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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 12 Hansard (22 November) . . Page.. 3775..


Schools—closures

Debate resumed.

MR BARR (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation and Minister for Industrial Relations) (3.27): I move:

Omit paragraphs (4) and (5).

The government will be opposing elements of Mrs Dunne's motion. I think it would have to be described as the latest in a long line of attempts to derail the Towards 2020 consultation process that again produces nothing constructive to help preschool or school communities or the public education sector.

Mrs Dunne's motion begins by noting the valuable work of preschools. Nobody would deny this. The operation of preschools in the ACT has long been assisted by a relationship between preschool parent associations and the government of the day. This relationship, of course, predates self-government in the ACT. I am very pleased to reaffirm this government's commitment to close and ongoing collaboration. The submission from the Canberra Pre-School Society provides some innovative and forward thinking options for extending and strengthening that collaboration, and I am currently considering those options.

Mrs Dunne went on to say that this government has not been aware of the unique governance arrangements and outlined some issues that have been raised by the Canberra Pre-School Society. I would like to point out that while Mrs Dunne was moving this motion in the Assembly, the government and the Canberra Pre-School Society were again meeting—the meeting was arranged some time ago—to continue our collaboration. There was no grandstanding, just ongoing discussion and real community consultation.

The Canberra Pre-School Society has raised some issues around the governance of preschools and has sought to link this to an arrangement that was had with the then government in 1943, whereby a parent association raised funds for equipment and the government was responsible for building and staffing the preschool. This arrangement has continued over time. It has been custom and practice that before a preschool opens a parent association is put in place and registered as an incorporated association. The association then sets out to raise funds to provide equipment for the new preschool.

I understand that the Canberra Pre-School Society suggests that, given the continuing nature of this arrangement, the government may not close or amalgamate a preschool without consent of the parent association. Mr Speaker, if you agree with this assessment, then you would have to ask Mr Stefaniak under whose authority he acted when preschools were suspended and closed on his watch. Under what piece of legislation, under what arrangement or by whose agreement did he decide to close preschools? I look forward to Mr Stefaniak, with his considerable legal background, explaining to the Assembly what his government did to supersede this arrangement that is now so crucial to preschool operation.


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