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

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

Let us look at the enrolments in ACT schools during that same period. Between 1983 and 2001 enrolment projections indicate that the school student population will increase from 39,980 students to 40,545 students - a grand total increase in a period of almost 20 years of just 565 students. Obviously, Mr Speaker, members can see that the school-age population of the Territory is increasing at a much lower rate than is the general population of the Territory. What we have, basically, therefore, is a more or less static enrolment in ACT schools overall across the whole Territory at this time. There is no indication of a boom in school-age populations. The net effect is that we have approximately 22 additional school facilities to serve just 565 students. That is a population of one high school. Mr Speaker, it is simply out of the question that the Government should consider that change in population and demographic position without considering at the same time some change in the allocation of schools around the Territory.

This Government will make sure that schools are provided in new areas of the ACT - areas like Gungahlin, South Tuggeranong, and other places, like Lanyon, where they are needed - because that is where the school-age population is heaviest; that is where the demand is greatest. But, Mr Speaker, that means ultimately that we have to look at the question of what happens to schools in older areas where those populations are declining. We cannot ask the community of this Territory to build an extra 22 schools for just 565 students. It just does not make sense.

Mr Speaker, this Government will keep its promise. Its promise was to keep schools open unless the school community itself wants to close it. If Charnwood High School's population says, "We do not wish to close", this Government will respect and honour that decision; but, Mr Speaker, that does not mean that we can endlessly continue to supplement failing schools.

Mr Berry: You made the promise.

MR HUMPHRIES: We know that it is not possible, and you know that it is not possible; but you do not have the honesty to say to the people of the ACT, "Look, we are all adults in here. We cannot continually supplement schools, particularly as more and more schools will be in that position in the future, without making a hard decision about what we do about their future". Mr Speaker, that is the issue we have to face up to as a community, as a government and, I would like to think, as an opposition as well; but I cannot be unrealistic enough to think that that is going to be the case. If those opposite were on these benches today they would be facing the same issues. Mr Speaker, I am pretty confident that they would be facing them in exactly the same way. They would not be continuing supplementation that they know would only have continued and prolonged a problem in these sorts of schools. They would have been having to address these issues. The mere fact that they are in opposition should not let them off the hook in addressing those same issues.

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