Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1995 Week 11 Hansard (13 December) . . Page.. 2966 ..
MR STEFANIAK (continuing):
I oppose the motion. I foreshadow an amendment to it, but the motion as it stands quite clearly cannot be supported by the Government. I reiterate, however, what we have maintained all along: We value the education programs. We appreciate how they are valued in the school system. We appreciate that that is the main focus of Birrigai, and it is certainly our intention to maintain those programs and the effectiveness of those programs. I do not think it is appropriate for Ms Tucker to tell the Education Department how to do it. They are quite capable of doing that themselves, and most effectively, as I think is shown by the effect of those programs over many years.
MR WOOD (12.18): Mr Stefaniak and Mr Moore were wrong in one statement they made. I do not know whether they knew they were wrong, and whether they were accidentally wrong or deliberately wrong. Each of them began by saying that Mr Whalan set out to close down Birrigai. Mr Whalan set out to reduce staffing at Birrigai; I do not dispute that. We changed his mind. The Labor Party internally and the community, but the Labor Party primarily, changed his mind, and I was one of those who were most emphatic about it. Mr Moore and Mr Stefaniak try to walk in with a totally different notion. I will be gentle with them and put it down to poor memory on their part. I indicate that I had a lot to say to Mr Whalan, and I think some members have heard me say in this Assembly in the past, and you will hear it again today, that I have a very special attachment to Birrigai. I am pleased that Ms Tucker also has had quite a deal to do with it.
Mr Stefaniak in his speech showed himself to be an environmental vandal. We have found out before that he is an education vandal, disposing of schools and the like, and now he has extended this vandalism to the environment. It is a very simple issue: For greater efficiency - that is, to make it cheaper - he is proposing to damage access by students to a very important place. It was simply costing too much to provide our young people with the best environmental education that can be found anywhere. The cost to do damage to this school was $500,000. I noted during Mr Stefaniak's speech a very significant fact. He simply does not understand what Birrigai is. Birrigai is not an add-on, something extra, somewhere the kids can go on an excursion now and then. Birrigai is a school. It is one of the schools in our system. It has a principal, it has staff, and it has students. The only difference in structure between Birrigai and the hundred other schools in the ACT is that the students change every few days.
Mr Stefaniak is talking about the losses incurred by this school. Is he going to come back into this Assembly at some time next year and say that this school or that school is losing $3m - because that is what it costs to keep it open - and therefore we have to take some severe action about it? It is a school, Mr Stefaniak, and you have not understood it as such. Because you have not understood it, you are proposing to take action that is detrimental to the interests of our young people.
Mr Humphries: So why did you want to close it, Bill?
MR WOOD: You want to persist in this lie, too, do you?
Mr Humphries: Mr Speaker, that is most unparliamentary.
MR SPEAKER: Order!