Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 8 Hansard (23 August) . . Page.. 2584..
MRS BURKE (continuing):
The minister was vague in answering such questions as how many schools earmarked for closure also currently cater for children with a disability—we have heard varying numbers reported—or how many schools earmarked for closure have been retrofitted for the specific needs of children with a disability. In addition, when questioned about the future use of surplus school buildings, a knee-jerk response was forthcoming. Put simply, the buildings could be used by the general community, including some disability groups. The government cannot in any way be conscious of the inimical effect such changes to the education system will have on children with special needs. An inquiry into the state of the education system, now more than ever, seems to be a sensible way to conduct a more comprehensive, public and open investigation into all of the social, economic and environmental impacts for all students and their families.
It has been said in this place that this is a stunt. That is a code the government uses for anything it does not want to hear from the opposition. We will write that off and treat it with the contempt it deserves. The arrogance is disappointing. The opposition is trying to offer the government an out clause—time to stop and think and have a proper consultative approach with both the members of this Assembly and the broader Canberra community. I did take on board this morning the comments by Ms Porter, but at the heart of this debate is that the Stanhope government has failed miserably to bring the community with it on this vitally important issue, one that strikes at the heart of tens of thousands of people.
There has been a massive failure in relation to students with a disability. Ms Porter of all people would know that parents she is talking to simply have to get on with it. They have no option. They cannot have the luxury that they might go to this school or to that school. They are doing all of that, but their decisions are not quite as straightforward as if their children have no disability. This is not a delaying tactic, as has also been said in this place. It is an effort to do things much better, collectively, as a group of 17 MLAs. It is an indictment on this government, and it will go down in history. We have to ask ourselves: are these school closures for the betterment of this community, or is there a hidden agenda that will translate the valuable land on which many of these schools stand into money?
MR STEFANIAK (Ginninderra—Leader of the Opposition) (5.44), in reply: I thank members who spoke for their contributions. Mr Seselja is probably spot-on about the real plans of the government, which are to get this over and done with quickly and hope people will forget it. People have very long memories. They still remember the school closures of the 1990s. Ask the people of Cook. I am not sure Dr Foskey is certain what the motion is all about. It is very broad and general, as it needs to be. It provides a period of 18 months. If she has concerns about that, if the inquiry by an independent board of experts needs to go further, there is precedent for that in the Gallop report, which was extended past the reporting term. She seemed a bit confused about this motion, so, I just point that out.
It is incredible that the Chief Minister calls this proposal—a formal inquiry under the Inquiries Act—a stunt. How many inquiries did the Labor government have from 2001 to 2004? I can think of a large number of inquiries—one that we got the Canberra plan from—and reviews. They were legion. Some of them might have been stunts and some