Page 2804 - Week 09 - Thursday, 27 September 2007

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Discussion of matter of public importance

MADAM TEMPORARY DEPUTY SPEAKER (Mrs Dunne): Mr Speaker has received letters from myself, Dr Foskey, Mr Gentleman, Mr Mulcahy, Ms Porter, Mr Pratt, Mr Seselja and Mr Smyth, proposing that matters of public importance be submitted to the Assembly. In accordance with Standing Order 79, Mr Speaker determined that the matter proposed by Mr Smyth be submitted to the Assembly, namely:

The management of closed schools in the ACT.

MR SMYTH (Brindabella) (4.05): Madam Temporary Deputy Speaker, as you would know, and know well, there is considerable angst and disappointment across the Canberra community about the closure of many government schools. These feelings continue, and are being heightened by the current round of consultation. There are a number of threads to this angst: the consultations that preceded the closure announcement; the actual closures and their announcement; the management of community anger following the announcement; the management of the sites of the closed schools since they were closed; the management of the disposal of surplus equipment; the attitude to other schools gaining access to any surplus schools or any new schools taking them on; the cultural vandalism of the Stanhope government in locations such as the Flynn primary school; and, overall, the scepticism about the Stanhope government’s motives in closing schools, particularly concerning any change in use of these sites.

We will address these issues today but I would begin by focusing on the management of the actual facilities that remained on the sites when the schools were closed, especially the plant and equipment that remained—and I use the word “equipment” in a generic sense to represent all the furniture and other items that have become surplus with the closures.

My colleagues will focus on issues such as the consultation process that is being used to consider potential uses for the school sites. I will remind members of what has happened. It will not take much to bring back the memories. In the 2006 budget, the Stanhope government announced that 23 government schools would be closed. This was a most significant case of educational vandalism, but that has been and will be a matter for other discussions. The closures were to be staged over three years. One particular issue that now arises from the closures concerns the way in which all the equipment that is now redundant, including desks, computer desks, steel cabinets, chairs, blackboards, books, trampolines, teacher support material, stationery, sporting equipment and library assets, has been disposed of.

This equipment represents a significant asset for the territory and for the people of the territory. I would hesitate to put a value on it. I wonder whether the government can. Perhaps it is not even pertinent to do so. While this equipment may have a depreciated or zero value on the ACT government books, it is a valuable asset for those who may have very little or nothing or those who have an interest in education.

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