Page 3134 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 24 August 2005

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DR FOSKEY: We are having a debate here, Ms Gallagher; therefore, I need to say all these things.

MR SPEAKER: You should not contribute to the conversation, Dr Foskey. Rather than having a conversation, just continue with the debate.

DR FOSKEY: Thank you. I feel that if the community has access to all the relevant data—some of it may be in the secret category—especially if it is demographic data, especially if it socioeconomic data, then we can be assured that that will help the community to come along with a decision which may even be the one the government wants.

I was pleased to hear Ms Gallagher say that the government is now funding a consultancy to investigate alternative sites for the new school, because it has given hope to the community that maybe the government will not close this school before setting up the new one, which I think has been a major concern. It also shows that Ms Gallagher is prepared to listen—I have seen evidence of that before—and that she does respond from the heart, in a sense, to real concerns of people. That gives me hope that the consultation process we are to see now might be a good thing. But it would have been better to have investigated these alternative sites first and then brought the community along in the decision making.

Let us hope that the government has learned a valuable lesson from that. We need to know now that the government is treating the current and future consultation as that to show that it is open now to good process and other opinions and that this consultation process is not just a wearing down process, which is my fear, a barrage as to why this one is good for you and how the government is right, to get the community to accept the government’s preferred model.

Maybe the preferred model is good, but there is cynicism in the community that the government needs to respond to so that it is not just the community being sold something. That is what people feel could happen. I really do thank Mrs Dunne for bringing on this debate, because we are now hearing politicians justifying what they have done. It is important that it happens in the Assembly, but it should also be happening and have happened before elsewhere. We need to know why it is a good idea to close one school and establish another.

The other thing I have heard a bit about today, certainly from Mr Stanhope, is that the spending of money—$43 million in this case—is in itself a good thing. Let’s say that we said to the community, “There is $43 million available for you, and us, to spend on the best educational outcomes”—without tying the $43 million to this model, as in, “If you do not want this model, sorry, you will not get the $43 million.” That is not being said out loud, but it is in there. If the community knows that $43 million is going to be spent on the very best educational outcomes, that is exciting, that is positive. It just could be that there would be all kinds of ways of spending that money that would be good for every school in the area. I do not know about that. The trouble is that we do not know about that.

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