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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 10 Hansard (6 December) . . Page.. 2733 ..

MR WOOD: Yes, Mr Whitecross; I think that I will get that answer anyway. The question is: Does the Minister believe that three weeks, as indicated, is sufficient time for discussion on what may bring most significant changes?

MR STEFANIAK: As it turns out, Mr Wood, that is in there; but I am not going to even look at it. Three weeks was not sufficient time for a number of schools. As soon as I was aware of that, at a board meeting, in fact, of schools in North Canberra, I indicated that we would certainly extend the time. All schools have now been advised that the consultation period has been extended until March next year.

The Government is very keen to ensure that there is ample consultation. This is completely unlike what this lot did. The reason that this lot are not here but over there is that they did not listen. The single most important message that came through in the last election and in the lead-up to it was that the Labor Government did not listen. We are listening. This Government listens. As a result of a number of people saying, "Three weeks' consultation for us is not enough", I have absolutely no dramas about extending that period. It has been extended until March, to give the school communities, including incoming school boards, the opportunity to fully consider their position and to put their point of view.

MR WOOD: I have a supplementary question, Mr Speaker. I thank the Minister for his answer. Can I take it that the Minister will undertake a different process in the future - not, as indicated to Ms Follett a minute ago, that he had to do it in a hurry when talking about the integration programs - that he will move around the schools to find out how they work and that he will know beforehand the sheer impossibility of a three-week turnaround when you are dealing with school P and C associations and school boards?

MR STEFANIAK: I have indicated that that has been extended, for obvious reasons, until March. I indicated that we are interested in getting full consultation. This Government has a very good track record and I have a pretty good track record in terms of education. One major issue of consultation so far which I would certainly commend to this lot opposite, should they ever become the Government, is what occurred in relation to PE and sport. There was extensive consultation. All members of this Assembly who were interested were involved in the process. That went so well that the group wants to keep meeting so that it can monitor it.

A similar situation applies with school-based management. The consultation period for replies to a draft discussion paper has been extended to March. Obviously, that will put a number of things back. Some schools probably do not want to get into it until 1997. There are some schools keen to get into it earlier. But this Government has to ensure that there is adequate and full consultation by all members of the school community. I am happy with that. That is the message I get, Mr Wood, travelling around the schools. Quite clearly, that is something that this Government is committed to in relation to this terribly important question of school-based management, as I think Mr Wood probably knows.

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