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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 8 Hansard (25 October) . . Page.. 1989 ..

MR BERRY (continuing):

as a public meeting. You all could have gone, but you were too gutless to face the community. The difference between the Griffith school and the Charnwood school is that the Charnwood school decided that they were going to fight. They said, "We want to keep our school open and we want it to be viable".

Mrs Carnell's promise not to close schools if the community wants them kept open is very hollow if she says that it is all right to take viability away from a school in the context of her budget. This school has decided to fight. This boils down to a sneak attack on the parents and students of that school to drive them into a corner. The Government hoped that they would fall on their own sword, the option of school closure. The community have decided otherwise, not by a direction from me and Roberta McRae because - - -

Government members interjected.


MR BERRY: These experts over there did not have the courage to face the community. Bill Stefaniak, for example, did not even have the same courage as his colleague Mr Humphries, who at least, when he was closing schools, went out there and faced the community. Bill Stefaniak, like any second rower, always stands behind the front rowers - with no guts - and he would not front the community and listen to them. This community made it clear that it wanted to fight. We then said to that community, "If you want to fight, we will help you". That is why this motion is before us today; for no other reason. No other politician in this place attended that meeting; and they all could have, had they wished to. I would have loved the Liberals to come out there and try to argue their case. I have to say to them that, due to the anger of the community, it was a wise decision to stay away.

Somebody argued a little while ago that Labor sat on its hands. Labor supplemented this school and kept it viable. That is the difference. We supplemented this school and kept it viable because we believe in social justice. We believe in equity of access for children no matter where they live. That is the importance of this school at Charnwood. This is a school in a quite large geographical catchment area which has the support of a strong element of the community. The community does not consist of just a high school. It consists of a whole range of private housing and a very large component of public housing - in fact, I think, larger than all other suburbs, but certainly larger than most - and a vibrant shopping centre. It is an active community.

Mr Speaker, to take this high school away from that community would be a major blow. It has a developing element in the suburb of Dunlop. Many people who purchased houses in Dunlop did it against a background of a Labor Government committed to social justice and equality in access for children no matter where they live. Those people will be let down by this Government if this school is withdrawn. Property values will be affected. The Liberals trumpet quite often about how supportive they are of small business.

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