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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 8 Hansard (24 August) . . Page.. 2636..


MS GALLAGHER (continuing):

killed. There have been another four for which there have not been any charges laid and which have been investigated by the police. But these are all subject to coronial processes which are under way. I do not want to pre-empt any of those, unlike what Mrs Burke has done, by declaring that care and protection have done nothing for these children who unfortunately have died, so that the proper processes will be allowed to be followed, that families will be shown respect during this very difficult time, and that the information which is on the public record is correct. That is why I took the question on notice.

I am briefed on every important issue that comes across my portfolio. At times that does involve being told about very tragic circumstances surrounding a child's death. I take this job very seriously. I find this area in particular to be a very difficult one in terms of some of the information that I see and conversations that I hear. I urge members to show restraint, please, on an issue like this one. If you want a briefing, come and ask me for one. I will always provide you with one, but please do not go to the media and shout off on a subject you do not know about, something that is incorrect and will cause enormous distress to families.

Schools—closures

DR FOSKEY: My question is to the minister for education. It concerns the assessment of submissions made by schools identified for closure or amalgamation. Members will be aware that the ACT P&C council has written to the minister asking him to consider an arms-length process to evaluate the school submissions. The concern is that the proposals in the Towards 2020 document, which is a document of the education department, and much of the information that is used to justify the proposed closures and amalgamations are disputed by the school communities concerned. So it is understandable that many people from those communities are suspicious of the integrity of the process.

If the government sticks to its plan of announcing decisions by December this year, will the submissions be fairly reviewed and considered by an independent panel, and its advice and the information on which that is based publicly released? If not, how can the minister assure the Canberra community of the integrity and fairness of the process?

MR BARR: I thank Dr Foskey for the question. In relation to this issue, the government has put forward a consultation process. We have called for written submissions, and they close on 3 November. Schools, communities and individuals—a whole range of people—will put forward submissions. Some already have. As part of that submission process, organisations and individuals are being asked whether they would like their submission to be made public. They have that option. There is a cover sheet that is available to go on top of each submission. Organisations and individuals are given the option as to whether they would like their submission made public or kept private.

I have received a letter from the P&C in relation to the assessment of the submissions. My view is that the appropriate place for those submissions to go is the Department of Education and Training, to be assessed by the department. That is the role of the department in this consultation process. It will be an open and transparent process. Organisations have the opportunity to have their submissions made public. They are given the option, when submitting those submissions, of indicating whether they would like that to be the case, and that is a decision that they can make. Some organisations will


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