Page 3247 - Week 10 - Thursday, 25 August 2005

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As I explained in this place yesterday, the amendment is designed to ensure that a minimum six-month period of community consultation should occur before any decision is made on closure or amalgamation. It should not be allowed to occur afterwards, by way of a literal, Jesuitical reading of the relevant section. In short, I seek to bring the letter of law in line with its spirit, in line with the ordinary meaning of the relevant words and with general community understanding.

Why is this urgent? It is simply because, in the case of Ginninderra district high school, the government has opted for the Jesuitical reading to keep the school community completely in the dark until it feels it is safe to go in for ex-post facto consultation. But I am not going to debate—

MR SPEAKER: Mrs Dunne, I am prepared to be fairly flexible on these sorts of things but I make it very clear to you that you are not permitted to debate the issue. You are debating the issue and you will cease; otherwise I will order you to sit down.

MRS DUNNE: Mr Speaker, I was about to say that I would not be going on to debate the apparent influence of the Society of Jesus on the Stanhope government here today.

MR SPEAKER: I think you have been.

MRS DUNNE: Secondly, the bill is urgent because it is evident from the replies to questions at estimates committee that the minister for education is under the impression that the verb “consult” does not mean “ask for, and consider the advice of”—

MR SPEAKER: I have asked you not to debate the issue—

MRS DUNNE: And I am not going to debate the minister’s semantics—

MR SPEAKER: Sit down! Supplementary question.

MR SESELJA: Mrs Dunne, why have your drafted clause 4 of the amendment in such a way?

MR SPEAKER: Mrs Dunne—taking particular note of my requirement that you are not to debate the issue.

MRS DUNNE: Yes. The objective of clause 4, Mr Speaker, for Mr Seselja’s information, is simple: it is to clarify the intended meaning of section 20 (5) with regard to a closure or amalgamation. Until recently, the clear understanding—and most people anticipated that—was that consultation would happen before a decision was made. As a result of the recent actions, I am seeking to have this clause passed to restore a sense of good faith in the community, to make clear the ordinary meaning of the section’s words, which the general community takes on its face.

The amendment adds two words—“deciding to”. It will say, if passed, “before deciding to close a school”. That is done so that people will understand when the consultation should take place.

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