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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 2 Hansard (28 February) . . Page.. 370 ..

MR KAINE (continuing):

regardless of the circumstances, it is up to the principal, the P&C or somebody else in certain schools-only certain schools-to find the money to put airconditioning and heating equipment into the classrooms. In my view, it does not really matter in principle whether the equipment is for a permanent classroom or a temporary classroom. I can envisage some of the permanent classrooms in some of our older schools getting pretty hot in summer, pretty unpleasant, and I do not see the students there as being in a different situation from the students at Gordon primary.

As I said, I prefer Mr Berry's broader motion, because it encompasses all the circumstances in which heating or airconditioning equipment, or both, might be needed in the schools, rather than narrowing it down to just the few temporary classrooms where there is currently a dispute. I think it is an inescapable fact that the department, the government, has a responsibility to set a standard, and in this case it has to be a standard that has to do with the conditions inside classrooms.

As Mr Berry pointed out, and I think Mr Osborne referred to it, in some circumstances workers can leave their workplace and go home if the temperature reaches a certain level; I think Mr Berry mentioned 32 degrees. Unfortunately, that would not work in primary schools, because you cannot turn 200 or 300 kids from a school loose on the streets at 2 o'clock in the afternoon because the temperature has hit 32 degrees. There are other considerations. For example, what do the kids do? Very often, they cannot go home because there is no parent there.

But that is not the point. The point is that they are in school to learn. They have a curriculum that they are supposed to follow through. The situation should never arise that a principal has to make a decision about whether he should be sending the kids home. The facilities ought to be there for coping with the weather and ensuring that the children do spend the amount of time in the classroom every day that the curriculum demands.

To argue, as the minister appears to be arguing, that it is somebody else's problem is to engage in a bit of a semantic argument which, frankly, I do not accept. To focus on the particular issue at Gordon primary, there are temporary classrooms there and anybody who knows what a temporary classroom looks like knows that on a hot day they are going to get pretty hot. If the temperature there is exceeding a reasonable level, the government has a responsibility to solve the problem. It is neither fair nor reasonable for the government to say to the school principal, the P&C or somebody else, "The classrooms are getting a bit hot. You find the money to put in airconditioning equipment" or, in the winter, "The classrooms are getting a bit cold. You find the money to heat them."

It flies in the face of the responsibility of the minister, the government and the department to provide the facilities that are necessary for the education of our children. The parents are rightfully angry at the situation that prevails at Gordon primary and I doubt very much whether the classrooms at Gordon primary are the only ones where these conditions or similar conditions are being experienced. The minister has to accept that it is his responsibility and his department's responsibility to provide those facilities, not enter into some debate about whether somebody else should be finding the money, by whatever means.

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