Page 3138 - Week 10 - Wednesday, 24 August 2005

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Clearly, the minister is a product of the progressive education reforms she is now trying to foist on all students in the ACT, the Humpty Dumpty school of language teaching. I remind the minister—or was Lewis Carroll too old-fashioned for you at school?—“‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.’” In the looking glass world of Katy Gallagher, “ask for” and “consider” mean the exact opposite. Truly, Canberra is fortunate to have such a postmodern education minister.

Nonetheless, as I say, I was pleasantly surprised to hear Ms Gallagher say last week she would detail extensive consultations on the government’s unilateral decision to close down several schools in Ginninderra in favour of a bureaucratic megaschool. That followed her admission in this place of 30 June that she accepts the criticism from the Liberal opposition on the requirements of the education act and how they were not met this year: “It will not happen again. I accept the criticism.” But what did we discover last week, once we started to go into the detail of the so-called consultation in Ginninderra? As Mrs Dunne noted, it is all over bar the pouting. With carefully orchestrated forums and some electronic gimmickry, as the minister puts it, “All of those issues have been taken on board and fed through the department.” Does that mean that they have been duly noted, filed and ignored?

The fact is that this is all just window-dressing. The decision has already been taken and community consultation is a post factum rationalisation—or, to quote the minister herself in this place last week, “We put to the community our solution that we think will deliver the results we want to see educationally in that area.” Mr Speaker, I think that sums up the government’s new attitude to consultation. I support Mrs Dunne’s amendment, I support her original motion and I oppose Ms Gallagher’s amendment.

MS GALLAGHER (Molonglo—Minister for Education and Training, Minister for Children, Youth and Family Support, Minister for Women and Minister for Industrial Relations) (12.13): I thank Mr Seselja for his somewhat patronising comments. I put it to him that he is struggling for relevance in this debate. He has to get in on this one because he has not been able to have a view and his jealousy over the fact that he is not in the cabinet room is becoming clearer every day. The fact that he is not involved, that he is not in government, that he is not making decisions really upsets Mr Seselja. He is not aware of the decisions the government has made and he cannot quite cope with that, but that is the role of being in opposition and I will leave it at that.

The government will not be supporting Mrs Dunne’s amendment because the amendment does not accurately reflect the government’s decision. The government has put a proposal to the community on a vision and an idea for education in the west Belconnen area. That proposal will be under discussion and under consultation until the end of December. As an element of that proposal, the government has suggested that the Ginninderra district high school would need to close in order to deliver on the proposal. So the amendment put forward by Mrs Dunne is incorrect and the government cannot support it for that reason.

I will just address some of the issues that have been raised by other speakers in speaking to the amendment. A number of times the question has been asked: why was this not in the budget? I have explained that a number of times, but it probably needs to be

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