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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 13 Hansard (13 December) . . Page.. 4083..


MR STANHOPE (continuing):

increase of 6.1 per cent over the trend level in November 2005, of 179,000. In other words, 11,000 further people have been employed in the ACT in the last 12 months. That is almost 1,000 a month. The number of people in paid employment in the Australian Capital Territory is increasing at the rate of 1,000 a month. Interestingly, women now constitute half of the total employment in the territory.

Schools—closures

MRS DUNNE: Mr Speaker, my question is to the minister for education. Minister, the opposition has been advised by the media and others that you have announced that you will close Flynn and Cook primary schools, effective from December 2006 and 2007 respectively. Who made the decision to close Flynn and Cook primary schools? Why were these schools listed for closure? What issues were taken into consideration in the decision to close Flynn and Cook primary schools in December 2006 and 2007 respectively?

MR BARR: I will be making a ministerial statement on these matters shortly.

MRS DUNNE: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. In your ministerial statement will you be making it clear who made the decisions to close these schools?

MR BARR: Under the Education Act, I, as minister, am required to make those decisions. I will be making that clear in my ministerial statement.

Citizenship

MS PORTER: My question is to the Minister for Multicultural Affairs. Minister, on Monday, John Howard announced that immigrants to Australia will have to pass an English language test and values test before gaining Australian citizenship. Can you inform the Assembly on the ACT government's position on this test?

MR HARGREAVES: The Stanhope Labor government is strongly opposed to the introduction of a formal test that may alienate culturally diverse individuals and may deter them from taking up citizenship. The test will involve an English language test and will also examine prospective citizens on Australian society, culture, values and history. The test will have a database of 200 questions and each applicant will be required to answer 30 random questions using a computer system.

There are a huge number of problems with this proposal. First of all, the system only assesses a person's thinking and memory. People with a disability, those who have low literacy and individuals who have experienced torture or trauma would all be discriminated against under this proposal. Also, any computerised system is biased towards younger and highly educated applicants with strong English language skills.

While such a test may well assess one's cognition and memory, it cannot possibly assess a person's adequacy for citizenship or commitment to Australia. I know people who took years, even decades, to get properly acquainted with Australia and then fell in love with the country. It is difficult for people when they first come here. They may settle here, have to pick up a menial job—sometimes despite their skills and qualifications—and look after a family. It is difficult for these people to quickly pick


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