Page 3527 - Week 11 - Thursday, 22 September 2005

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(5) the foregoing provisions of this resolution so far as they are inconsistent with the standing orders have effect notwithstanding anything contained in the standing orders.

There are several reasons for establishing a select committee to examine the proposed demolition of Ginninderra district high school and surrounding schools in order to make way for a mega school in west Belconnen. All have to do with the process by which the policy has been foisted upon us, most particularly the parents, students and teachers of west Belconnen, and the secrecy, if not duplicity, with which the government has attempted to pursue it. This was bad enough when the scheme was originally announced, but after the evidence we have received through the Freedom of Information Act, evidence that the government had no intention of making public otherwise, it has become clear that the problem is one of systematic obfuscation that in all probability goes well beyond the education portfolio.

The first thing to note is that this major policy initiative, this $43 million or $48 million project to herd all the children of west Belconnen into a single compound, was simply not mentioned at the last election; nor did the government say a word about it during the May budget. Not a single word! But we now know that it had been discussing it in some detail at the end of last year even after one of the minister’s spokesmen had categorically said that there would be no school closures in the second term of a Labor government. It was being discussed even before a senior ministerial adviser to the minister told the ACT Council of Parents and Citizens Associations that there was no need to resuscitate earlier guidelines covering community consultation over school closures because there would be no school closures in the life of this government.

That was an undertaking that was made to the Parents and Citizens Association in December last year. But it is also worth noting that in January of this year the same officer made a similar undertaking to me in my office that there was no need to look at guidelines for closing schools because we would not be closing schools. In itself, this constitutes a serious dereliction of duty, perhaps not a legal dereliction, but it certainly shows contempt for ordinary democratic practice and a betrayal of the trust of people of the ACT. Yet, as the FOI documents consistently show, the government’s hubris and cynicism run far deeper than is indicated by mere refusal to inform the electorate about its intentions.

I would like to give a few examples from the FOI documents. An official from the department of education was asked to give his thoughts on the possible redevelopment of Ginninderra district high school. The official made various individual points and then summarised his position this way:

My feeling is that we need to develop a comprehensive strategy, including extensive community consultation processes, to consider the future provision of government education facilities throughout Belconnen before we contemplate development options for specific schools. Such a strategy would allow the integration of latest approaches in education facility provision as well as considering equity and accessibility issues for students.

If the government had taken this advice from one of their officials and taken this considered approach, we would not be here today debating this. If the government had

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