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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 9 Hansard (20 September) . . Page.. 2937..

DR FOSKEY (continuing):

Mr Stanhope has said that it will be at least two years until we start making the savings from this devastating process. That means we have time. We could pass my moratorium bill today and it would not matter in terms of those things that the government is talking about. The government could take the consultation process to the community, which is what I advocate in my bill. The government could say, "We have to make a 10 per cent cut to education. Can you find some savings in your school?"

That is what those 39 schools are doing right now. They are working their guts out to find those savings, to bring in money to the education department. But they are doing it with a sword of Damocles hanging over their heads. This process is Machiavellian. It is about dividing schools against each other. We all know that works really well in politics. That is how the Liberals play it. It is how Labor plays it. But it is not the right way to go about this process because every school matters. Every school community matters and it is not good that we are hearing, "Why is our school for closure when that one is not?"They are fair enough questions because the community cannot see the sense, but it means that it is a really bad process.

We can go to the community and say, "Let us put public education as the bottom line. It has got to be good because that is how it has always been in Canberra."In Canberra, people are our strength and the more highly educated they are, the better our economic advantage. That is what we have got. We do not have industry. We do not have agriculture to the extent that it can support our economy. What we do have is land sales. We have become increasingly reliant upon land sales. We are told that and the government is trying to move away from that. Our biggest asset is our people, all of them, whether they go to private schools or public schools. So let us show that we care about them. Let us show that we value them.

So we have got the school communities looking at how they can make savings without threats of closures over their heads at that point. Then we look at the processes the department already has under way. We know there was a 2010 process under way, and from the little bit that has been made public it looked as though it was a very promising process and quite a way along the consultative process. With a little bit of addition to the terms of reference, it could have continued. It did not have to become this drastic 2020 process.

We would look at the work that the department is doing on curriculum renewal and on programs for kids at risk, including indigenous kids. I agree with the ACT Chief Minister that we are doing a damn good job there. But this 2020 strategy is not good for kids who are at risk in our system, and we all know that. Even if you are not a teacher, you know that.

We would look at how these processes can be strengthened. We would harness the considerable resources of our education department, who are committed to public education. I do not think they are committed to school closures. I will bet they do not like it. At the same time, they are losing 90 of their own staff. So let us bring them along, instead of just telling them that they have to do the work of the government. And let us not forget negotiations with teachers at the same time. We would talk to other departments and we would seek advice from our own expert bodies, like the government school education council. We would engage with them. We would not reject their advice,

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