in the debate about school closures the Chief Minister and the education minister have been surprised to realise that, suddenly, there are 18,000 empty desks. They say: "There are 18,000 empty desks; we did not know about that before."This is disingenuous. There has been a steady decline in enrolments in government schools over many years. It has been happening over many years. It has not suddenly happened in the last 18 months. It has happened over time.

The Liberal Party was honest enough to identify it before the election, but this government would not tell the truth. They would not tell their real plans, and it is only now-conveniently, 21/2 years out from the next election and 18 months after the last election-that we are seeing their true plans. The idea that suddenly it has dawned upon them that something has to be done, that they did not know about it before, is absolute rubbish! Every time school closures have been spoken about, the Labor Party have opposed them. As recently as the 2004 election they denied that it would happen. Mr Barr has spoken in the media and in this place of his vision for education in the ACT. On 4 May, Minister Barr said:

I will, of course, be engaging the process in coming months of consulting with the community around a range of options that we will take forward. My view is that I need to present an open and honest appraisal of where our school system is ...

I will be taking forward in the coming months a package to address those issues.

Now we see the results of this broader package to improve education. The broad and comprehensive consultation and engagement with the community involves putting out the hit list and then saying: "This is how we are going to do it. We are going to close your school."

Mr Speaker, I neglected to mention this before, but I think it is important to remind you that you yourself have said:

Political integrity plays an important part in the debate as well. At the last election the Liberals said that some schools may need to close and Labor put it about that there would be no closures.

Mr Speaker, truer words have not been spoken in recent times-certainly not on the government side of this place. Political integrity is at the heart of the debate. Political integrity is important, and what we have seen from this government is a massive, massive deception. Many people, including public servants, enter politics with a desire to make a difference to people's lives and to improve standards, and your point about political integrity is therefore all the more important.

Education is one of our most important areas. Very few areas of public policy are more important; very few areas of government expenditure are more important. With this bill Mrs Dunne is seeking to put in place a framework that will ensure, not that there are no school closures, but that there is a proper process and that we do not just hand over to the


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