Page 3122 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 24 August 2005

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MR SPEAKER: It is an alternative proposition. They have a long history of being acceptable both in this chamber and in others. It is an alternative proposition to the one that is contained within the motion. That is the practice we have always followed here, Mrs Dunne.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (11.08): I share many of Mrs Dunne’s concerns regarding the way the government has managed the decision-making process in relation to the proposal to replace Ginninderra district high school with a new superschool covering preschool to year 10. I believe the government has failed to bring the community along and involve those most affected in the process and, as a result, many students, parents and members of the community have felt disenfranchised. I would not support all of Mrs Dunne’s motion in detail but I share enough of her concern to support the motion. I do not support the government’s amendment. The government’s amendment fails to acknowledge that the way in which this decision was announced and the poor process that has been followed has had a significant negative impact on students, parents, teachers and the local community associated with Ginninderra district high school.

I respect the fact that the government has responsibility for making difficult decisions about the future education infrastructure needs of the ACT. I acknowledge that these decisions are complex and even that the decision to build a new school might be the right one. I do not want to be misrepresented here. I am not endorsing the decision to build this new superschool; all I am saying is that we cannot be sure this is the right model. I have many concerns about the superschool model and I am not convinced it is the best solution. I moved to Canberra in the mid-1980s so my children could attend high school. I deliberately chose a small high school because it had an excellent caring model, which I believe is easy to do in a small school. Nonetheless, we are not arguing that here.

Due to the lack of information available I am not in a position to judge the relative benefits of the model. It seems that for every argument in favour of the model there is an argument against it. It would be very healthy to have a robust community debate with all of the information and the alternative options on the table. It is unfortunate that the government has missed the opportunity to engage the community in this discussion in a way that would allow those with an interest to hear both sides dispassionately. In particular I believe it is a tragedy that the government did not engage the students, parents and those most affected in the process prior to announcing future plans.

One of the things we all know about community consultation is that, if you involve people from the earliest opportunity and you listen to them, they own the decision with the government. I would have thought that is what we wanted here. But we now have an adversarial public debate in which everyone has to pick a side. The content of this amendment has become typical of this place and it silences every other voice in the house. This is not conducive to good decision-making. It would be far preferable to have an open discussion about options for school infrastructure allowing students, parents and the wider community to have all of the information and to work through the upsides and downsides of various options to inform the deliberations of a government that cares about education. Not only would such a process provide a much stronger basis for the final decision, it would also allow all those affected to feel part of the process.

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