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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 11 Hansard (15 November) . . Page.. 3560..

MR SMYTH (continuing):

Where was the concern in 2001? It did not exist. In 2002 it did not exist. In 2003 it did not exist. In 2004 it did not exist. In 2005 it did not exist. But in 2006, because you are under pressure, because you have blown your budget through your ineptitude and your financial mismanagement, suddenly the school system, teachers, students, parents, the community, the ACT at large and its reputation around this country suffer because you, minister, are going to close 39 schools. You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

MRS DUNNE (Ginninderra) (5.09), in reply: I predicted at lunchtime today that the minister would come in here and take the motion, which in many ways is a pretty inoffensive motion, and amend it-gut it and put it in his own words-because this is one of the things that you can do when you are in a majority government. I think most of the speakers, and Mr Barr and Ms Porter in particular, really got off the point about this. This is not about the school closures. This is not about any of the other things in Towards 2020. This is about the stated reason why this minister and this government said that they needed Towards 2020-not the substance of 2020 but the impetus for Towards 2020. What we have in Mr Barr's amendment is absolute and complete silence on that matter. We asked, "Why are children leaving the government schools and going to non-government schools?"This minister gave some of his reasons why he thought that was the case. They might be the reasons, but we do not know.

We have an opportunity here for us, as a community, to go forward and find out why people choose that path. Part of that would be to find out whether people could be coaxed back. But this minister, like his predecessor, is not prepared to find out. He has got to the stage of saying, "Not listening, not listening."He will not even address in his amendment the substantive issue of the motion. There is nothing in this amendment that reflects what is in the substantive motion.

The motion that I moved calls for one simple action: that the government undertake a comprehensive study of the reasons for the drift of students from government to non-government schools and report back to the Assembly. It is not rocket science. It does take survey. It does take some care to make sure that you are doing your research correctly. But then we would know and we would have some idea of making some assessments of whether the people who have left the government system or never been in the government system are coaxable into the government system, whether it is good policy to coax them into the government system, what the reasons are for this shift, and how we frame our policy objectives to meet the needs of the people and respond to what they have told us.

This minister does not know what the people in the ACT want in their schooling and he is not prepared to find out. This is an abrogation of government policy making of the highest order. The government are prepared to spend money and they do not know why. Most of what Mr Barr has put in his amendment is uncontroversial and for the most part reasonably acceptable. I do not have a real problem with it, and it would not be a problem if Mr Barr were prepared to add most of those sentiments to the original motion-but he wants to delete the original motion and take away the principal driving force.

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