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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (28 October) . . Page.. 2335 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (Acting Chief Minister, Attorney-General, Minister for Justice and Community Safety and Minister Assisting the Treasurer) (11.42): I want to make a very brief comment, Mr Speaker. I think Mr Smyth and Mr Stefaniak have already put the Government's position on this motion, and I do not want to add anything to that. I think it is worth recording for the sake of those who might be observing this debate but might not be aware of the antecedents of this debate that they should not think that the desire to reorganise preschools and in some cases even to suspend or close preschools is a desire which has lain on only one side of this chamber. Members should remember that in 1989, during the first year of self-government, the Labor Party developed a plan to close an extensive number of preschools in the ACT. It was only the failure of that government to survive beyond six months that prevented the details of that plan becoming available for the rest of the community to see.

Mr Berry: I would shut up if I were you, Mr Twenty-seven Schools.

MR HUMPHRIES: I never closed a single preschool during my period, and I had no intention of doing so. Mr Berry might like to brief us on which preschools were slated for closure during his Government's term of office. I could not help noticing the irony of Mr Berry standing outside the Downer Preschool and trumpeting his support for parents in trying to keep their preschool open. Where was Mr Berry almost exactly 10 years ago when the Downer Primary School was being closed by the Federal Labor Government? He certainly was not standing outside it expressing support for the parents and students there.

MR BERRY (11.44), in reply: For Mr Humphries' information, I was not in the Federal Labor Government almost exactly 10 years ago. If I had been a resident of Downer, I would have been standing out the front of the primary school protesting its closure, as I joined with those who protested the closure of Page Primary School. Mr Humphries has been a bit disingenuous here. He would have been further in front had he stayed out of the debate. This is the Minister who wanted to close 27 primary schools throughout the ACT and behaved in much the same way as Mr Stefaniak. It seems to me that this is a mind-set that this mob have. They sprung the closure of 27 primary schools on the community of the ACT but were eventually beaten into submission by a public uprising over the issue which in due course cost the Liberals government, for good reason. Mr Humphries might have been better had he stayed out of the debate. Similarly, Mr Smyth would have been better to have stayed out of the debate. I do not think his patronising remarks in relation to what the community should and should not accept were very helpful in the scheme of things.

The fact of the matter is that an arbitrary cut-off was set. Had the Downer Preschool parents association been consulted, the Government would have been able to make itself aware of the real situation and the stupidity of their decision. But once they had made the decision they would have lost far too much face to have reversed it, so it became crash or crash through. I hope they have crashed. It has been as a result of the quite professional and immediate response from the Downer Preschool parents association that this issue has been brought back into this place. Their reaction has been well targeted and well managed. They are to be congratulated for their contribution to the preservation of their preschool. It will be an important feature of the Downer landscape for the foreseeable future as a result of their action. It will also conveniently point out to the remainder

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