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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 8 Hansard (25 October) . . Page.. 1996 ..

MR HIRD (11.45): Mr Speaker, everything was nice and dandy until Chickenman Berry and his cohort started to pull a political stunt. It is a political stunt. The fact is that the school board were going about their business, as requested by the Minister, trying to resolve a very serious problem. It was causing some problems for not only the students but also the staff and the parents. However, in rides Chickenman Berry and his cohort, Tonto McRae. In they come and they stir the pot to make some political mileage.

Ms McRae: I was a chook before. I have stopped being a chook, have I? I like being a chook. I do not want to be Tonto.

MR HIRD: You are really a free-range hen.

MR SPEAKER: If you keep interjecting you will not even be here.

MR HIRD: Yes, we might put you out in Parkwood. The school board were going about their business at the request of the Minister. Let me tell you why the Minister made that request. It was because, as my colleagues have said, whereas there was a student enrolment of some 600 in 1991, it is something like 275 this year. It is going to fall even more next year, and I will come to that shortly. The scene is changing. You can ask the students themselves, or their parents. There are enough of them sitting up there. They are choosing to go to other schools.

Mr Berry: Those are not.

MR HIRD: They will choose to go to other schools.

Mr Berry: Because the door will be shut.

MR HIRD: If you had got into government, Mr Chickenman, you would have found that you were closing the school. We as a government are saying that it is an option. The school board did a survey of 1,000 people in our community, the Belconnen community, the catchment area, as it is called, and that survey generated 110 replies, of which 60 per cent supported amalgamation with Ginninderra High School or closure. That was their choice. The remainder suggested a range of options which the Minister outlined earlier today. But, no; in ride Mr Berry and his assistant to stir it up; making political mileage; pulling political stunts and taking away from the students their right of choice. Concern about why the school is not catching its share of enrolments and about leakage to other schools was one of the matters discussed at the meeting last night. Only 40 of the 128 Year 6 students in the feeder primary schools are planning to attend Charnwood High School in 1996. That should tell you something.

I will move away from education and talk about what this Opposition did when it was in government and what it did to the financial arrangements of this Territory. The financial arrangements are in tatters and we have to pick them up. Millions and millions of dollars were spent. They just went out and spent money. They were spendthrift. They do not care who is going to pay. At the end of the day the community pays.

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