Page 2778 - Week 09 - Thursday, 27 September 2007

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MRS DUNNE: My question is to the Minister for Territory and Municipal Services and relates to the future use of school sites. Minister, at the Belconnen-north Canberra district options workshop held at the AIS on Tuesday, which was convened to discuss the four broad generic options for reuse of school sites, there was almost unanimous support for the notion that if school sites such as Cook, Flynn and Holt could not be reopened as government schools they should be retained for their educational purposes and made available to non-government schools. This sentiment was expressed despite, or perhaps because of, the government’s stated policy in the documentation that:

Government does not support reuse for independent schools.

Minister, what is the reasoning for this policy exclusion? In the light of strong community opposition to this policy, will the government reconsider its position and, if not, why not?

MR HARGREAVES: I thank Mrs Dunne for the question. I make just one small correction. It was not just a forum convened to consider the four options put before the community. It was to consider a starting place of four options to be put before the community, and it was hoped that if the community had other options available to their imagination they would share them and we would take them on board.

There is nothing prescriptive about these four options. There are, however, a couple of things which we have indicated which are not up for negotiation. One is the retention as buildings of premises at Rivett and Mount Neighbour. The fabric of those buildings does not allow that and we are not going to go down there. Also, we are not going to entertain the thought of leasing those closed schools to the non-government school sector. The issue around the number of schools in a given area is one of concern to the government and so we have made that decision.

However, I can say this, Mr Speaker: if the community suggests to the government—and there is very, very significant support for this—that the school building site is not required for community use generally and is not required to be cut up, if you wish, and some of it used for open space and some of it used for community tenancies, but in fact that the site should be sold, then the site will be sold at auction and the territory will realise the best price it can for that particular site.

MR SPEAKER: A supplementary question, Mrs Dunne?

MRS DUNNE: Is it the case, minister, that this policy is driven by the Stanhope government’s anti-non-government school ideology?

MR HARGREAVES: I thank Mrs Dunne for the supplementary question. The answer, as succinctly as I can deliver it, is no.

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