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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 8 Hansard (25 October) . . Page.. 1993 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

government in the middle of 1991 they did not reverse the decision to pursue that amalgamation. Indeed, they insisted that it go ahead despite some parents still being very unhappy with that project. As it turned out, Mr Speaker, that was a very successful marriage of two high schools. To this day Stromlo High School is a very strong, forward-looking and dynamic school because of that process of amalgamation of those two schools. There would not have been two strong schools in the place of what is now Stromlo High School.

Ms McRae dismisses that suggestion as being preposterous and out of the question. She is very ready to dramatise and to exaggerate the concerns about this matter and to point out why it cannot be done. I see the students of Charnwood High School in the gallery. They do not look like people who are shrinking violets who will collapse in a heap if they are asked to go on a bus somewhere in the morning. There are thousands of students in this Territory, many of them primary school students, who climb on buses every day to travel to school. It is quite outrageously self-serving of Ms McRae and Mr Berry to claim that these people somehow cannot manage that ride on a bus from one suburb to another.

"We would not have closed Charnwood High", they say. What would they have done about supplementation, I wonder, Mr Speaker? I understand that before the last election there was a debate in the Labor Party about what to do about school closures and the view was expressed, even by the former Minister for Education before the last election, that it was impossible for governments endlessly to put off the question of whether small schools could remain in existence in the face of declining enrolments. That debate, I understand, went on inside the Labor Party. The view from one quarter was, "We have to acknowledge that this has to be done at some stage". On the other hand, others said, "No, no; we cannot give away the votes".

So the decision was made, Mr Speaker, that they would announce that there would be no school closures in the life of the Third Assembly - yes, they would preserve all those votes - but at the same time they would discontinue the process of supplementation of those smaller schools with declining enrolments. What we find today is that these people, because they are not on the treasury benches, do not need to carry through that decision they made behind closed doors; but they know full well that if they were in our position they would not be endlessly supplementing small schools, schools whose populations have declined by two-thirds in the space of just four years, as has Charnwood High School's.

The difference between those opposite in cutting off supplementation and those on this side of the chamber in cutting off supplementation is that we are prepared to work with the community to explore the options that are available to it in those circumstances. That is why, Mr Speaker, the four options that were so much decried by those opposite have been put on the table. We know the difference in approach between us and them. In those circumstances they would not take part in the debate. They would say, "No, no; we are not puppets. You make the decision by yourself. We will turn a blind eye to what is going on"; and, like Griffith Primary School, they would simply wait for the school to bleed to death. Mr Speaker, that was reprehensible, callous and gutless on the

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