Page 3137 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 24 August 2005

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During recent meetings of this type, I have had the opportunity to discuss the proposed school at west Belconnen with a diverse cross-section of our community. Overwhelmingly, the response from these one-to-one meetings has been of an encouraging nature. Some residents have expressed a number of concerns but in the form of questions, all of which are now being answered as part of the overall consultation process. Generally, people have been excited at the prospect of such a significant investment in their community.

Mr Speaker, as you would expect from a government that has consistently proven its commitment to community consultation, management of this proposal has had various mechanisms for feedback built into it. Interested stakeholders have had the opportunity, as the minister said, to contribute to the decision-making process throughout the entire project time line, including through on-line methods, and at each stage of the approval the community will have the opportunity to contribute to prospective designs.

As an elected representative of the Ginninderra region, I am delighted that this government has chosen to commit to the future of students in my electorate. I am extremely pleased that the resources could be found to fund a proposal that will invigorate both the west Belconnen community and the learning environment for our children. I sincerely look forward to my fellow Ginninderra representatives opposite, Mr Stefaniak and Mrs Dunne, supporting the constituents we represent by actively supporting this significant investment in our community. I therefore commend Ms Gallagher’s amendment to the Assembly and do not support Mrs Dunne’s amendment.

MR SESELJA (Molonglo) (12.09): Ms Porter just expressed what we have been hearing from the government quite a bit lately. Every time an issue is raised in this place that they do not like, we are scaremongering. The opposition is somehow scaremongering by taking up the case of the community and actually holding this government to account. It has become a pretty common response from the government. Mr Quinlan was saying it last week in relation to shutting down the bushfire inquiry. We are seeing it over and over; it is a standard line. If we raise an issue that the government does not like you raising, we are said to be scaremongering. That is rubbish. This issue is about consultation and it is about the lack of proper and genuine consultation.

In this place last week, responding to a dorothy dixer from Ms Porter, the education minister went on at length about what she termed the extensive community consultation process currently being conducted on the proposed megaschool in west Belconnen. I must admit, Mr Speaker, I was pleasantly surprised when she began her answer. After all, this was from the education minister who, in this year’s estimates hearings, admitted that she did not know what her consultative obligations were under her own education act and who then claimed that the words “the minister must ask for and consider the advice of” mean “I am not required to consult”.

She actually said it twice: “I am not required to consult.” The question was put to her, “Is not it up to you to ask for advice?” That was in relation to sections 19 (1) and 76 (1) of the act, which state, as I have just said, that the minister must ask for, and consider the advice of, both government and non-government schools education councils. When that question was put to her she flatly replied, “No, I do not think it is.”

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