Page 3130 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 24 August 2005

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in improving the educational infrastructure in the area? Did they say, “We are prepared to put $43 million on the table to provide you with better schooling?” No.

Opposition members interjecting—

MR CORBELL: No, they did not. What did Mr Stefaniak do when he was education minister? He closed Charnwood high school and offered nothing in return; he put the lock on the door and walked away. That was the approach of the previous Liberal government when it came to west Belconnen. They even sold the school after it closed and did not retain it as a government-owned facility for use in the future. In contrast Labor is saying, “If you live in this part of Canberra you deserve the same level of investment in education facilities as any other part of the city does. You deserve support; you deserve investment; your children deserve the same opportunities in your suburbs.” Let us look at the demographics to back that statement up. Eighty per cent of all the children and young people eligible to attend Ginninderra high school who are in the priority catchment area for that high school do not go there; they go elsewhere.

Mrs Dunne: You have never found out why. You have no idea why, and have never shown any interest.

MR SPEAKER: Order, Mrs Dunne!

MR CORBELL: Mr Speaker, I have heard Mrs Dunne in silence and I would ask her to do me the same courtesy. Eighty per cent of them go elsewhere. There are two options when you have that sort of situation. Either you say, “That’s just the way it is; Ginninderra high school is under pressure; the school will need to close”—or you say, “What can we do for that community to encourage the people who live there to send their children to the local high school?” We either could do what the Liberals did and just say, “Charnwood has declining enrolments, it has to close”, or we could invest and give people a real choice. We can say that public education is just as well resourced, just as well invested in, just as well respected and honoured as an education choice as other parts of the education system and we are going to invest in it accordingly in west Belconnen.

That is what the government has chosen to do. It has put the proposal on the table. It has said, as a government, “This is what we believe is the best way forward. We want to talk to you about it; we want to get your feedback on it and we want to understand whether or not it should proceed.” That is what the minister has done. That shows leadership; it shows a commitment to public education; and it shows that you have some idea about where you want to go.

In contrast, what do we have from the opposition and, regrettably, from the Greens? We have an argument that says, “No, do not do this; but we do not have any alternative.” They are saying that closure is not a good thing and yet they have no alternative. They are not prepared to say, “It is a good thing that the government has an alternative; it is a good thing that there is the opportunity for discussion.” They are prepared to take the negative but they are not prepared to accept the positive. They are not prepared to engage in that debate. They simply say, “It involves change; it is too hard; I will side with those who are scared of that change.” That is not leadership; it is reactive, opportunistic politics. That is the difference in this debate today.

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