Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 06 Hansard (Wednesday, 23 June 2010) . . Page.. 2254 ..
“This Bill will address issues in the act, to make sure that the sham consultation of 2006 can not be repeated,”
The release also stated:
“One of the greatest frustrations of the 2006 process was Government, with their minds already made up, heading out to listen to concerns, only to ignore them.
For the proposed bill we are about to debate today, an ABC news article quoted Ms Hunter as saying that the plan was not to stop the government shutting schools but to make the process more rigorous.
We in the Liberal Party feel strongly about this. However, where Ms Hunter only wants a rigorous process, the Liberal Party wants a process that ensures that school closures should only happen if necessary, after proper and considered community consultations.
As elected officials, all of us here have a fiduciary responsibility to the people of this proud territory. We owe them not just a duty of care but a standard of care. In a recent discussion with a respected stakeholder, he poignantly stated that, on the issue of school closures, no more political capital was to be had. He is right. It is time for solutions and not political jousts and point scoring. Hence, in our deliberations on whether we would support this initiative, it was important to ask sincerely whether this proposed bill, to put it in Ms Hunter’s words, will prevent “sham consultations” like those that happened in 2006.
On a process note, we are concerned that the time frame given to consider the amended bill is so short and amendments have been occurring, with the latest draft provided to us on 21 June 2010. We have considered this draft in relation to an initial draft dated 4 June 2010 and have found several superficially minor changes but which may have essential implications for the consultation process.
Furthermore, in comparing these versions to a draft dated 23 March 2010, which was provided to us yesterday by someone other than a member of the Greens, we note that an appeals clause has been removed from the June 2010 drafts. This is of concern to us, and the reason for it needs to be properly considered, especially within the context of a six-month consultation time frame.
This is not the forum to delve into the technicalities of this proposed bill. However, in addition to what has already been mentioned, here is a brief cross-section of our concerns. There are no requirements obliging the minister to consider or have regard to the findings of the consultation and independent report. The proposed bill does not say that the minister must wait 12 months before closing a school; it merely stipulates that he/she needs to wait at least 12 months to give notice of a decision. Does that mean the minister can still close a school before telling communities why? The proposed bill does not stipulate when a minister can announce school closures. Does that mean that the minister can announce closing a school a week before the end of the school year, as happened in 2006? Are the steps provided in the proposed bill