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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 06 Hansard (Wednesday, 23 June 2010) . . Page.. 2284 ..

Just think about it. The person who, through 2006, in the face of constant motions and pressure from the Liberal opposition and the Greens member at the time, steadfastly refused to do anything about consultation on school closures suddenly thinks it is a good idea. Suddenly he is a convert. Why is he a convert? Because what has been proposed today looks good, but it does not actually have any substance to it.

There are a whole lot of committees, but there is nothing in this that makes Andrew Barr or any of his successors actually have to take into account any word that is written by a consultative committee. It does not allow an aggrieved community to seek a review of that decision, and it does not require Andrew Barr, or any of his successors, to give a real, considered statement of reasons about why he proposes to close a school. That is why the Canberra Liberals will steadfastly oppose this bill here today.

We will remain the only people who have been prepared to stand up for the community and ensure that, if the government wants to close a school, there is a proper process with the prospect of review and with a requirement for a substantial and real statement of reasons to be given.

We have to put some context in this. The whole process of school closures and the mechanism which has been advocated by the Parents and Citizens Association and the Canberra Liberals over a long period of time came about because of a very flawed process of school closures. The Charnwood high school was closed in terrible circumstances, and there is no doubt about that. Even the minister who closed that school admitted afterwards that it should have been done better. As a result of that process, the minister responsible and the Parents and Citizens Association came up with a set of guidelines, which became a pending schedule to the Education Act.

In 2005, when Minister Gallagher amended the Education Act, she implied on a number of occasions that that schedule would become a disallowable instrument under the new Education Act. When the new Education Act came into force in January 2005, I had a briefing with Ms Gallagher’s then senior staff member about some concerns I had about the implementation of the new Education Act.

One of the things I specifically asked about was, “When are you going to put this schedule into a regulation?” He said: “Mrs Dunne, don’t worry about it. There’s no hurry. We don’t plan to close any schools.” This was the minister who, in early July 2005—not five months after I had that meeting—without making this regulation which she had promised and which her staff had promised me would happen, went about the process of closing West Belconnen high school.

As a result of Ms Gallagher’s failure to keep her word with the community, that was the first time I attempted to put back into the legislation those things which had been agreed to by a former minister, Mr Stefaniak, and the Parents and Citizens Association. It was a bipartisan approach. It was agreed by the government and the community that this was the way to go. Subsequently in 2006, I attempted to do that again.

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