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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 8 Hansard (25 October) . . Page.. 1985 ..

MS HORODNY (continuing):

In the case of Charnwood High School, the Government has developed a "we cannot do anything" approach to school closures. It is sitting by and letting the service run down, then reducing programs and creating a scare campaign. It looks like a deliberate policy to undermine the confidence of staff, parents and students, and it must not be allowed to continue. Mr Speaker, the problems at Charnwood have arisen because of a lack of long-term planning. It is imperative that long-term demographic trends are studied and that a strategy is then implemented to deal with those trends. It is not good enough to wait until the school is about to die before attempting to deal with the problem. It must be done before the problem arises.

The strategy that the Government is seeking to put into place is one designed to destroy school morale. Parents with adequate resources will seek to move their children to other schools where there are better programs, while teachers will start looking around for other suitable placements. Meanwhile, the students who have the least ability to move - that is, those from lower income families - will suffer the most. These students must be supported. They deserve as good an education as anybody else. Mr Speaker, we urge the students, the parents and the teachers to fight on. The Greens will support Ms McRae's motion, which urges the Government to get itself together and to live up to its promise of listening to the community when it comes to closing schools.

MR KAINE (11.09): Mr Speaker, it is unbelievable that members of the Opposition can come to this place and express such shock horror at the situation that exists at Charnwood. First of all, we have to bear in mind that those very people were the Government for the last five years, so whatever situation applies at Charnwood has developed during their period of stewardship.

Mr Berry: And we kept the supplementation up.

MR KAINE: There is this holier-than-thou attitude about not closing any schools. Does anybody remember Griffith Primary School? The now Labor Party spokesperson for education sat up there very quietly where you are sitting, Mr Speaker, while the community debate about Griffith Primary School went on, and she never said a word.

Ms McRae: I was a good Speaker. That was because I was a good Speaker. Speakers are not meant to debate, Mr Kaine. History lessons will not help, Mr Kaine.

MR KAINE: You can get down out of the chair, as the current Speaker can, and speak if you wish; but you did not dare. Now, of course, you are holier than everybody else in this place.

The other interesting aspect of this - I am sure that the Minister is well aware of this - is that the community itself was working its way nicely through this problem and coming to their own conclusions until last night. What happened last night, Mr Speaker? Two members of the Labor Opposition turned up at the school meeting. That is the new ingredient. Along came the stirrers. It is not good enough for them to do what they advocate - to let the community work the thing out for themselves. No, they have to turn up. Along came the cavalry and they said, "We are going to tell you how to fix this.

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