Page 4426 - Week 14 - Tuesday, 22 November 2005

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MRS DUNNE: Thank you, Mr Speaker. My question is to the minister for education. Minister, I refer to the 55-odd unfunded election commitments, which it has been estimated will cost the government $257 million by the end of this term. I also refer to the commitments made by your and the Chief Minister in various places in relation to the cabinet authorisation for a $43 million megaschool in west Belconnen—a commitment that, in your own words in the annual reports hearings, was made outside of the budget round. In view of the blowout revealed by Treasury, are you able to assure the Assembly and the people of west Belconnen that you will maintain the commitment to build this new school?

Ms MacDonald: I thought you didn’t want it!

MR SPEAKER: Order! I have issued a warning and I will be naming people. This has got out of hand today.

MS GALLAGHER: Thank you, Mr Speaker. The government is committed to a new school in west Belconnen. We are currently going through a consultation process, but that is the government’s position. This has been on the table for a few months. We have a couple of months left of consultation around the new proposal but it is certainly the government’s intention to continue talking about it. We have made it no secret that our preferred option is to build a new school. The commitment is costed around a $43 million-P to 10 school but we are currently consulting with the community on that. The government’s position has been clear. There is a requirement to consult for six months. We are in the middle of that consultation period and will be making a decision at the end of that period, which will be towards the end of January next year.

MRS DUNNE: Mr Speaker, I have a supplementary question. Minister, if it is not possible to fund this school in the 2006-07 budget, what options will you consider to ensure that the school is operational within the proposed timeframe?

MS GALLAGHER: That is a difficult question to answer when we are in the middle of the consultation phase on the proposal we put to the community. Mrs Dunne has been a very strong critic of the consultation period and has accused the government of having a predetermined position on this from the beginning. I certainly say we have a preferred position on it but to answer that question would be to say that the proposal is going ahead, which is not something we can do in the context of the legislation surrounding this, nor in the commitments I have made to the community.

The government’s preferred option is to move to build a new school. The proposal is to have that school operational by 2009. That would involve the closure of Ginninderra District High School from next year, but that is the proposal we are consulting on with the community at the moment. It would be wrong of me to say that the proposal is going ahead whilst we are in the middle of this consultation period. I imagine Mrs Dunne would be the first on my back if I were to answer that question in the way that she has sought an answer.

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